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Cotter, Lourdes girls set to dust off their rivalry, this time with a trip to state on the line

Mar. 6—ROCHESTER — The assumption is that Winona Cotter and Rochester Lourdes have done a lot of this, the two longtime girls basketball powers regularly squaring off in the section championship.

After all, they've been in the same postseason place forever, playing in Section 1, Class 2A.

But the section title matchups between them have been scant. The last time was in 2005, when Lourdes romped past Cotter in the section final and went on to win one of its eight state championships under former Eagles coach Myron Glass.

At 8 p.m. Thursday at Mayo Civic Arena, Cotter and Lourdes will finally renew their playoff matchup. They are meeting for the Section 1-2A title, the winner bound for the state tournament.

Lourdes is trying to get there after just a one-year absence, while Cotter hasn't gone to state since 2006.

Cotter (24-5) is the No. 1 seed, Lourdes (20-9) No. 2.

"We've had a great rivalry with Lourdes for a long time," said Cotter Hall of Fame coach Pat Bowlin, who has directed the Ramblers for the last 33 years. "We were a surprise team (when we met them in 2005), a season where we had so many (unknown) players step up."

Cotter is a bit of a surprise again this season. The surprise isn't that it's made it this far. It's that it's done it despite its roster having taken two major hits. Forward Ava Killian, an all-Three Rivers Conference player a year ago, hasn't played a minute this season after being injured during the fall soccer season. Guard Abby Williams, an all-conference basketball choice this year, was ruled out for the rest of the season on Feb. 17 when she tore her ACL.

Still, here the Ramblers are, one win away from the state tournament.

"It's pretty amazing since we've had two all-conference players in street clothes during the playoffs," Bowlin said. "But we've just had a lot of players step up for us."

Two stand out most, 5-foot-10 junior forward Clarissa Sauer and junior guard Katelyn Ubl.

Sauer, also one of the top players in southeastern Minnesota last year, has been no surprise with her dominance. Strong and fast and with a great long-range shooting stroke, she averages 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.8 steals per game.

Ubl's production wasn't nearly so predictable. After averaging four points per game last year, she is up to 12 this season as well as three steals per game. Her No. 1 thing is her 3-point shooting. Ubl has drained more than 80 treys this season and is on a team that has hit as many as 18 3-pointers in a game.

While Cotter has a "Big Two" and depth, so does Lourdes. The "two" are 5-10 sophomore forward Lauren Hust and freshman point guard Aaliyah Williams. Hust averages 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Williams scores 12 points per game and is a strong and sure ball handler.

As good as those two have been, there are also all kinds of other contributors for Lourdes. That is especially true on the defensive end where it's one of the best outfits around. Like Cotter, it plays hounding person-to-person defense. Lourders allows just 43 points per game. Cotter allows 49, but has outscored Lourdes 67-56 on average.

"We have to play really good defense against Cotter and rebound well," said Lourdes second-year coach Todd Greguson, whose team gets 6.5 rebounds per game from junior center Lily Davick. "Just (person to person), we match up really well with Cotter."

The teams have played once this season, with Cotter winning 49-38 on Feb. 17. That was part of a crushing stretch of games for Lourdes, in succession the Eagles taking on top-20 teams Dover-Eyota, Stewartville, Goodhue, Stewartville again and Cotter, the Ramblers at the end of that gauntlet.

"I'm not taking any stock in that game," Bowlin said. "That was their fourth game in a week. Because of that, we had a huge advantage."