Archive for Kip Kovar

KOVAR: In sports or not, life is always what you make of it (With Videos)

There’s a vending machine in our office here at the Herald Journal. Sixty cents for a can of pop. Not a bad deal, right?

Here’s the catch. You need exactly sixty cents in the form of two quarters and a dime. If you don’t have that, you better have a dollar bill to get change. No five-dollar bills. Just ones.

You need 60 cents in the form of two quarters and a dime to receive the beverage you want. Not six dimes. Not two quarters and two nickels.

It can be maddening at times. I’ll have three quarters, which is more than enough, yet it won’t get me the caffeine boost I desire after another long night. I’ll have a five-dollar bill, but that’s still not going to get the job done, despite me having far more than I need for a single can of pop.

Sometimes in the world of sports, and in life for that matter, you can find yourself in a spot like that. Having everything you need to be successful, and a different result presents itself, all because of something minor as not having the right coins. That’s where it all becomes what you make of it.

In the past year or so, social media sites have added a feature called memories. This gives users an opportunity to look back on some of their posts, photos, and videos from years back that happened on that day.

I had one the other day that made me stop and think for a bit. For those who don’t know, I worked in Sleepy Eye for a year before I came to the Herald Journal. During my time there, I covered one of the greatest moments I think I will ever get the luxury to cover. That moment came up in my memories and got me thinking.

The moment came on the campus of Minnesota State University-Mankato. It happened March 11, 2016. It was a great basketball game between the Sleepy Eye Indians and ML/GHEC/T Jaguars, but that’s not the reason it stands out.

Out of the 2,160 seconds in a high school basketball game, 2,157.1 of those seconds were just a game. The final 2.9 seconds were something much more.

In those final two seconds, Sleepy Eye’s Madi Heiderscheidt checked into the game just 62 days after tearing her ACL in a conference game earlier in the season. It wasn’t much. Just a few seconds and a simple inbounds pass as the Indians ran out the clock. Yet it was so much more.

Heiderscheidt, who was arguably the top player for the Indians, was forced to watch her team after suffering her injury. The Indians went on to reach the state tournament in 2016, along with Heiderscheidt leading them from the bench now.

Flash forward to 2018, and Heiderscheidt was then a senior. Back healthy and even stronger, she led her team back to the state tournament once again. This time, the Indians made an impressive run all the way to the Class A title game despite being unseeded.

In her sophomore year, Heiderscheidt had everything she needed in front of her. She had the 60 cents in the correct form, but life had other plans.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself and letting life get the best of her, Heiderscheidt fought back. She came back stronger. She took one of life’s biggest challenges at the age, and turned it into something she, her teammates, her school, and family will remember forever – another state tournament appearance and run to the state title game.

Think that’s the only moment that stands out from games I’ve covered at the Taylor Center in Mankato? Not quite.

Almost a year ago today was the shot by Mayer Lutheran’s Cole Hagen in the Section 2A title game. As great and memorable as the shot from Hagen was, it’s the story behind it that makes it even better.

Hagen missed more than two months of the regular season dealing with injuries. It was his senior year. Instead of enjoying the game of basketball with his friends and teammates, he was forced to be sidelined.

Hagen battled the injuries all season long, and returned to action shortly before the playoffs began. Even though he was back on the court, his level of play wasn’t exactly where he liked it to be, especially with a tough postseason run ahead of Mayer Lutheran.

Leading up to the Section 2A title game against Springfield, Hagen wasn’t the shooter he normally was. He was missing wide-open looks, and missing badly. He just wansn’t the player he was the season before.

Through the first three games of the playoffs, Hagen didn’t make a single 3-pointer. He was saving hitting that first one for a better time.

With seconds remaining in the championship game against Springfield, Hagen received the pass outside the 3-point line. A trip to the state tournament was in the hands of the kid who missed two months of the season dealing with injuries. In a way which can only happen in the beautiful world of sports, Hagen found nothing but the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded and he sent his team to the state tournament for the first time since 2000.

Like Heiderscheidt, Hagen could have let his injuries get the best of him. He didn’t though. He stayed patient. He waited for his moment, and in that moment, he delivered with the biggest shot of his life.

