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Stewartville, hitting its stride, takes down the Goodhue girls again

Jan. 19—ROCHESTER — Tanner Teige has taken the same coaching motto employed by the state championship Stewartville football team and carried it over to the Tigers girls basketball program.

The 25-year-old Teige is Stewartville's first-year girls coach.

"Basketball practice is my favorite part of my day," said Teige, also a football assistant under Stewartville head man Garrett Mueller, who is continually preaching that same happy approach with his players.

"This has been awesome for me," Teige said. "Yeah, I love every moment of it. This is my passion. This is my drive. I tell our girls every day that practices are the favorite part of my day because I get to push them to be their best and help our program to be the best it can be."

Twice this season against No. 1-ranked Goodhue (Class 1A), Stewartville has looked its best. Goodhue has just four losses this season, two of them to fellow Hiawatha Valley League foe Stewartville. The first happened on Dec. 14, the second Friday night in the HVL-TRC Showdown at Mayo Civic Arena.

Class 3A Stewartville won by 10 points the first meeting and was even more thorough with its play Friday, walking away a 60-47 winner.

A year ago, under veteran coach Ryan Liffrig and with some crucial seniors in its lineup, Stewartville reached its first-ever state girls basketball tournament. The Tigers finished as a state runner-up to Benilde-St. Margaret's.

The Tigers miss those seniors, especially star guards Haylie Strum (last year's Post Bulletin Player of the Year) and Keeley Steele. But things are starting to come together nicely under Teige.

Stewartville has taken on a murderous schedule and has sustained some losses because of it, currently sitting at 11-6 overall. The setbacks were to No. 3 Delano (Class 3A), No. 8 Byron (Class 3A), No. 4 Alexandria (Class 3A), No. 1 Minnetonka (Class 4A), No. 1 Providence Academy (Class 2A) and No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret's (Class 3A).

But they see the benefits of what they've put themselves through.

"I think playing better teams pushes us to become better," said Stewartville 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Jaci Rath, who was excellent Friday with 14 points and a superb floor game. "And obviously, you know, we might not have won those games, but it helps us become better and learn what we need to do better in order to win other big games like that."

Taking on Goodhue is among those big games. The Wildcats entered having won 10 straight games, including recently knocking off No. 8-ranked Byron (Class 3A).

But Stewartville's size, depth and multiple-scoring threats (the Tigers had four players with at least eight points against Goodhue) won out again. Nobody was better on either side than Stewartville shooting guard Savannah Hedin. Also a key piece to last year's state runner-up team, the senior was lethal from 3-point distance against Goodhue, knocking down 4 of 8 attempts from there and finishing with 20 points. Stewartville, blessed with a bunch of sweet shooters, hit 11 3-pointers overall.

Hedin's best thing is often her ability to drive, using her strength and quickness to get herself to the rim where the left-hander finishes so well. But on Friday, that 3-ball was feeling good.

"When I look at my wrist, and how bent it is, that is when I feel like those (3-pointers) are going to go in," said Hedin, who favors the bent approach.

Stewartville's primary focus in this game — as it is with any team that's playing Goodhue — was to not let Wildcats star guard Elisabeth Gadient beat it. Gadient got her points, all right — 24 of them — but that came on 27 shots. Stewartville held the future Minnesota State University, Mankato player to 2-for-14 shooting from deep.

Teige and his players like where they're at. There have been plenty of transitions this season, with a new coach and seven seniors having graduated from a year ago. But things are coming together for this bunch.

Hedin has taken it upon herself to be the conductor of this group. An outgoing sort with plenty of confidence, being a senior leader comes naturally for her.

"I feel like I keep the girls together," Hedin said. "It's also nice, because I feel like the girls look up to me. It's just nice having that role."

But the thing that pleased Hedin most right now is how the team is playing. She sure liked what she saw Friday.

"I think we're playing really well," she said. "We're moving the ball around and making the extra pass."

Stewartville 60, Goodhue 47

GOODHUE (47)

Natalie Thomforde 6 P; Mackenzie Lodermeier 5 P; Lola Christianson 4 P; Kendyl Lodermeier 6 P; Elisabeth Gadient 24 P, 2 3-PT; Julia Carlson 2 P.

STEWARTVILLE (60)

Audrey Shindelar 8 P, 2 3-PT; Taylor Klement 16 P, 4 3-PT; Jayci Rath 14 P, 1 3-PT; Savannah Hedin 20 P, 4 3-PT; Addison Ruffridge 2 P.

Halftime: STEW 33, GOOD 22.

Free throws: GOOD 10-15, STEW 3-5.

Three-point goals: GOOD 2, STEW 11.