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Kerry Collins, Published January 05 2010

Collins: Young Nuggets looking good

Hawley’s girls basketball team has a built-in fund raiser for this year and next year.

If the Nuggets could convince their fans to save their programs, the school wouldn’t have to print up any more, since the roster is going to be pretty much the same.

And this group of Hawley pups will probably be worth remembering.

“If you have those good young players, and they can play at that level, it’s going to help them,” Hawley coach Bill Gottenborg said. “We’ve had players that have been playing (varsity) since their eight-grade year.”

Hawley was ultra-young last year, and that group won 16 games. This year’s team brings back a lot of the same players, and is

8-0 and ranked No. 8 in Minnesota’s Class 2A poll.

But the Nuggets only have three seniors on this group – and nine sophomores – meaning the Heart O’ Lakes Conference is going to have to get used to these Nuggets, too.

The Nuggets have been doing it with defense. In their eight games, Hawley has given up more than 50 points just twice –in a road win at Perham, and against Pequot Lakes in the title game of a holiday tournament in Crookston.

“The defense has been the staple behind our play,” Gottenborg said.

Sophomore Jessy Noreen leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game, and senior Amy Stoa is second at around 10 points per game. Juniors Allie Sannes and Erica Amman combine for roughly 17 points per game, giving the Nuggets balance.

“The offense will be good, but we’ll struggle at times, too,” Gottenborg said. “We’ve been very aggressive, though, and that’s going to create some mistakes.

“But we’ve been very balanced, and I’m happy with that.”

Hawley’s aggressive style has led to a lot of trips to the free-throw line, but fouling the Nuggets might not be such a good idea.

Hawley is shooting 67 percent from the line as a team. The Nuggets have made 94 free throws already this season. Opponents have only taken 80.

“We are going to attack the basket,” Gottenborg said. “And the girls have been making their free throws. That’s been a big positive for us.”

Hawley has played some good teams, too.

The win over Perham is the only loss of the season so far for the Yellow Jackets (7-1). Wins over West Central Area (7-2), East Grand Forks (6-2) and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (6-3) also look pretty good.

The Nuggets play West Central Area again on Jan. 15, and then have a tough three game stretch against D-G-F, East Grand Forks and Perham again at the end of January.

“We’ve played against some good competition, and we’ve got a lot of them coming up again,” Gottenborg said. “The win on the road at Perham was a very good one for us.”

Gottenborg said that he hopes the Nuggets continue their fine play because the first two rounds of the section tournament will be played at the site of the higher seed.

“We have to keep it up,” Gottenborg said. “Staying at the top (of the section) is important, because that top seed is so important.

“We’ve done a little better than I thought we would, and we’ve been fortunate to have a few breaks.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548