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Published January 23 2012

Fergus Falls' height turning heads

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – When you’re 18-0 and the No. 1 team in the state, people tend to take notice.

Fergus Falls girls basketball coach Josh Mohagen is aware of this. He’s also aware of a certain visitor at his gym.

The visitor in this case being Hawley head coach Bill Gottenborg.

“I’ve seen him at our gym,” Mohagen said with a laugh. “He’s been there five times to watch us.”

Part of it has to do with tonight’s game when the Otters (18-0) face the Nuggets (11-1) in one of the area’s more anticipated matchups.

Fergus Falls is the No. 1 team in Class 3A while Hawley is ranked No. 6 in Class 2A.

Hawley’s lone loss came to Fergus Falls earlier in the year, and it was enough to leave an imprint with Gottenborg.

“They had 14 blocks and 18 offensive rebounds against us and they know how to use their bodies,” said Gottenborg, who is in his 24th season at Hawley. “They can seal you in there and they have this long length to them. The shots you try to get off, they can block them.”

Gottenborg, to no surprise, is pretty spot on in his assessment.

The Otters, despite playing a seven-player rotation, have seven girls on the roster listed at 5-foot-10 or taller.

One of them is sophomore point guard Brianna Rasmusson.

“We’re so used to it,” Rasmusson said about the Otters size advantage. “We’ve always been kind of tall, but it is nice knowing we have a lot of mismatches in our post because of the tall line-up.”

It’s almost laughable how much height Fergus Falls has. They have enough height to field a frontcourt where the shortest player is just a meager 6-feet.

The tallest? That’s 6-2 senior Mariah Monke, who will play next season at Wisconsin-Green Bay, which is undefeated this year and could make the NCAA tournament.

And Monke’s not the only college-bound athlete on the team.

Sydney Schultz has committed to playing basketball at Bethel, while fellow forward Haylie Zenner will run track at Minnesota.

“I had no idea how we’d match up against some teams,” Monke said. “But it is really cool we are beating teams up north and we’re just trying to keep it going.”

Whether it is Monke or Rasmusson, everyone can admit the No. 1 ranking and undefeated start was a surprise.

Though, it can be argued it shouldn’t have been.

Fergus Falls won 23 games last season only to lose in the Class 3A, Section 8 finals to rival Alexandria.

Yet the Otters returned all five starters. Take the experience and throw it in with the athleticism and it could result in a state title for Fergus Falls.

Gottenborg seems to think it can. After all, he’d know.

He’s seen them a lot this year.

“They got a real good chance,” Gottenborg said about Fergus Falls reaching the state tournament. “I think they were disappointed with what happened last year and sometimes you have to go through that and hope you go into next year a little more determined.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found

at slightlychilled.areavoices.com