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Lakes Area Starz earn silver medal in State Games of America

Photo provided Members of the Starzz basketball team who made the trip to Colorado recently include (front, l-r) Avery Jackson (Wadena/Deer-Creek), September Pruchek (Crosby-Ironton), Kayla Kraemer (Brainerd) and Emily Lueck (Peqout Lakes); (back, l-r) Jon Lillquist (Sebeka), Kelsey Rice (Staples-Motley), Mattie Lueck (Peqout Lakes), Jessica Lillquist (Sebeka), Arei Stokes (Bertha-Hewitt) and Alicia Boe (New York Mills).

The Lakes Area Starz, a basketball team made up of girls from 10 different central Minnesota schools, won a silver medal in the State Games of America in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Starz won their first pool game by a final score of 47-30, defeating the Lady Legends of Colorado Springs. All 10 girls scored for the Starz who were led by September Prushek (Crosby-Ironton), Mattie Lueck (Peqout Lakes) and Jessica Lilliquist (Sebeka) with eight points each.

In their second game, the Starz beat the Ute Mountain team from the Four Corners Region by a final of 64-21. Alicia Boe (New York Mills) led Lakes Area with 15 points. Lillquist scored 12 and Aimee Pelzer (Upsala) added 10.

The Starz defeated the Hot Shots from Grant, N.M. 33-27 with nine of the 10 girls hitting the scoring column. Two big three-point shots from Aimee Pelzer (Upsala) and Emily Lueck (Peqout Lakes) helped the Starz build the winning margin.

Competing in the 9-10 grade division, Lakes Area was seeded third in the bracket tournament. They were one of three remaining undefeated teams left in the tournament. In the opening round, the Starz took on the Lady Legends of Colorado Springs. The game was a rematch of the opening pool play game between these two teams that the Starz won by a final of 47-30.

The Lady Legends were a much more formidable opponent the second time around and played a very good game, but LAS won 54-43. The Starz pressure defense again was the key.

Lakes Area then moved onto the semifinals and played the No. 2 seeded and undefeated New Mexico Spears from Farmington, N.M.

The Starz took an early eight point lead, then fell behind by 10, only to fight back and tie the game at halftime on a three pointer by Kayla Kraemer (Brainerd). The Starz pulled away in the second half with eight three-point shots made by Kelsey Rice (Staples) Alicia Boe (New York Mills) Avery Jackson (Wadena/Deer-Creek), Arei Stokes (Bertha-Hewitt) and Mattie Lueck (Peqout Lakes). Lakes Area advanced to the title game with a 53-43 victory.

The Starz went 3-0 in pool play and won their first two games in bracket play, before losing to the Rockies Black 2013 team from Denver 46-37 in the championship game.

With their runner-up finish, the Lakes Area Starz received an invitation to participate in the 2011 State Games of America in San Diego, Calif.

The LAS team also took home the silver in the State of America games in 2007.

The Starz were the only Minnesota girls team playing in the State games.

Tatum Sheley (8, Pine River-Backus) is also a member of this team, but due to other commitments did not play in this tournament. The Starz are coached by Jon Lillquist (Sebeka).

The key to this team's success is the girls passion for the game of basketball. They played in weekend tournaments from April 11 until May 30 and compiled a 24-3 record during that time.

As many as 10,000 athletes from 43 states are competing for some 6,600 medals in 31 sports during the State Games of America, an event billed as America's largest national amateur multi-sport event for athletes of all ages and skill levels.