Archive for Jared Martinson

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Crusaders overpower Lester Prairie in Section 4A showdown

Tall, talented and tough: a few words to describe the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball squad this season. They used all three of those attributes to take down local rival and section foe Lester Prairie Tuesday, their size and skill pushing them to a 38-22 halftime lead and their toughness showing when they stomped out a small Bulldogs run in the second half due to diluted Crusader shot selection. Ultimately Mayer Lutheran prevailed 69-46, adding another quality win to their resume as a top-10 Class A team.

“They’re a really well-coached team and have some very good players,” Crusaders head coach Kris Gustin said. “But we knew we had a size advantage and when they came out in man-to-man our high-low was going to be effective for us.”

Mayer’s size at every position was a clear factor on both ends of the floor, deterring many Lester Prairie shots in the paint and grabbing offensive rebounds for putbacks to cushion the lead. The Bulldogs were also without leading scorer Marissa Radtke Tuesday. The handful of games this season Lester Prairie’s competed in without her have revealed some players that can step up. Against a big, strong, talented team like Mayer Lutheran, why not look to eighth-grade point guard Addison Hoof for that boost?

Hoof’s energy on the glass and prowess for swiping the ball from opponents to ignite the fast break gave the Bulldogs life both early on and in the 10-0 second half run to cut the lead back to single digits. Oh, and she was the smallest player on the floor, too.

“It was her fast break,” Lee said of Hoof leading the charge. “She’s so quick. I think the whole team played well, having to play a little differently without Marissa.”

It seemed shorthanded Lester Prairie would keep it tight through the first nine minutes of the game, the Crusaders leading just 14-12; a quick explosion in the form of a 24-10 run to end the half put Mayer in a better position. They had pretty much everything working on the offensive end as long as they were patient. When things got a little too relaxed with the lead, that’s when Lester Prairie’s efforts paid off to make it a close game again. Hoof caught Mayer Lutheran flat-footed a few times beating them down the floor after a hurried shot attempt or steal.

“I thought we were maybe a little impatient at times,” Gustin said. “We talked at halftime about coming out with a killer instinct, and when you’ve got a team on the ropes like that, you have to push through and take control of the game. The exact reverse happened. I thought we got good shots, but they were jump shots; we really wanted to get the ball inside.”

“They did a good job of getting us to turn over the ball,” Mayer Lutheran senior Morgan Chmielewski said. “Sometimes we get kind of excited and push a little too much. But at the end we pulled it together and executed a little better.”

Four Crusaders hit double figures thanks to some deft passing on the interior for paint shots. Guard Emma Lade led the way with 20 points while Chmielewski and Carns added 14 apiece. Lilly Wachholz had a strong presence inside for 10 points as well. As for the home stretch of the regular season, they’ll stick to their guns in the lane and play off of that strength.

“We just need to keep pushing the ball and getting it inside,” Chmielewski said. “Then we can kick out to shooters too. We’re getting pretty good at that.”

Balance, depth and unselfishness usually translates to the postseason — which is looming large with four games to go in the regular season and a couple big challenges left on the schedule for Mayer Lutheran in Minnehaha Academy and Heritage Christian on the road.

“We have two conference games that we have to take care of,” Gustin said. “The girls have a conference championship as one of their goals. The second goal is to be the number one seed in our section. That Heritage game really matters; this year it’s home court advantage in the playoffs. We’re happy to be tested and ultimately glad to be playing good competition at the end of the season.”

For Lester Prairie, a quartet of games over the next 11 days to close the regular season will be big for momentum into a possible rematch with Mayer Lutheran during the 4A playoffs. If they battle like they did Tuesday, no outcome is out of the question.

“We competed with a really, really good team. They’re near the top of QRF in the state and well-deserving,” Lee said. “They’re a big team. I thought our smaller girls did a really nice job against them.”

Taylor Ebert scored 14, Lizzy Anderson eight and Addison Hoof seven for the Bulldogs.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the March 5 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Watertown-Mayer boys claw back, fall short to Dragons

LITCHFIELD — Trailing the Dragons on the road 41-31 midway through the second half, John Mueller and the Watertown-Mayer boys basketball team knew it would be an uphill battle to come out on top Friday. They put together a 15-5 run in the final few minutes to tie the game, but Litchfield’s timely three-pointer to break the stalemate 49-46 couldn’t be matched on a final Royal possession.

