he Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines girls' basketball team has been waiting for this year's Section 8, Class 2A playoffs since the 1998-99 season.
That's when Kerby Johnson, Marissa Browne, Missy Speed and Sara Kneisl were freshmen and knew they had something special. It was coach Becky Woessner's first year at the helm and the future looked bright.
The future is now as W-DC opens its playoff run 7 p.m. Saturday.
"The first couple of years were a struggle, but we knew our talent was in our younger kids," said Woessner. "Marissa and Kerby played when they were freshmen. Last year this group made huge strides."
The Wolverines squeaked out the South Subsection's top seed and will face Perham in the quarterfinals at Wadena. W-DC beat the Yellowjackets 52-51 in overtime Jan. 28. Browne did not play in that game.
"It's a scary first-round game, but you have to play them all to win," Woessner said. "If we can get an up-tempo game, we can hopefully wear them out. It's going to be a good section tournament because all the teams are playing well.
"We need to, No. 1, attack for four quarters. The games we've lost we came out in a lull in the third quarter. Looking at the point totals, everyone has to score. Teams know they have to stop Kerby and Marissa so we need everyone to score."
Kneisl is out for the season with a knee injury but senior Christie Hanson has stepped in admirably. W-DC heads into the tournament as winners of six of its last seven games.
W-DC is 15-5 overall, 7-4 in section play.
If the Wolverines get past the Yellowjackets they'll face the winner of fifth-seeded Staples-Motley and fourth-seeded Pine River-Backus 7 p.m. Saturday.
W-DC beat S-M twice during the regular season and lost to PR-B 55-52 Jan. 15.
Although the Cardinals (14-10, 5-5) are seeded below the Tigers (18-8, 3-3), S-M beat PR-B twice in the regular season, 60-39 Jan. 10 and 62-48 Dec. 28.
The Tigers have won five in a row while S-M is coming off a huge win over Brainerd. Cardinal point guard Laura Warn injured her ankle in that game.
Section 6, Class 2A
The third-seeded Pierz Pioneers (15-9) stumbled into the playoffs by losing four of their last five. A season-ending injury to junior post Allyson Kloss is the primary reason for the late slip.
Pierz finished the regular season with a 62-54 win over Holdingford Feb. 21. Kari Block, who's filling in for Kloss, had career-highs in points (25) and rebounds (13). With the improved play of Block, along with standouts Shiela Stegora and Becky Korf, Pierz could make a run.
" We've actually played pretty good without Allyson," said Pierz coach Rick Sczublewski. "We can still win the subsection if we play well.
"We have to rebound better than we have, though. With Allyson, we got a lot of offensive rebounds and second-chance points. But Kari had a nice game against Holdingford. The biggest thing, Kari was coming off the bench and giving us depth down low. Now we have no margin of error with fouls or injuries."
Pierz starts with sixth-seeded Mora 7:30 p.m. today. Pierz doubled-up Mora 64-32 on Dec. 4. Kloss led Pierz with 16 points.
If the Pioneers get past the quarterfinals they would face the winner of second-seeded Foley and No. 7 Braham 6 p.m. Thursday at Mora. Pierz lost to Foley 64-56 on Jan. 3 before pounding Braham 65-27. Kloss scored 23 and 17 points in those games.
Section 7, Class 2A
The 8-17 Crosby-Ironton Rangers earned a first-round home game for what is believed to be the first time in school history. They'll host fifth-seeded Deer River 7 p.m. Thursday.
"They used to always have it at a neutral site but it's only been in the last couple of years that they've gone to home sites for the first round," said C-I athletic director Roger Twigg. "I don't think we've had one on my shift."
C-I beat Deer River 48-35 Feb. 7 at Deer River as Jenna Kovatovich and Whitney Smetana each had 11 points.
Pequot Lakes is seeded second and will host Duluth Marshall while Aitkin travels to top-seeded Greenway.
Section 6, Class 1A
The Verndale Pirates finished with one of their best records (9-16) in eight years and earned the sixth seed for the first round of the playoffs. They'll travel to third-seeded Cass Lake-Bena 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
Pillager must beat Menahga in a play-in game 7 p.m. today in order to face top-seeded Nevis.
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