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Girls basketball: Becca Holland begins tenure as West Central Area head coach

The Knights began their season with a tough task to begin the season as took on New London-Spicer, who is led by Mike Dreier, the all-time winningest girls basketball head coach in the state. The Knights lost 70-43 but are looking to build on the positives from the game and early practices as Holland's first season as head coach progresses.

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West Central Area girls basketball head coach Becca Holland motions to her bench to sub in a player during a game on Nov. 29, 2022. Holland is a UM-Morris graduate who is in her third year teaching in the school district and in her first season as head coach.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press
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BARRETT - The West Central Area girls basketball team began its first season with Becca Holland as the head coach with a tough task, facing New London-Spicer, who is coached by Mike Dreier, the all-time winningest girls basketball head coach in the state. Dreier had 1,009 career wins heading into Tuesday's game.

The Knights found a bit of rhythm in the latter stages of the game, but the Wildcats won the game 70-43.

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West Central Area's Claire Stark puts up a shot over New London-Spicer's Ava Carlson (15) during a game on Nov. 29, 2022. Stark scored 16 points in the Knights' 70-43 loss.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“The girls definitely had a lot of jitters in the first half, but then they settled in the second half,” Holland said.

Holland and the Knights took the challenge head-on and managed to come away with some positives from the game.

“It was for sure intimidating,” Holland said about facing a coach who is the only girls basketball coach in state history to have more than 1,000 wins. “He’s a nice guy, he came out, and we had a chat before the game. He said he knew my girls and that he was excited to watch them play. We tried our best to prepare and we got the jitters out of the way that first half, but then we kind of calmed down and let loose a little bit in the second half.”

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The Wildcats' defense caused the Knights to commit a handful of turnovers early and the Wildcats led 41-15 at halftime.

The Knights’ offensive attack got going a bit more in the second half, as they scored 28 points in the final 18 minutes of play. The Knights offense on Tuesday was led by sophomore Macy Grosz and senior Claire Stark. Stark led the team with 18 points, all of which came on free throws or shots inside the three-point line, and sophomore Macy Grosz knocked down four three-pointers and finished with 16 points.

With the win, Dreier is two wins away from tying legendary boys basketball head coach Bob McDonald, who amassed 1,012 career wins as a head coach in 59 seasons, mostly at Chisholm.

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New London-Spicer head coach Mike Dreier coaches during a 70-43 win over West Central Area on Nov. 29, 2022. This win was Dreier's 1,010th as a head coach.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Wildcats were led in scoring on Tuesday by Avery Rich with 21 points.

For the Knights, they’re beginning the season by learning some things from their new head coach.

“We’ve been having a new experience on offense, and our pressing on defense has been a little bit different so far,” Stark said. “We've been doing pretty good. We've been learning and trying new things. A lot of the stuff we're doing this year is pretty different from last year.”

“It's been fun,” Grosz said. “It's nice to learn new things as well as keep some old things. You just get a look from both perspectives.”

Holland played high school sports at Morris Area and played college softball and basketball at the University of Minnesota-Morris (2016-2020).

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On the court in college, Holland was a consistent starter for the Cougars in her final two seasons and is using that college experience to help teach the Knights.

“I'm super excited to work with this group,” Holland said. “Coming up from college, I brought that knowledge here and asked my college coaches, ‘what do I need to bring to this level?’ These girls have welcomed me into the program. They love to play the game, and they're passionate. So I'm just as excited as them to bring the passion of the game alive.”

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West Central Area sophomore Macy Grosz drives to the hoop in the first half of a game on Nov. 29, 2022. Grosz had a team-high 18 points in the team's 70-43 loss to New London-Spicer.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Holland has worked in the West Central Area school district since graduating from college. Holland takes over a program that has seen plenty of recent success under the previous head coach Eric Schoenbauer. Schoenbauer had a 135-74 at WCA in eight seasons coached and led the Knights to the 2021 Class AA State Tournament.

The Knights also lost Lexi Bright, who put her name all over the program’s record before she graduated last spring and is the program's only 2,000-point scorer. Bright was a Class AA honorable mention who averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game while shooting 47.96 percent from the floor and 39.24 percent from the three-point line.

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West Central Area's Sydney Ulrich drives the ball to the baseline in the first half of the team's 70-43 loss to New London-Spicer on Nov. 29, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“A lot of them have had to fill in different roles,” Holland said. “They’re finding their roles, and I think that showed in the first half of this game too. They were trying to figure out, ‘Where do I fit in? What am I supposed to do?’ So we're breaking kind of some of the things that they didn't do before."

The Knights do return some solid pieces from last season’s team that went 18-6 , including Grosz and Stark, who were All-Pheasant Conference selections last season, along with sophomores Mya Foslien and Addison Staples, who were all-conference honorable mentions last season as freshmen.

“We're going to work together, and they all get along,” Holland said. “They work well with picking each other up. They get frustrated when things aren't going well. And that's just their passion coming out. They know that they can do better, and they all come in, they work hard, and I can't teach them to work hard. So I really appreciate that. This group has that.”

The Knights want to and expect to grow as the season progresses.

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Stark and Grosz said increasing team chemistry is a team goal right now.

WCA hits the road for its next three games, the first coming against Royalton at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“I’m ready to see what we can do with what we've got this year,” Stark said. “This was a rough start, but we can come back and work hard.”

The Knights play in Section 3AA and are in a new conference this season, the West Central Conference.

New London-Spicer - 41 29 - 70

West Central Area - 15 28 - 43

NEW LONDON SPICER SCORING - Alya Caskey, 2 points; Jaden Coahran, 11 points; Avery Rich, 21 points; Ava Carlson, 7 points; Kaylee Thorson, 1 point; Ellaray Peterson, 1 point; Dakota Rich, 17 points; Allison Van Nurden, 2 points; Delaney Hanson, 6 points; Katelynn Tortorella, 6 points

WEST CENTRAL AREA SCORING - Macy Grosz, 18 points; Mya Foslien, 5 points; Sydney Ulrich, 3 points; Addison Staples, 1 point; Claire Stark, 16 points

2022-23 REMAINING SCHEDULE (subject to change) -
Dec. 3 at Royalton, 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 6 at Sauk Centre, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Morris Area, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 vs Montevideo, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 at Melrose Area, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19 vs Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 22 vs Hancock, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 & 29 Pelican Rapids TBD
Jan. 3 at WHN, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 5 at Minnewaska, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 7 at Fergus Falls, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 vs Staples-Motley, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 vs Benson, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 vs Breckenridge, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 at BOLD, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 at Montevideo, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 vs Sauk Centre, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 at Osakis, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs Morris Area, 6 p.m.
Feb. 7 at BOLD, 7:30 p.m
Feb. 10 vs Melrose, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 vs Minnewaska, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20 at Benson, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 25 Section 3AA first round
Feb. 28 Section 3AA second round
March 3 Section 3AA semifinals
March 5 Section 3AA finals

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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