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Smart leads way for A-B

Ada-Borup vs. Wrenshall - When: 5 p.m. today - Where: Williams Arena, Minneapolis Nicole Smart has no problem grabbing all of the attention from opposing coaches. The Ada-Borup junior knows that if everybody's worried about her, then it will be e...

Ada-Borup vs. Wrenshall

- When: 5 p.m. today

- Where: Williams Arena, Minneapolis

Nicole Smart has no problem grabbing all of the attention from opposing coaches.

The Ada-Borup junior knows that if everybody's worried about her, then it will be easy for her teammates to win games.

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"Defenses have been worried about stopping me, but that's fine," Smart said. "I've got a lot of good help with these teammates.

"Every single one of them can step up and play."

Nicole Smart is the No. 1 option on offense for the Cougars, who take on Wrenshall in the first round of the state Class 1A girls basketball tournament.

Smart averages 22 points, five rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.

She's also an annoying nuisance on defense, averaging 5.2 steals per game.

"But defense as a whole has been a key for us the last two years," Cougars coach David Smart said. "We have a good system here, but it's one thing to have it, and another to have it run the right way.

"They've been putting the clamps on."

The Cougars have been down this road before - and it didn't work out as well as they hoped last time.

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Ada-Borup is 28-1 and enters the state tournament ranked No. 1 in Class 1A - the same record and ranking it had going into last year's tourney.

The Cougars lost in the semifinals and wound up third.

"I think that has been a big motivator for us," Nicole Smart said. "I mean, you're happy to be at state, but we want that next step."

Nicole Smart has taken the next step with her offensive game. She's always been a good shooter, but now she's added some other dimensions.

"She's a shooter, but now you have to be able to defend her drive and her pull-up jumper," David Smart said. "She's pretty good at picking what's working for her."

Nicole's sister, Kelli, was the unquestioned leader on the floor last year, but she is now at Mayville State. The leadership role didn't pass on to just one player, Nicole said.

"She definitely had a big role for us, but others have stepped up into that role," Nicole Smart said. "We kind of waited for someone to step into it, and the whole team kind of did.

"It's a different team - not better or worse - just different."

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Of course, a team doesn't get a No. 1 ranking two years in a row because of just one player. Nicole has plenty of help in the likes of Laura Kolness, Katy Ness, Sarah Wagner and Brittany Burke - to name a few.

The Cougars are going to need them all if they're going to take that next step into the state championship game.

"Last year was a good year for us, but I think it was disappointing that we didn't get there," Nicole Smart said. "That's been a huge goal for us."

Readers can reach Forum sports writer Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins' prep sports blog can be found at www.areavoices.com

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