Now comparing going to the state tournament and hitting buzzer beaters to a can of pop might be a bit of a stretch. I get that. But I also think it fits perfectly.

There will be times in our lives where things don’t go our way. We don’t have the correct form of 60 cents. We get injured. We lose a loved one. Things like that are bound to happen.

Life, and sports for that matter, are perfectly interchangeable. We deal with obstacles almost every day. It’s how we deal with them and what we make of them that matters. We take on the new challenges that present themselves in hopes that our determination and patience result in our very own memorable moment. Our very own buzzer better.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: LP/HT’s Radtke named Class A All-State Honorable Mention

What a season it was for Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity sophomore guard Marissa Radtke. Leading the way for the Bulldogs girls basketball team this past season, Radtke had one of the best seasons of her career, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

Radtke was named to the Class A All-State Honorable Mention team for her performance this year.

For the season, Radtke averaged 19.8 points per game this season. She also averaged 3.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. Radtke was also the team leader in steals with 52.

Radtke began the season with guns blazing. She scored 20 or more points in the first seven games of the season, including scoring a season-high 31 points against Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Dec. 3.

Radtke found herself dealing with an injury late in the season. She missed the final four games of the regular season, but returned in time for playoffs. Radtke nearly helped the Bulldogs upset No. 2 Christ’s Household of Faith in the Section 4A quarterfinals.

Just a sophomore, Radtke will be back next season for the Bulldogs, along with their entire roster, as LP/HT doesn’t lose any seniors. With another year under her belt, Radtke could become an All-State section in the near future as she continues to develop her game.

 

CLASS A ALL-STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL

ALL-STATE TEAM

Lydia Sussner (Minneota)

Lexie Lodermeier (Goodhue)

Alyssa Peterson (Menagha)

Allie Negen (Mt. Iron-Buhl)

Mariah McKeever (Ada-Borup)

Taya Hakamaki (Cromwell-Wright)

Shaily Hakamaki (Cromwell-Wright)

Adrianna Torres (Pelican Rapids)

Jordyn Glynn (Grand Meadow)

Taylie Scott (Heritage Christian)

 

ALL-STATE HONORABLE MENTION TEAM

Abi McGlynn (Stephen-Argyle)

Makenna Steffel (BOLD)

Kora Kritzberger (Ada-Borup)

Sidney Fick Hills (Beaver Creek)

Madisen Overbye (Mt. Iron-Buhl)

Cierra Ahif (Menahga)

Kate Opsahl (Goodhue)

Faith Alberts (Parkers Prairie)

Emily Beseman (Swanville)

Karley Motschenbacher (Park Christian)

Riley Queensland (Grand Meadow)

Kia Tower (Bigfork)

Kaelynn Kudis (Cherry)

Madison Mathiowetz (Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s)

Elecia Brown (Hayfield)

Jazlynn Prins (SW MN Christian)

Hannah Nerem (SW MN Christian)

Jessica Remer (Sacred Heart)

Marissa Radtke (Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity)

Alyssa Rostad (Houston)

Erika Bute (AC/GE)

Haley Hungerholt (LeRoy-Ostrander)

Sara Kottke (Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart)

Macy Savela (Mt. Iron-Buhl)

*All State and All State Honorable Mention is determined via a vote of the coaches in  Class A.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Three Crusaders earn All-Conference honors

The Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team have three players who earned All-Conference honors for the Minnesota River Conference. Junior guard Lexi Schermann was named All-Conference, while Symone Jopp and Morgan Chmielewski were named All-Conference Honorable Mention.

Lexi Schermann

The season didn’t really begin for Schermann until Jan. 1, but that didn’t stop her from wracking up All-Conference honors and being the top scorer for the Crusaders. Having to sit out the first two months of the season due to transfer rules, Schermann emerged as the top offensive weapon for the Crusaders once she was eligible.

Schermann averaged 13.5 points per game this season for the Crusaders. She was the team’s leading scorer despite playing 10 less games than her teammates.

In conference play, Schermann was even better. She averaged 15 points per game, and led Mayer Lutheran in scoring in eight of the 10 conference games she played.

Symone Jopp

Jopp was the lone senior on the roster for the Crusaders this season and was named All-Conference Honorable Mention for her all-around play. A versatile player who fills many roles for Mayer Lutheran, Jopp was a key player for the Crusaders all season long.

