Senior foursome has left its mark on Century girls basketball program

Feb. 13—Century seniors Audrey Whitney, Taylor Clarey, Bailey Klote and Nora Lynch have seemingly been forever linked.

Whitney, Clarey and Klote started playing youth basketball together around the fifth grade, Lynch later joining them on the Century team as a freshman.

They've been through a lot together, including a steady climb. As freshmen playing on the Century varsity they went 4-15, then 13-14 as sophomores, 17-10 a season ago, and now 12-10.

"On the court, they are a very tight group and a very competitive group," said Century head coach Chadd Clarey, father of Taylor and these girls' coach since their grade-school days. "Them knowing each other so well is a big thing. It's that trust they have in each other, on and off the court."

Klote says that trust has been built over the years. But their synchronicity, they agree, was almost immediate, even as fifth-graders.

Understanding their mutual basketball talent and zest for the game bonded them.

They've been building on that ever since.

"I think we all kind of stood out at an early age and that helped us get a better connection," said Klote, a 5-foot-11 forward, while Clarey, Whitney and Lynch are guards. "Even at a young age, we all worked so good together. It was like we could read each other's minds on the court."

That mind reading is as much a thing now as ever.

"Our connection on the court is really strong," Whitney said. "I can throw the ball to Bailey when I'm not even looking (at her) and I know she'll catch that pass just because we've been playing together for so long."

Klote says its a synchronicity that flows through all four of these seniors, each of whom will play college basketball next year (Clarey, Lake Superior State University; Klote, Morningside University; Whitney, Carleton College; Lynch, Grinnell College).

"The connection I have with Audrey is the same with Taylor and Nora," Klote said. "We just read each other perfectly."

The wins haven't come at quite the rate this season as this foursome expected. There have been injuries to deal with, including an ankle sprain that has left Clarey playing at about 75% through the bulk of the season. Klote missed a string of games recently with a concussion.

It also hurt Century's chances when sophomore star Madison Ohm transferred to Byron (her family moved there) and longtime player Ella Zmolek decided to skip basketball as a senior to concentrate on volleyball over the winter, having committed to play at Winona State University next season.

Chadd Clarey has no hard feelings toward either of those players and completely understood their moves.

Still, despite not having the win total this season that they'd come to expect, this has been a final four months to covet.

Whitney is dreading the end.

"There's going to be tears," Whitney said. "We're all going to still be playing basketball next year, but it won't be with each other."

Grand Meadow's Lauren Queensland has been on a tear. The 5-foot-11 junior guard is averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists over her last 11 games. She's also shooting a lofty 51% on 2-pointers during the stretch, 33% on 3-pointers.

By no coincidence, her SuperLarks are 9-2 as she's heated up, including a 59-56 win over No. 20-ranked Spring Grove on Feb. 9. Queensland had 22 points in that one and is coming off a 33-point game with seven 3-pointers.

"I think it's a combination of things for Lauren," said her father, Ryan Queensland, who is Grand Meadow's coach. "The game has slowed down for her mentally, so now she's seeing the floor extremely well and offensively making really good reads. She is good at attacking the basket, depending upon what the opposing team is doing to her (defensively). She's done a nice job of learning how to attack. And she's working hard. Every day after practice, she stays and works another 45 minutes on her game."

Also on Lauren Queensland's side is the nature of this team. Ryan Queensland considers it an incredibly selfless group, all of them interested only in winning, not building stats.

When a team takes that approach, offenses tend to be at their best. That has been true of 18-8 Grand Meadow, which has averaged 61 points per game over its last 11.

"It's been great; the girls have really bought into what we're doing," Ryan Queensland said. "It's been fun to coach."

Elisabeth Gadient, Goodhue

Gadient, one of the most highly regarded guards in the state, was at her best on Feb. 1 in an impressive 71-56 win over formidable Winona Cotter. The 5-foot-11 Gadient hit 8 of 11 shots from 3-point distance on her way to 36 points. She also added 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 assists, impacting the game in every way.

Alyvia Engler, Plainview-Elgin-Millville

Just a sophomore, Engler has had an enormous impact on P-E-M this season, especially as a scorer. She went off on Feb. 10 in a 75-46 win over Cannon Falls, scoring 37 points. Engler was 13-for-26 from the field, hit three 3-pointers and drained 8 of 9 free throws.

Josie Foster, Caledonia

Thirty-seven was a popular scoring total the last few weeks as Foster joined Goodhue's Gadient and P-E-M's Engler in scoring that much. The 5-10 Foster did it in a 78-55 win over Jackson County Central. The junior blistered from the field, hitting all seven of her 2-pointers and going 7-for-16 on 3-pointers. Twenty four of Foster's points came in the first half. She also had seven assists and eight rebounds.

