Menahga Girls Ready For First Ever State Appearance
In just two days, the Minnesota girls basketball state tournament will see new faces when the Menahga Braves head down to participate in the school’s first ever basketball state tournament. The head coach of the Braves credits the leadership of the team and its growth in the off-season.
“Tons of players on this team stepped up as leaders in this offseason and really took it upon themselves to be leaders,” Menahga Head Coach Cody Pulju said. “That’s the difference between us being 30-0 and in the state tournament and being maybe four or five losses on the season.”
The players, on the other hand, credit the team chemistry for the success of the 30-0 season up to this point.
“We’re really together,” Cierra Ahlf, Braves junior guard, said. “We like to communicate together, we’re a close family, most of us are all related, and it’s a really good experience that we’re going to state, and I can’t wait for it.”
Among the leaders stands the only senior on the team in Leah Schwartz, who says it’s been her dream to go to the state tournament.
“You live it up so much and everything,” Schwartz, a senior forward, said. “Seeing our fans when they turn out the lights and we have the glow bracelets, it’s honestly the greatest thing ever. I can’t even express myself on how awesome it is.”
In the four days since last week’s section final win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, the city of less than 1,500 people has banded around and embraced the Braves.
“It feels amazing,” Ahlf said. “There’s so much support from everyone, everyone’s just coming together and everyone loves the Braves and rowing the boat.”
Standing in the way of the fifth-seeded Braves at Williams Arena will be Minneota, who drew the fourth-seed in the Class A tournament.
“Minneota is tough,” Pulju said. “They play a lot like us. They’ve got one tough post. That’ll give us some trouble because we lack size a bit. But they’ve got quick guards that like to drive, like to be aggressive, like to run the floor. So, we’ll have to play good team defense and shoot the ball well.”
As for what it’ll take to bring home that state title to Menahga, Leah Schwartz says the team just has to keep to the team motto: “row the boat.”
“They’ve just got to keep rowing,” Schwartz said. “That’s it. You’ve just got to row and believe. Honestly, just believe.”
The Braves will take on Minneota on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.