On the season, Jopp averaged 6.8 points, 1.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game for Mayer Lutheran. She was tied for the most steals on the team with 37, while also being a rim protector with 14 blocks.

Jopp is a William Penn University volleyball commit.

Morgan Chmielewski

In her first varsity season, Chmielewski was a force to be reckoned with. The sophomore guard was one of the top players for Mayer Lutheran all season, especially on the defensive end.

For the year, Chmielewski averaged 6.9 points, 2.5 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game. She was tied for first in steals on the team with 37, and would often be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Crusaders hold off rival LP/HT to reach Section 2A North semifinals

MAYER – Come playoff time, there’s no holding anything back. That’s just what the Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team did just that as they shook things up defensively against rival Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity. Primarily a team that plays man-to-man, the Crusaders used a variety of zone defenses in the second half to slow the Bulldogs down just enough as they kept their season alive with a 61-50 victory in the Section 2A North quarterfinals Monday night at home.

“I wanted to mix things up,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “You might see things you’ve never seen from us before. This will be fun. This is what we coach our tails off for.”

“It’s new for us,” senior Baden Noennig added. “We’re usually a man-to-man team. It seems to work, so I guess we’ll keep trying it.”

The Bulldogs, the No. 6 seed in the Section 2A North, came out strong and gave the Crusaders all they could handle. Zach Jackson made his first two 3-point attempts, and Evan Lee made his first one as the Bulldogs came out rolling.

“I felt like we were ready coming out,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “We hit some shots early, and that kind of got us going. We hit a couple of cold stretches here and there, but they’re a good defensive team. We weren’t expecting to get open or easy looks all night long. Zach and Evan stepped up for sure early.”

In a back-and-forth first half, Mayer Lutheran took a five-point lead into the locker room. The Crusaders’ lead at the half should have been more, but thanks to poor free throw shooting, along with great defense by Tyler Scheevel and the rest of the Bulldogs, LP/HT found themselves right in it.

“He’s tough,” Noennig said about being defended by Scheevel. “I think he wrestles cattle and stuff. He’s so strong, and a really good defender. Their whole team just plays extremely hard. It was a good hard-fought win for us.”

To start the second half, Buchanan dug into his bag of tricks. The Crusaders went zone the rest of the game, forcing the Bulldogs to beat them from deep. The zone worked early on, allowing Mayer Lutheran to extend their lead to double digits for the first time in the game at 45-35.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Noennig said. “They always play their best game against us. They’re a really good team. We both played hard. It was a hard-fought game all around. We knew it was going to be a game of runs. Once we got on that run, we just wanted to stay with it. We just felt really good when we got on top, so we tried to keep it there. It’s tough and the pressure is on. We did better late in the game, and that’s all that matters. A win is a win. It’s going to be ugly. A win is a win.”

While it looked as if the Crusaders had gained control of the game for good, there was no quit in the Bulldogs. Despite hitting a brutal cold stretch when LP/HT couldn’t get a shot to fall, they kept fighting. Jackson and Parker Bayerl hit back-to-back 3-pointers, bringing the Bulldogs within five with just under six minutes left to play.

“We have a lot of leaders that don’t get down when things are going bad,” Dahl said. “We rally the troops and make sure we keep getting good shots. A lot of that is on the seniors and having that mindset that we need up there. They’re not out of it, no matter what the score is.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, March 8 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

 

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Crusaders, Bulldogs to meet again in Section 2A tournament

For the second time in three years, the Mayer Lutheran and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity boys basketball teams will face off in the first round of the Section 2A tournament. The Crusaders and Bulldogs have already met once this season in a game that went down to the wire.

As both teams are set to square off once again, the Bulldogs and Crusaders will add another exciting chapter to the rivalry Monday night.

“We’re really looking forward to playing Mayer Lutheran again,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “We had a tight battle at our place in January where they made a few plays late to come out on top. I felt that neither team had their best showing that day, but it was a fun atmosphere and the kids on both teams really battled. ”

The Crusaders got the win the first time around despite battling foul trouble all game long. After a hot start got them out to a lead early, seniors Baden Noennig and Brendan Feltmann both fouled out on back-to-back plays with just under four minutes left to play.

