Older, wiser New Town ready for state

It’s been the same song for second-ranked New Town, but now the Eagles hope it ends with a more desirable tune.

A year ago, New Town cruised into the Class B state tournament with an unblemished record before going 0-fer the weekend.

When the Eagles (25-1) begin the same tournament at the Fargodome tonight at 6:30 against Thompson (23-2), they won’t be ill-prepared for the ensuing gauntlet.

“Last year we were more excited to just be there,” New Town standout Gabby Wilkinson said. “But we weren’t prepared to win a game. We’re going there to win all of them this year.”

A beefed-up schedule might have been the Eagles’ biggest teacher.

New Town didn’t want to run through Region 8 before getting a legitimate test, so top-ranked Bishop Ryan and Region 5 power Shiloh Christian were added to this year’s non-league slate.

The Eagles dropped the December meeting with Ryan 66-51 for their only loss and clipped Shiloh Christian 65-61. They beat their rest of their opponents by an average of 32 points per contest.

“We knew playing those teams would make us tournament ready,” New Town coach Orville Drosdal said. “We lost a little bit of focus last year, and we’re trying to stay away from that.”

A state-tournament regular, New Town has punched its ticket to six of the last 10 tourneys. The highest its ever finished, though, was third in 2007.

With the return of their entire lineup, the second-ranked Eagles believe they have the means to make an unpredecented run.

Wilkinson, a junior, has loaded the stat sheet all season with averages of 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Baeleigh Brady (12.6 ppg) and Jaye Two Bears (11.2 ppg), also average double figures for a team that plays up to eight players consistently.

But while the young Eagles average a lofty 72 points per game, they’re just as much of a pest defensively with 16 steals per contest.

“If we’re calm, we’re good at transition and half-court offense,” Wilkinson said. “But we’re also good at both ends of the floor.”

New Town locks up with a Thompson team that rolled through Region 2 and plays with a similar flare.

The Tommies also lost to Ryan in December, a 66-56 decision.

The winner of the New Town-Thompson contest takes on the winner of Ryan-Benson County in the semifinals.

“It should be an exciting matchup,” Drosdal said. “Both teams are evenly matched and like to get up and down the floor.”