50 seasons of Tomahawk Conference girls basketball

Submitted photo/information Pictured is the 1974 Morton girls basketball team, the first Tomahawk Conference girls basketball champions. Front row (l-r): Head coach Margaret Stefanich and manager Nancy Lothert. Back row (l-r): Teresa Sullivan, Cathy Gallery (co-captain), Jolene Ahrens, Betsy Angermeyr, Michelle Bidinger (co-captain), Mary Bidinger, Mona Menz, Nancy Wahldick, Debbie Lothert, Peggy Lothert, Brenda Olson, Dorothy Angermeyr and Colleen Kodet.

By Travis Rosenau

Journal Sports Editor

The Tomahawk Conference is currently in its 50th season for girls basketball.

The conference had its first season in 1974 with 10 teams, those teams being Morton, Morgan, Gaylord, Winthrop, Springfield, Sleepy Eye, Wabasso, Fairfax, Franklin and Gibbon. Morton, pictured above, was the conference’s first champion with an unbeaten 9-0 conference mark.

Morton went on to win the conference three more seasons in a row before Winthrop won the conference for the first time in 1978-79.

Journal file photo by Gary Nelson From this file photo from January 1985, Sleepy Eye’s Sandy Polesky and Springfield’s Holli Hoffman tangle over a loose ball during a Tomahawk Conference girls basketball game.

The first girls basketball team from the Tomahawk to make a state tournament appearance was Fairfax-Gibbon in 1987 under head coach Bill Alexander.

The conference’s first Player of the Year was Sleepy Eye St. Marys’ Molly Mathiowetz in her 2004-05 sophomore campaign. The most recent Player of the Year was Sleepy Eye’s Kadence Hesse in 2022-23.

Madison Mathiowetz of St. Mary’s holds the most Player of the Year awards in the conference, winning it four years in a row from her freshman season in 2018-19 to her senior year in 2021-22.

The longest-tenured coach in the conference is Bruce Woitas, who is in his 35th season as St. Mary’s head coach. Woitas also holds the most conference wins with 340 after the Knights’ wrapped up their conference play this past Tuesday with a win over Springfield.

Head coach Neil Dolan recently wrapped up his 23rd season as head coach at Wabasso with the second-most conference wins (255), while Paul Arnoldi, who coached Springfield from 1993-94 to 2014-15, has 238 career conference wins for third all-time. Dolan also coached the conference’s only state-champion team in 2004, pictured above.

Journal file photo by Gary Nelson From this file photo from December 1987, Sleepy Eye’s Angie Hauser tries to take the ball away from Leslie Schneider of St. Mary’s during a Tomahawk Conference girls basketball game.

Fitting 50 years of photos and history into one page is no easy task, but here is an illustrated flashback of Tomahawk Conference girls basketball.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see 1B for the first of several periodic stories this winter looking back on the conference.

Special thank you to Steve Sather, the TC stat man, for his assistance with this project.

From this December 1992 Journal file photo by Karen Kirk, New Ulm Cathedral’s Sarah Weier dribbles past Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s defender Kelly Tauer during a conference game.

File photo by Steve Muscatello Wabasso’s Chelsey Wegner (4), Andrea Fennern and Jessica VanLoy celebrate their 2004 Class A state championship after defeating Underwood at the Target Center in Minneapolis. In the background are the Rabbits’ Angie Beranek (14) and Katie Schumacher.

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello Minnesota Valley Lutheran's Kelsey Krohn (42) pulls in a rebound during the second quarter of the Chargers win over New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in the Section 2AA championship Friday at Bresnan Arena in the Taylor Center in Mankato.

File photo by Travis Rosenau Sleepy Eye’s Sarah Ibarra puts up a jump shot during a Class A Girls Basketball State Tournament semifinals game against Mountain Iron-Buhl on March, 16, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Sleepy Eye St. Marys’ Madison Mathiowetz, pictured right shooting a jump shot in this 2022 Journal file photo by Travis Rosenau, ended her high school basketball career as a four-time Tomahawk Conference Player of the Year. She currently plays DI basketball at South Dakota State University.

From this Jan. 26, 2024 Journal file photo by Ari Selvey, Sleepy Eye’s Kadence Hesse drives to the hoop while guarded by Sleepy Eye St. Marys’ Morgan Mathiowetz.


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