Despite losing their two most experienced players, the Crusaders found a way to pull out the win thanks to junior Jacob Pallas. He would go 4-for-4 from the free throw to seal the win for Mayer Lutheran.

That game was played Jan. 12, and both the Bulldogs and Crusaders are different teams coming into this matchup. Mayer Lutheran, a team that takes pride on the defensive end, has had their fair shares of ups-and-downs throughout the season, but defense still remains their calling card.

“It’s just grinding it out,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “I’ve been testing and challenging them with pride heart. This is a game that you got to give all of it to. You just can’t be lackadaisical and be OK with someone scoring. You’ve got to take pride on that end. We take pride on that end.”

For LP/HT, they’ve had more time to work together in Dahl’s new system. The Bulldogs have had their fair share of struggles, as well, but are more than ready for the rematch with the Crusaders. Knowing Mayer Lutheran features a mix of players who can score in bunches, the Bulldogs focus will also be on the defensive end as they try to slow down the Crusaders.

“I feel like we match up fairly well with Mayer Lutheran overall,” Dahl said. “They have a nice mix of kids that drive to the basket well, and some physical guys inside. A couple of our keys will be keeping them out of the paint, and forcing them to take tough shots, as well as holding our own on the glass and rebounding the ball.”

Just because the Crusaders have beaten the Bulldogs once this season doesn’t mean their overlooking LP/HT. Mayer Lutheran needed to grind out that win, and they know the Bulldogs will be ready to give them all they’ve got.

“I expect them to be very gritty,” Buchanan said. “The game is going to be a physical game. This time, they’re coming over here. Hopefully, in our gym, we play a lot better. Last time we played them, it was our fourth game of the week. Our legs were dead. I respect the team and who they are, but we’re ready.”

The Bulldogs have had the whole week off from games and have spent that time getting ready for the Crusaders. LP/HT is hoping that preparation pays off as they look to upend their rival Monday night.

“We will have had a full week off from game play going into Monday, so hopefully, our practice preparation has us coming out ready to go and hitting shots early,” Dahl said. “I’m sure the gym will be packed and rocking on Monday. I can’t wait.”

On the other end, the Crusaders take on the Blake Bears Friday night in one last chance to work some things out on both ends of the floor. Come Monday, the defending Section 2A champions will start their run to try and defend their title, but they also know the Bulldogs will be looking to pull off the upset.

“We have unfinished business coming up starting Monday,” Buchanan said. “We respect Lester Prairie coming in and trying to upset. Why wouldn’t you? That’s what it’s about. Hopefully, we’ll be ready mentally and physically. I know they’re going to come in physically ready to play that game.”

Matchup To Watch

In the first matchup between the Crusaders and Bulldogs, LP/HT was able to do something that not many other teams have been able to this season – slow Noennig down.

The Bulldogs, led by Tyler Scheevel, held Noennig to just seven points in the previous matchup. Although Scheevel gives up almost 10 inches to Noennig, he’s a guy that can slow him down once again with his physical manner and motor.

The goal once again for the Bulldogs will be to slow Noennig down. Scheevel will likely be tagged with that task again, with others mixed in. If LP/HT once again can keep Noennig in check and force others to make plays, the Bulldogs have to like their chances to pull off the win.

For Mayer Lutheran, Noennig has been the go-to scorer all season. The Crusaders do have other players who can help carry the load, though. Feltmann comes in scoring 13 or more points in his last two games, while freshman Teigan Martin is a capable option inside for Mayer Lutheran, as well. Martin was shaken up in the Crusaders’ win against LeSueur-Henderson Tuesday night, but should be ready to roll come Monday night according to Buchanan.

If Mayer Lutheran can get the secondary scoring they need, another win over Bulldogs and a deep postseason run could be in the cards.

For in-game updates on the matchup between the Crusaders and Bulldogs Monday night, follow Herald Journal sports editor Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: 

@Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 2A BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Section 2A loaded from top to bottom once again

The Minnesota State High School League’s Class A state tournament doesn’t technically begin until March 20, but high school basketball fans can take in one of the best section tournaments in the state beforehand. The Section 2A boys basketball tournament is once again filled with some of the best teams in the state, making this section tournament a mini state tournament its own right.