“Being down 10 points to Litchfield is really like being down 100,” Mueller said. “The timeouts Coach Janikula called really helped us down the stretch. It just helped us focus on what we had been doing well to that point — keeping up our ball movement. So we slowly worked our way back.”

The first time these two teams met, Watertown-Mayer embraced their best style of play — patient, halfcourt offense and gritty team defense. The Royals beat the Dragons at their own game that night, 42-31 in a grinder.

The first half of play Friday seemed like it would shake out the same way. Three-pointers by Mitchell Burns and Will Hensel put the Royals up 12-7 just seven minutes into the game, taking advantage of Litchfield’s collective tunnel vision guarding Mueller — something that many teams have attempted in the second half of the season. W-M is learning how to make their opponents pay for that decision with players stepping up into aggressive roles behind Mueller.

“That balance of scoring helps us stay in games,” Mueller said.

Now, the Royals aren’t a bona fide outside shooting team, and that’s no secret. Litchfield deployed a 2-3 zone at times and it forced the perimeter players to make tough decisions with the ball in spots they weren’t normally put in.

“I’m kind of surprised teams haven’t zoned us more,” head coach Kent Janikula said. “Kids have stepped up for us. Tonight they did everything they could to stop John, and they have the bodies to do it.”

Watertown-Mayer trailed at the break 25-21 thanks to a last-second triple from Dragon point guard Tyson Michels on a broken play — a play that was, pound-for-pound, the difference in the game. A strong opening to the second frame by Litchfield pushed the lead between seven and 10 points for a majority of the final 18 minutes.

After being hounded by two or three defenders when receiving the ball and not making a field goal in the first half, Mueller got into the teeth of the Litchfield zone and cashed in at the free throw line to kickstart his 10 points on the night, none more crucial than a wing three-pointer on a kickout from Albert Rundell that cut the Dragon lead from six to three with two minutes left.

Rundell then cut through the middle on the next possession and finished a three-point play to tie the game at 46 while the clock ticked under a minute. A strong defensive possession ended in a three-point make from Ben Alsleben to finalize the score at 49-46, Rundell’s last-second heave at the buzzer just missing.

“They made one more play than us. They have two really good players [in Avery Liestman and Michels],” Janikula said. “Some bounces didn’t go our way, but I thought we were light years ahead of Tuesday (a 36-33 loss to Rockford) in terms of our effort and competing.”

This matchup with Litchfield had its moments of opening up in terms of pace. When the Royals struggled to get clean looks against the zone, they used some Litchfield misses to run in transition and get a few points back. Knocking down six shots from beyond the arc added value to their scoring too. Being more comfortable in those aspects of offense will come in handy during the postseason, where it’s likely the Royals would face uptempo teams in Minneapolis North and Blake.

“It’s going to be quite the shift in the playoffs,” Janikula said. “We’re looking forward to opening up a little more now. It’s hard; our conference plays slower for the most part. A quick shot is basically a turnover against Litchfield. We have two more non-conference games left and I’m excited for those to see what we can do.”

The Royals will have to wait until next season to try for their first regular season sweep of Litchfield since 2017, but the grudge match this year is pretty likely in the Section 5AA quarterfinals; if the first two games are any indication, intensity and competition will be at peak levels.

“I’m really excited to hopefully play them again,” Mueller said. “I think they’re a great game for us.”

Burns scored a team-high 12 points, while Mueller added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Rundell scored 11 with four rebounds and four assists, continuing to prove his playmaking ability at point guard with Wyatt McCabe slowly coming back to full strength off the bench.

Watertown-Mayer falls to 7-5 on the year with six games left, notably a rematch with Annandale sandwiched between non-league games against strong teams in Belle Plaine and Lester Prairie.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the March 6 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP BOYS SWIM & DIVE: D-C/L’s steady individual improvements partner with teamwork emphasis

Nothing’s been normal, easy or “business as usual” this winter for sports teams. The Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield boys swim and dive squad has experienced an even more less-than-ideal framework of their regular season, which closed in an 89-80 loss Tuesday night against Waconia. Through the circumstances, they’ve continued to elevate their performances week by week in the same pool on meet days.

