The quest for a third-consecutive state championship begins Friday for the Aquinas High School girls basketball team (20-1).
This season, Division 4’s top-ranked squad will have to play at least a few rounds without Drake University commit, Courtney Becker, who suffered a knee injury late.
Aquinas coach Dave Donarski said he’s trying to make sure his team doesn’t try to push too much to win for Becker, who averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds and will be re-evaluated next week.
“That adds a little bit of pressure if you let it,” Donarski said. “We’re very fortunate to have that senior leadership. As much as we want Courtney to play, if she’s not able to, she’s a great leader on the bench, as well.”
In winning the past two state championships, Aquinas had to beat Melrose-Mindoro (21-1) for the title. That could likely happen again, as the No. 2-ranked team is on the other half of the bracket.
Three seasons ago, the Blugolds took a 27-0 record to the state championship, before losing to Howards Grove 44-43. Over the past four seasons now, Aquinas is 102-3. The other two losses came this season and last to nationally ranked Hopkins (Minn.).
Heading into Friday’s matchup against No. 8 seed Darlington, Becker’s role will rely on several players, led by sophomore Jacy Weisbrod, who saw action as a freshman during the playoffs.
“She plays starter minutes,” Donarski said. “She’s shooting a staggering 49% from 3. She’s been just outstanding the whole way through.”
Playoff basketball can be difficult to prepare for with teams knowing sometimes less than 24 hours before tip-off who their opponent will be.
That’s not an issue with the Bluegolds.
“I’ve got a crazy coaching staff who’s willing to go on the road all winter long,” Donarski said. “We have a pretty good library of film on all the teams we could potentially see, all the way through the state championship.”