When you take a look at the Class A rankings by Minnesota Basketball News, the amount of teams from Section 2A is bizarre. Of the 21 teams in Section 2A, eight are ranked in the top-20 in Class A. Not enough for you? Of the top five-ranked teams in Class A, four are in Section 2A.

With talented teams from top to bottom, Section 2A will once again be a dog fight from the opening round. While 19 wins almost certainly guarantees a home game for the first round of the playoffs, that’s not the case with Section 2A. Cedar Mountain was the unlucky team this go around. With 19 wins on the season, the Cougars will open the postseason on the road.

With some of the top teams in the state all battling for one spot in the Class A state tournament, intriguing matchups and big-time performances are bound to happen in each round until there’s only one team left standing. What team will be the one to cut down the nets and send themselves to the state tournament? That’s to be determined, but it’s safe to say that whoever does come out as Section 2A champions, will certainly have earned it.

After experiencing heartbreak in the Section 2A North Sub-Section title game last season, the BOLD Warriors are back as the No. 1 seed in the North. The Warriors return just about everybody from last year’s team that nearly knocked off Mayer Lutheran last season, and are one of the most complete teams in the section.

An improved Minnesota Valley Lutheran team snagged the No. 2 seed in the North. Led by Jake Kettner, the Chargers are a team that score with anybody.

Defending Section 2A champions Mayer Lutheran are back as the No. 3 seed this year. The Crusaders have had their struggles throughout the season, but with Baden Noennig leading the charge, Mayer Lutheran is capable of making another deep run this time around.

New Ulm Cathedral picked up the No. 4 seed. The depth of Section 2A is shown as the Greyhounds are the No. 5 ranked team in the state, yet are the No. 4 seed in their sub-section. New Ulm Cathedral coach Alan Woitas has the Greyhounds playing well once again heading into the postseason, where New Ulm Cathedral is always a tough out.

Cedar Mountain was tagged with the No. 5 seed, while Lester Prairie earned the No. 6 seed in Andrew Dahl’s first year as head coach of the Bulldogs.

In the South Sub-Section, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown earned the No. 1 seed to some people’s surprise. Like MVL, the Buccaneers are one of the more improved teams in Section 2A this year, and will be a team that needs to be taken seriously.

Springfield received the No. 2 seed. The Tigers are the defending  south champs, and feature the best player in the section in Isaac Fink. After a loss in the Section 2A title game to Mayer Lutheran at the buzzer last year, Fink and the Tigers will be on a mission once again to get back to the state tournament.

Mountain Lake/Comfrey is the No. 3 seed. After Cedar Mountain and Comfrey went away with their co-op, it was Mountain Lake who was the beneficiary, by getting some nice players to add to their core from Comfrey with the new co-op.

United South Central is the No. 4 seed, while Nicollet is the No. 5 seed in the south.

Each round in both the North and the South feature some great matchups, and there are no easy wins in this tournament.

Below is an in-depth look at all the teams in Section 2A, including key players and statistics.

(1) BOLD WARRIORS

When you watch the BOLD Warriors play, you might want to grab some popcorn and watch the show. With almost their entire lineup back from last year, the Warriors are one of the most complete teams in Section 2A.

Led by a great core of guards to go along with a strong post presence inside, the Warriors are a team that score, and score in a hurry. On the season, the Warriors are 21-3 and are averaging 77 points per game. The Warriors have scored 80 or more points in eight games this season, including scoring 112 against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in late December.

In the backcourt, the Warriors are led by a great trio – Gavin Vosika, Jordan Sagedahl, and Drew Sagedahl.

Vosika is a high-motor point guard who’s no stranger to filling up the box score. Whether it’s scoring himself, getting his teammates going, or causing chaos on the defensive end, Vosika is talented enough to lead the Warriors to another deep postseason run.

Joining Vosika in the backcourt are brothers Jordan and Drew Sagedahl. Both Jordan and Drew are capable of scoring in bunches, and give the Warriors three true scorers to go along with Vosika.

While the Sagedahl brothers and Vosika take control of things in the backcourt, the Warriors also have a pretty good option inside with senior Carter Henry.