“It’s hard this year with COVID protocols — we’re practicing in two separate pools, which we haven’t done in years,” head coach Pete Travis said. “We’ve been trying to get that teamwork back even while separated. We still try to function as a team. That’s been a challenge, but we’ll be back together these next few weeks and will keep developing that.”

The event victories didn’t exactly come in bunches Tuesday, but plenty of second and third-place finishes added up to a closer score by the end. Waconia’s early wins allowed D-C/L to get the points in later events. The Chargers also grabbed all 10 points in the diving portion as Evan Johnson and Nathan Linz tallied the top two spots with no Wildcat competition.

Jackson Resop finished second in the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, while Logan Christopherson placed runner-up in the 200 individual medley. Emmanuel Johnson narrowly missed second place in the 50 freestyle with a 25.85 time and also finished third in the 500 freestyle.

The foursome of Resop, Russel Wesa, Riley Defries and Joe Carlson added a second-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay and Wesa finished third in the 100 backstroke.

The recent strides being made individually by all ranks of D-C/L swimmers also reinforces the deeper context to what makes for a good season for them. Beyond the final score is consistent growth. The Chargers’ timing in those areas couldn’t be better as postseason approaches.

“In the middle of the season, we were getting about 30 improvements per meet. Against Montevideo we had over 50, against Hutchinson we had 47. We’re finally getting back to those improvements and hitting that top level on our way down the stretch,” Travis said.

The Chargers have a significant break to get back to practice together and put these macro and micro-tenets of their success this season in one big pot. They have time to stir it up for sections at Willmar High School starting March 12.

PREP BOYS HOCKEY: LDC halts winless streak with victory at Kennedy

BLOOMINGTON — Heading into Saturday’s road game against Bloomington Kennedy, the Dragons boys hockey team hadn’t picked up a win in 22 days. They were eager to get back on track — and they succeeded, defeating the Eagles 5-1 decisively at the Bloomington Ice Garden.

“The boys played well on Saturday,” head coach Brice Berggren said. “It’s always nice to get a win and they did a good job playing a fast and physical game that helped them set the tone. I was happy with the effort.”

Three losses and a tie had mounted since LDC’s last victory, which occurred Jan. 29 at Marshall. The 3-3 stalemate with Hutchinson, a 7-1 loss to Orono, a 5-1 setback to Delano and a late rally fallen short against Hutch again 5-4 brought the record back down to earth after a 4-0-1 start to the season.

The Dragons put the pressure on the offensive zone from the outset. LDC allowed just 11 shots on goal for the entire game and held the Eagles scoreless until the 5:31 mark of the third period. Jack Hillmann got the separation needed to hold the lead with two even strength goals in the second period. Kennedy scored five minutes into the third frame, but Gavin Hanson scored at the 7:26 mark to get the two-goal lead back. Logan Benson and Wyatt Larson netted shots within 10 seconds of each other late in the third to cement a final score of 5-1.

Seven different players tallied assists and four different players had goals in the game, a display of sharing the puck that could have been even more diverse with plenty of close shots that missed off rebounds near the net. That’s been an emphasis lately for the Dragons to put pressure on the opposing defense and goaltender.

“We have been working in practice on getting more guys in front of the net and trying to get more goals off of rebounds,” Berggren said. “We have also been focusing on getting more shots in the slot area and being more physical in the tough areas. We did a good job in all of these areas on Saturday. We will continue to work on them and keep improving as we enter the second half of the regular season.”

A result of that offensive push was just one Kennedy shot on goal in the second period while also gaining momentum back after a penalty kill.

With the win, LDC is 5-3-2 with eight games remaining in the regular season including one against Redwood Valley, the team directly chasing them in the section standings. Some momentum shifting back in the right direction after a three-week, four-game skid gives them the juice to keep playing fast and physical, as Berggren observed and was happy with Saturday.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 26 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Rockford zone and cold shooting stymie Laker offense

ROCKFORD — Let’s look back at January 26, 2021. That was the date of the first meeting between Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Rockford in boys basketball, and the Lakers led by six at halftime in that one. Rockford surged back to win 78-73 in HLWW’s gym, but the frontcourt combo of Drew Burau and Spencer Lade scored 36 points in the loss — showing that on their better nights, the Lakers can compete with the best of the Wright County West and Section 5AA.