Lauren Hust, Lourdes

The 6-foot Hust has quickly emerged as one of the top players in southeastern Minnesota. Just a sophomore, the speedy forward contributes in every way. On Feb. 9, she had 34 points and eight rebounds in a 68-49 win over Dover-Eyota. Hust hit 14 of 23 field-goal attempts and was 6-for-8 from the free-throw line against D-E.

Kendra Harvey, Byron

Already in her fourth year as a Byron starter, Harvey has gone from good this season to spectacular her last few games. That includes Feb. 6, when the junior scored 32 points in a key 67-62 win over No. 1-ranked Goodhue (Class 1A). She also added 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots. One night earlier, Harvey had 28 points and nine rebounds in another impressive win, this one 56-50 over powerful Stewartville.

Jazmin Daing, John Marshall

The JM 6-foot freshman guard had one of her top games this season on Feb. 9. She did it by scoring 29 points in a 67-60 win over Northfield. Daing hit 10 of 24 field-goal attempts, including going 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. She also added seven steals and five rebounds.

Clarissa Sauer, Winona Cotter

Sauer scored 30 points in a 65-57 loss to Caledonia on Feb. 2. The 5-10 junior was 12-for-28 from the field, including 4-for-8 from 3-point distance. She also had seven rebounds and three steals.

There have been three more additions from southeastern Minnesota to the 1,000-points club. Winona Cotter junior Clarissa Sauer hit that mark Feb. 2 when she scored 30 points against Caledonia. All but 39 of those 1,000 have been scored the last two seasons. Wabasha-Kellogg senior Ileanna deAngel also got to 1,000 that day when she scored 25 points against Plainview-Elgin-Millville. And Winona's Mackenzie Simmons notched her 1,000th point on Feb. 6.

It's rare to get to 1,000 rebounds in a high school basketball career. But LeRoy-Ostrander junior Benita Nolt has done it. Nolt hit the mark on Feb. 6. The 5-10 center currently has 1,019 rebounds and is averaging 11 boards per game this season.

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.

1. Goodhue (19-5)

There have been just two losses in the last 18 games for Goodhue, to Class 3A powers Stewartville and Byron. The Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in Class 1A. There was also an impressive 71-56 win over No. 12 (Class 2A) Winona Cotter. That was a 36-points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists game for star guard Elisabeth Gadient.

2. Mayo (19-3)

Yes, that was a beat down that the Spartans absorbed against perennial state power and No. 6-ranked Lakeville North on Jan. 20 (63-35). But this remains a great Mayo team, one that's gone 15-1 in its last 16 games and routed almost everyone in that stretch.

3. Byron (18-4)

There have been two confirming wins by the Bears in the last week, first 56-50 over Stewartville, then 67-62 over Goodhue. Junior guard Kendra Harvey has been on a tear. She had 32 points against Goodhue and 28 points and nine rebounds against Stewartville.

4. Hayfield (21-2)

The only hesitation with Hayfield is its schedule, which isn't as tough as some. But the Vikings sure win and have a wonderful trio of senior standouts in Kristen Watson, Natalie Beaver and Chelsea Christopherson. The Vikings are ranked No. 6 in Class 1A.

5. Stewartville (17-8)

It's tough not to be bullish on the Tigers despite those eight losses. Stewartville has played an extremely tough schedule but still has plenty of notable wins, including twice over No. 1 (Class 1A) Goodhue. This is a deep and talented team.

6. Lourdes (17-6)

Yes, Lourdes just got done losing to Stewartville. But there have also been wins over Caledonia and Byron recently. The Eagles are a young team led by Lauren Hust, Aaliyah Williams and Lily Davick and figure to be even better next season. But they're also climbing right now and can be stifling on defense.

7. Caledonia (16-7)

The Warriors have some excellent talent on their roster, but it is young talent. Their arguably two best players, Aubrie Klug and Josie Foster, are a sophomore and junior, respectively. There are a swarm of other sophomores getting significant minutes. It's meant for some highs and lows, but there is loads of potential here.

8. Winona Cotter (19-5)

These have been some tougher times of late for Cotter and that has everything to do with its rugged schedule. The Ramblers have lost three of their last four games, to Goodhue, Caledonia and La Crosse Aquinas. Two tough games remain, against Fillmore Central and Lourdes.

9. John Marshall (16-6)

The Rockets have some budding stars and it's helped them right their ship in recent weeks. At the top of that list are junior forward Ciara Seifert, junior center Laynie Meister and freshman guard Jazmin Daing. All are 6 feet or more. There have been two one-sided losses in JM's last 11 games, but the rest of them have been wins.

10. Grand Meadow (18-8)

Led by the recent outburst of 5-11 guard Lauren Queensland (averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists over her last 10 games) and the steady excellence of center Lexy Foster (averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds), the SuperLarks are hitting their stride. Grand Meadow got an impressive 59-56 win over 20th-ranked Spring Grove on Feb. 9.