At 6-foot-7 with an insane vertical, Henry is a matchup nightmare for most teams in Class A. Whether it’s on the defensive or offensive end, Henry is a player who can affect a game with his impressive skill set.

Matthew Moorse rounds out the rotation for the Warriors. While the other starting four might get much of the attention, Moorse is a solid fifth guy for the Warriors to count on for big minutes.

With all things going well for the Warriors, one thing to keep an eye on will be be their depth. The Warriors are not the deepest team in the sections, and with multiple games in a short stretch, it’ll be something to keep an eye on as the tournament goes.

(2) MN VALLEY LUTHERAN CHARGERS

One of the most improved teams in the Section 2A tournament this season are the MVL Chargers.  With a 20-3 record this season, the Chargers are enjoying one of their best seasons in the last three years.

The Chargers are for real. They already boast wins over Springfield, New Ulm Cathedral, Cedar Mountain, and St. Peter this season. Playing in the Tomahawk Conference, the Chargers are very familiar with teams like Springfield, NUC, and Cedar Mountain. The Chargers split with Springfield and NUC, while winning their lone matchup with Cedar Mountain.

A big reason for the improvement for MVL this season has been the play of senior Jake Kettner, who was a semifinalist for the Mr. Basketball Award. A University of Sioux Falls commit, Kettner is a big-time scorer. He’s no stranger to having big games, and is a guy who’s capable of scoring 20-plus points in any game.

Another player to keep an eye on for the Chargers is junior Dunwa Omot. Omot can fill up the stat sheet as well, and along with Kettner, provides a great one-two punch for the Chargers. Matt Munsen, a four-year starter for the Chargers is also another experienced player who can help lead the Chargers to a deep run.

The Chargers are another team who thrive on their offense. For the season, MVL averages 75 points per game, and has hit the 80-point threshold nine times this season.

While scoring is no problem for the Chargers most nights, they’ll need to get better defensively. Of the nine times they’ve scored 80 or more points, they’ve lost two of those games. That includes a 101-81 loss to Springfield.

If MVL wants to make a deep run, they’ll need their offense to continue to click, while at the same time, getting better defensively.

(3) MAYER LUTHERAN CRUSADERS 

The defending Section 2A champions are back as the No. 3 seed. After graduation hit Mayer Lutheran hard last season, the Crusaders are back and reloaded with more talent to make another run.

The season hasn’t always been pretty for the Crusaders who enter with an overall record of 17-8. That record might not be impressive, but it comes with a story. In an effort to get back to the state tournament once again, the Crusaders loaded their schedule with tough non conference matchups in order to make another run in the month of March.

While the wins didn’t come like last season, several new players on the varsity roster experienced key moments in big games that will only help the Crusaders in a grueling stretch of Section 2A games.

Over the course of the season, the Crusaders have shown improvement. They had chances to pick up signature wins against North Woods, Rushford-Peterson, BOLD, Stewartville, and Jordan twice. Although they came up short in all of those, the Crusaders got the big win they were looking for with a win over Spring Grove, who’s also been in the Class A rankings this season.

The Crusaders have the go-to scorer that they will need to make a run in senior Baden Noennig. After scoring his 1,000th career point last season, Noennig became Mayer Lutheran’s all-time lead scorer this season.

Over the course of the season, Noennig is averaging 18.6 points per game for Mayer Lutheran. He’s been the go-to scorer all year long, but he’ll need some help from his teammates if the Crusaders would like to defend their title.

Mayer Lutheran has the players who can support the scoring alongside Noennig. Senior Brendan Feltmann is a quick guard who can push the tempo and get things going in motion. He’s also capable of knocking it down from 3-point range, and will be a key player the Crusaders will rely on to make another run.

Freshman Teigan Martin is also a key player for the Crusaders. As every freshman will, Martin has had his ups-and-downs over the course of the season. Even with that, he’s gained valuable experience in big games down the stretch, and will need to be a consistent threat for Mayer Lutheran.

Jacob Pallas and Zander Flucas are also key players for the Crusaders. Pallas can do it all on both ends of the floor, while Flucas gives Mayer Lutheran another inside presence to try and win the battle in the paint.

