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Published March 13 2012

Season turned on a loss for Ada-Borup girls basketball team

The Ada-Borup girls basketball team realized this after losing in its third game of the season.

“From where we started in November up to now, it has been a night and day difference,” said Cougars coach Dave Smart. “We lost one of our first games in the season, and that really served as a motivator to the kids.”

Smart said a seven-point loss to rival Win-E-Mac on Dec. 12 was the spark that has led Ada-Borup (26-2) to the Class 1A bracket of the Minnesota state girls basketball tournament.

The Cougars open the tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday against Minneota (29-1) at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

Ada-Borup, which won the state tournament in 2008 and 2009, returns after a three-year hiatus.

“It’s kind of a different feeling,” said Cougars senior Taylor Kujava, who was a freshman on the 2009 title team. “I think after what they did in 2008, they were expected to get back in 2009.”

Kujava and Smart both said the expectations – compared to 2009 – with this year’s team were tempered.

Ada-Borup finished 25-3 last season, falling a game short of reaching state. It came into this season with five sophomores and three freshmen, not knowing what to expect.

“We went through our highs and lows and had some games where we managed to win,” said Smart, who is making his fifth tournament appearance in 12 seasons. “We struggled at times, but the good thing is we were winning and still improving.”

Smart gave Kujava quite a bit of credit for the team’s improvement.

Smart said there were games that required him to focus on specific matchups, leaving some players on the bench more than they would have liked.

Having Kujava, he said, helped as a buffer between the coaching staff and players.

“As a freshman, it happened to me, so I know what those younger girls were going through,” Kujava said. “We are close as a team, and you can tell when something is wrong. I told them they are doing fine, but we were looking for the right matchups.”

It was an understanding that helped the Cougars on their current eight-game winning streak. Seven of Ada-Borup’s last eight wins have come in convincing fashion.

The one close game was a one-point, triple-overtime victory over Norman County East in the second round of the section playoffs.

Junior Megan Kolness said the win served as a reminder that all playoff games aren’t going to be easy.

“Norman County East is a big rival for us, so we knew they were going to play their ‘A’ game,” Kolness said. “Looking back, they had their chances and so did we. We just know we might not always been fortunate to get those chances in every game.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com