2014 marked the first year the smaller classes elected to seed the state tournament field. The decision was reached in February when it was discovered that a sectional draw would skew the class AA field toward lackluster meetings in the later rounds.
On Saturday at Williams Arena, Win-E-Mac made a case to return the seeding format to include all eight teams (the first five teams are seeded, the rest are drawn at random), shocking No. 1 Minneota for a 61-53 win and the first state tournament title in school history.
The win was cathartic for many Win-E-Mac (31-2) athletes. Multiple players compete in both volleyball and basketball, where the Patriots have come up short in every state tournament run until winning the class A bracket.
Reaching the pinnacle can be credited to their heads-up defense. In the first half, Win-E-Mac forced 12 turnovers, taking advantage of lazy Minneota (32-2) passing, and would not give up the lead for the last 25:01 of the contest.
The Patriots led by as much as 13 before a 12-2 Vikings run, capped by a jumper from Emily Stienessen, cut the margin to 47-44 with 7:00 left in the second. The closest Minneota came in the second was two, when a Molly Hennen triple made the score 52-50, but Win-E-Mac scored the next nine points to finish the upset.
Offensively, Madison McKeever was marvelous. She tallied 27 points and four steals against Minneota, and hit 37 of 47 free throws in the state tournament round, including a 10-of-12 showing in the championship. Korbyn Ross supported her with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Minneota, last year's class A champion, was led by Taylor Reiss. The junior forward had 18 points and 13 rebounds and should make the Vikings a front-runner again next season. Stienessen put in 17 points.