One thing Mayer Lutheran can hang their hats on that most of the other teams can’t in Section 2A is their defense. Going up against top-tier competition all season long (including many Class AA schools), the Crusaders are allowing an average of just 55 points per game, the best among Section 2A teams. The Crusaders might not be the same team they were a year ago, but they still hang their hat on the defensive end and will give anyone a battle.

(4) NEW ULM CATHEDRAL GREYHOUNDS

If there’s a team that has a history of playing well at the right time this time of of year, it’s New Ulm Cathedral. In the past three seasons, the Greyhounds have won their first playoff game in all three years.

While that’s an impressive streak for the Greyhounds, the task of keeping that streak going won’t be an easy one. The Greyhounds are the No. 4 seed in the North, and will face a Cedar Mountain team in the first round who won 19 games this season.

The Greyhounds have had plenty of games against Section 2A opponents this season. In 19 games, the Greyhounds are 14-5 against section opponents.

While New Ulm Cathedral might not have the big names attached to them, they’ve gone toe-to-toe with the teams that do. The Greyhounds lost to Springfield by three, MVL by three, and BOLD by five. The Greyhounds also beat MVL once by seven the second time around.

The Greyhounds nearly pulled off a big win over BOLD Feb. 20, but let a 17-point lead in the second half slip away. New Ulm Cathedral has shown their talent in spurts this season, and will be a team that can play with anyone.

Jon Zinniel is the player to keep an eye on for the Greyhounds. In NUC’s game against BOLD, Zinniel led the way with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists as the Greyhounds nearly pulled off the win. Alex Hillesheim is another player to watch for NUC, and will be a key player for them if they want to make a run.

(5) CEDAR MOUNTAIN COUGARS

The Cedar Mountain Cougars have a new look this season, yet they still find themselves in the mix in Section 2A. Despite the co-op with Comfrey not being continued, the Cougars are right in the mix of things when it comes to the race for the Section 2A title.

The Cougars are the No. 5 seed, and will open things up on the road, despite winning almost 20 games this season. They also come into the postseason playing well after they picked up one of their biggest wins of the season against BOLD Feb. 16.

After starting the season with a 4-3 record, the Cougars have closed out the regular season winning 15 of their final 17 games. The only two losses in that stretch have came to MVL and Springfield.

Lewis Pendleton is the guy to watch for the Cougars. Pendleton is a member of the 1,000 career points club, and is a guy who can take over a game with his scoring. Whether it’s from 3-point range or getting to the hoop, Pendleton is  tough matchup because of his quickness, to go along with his 6-foot-5 frame.

Andre Larsen and Tavi Nelson are also key players to keep an eye on for the Cougars. The two senior guards give the Cougars some leadership and experience, which comes into play fairly often in the postseason.

(6) LP/HT BULLDOGS

Coming into this season, there was a lot of buzz about the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs, and for good reason.

That buzz took a bit of a hit when senior Michael Ziermann elected to have shoulder surgery from an injury he sustained during the football season, ultimately putting his high school basketball career to an end.

Despite Ziermann playing just one game this season for LP/HT, the Bulldogs started the season out strong under Andrew Dahl’s first year as head coach. The Bulldogs won their first five games of the season, but have had their ups-and-downs throughout the season lately.

They enter the Section 2A tournament as the No. 6 seed with a record of 13-12 overall. Competing in the MN Christian Athletic Association, the Bulldogs have had plenty of games against high-powered offenses that should help them prepare for a postseason run.

The Bulldogs are a team that doesn’t have a true go-to scorer, but features a deep roster that can have any step up and lead the way. Parker Bayerl, Zach Jackson, Trevor Schuette, and Evan Lee have each shown times throughout the season that they’re capable of carrying the scoring load.

The Bulldogs have incredible balance when it comes to offense. Four players (Lee 9 PPG, Jackson 9 PPG, Bayerl 9.1 PPG, and Schuette 8 PPG) averaged eight or more points per game. Lee also leads the team in assists, and makes the Bulldogs go.

LP/HT also features a weapon with senior Tyler Scheevel that any team would welcome. Scheevel is one of the top on-ball defenders in the section, and will have his hands full against the abundance of talent in Section 2A.

(7) SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY’S KNIGHTS

After not winning a single game last season, the Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Knights have taken a step forward in the right direction. The Knights won eight games this season, as their young talent continues to develop.

The Knights are the No. 7 seed in the North, but have had their struggles against section opponents. Against Section 2A teams, the Knights are just 4-12.

SESM is led by junior Nick Labat who’s been on the varsity since his eighth grade year. Labat scored his 1,000th career point earlier this season, and has been a big reason for the turnaround by the Knights this season.

The Knights also have some young talent around Labat. Freshman Carson Domeier is a crafty scorer who can help carry the load with Labat. Other players to watch out for are Blake Steffensmeier and Carter Currans.

(8) SLEEPY EYE INDIANS

Looking to get out of the play-in games for a fourth-straight year, the Sleepy Eye Indians will rely on their top two guys. As the No. 8 seed, the Indians are looking to make the sub-section quarterfinals for a fourth-straight year.

Sophomore Kegan Heiderscheidt and senior Jose Ibarra are the two players to watch for the Indians. While the Indians struggle with depth inside, Heiderscheidt and Ibarra give them some talent on the perimeter.

Heiderscheidt is averaging 13.4 points per game, to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Ibarra averages 13.3 points per game, and is shooting 48.9 percent from the field.

Nate Walter is another player who scores in bunches for the Indians. He averaged 17.4 points per game, and has a high motor to turn things up for Sleepy Eye.

(9) CLEVELAND CLIPPERS

A team that might not as good as they were coming into the tournament this year as they were last year is the Cleveland Clippers. With Carter Kopet and Austin Plonsky gone to graduation, the Clippers have had a hard time filling their shoes.

After three-straight seasons with 20-plus wins, the Clippers enter the Section 2A tournament with a 6-18 record. Against section opponents, the Clippers are 3-14 this season.

(10) BLHS MUSTANGS

The Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Mustangs round out the field in the North sub-section The Mustangs are the No. 10 seed coming off a regular season record of 2-20. Both BLHS’ wins have come against Wabasso, and the Mustangs are 0-14 against section opponents. They come into the tournament on a 12-game losing streak.

Nathan Schultz and Elijah Stifter are two players to watch for the Mustangs.

SECTION 2A SOUTH SUB-SECTION

While the Section 2A North Sub-Section features most of the highly-ranked teams, the South Sub-Section has some teams at the top with state tournament aspirations.

The Springfield Tigers are still a team that needs to be dealt with. The Tigers feature the best player in the section in senior Isaac Fink. It’s been a big year for Fink, who reached the 3,000 career point milestone earlier this season. He’s only the 11th player in Minnesota to ever reach that mark.

With Fink at full strength, the Tigers are good enough to beat anyone. Add in Decker Scheffler and Mitchell Leonard, and the Tigers are down-right dangerous on offense. With Fink and Scheffler leading the charge, the Tigers are capable of putting up a big number against anyone. On the season, Springfield averaged 89 points per game.

The Tigers have lost just twice coming into the Section 2A tournament. One loss came to MVL in overtime by two, while the other loss was to Minneota, in another close one, by three points.

Despite being the No. 2 seed, the road to the Section 2A title game still runs through Fink and the Tigers.

Watertville-Elysian-Morristown, the No. 1 seed in the south is a team that can give the Tigers a game. The Buccaneers have only one loss on the season, which came to Hayfield, who is also ranked in Class A.

It’s been a big turnaround for W-E-M compared to last year. After going 13-15 last season, the Buccaneers come into the tournament with a 22-1 record.

Grant McBroom, Bladyn Bartelt, and Tanner Ranslow are three guys to keep an eye on for the Buccaneers.

Mountain Lake/Comfrey is another team that can’t be overlooked in the South. The Wolverines are the No. 3 seed, and come in with a record of 20-3.

The Wolverines played Springfield tough earlier this season, and come in playing well, as they have won eight of their last nine, to close out the regular season.

The Wolverines are a very balanced scoring team, with five players who can score in double figures on a nightly basis. Sam Paulson, Lucas Emineth, and Abraham Stoez are some players to watch for the Wolverines.

 

To stay updated with all things to do with the Section 2A Boys Basketball Tournament, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for scores, in-game updates, and news throughout the tournament.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports