2019-20 RECORD: 21-6 overall, 10-4 Gopher (3rd)
LAST GAME: 69-56 loss to Fillmore Central in the Section 1A title game
Blooming Prairie head coach John Bruns says his team has waited for this season to start since the end of last season.
The 2019-20 season ended in disappointment for the Awesome Blossoms, who entered the Section 1A tournament as the No. 1 seed, when second-seeded Fillmore Central upset them 69-56 for a spot in the state tournament.
The Falcons forced 21 turnovers and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history. The loss prevented Blooming Prairie from making its first state tournament appearance since 1999. The closest the Blossoms got to Fillmore Central came with less than five minutes to play when Julia Worke hit two 3-pointers to make it a three-point game, but the Falcons countered with back-to-back 3s to start to pull away again.
Bruns has coached this group of players since they took the court as third-graders and he doesn’t plan to stray from his approach this season.
“They really know the expectations that I have and more than anything the expectations they have for themselves,” Bruns said. “It’s just a really fantastic group of kids.”
At the top of the list of returners is Megan Oswald, who recently committed to the University of Jamestown to play basketball. Oswald averaged a double-double last year with 17.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. She also averaged 2.4 assists a game and 3.5 steals while shooting 51% from the field.
Bobbie Bruns returns for her junior season after scoring 13.4 points a game and dishing out 3.7 assists a game. She nearly topped the school record for assists in a season that her mother set. Bruns also averaged 3.2 rebounds and 3.3 steals.
Both Bruns and Oswald spent the summer and fall playing AAU basketball with the Southern Minnesota Fury and could take another step forward.
Blooming Prairie did graduate Julia Worke, who became a reliable third option when teams tried to shut down Oswald and Bruns, but coach Bruns has options who can elevate their games when necessary. Maggie Bruns, Maren Forystek and Allison Krohnberg showed the ability to score in double digits last season and hit big shots in big games. Additionally, 6-foot sophomore Anna Pauly displayed promise on the junior varsity team after leading the squad in scoring despite playing just the first half in the majority of games last year.
The Blossoms typically play in a 14-18 game summer league but didn’t do so this year due to COVID-19, but did get a scrimmage against Albert Lea. Despite the lack of game action, Bruns has seen his players find ways to stay active. Whether it’s going on runs or dribbling the ball with gloves on due to chilly outdoor weather, the players appear dedicated to a big year.
“We have five girls back who have been on the varsity team for four to five years,” he said. “In a season like this, that is going to benefit us.”
The Gopher Conference features defending co-champion Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which finished ranked No. 7 in Class A and won its quarterfinal state tournament game before COVID-19 canceled the rest of the tournament. Blooming Prairie expects to challenge the Buccaneers for the title this season while Medford, which has won the conference the last two years, doesn’t expect to go anywhere in the conference race despite graduating three outstanding players in Kiley Nihart, Izzy Reuvers and Emma Kniefel. Then New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva could surprise some teams as it returns a group of players who saw extensive time as freshmen last season.
Section 1A has shifted a bit with Fillmore Central graduating its top three players. Kingsland, which reached the quarterfinals, returns its lineup. Southland returns several of its starters and Houston brings back its entire roster. Randolph, which the Blossoms beat in the quarterfinals returns a chunk of its lineup.