Friday’s rematch in Rockford didn’t play out as smoothly, especially on offense. HLWW got the looks they wanted early against the Rockets’ man-to-man defense — then the vaunted 3-2 zone was implemented and the Lakers had trouble finding the paint they dominated so well back on Jan. 26, dropping the contest 71-42.

“The difference was they had the top guy in their zone drop and cover the high post,” HLWW senior forward Spencer Lade said. “That made it tougher for the guards to get the ball into us. Last game we’d get the ball inside and the Rockford defenders would collapse on me, which led to open kickouts or easy layups for my teammates.”

That small adjustment from Rockford was enough to force the Lakers into corners as they scanned for open lanes to drive and pass into. It didn’t help matters that the Rockets were on fire from downtown all game, even without starting point guard Ryan Boysen. Nolan Perry made HLWW pay for leaving him open beyond the arc multiple times, scoring 15 points.

When the Lakers did find openings to score inside and got good looks from the outside, the basketball gods didn’t comply.

“That’s the game of basketball. Sometimes they go down, sometimes they don’t,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “In games like this, we’re telling guys, ‘keep playing hard until the end.’ I’m proud of how they kept playing. Every time we hit the court, we’re always looking to improve.”

HLWW trailed 35-18 at halftime and Rockford kept them at that distance the entire half, extending the lead to as much as 26 by the time the benches were emptied. Lade scored a team-high 10 points, while the guard trio of Carson Woolhouse, Bennett Paulson and Noah Bush added six each.

The efficient high-low pairing of Burau and Lade didn’t get the touches it normally would; the Rockets played a majority of the game with five guards and wings, able to cover ground and block gaps that the Laker frontcourt would usually slip through to reach the rim.

The Lakers are now 4-7, beyond the halfway mark of the regular season. Three of their losses have come by a combined nine points — to section foes Litchfield, Rockford and Watertown-Mayer. The playoff push is looming, and even just knowing you can hang with teams ahead of you, in addition to having seen them twice already, can be enough of a built-in advantage to make some noise come playoff time.

“As far as the section goes, this was a tough section opponent,” Carr said. “We’ve seen them a couple times now, we’re going to continue to get better.”

“The mindset is that we need to put a full game together,” Lade said. “We either have a good first half or good second half. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it soon heading into playoffs.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 26 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lakers supporting cast steps forward in loss to Rockford

HOWARD LAKE — Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted sophomore guard Ivy Fasching has been the main source of offense for the Lakers this season. Her 19.5 points per game through the team’s first seven contests accounted for nearly half the team’s points per game average. An off night for Fasching would surely spell trouble for the rest of the team’s prospects — until the first half of tonight’s game against Rockford.

A few turnovers, some missed three-pointers and three personal fouls in the first 18 minutes made it hard for her to find a rhythm offensively that would keep HLWW afloat. It was then up to the other starters to pick up some responsibility; Abby Niesen and Brooke Baumann helped lead a late half run to cut the deficit to 25-21 at the break.

“We’ve kind of been waiting all year for some other girls to look to be scorers,” head coach Ryan Petersen said. “I was happy to see our team step up.”

Niesen scored all seven of her points in the first half adding point guard duties to her job description. Baumann’s trademark hustle on the offensive glass got her six points and a handful of rebounds throughout the game, and center Carolyn Remer used soft touch at the free throw line to facilitate her six points. Coming into Thursday, the trio averaged 4.6, 4.2 and 4.9 points per game respectively. They combined for 19 tonight.

Fasching found a better groove after halftime, scoring the team’s first five points and finishing with 15, but quickly snagged her fourth foul at the 14-minute mark and had to sit for six minutes. A 25-23 deficit became 47-32 by that point, but the Lakers’ short rotation along with foul trouble meant Niesen, Baumann and Remer hardly exited the floor.

The team defense — especially in the first half — was a chief reason for the better offensive balance as well. Rockford was forced into double-digit turnovers by the intermission and the Lakers made them earn their field goals at the free throw line. Heavy minutes for the starters and some trouble clearing defensive rebounds made things a bit more lopsided in the second half, but HLWW recovered a little to drop the game by a final score of 58-44.

“That’s what it’s been all year, halfcourt defense for us has been solid,” Petersen said. “We do things right, it’s just about doing them consistently. Rebounding has been a huge deal this year too, and we’re just trying to improve every day on those things.”

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 26 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR