Archive for Kip Kovar

PREP BASEBALL: Hilten plays the hero as Royals top Chargers in dramatic fashion

WATERTOWN – The Watertown-Mayer baseball team wasted no time in their season to pull off a dramatic win. After Ansen Dulas kept the Royals in the game with a strong performance on the mound, it was junior Tanner Hilten who got to play the role of hero.

After Dassel-Cokato rallied to take the lead in the top of the seventh with two runs, the Royals needed a rally of their own in the bottom half. With the Royals down to their last out, W-M finally got something rolling as Cale Wabbe and Devyn Burns came through with singles each to keep the game alive. With two runners on and a 2-2 count, Hilten delivered with a walk-off double to score Wabbe and Burns to give the Royals the dramatic 3-2 win in their season opener.

“It is hard to have a better game to start the season for us,” W-M coach Justin Stohs said. “We played good defense, pitched great, and got a couple timely hits that led to the victory.”

The late game heroics by Hilten wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the strong performance by Dulas on the mound. In six innings of work, the junior allowed just two runs off of two hits while striking out 10. Will McBee closed things down in the seventh for the Royals, keeping them within striking distance heading into their last at-bat.

“After taking a lead in the first, the game went very quickly with both pitchers throwing strikes and playing good defense,” Stohs said. “It is great to see guys that work hard and get rewarded during a game. Tanner stepped up today and got the big hit.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, April 12 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

KOVAR: Dreams do come true

Each March, when you turn on the TV for the greatest sporting event in the world, you’re greeted by some popular phrases from March Madness history. Phrases like, As good as it gets, Oh my gosh, and Phenomenal!

All those phrases come from some of the best moments in March Madness history. My personal favorite, though, is Dreams do come true. One of my dreams came true this past week.

Ever since I can remember, March Madness has been my favorite thing of all time. I would eagerly wait for the bracket to be released during the selection show. Following the announcement of the bracket, I would print a ton of copies of them, along with info on each and every team. I’m not kidding when I say this. It still takes me a good two hours to fill out my bracket.

I would research each team in the tournament and find their strengths and weaknesses. I would look hard at each matchup, and make my decision. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter much as upsets are bound to happen and destroy my bracket. That’s the beauty of it.

Once my bracket was filled out, it was time to simply enjoy the tournament. In seventh and eighth grade, my teacher, Mr. Shipler was cool enough to let us watch some of the games during class. Well, that was until his team (Iowa Hawkeyes) were upset by No. 14 Northwestern State in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Iowa led by two with under 15 seconds to go, but Northwestern State found some magic that always seems to happen in March. A desperation 3-pointer from the corner somehow found the bottom of the net, and madness began.

Once school was out, it was a race to get home as soon as I could to claim the TV. While my parents would have liked me to be in bed around 9 p.m., I always found a way to catch the ending of the late games. Each night, I would sneak out of my room, quietly walk downstairs to catch the ending. I’m sure there was a time or two where I woke them up with screams of excitement for close games and buzzer beaters.

I have so many memories of March Madness. I can remember little plays or obscure moments for some reason that just stick in my head. One of the best was when No. 15 Lehigh beat No. 2 Duke in 2012. As a big North Carolina fan, it was awesome seeing Duke lose in the first round as a No. 2 seed.

While I’ve had so many great memories of March Madness growing up, there was always one thing missing. That was until this past week.

It’s always been a dream of mine to attend a Final Four. It’s the sporting event I’ve always wanted to go to more than any other. I finally got my chance this past week, and it didn’t disappoint.

When I drove down to US Bank Stadium Saturday, it was a surreal feeling knowing I was about to take in the Final Four. I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this forever, and I couldn’t help but smile the whole drive down.

While the normal blue bloods of college basketball weren’t at the Final Four this year, the games were still incredible. The tournament never disappoints, and Minnesota did one heck of a job hosting it this year. I hope we get to host it again sometime soon.

After getting to take in the Final Four and National Championship game, I didn’t think my dream could get any better. That was until One Shinning Moment.

It was a surreal feeling standing at mid court at the Final Four with confetti falling down, listening to One Shining Moment. I never thought I would be lucky enough to attend a Final Four, let alone stand on the court for one of the best ways to cap off an incredible event. I’ll admit it. There was certainly a tear or two falling down. This was a dream of mine ever since I can remember, and it was all coming true. It’s truly something I’ll never forget.

I wasn’t the only person to have a dream come true at the Final Four this year. Take a look at Virginia’s Kyle Guy. After he and Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament, he and his team are the National Champions a year later. That’s an incredible story.

Guy had a huge impact on Virginia’s run to the title. In the semifinal game against Auburn, Guy scored six points in the final 10 seconds to lead them to the win, including knocking down three free throws to help Virginia win by one.

“Yeah, these are moments that every basketball player has dreamed of, hitting the game-winning shot or free throws or whatever,” Guy said after the win over Auburn. “Kind of had that feeling in your stomach, like a good nervousness, like, all right, this is my chance. To be able to go to the National Championship off of that for these guys and Coach Bennett, I mean, I really don’t have the words. I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special.”

It was equally special for teammate Ty Jerome, who was also a member of the team last season that made history in a way a team wouldn’t want.

“I was about to say, don’t ask me because I can’t yet,” Jerome said about putting the feeling into words. “Forget last year, this is everything you dream of since you’re a little kid. I’m not even thinking about UMBC right now. I’m just thinking this is a dream come true, and it’s even more than that because you never even imagine you’ll be able to spend a year with people you actually love, your teammates and your coaches. Not a lot of people get along like we do, so to share this moment with them is unbelievable.”

It was an incredible run for Virginia in this tournament. They very well could have lost multiple times; yet, always found a way to win. In the South Regional Final against Purdue, they trailed by two with just 3.8 seconds left. A buzzer beater forced overtime, and of course, Virginia went on to win.

In the National Semifinal game against Auburn, Virginia trailed by two again with 3.3 seconds left. Guy hit three clutch free throws to send the Cavaliers to the title game.

In the title game, Virginia found themselves trailing again late after holding a nine-point lead in the second half. With 14.8 seconds left and down by three, Virginia again found a way. De’Andre Hunter knocked down one of the biggest shots in his career, tying the game and sending it to overtime, where Virginia would capture their first National Title.

“I told them this, ‘it’s about the joy of competition and the fun in the pursuit of a championship’,” coach Tony Bennett said. “That, I love it.  What that says, if you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way. I don’t know, maybe we could have, but I don’t know, going through what we did last year and having to, you know, it helped me as a coach. All the stuff that they talked about, I think, bought us a ticket to a National Championship.”

Dreams do indeed come true.

2018-2019 Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball First Team

The 2017-2018 girls’ basketball season in the area was exciting once again. Whether it was great games, or players reaching a career milestone, the season was filled with many moments to remember. Although none of the four local teams reached the state tournament this season, there was still plenty of talent on display in the local gyms.

Below is a look at the Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball First Team.

CJ Decker (HLWW)

When you go up against the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Lakers, you know you’re always going to get the best from junior point guard CJ Decker. One of the top players in the area in girls’ basketball, Decker delivers in so many different ways for the Lakers.

“CJ is a coach on the floor and one of the toughest competitors around,” HLWW coach Rick Baumann said.  “She helps get teammates in the right places, and identifies defenses really well. She makes her teammates around her better, by getting them the ball at the right time. She is an unselfish player, who puts the team and others before herself.”

On the season, Decker averaged 13.7 points per game. She also recorded her 1,000th career point against Paynesville Jan. 25. To go along with her ability to score, she also averaged 3.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. Decker also led the team in steals with 83, which was 45 more than the next closest player.

While Decker’s stats are impressive, it’s her demeanor on the court that sets her apart. Not afraid to put the team first, she’s a player that Baumann hopes younger players are watching closely.

“She is a great player with an even better attitude, and a great role model for all the players in our program,” Baumann said. “She leads by example and is always willing to help the younger players with their game. When teams would run two or even three players at her to get the ball out of her hands, she never became frustrated, and did other things to help our team be successful.”


Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

While the Lakers enjoyed having Decker run things on the perimeter, they also had a nice option to go to inside with  junior Alexa Schumann.  The forward was the top scorer for the Lakers all season long, and gave HLWW a presence inside.

“Alexa was a force in the paint for us all year,” Baumann said. “She took games over for us, and when teams doubled her, she would not force things and would pass the ball to her teammates and crash the boards hard.”

Schumann led the way for HLWW, averaging 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She also averaged one assist per game, and led the team in blocks with 30.

“She was a force in the middle on both ends of the floor for us scoring, blocking shots, and rebounding for us on defense,” Baumann said. “We ran a lot of our offense through her this year, and it allowed other players to get open shots.”


Lexi Schermann (Mayer Lutheran)

Over the first month and change of the season, Mayer Lutheran’s Lexi Schermann needed patience. Not eligible to play until Jan. 1 due to transfer rules, Schermann waited for her opportunity.

The Crusaders needed a true scorer in their lineup, and come Jan. 1, Schermann delivered that in a big way.

“Lexi led us in scoring this season,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “Her ability to score and get to the free throw line was a huge boost for the team following her entrance into the varsity lineup in January.”

Despite missing the first two months of the season, Schermann was the leading scorer for the Crusaders this past season. She averaged 13.6 points per game, and led the team in scoring in nearly every game she played. With Schermann’s emergence as a true scorer, Mayer Lutheran certainly became a stronger team with her on the floor.

“Lexi’s focus and effort in practice definitely made the team better,” Gustin said. “Her work ethic pushed others to be better, as well.  We were a much better team in the second half of the season, due in large part to Lexi’s presence.”


Maggie Czinano (Watertown-Mayer)

Stepping into a bigger role this season with her sister, Monika, gone, Maggie Czinano became the top scoring threat for the Royals this season. The sophomore guard did it all for W-M, leading the way in almost every statistical category.

“Maggie led us in scoring, rebounding, and shooting percentage for the season,” W-M coach John Rosholt said. “She came within an eyelash of averaging a double-double for the season, averaging 16.5 points per game and 9.5 boards per game.   Maggie recorded nine double-doubles in rebounding and scoring for the season.”

After a big taste of the varsity level as a freshman last season, big things were expected for Czinano in her sophomore year. Although she carried a big responsibility for the team, Czinano proved she could handle it time and time again.

“This season was an adjustment for Maggie as she went from the second or third scoring threat on the team to our leading scorer,” Rosholt said. “That may not seem like much of an adjustment, but it is a big jump as teams begin to focus on stopping your top scorer.  Again, Maggie had a steep learning curve at the start of the season with her new role, but she met the challenges that were placed in front of her and gained in confidence and consistency as the season progressed.”

While Czinano carried the load offensively, she was also one of the top defenders on the team, as well, making her one of the top overall players in the area.

“Maggie was no slouch on the defensive end of the court as she has the athleticism to be a shut-down defender,” Rosholt said. “With her high basketball IQ, ball skills, athleticism, and fortitude, Maggie is on her way to becoming a complete basketball player.”


Emma Maas (Watertown-Mayer)

Hard work has payed off for W-M’s Emma Maas. The senior guard worked countless hours on her shot, and it paid off as she’s one of the top shooters from 3-point range in the area. Maas made a team-high 53 3-pointers this season.

“Emma’s work ethic was incredible again this year,” Rosholt said. “Her after-practice shooting workouts paid dividends as she consistently demonstrated why she was one of our top scorers from beyond the arc this season. In addition to her ball skills, Emma has continued to excel defensively.  Game after game, Emma was repeatedly assigned to defend the opposing team’s best offensive guard.  With her quickness, determination, and discipline, Emma was able to raise the anxiety level of some of the most confident and prolific offensive players.”

On the year, Maas had 57 steals and averaged 3.4 rebounds per game. She had a knack for making things difficult for opposing teams, as well as consistent leadership for W-M.

“Emma’s high basketball IQ, coupled with her athleticism and resolute attitude, produced a tenacious defender and productive offensive player,” Rosholt said. “Emma has grown in her skills, leadership and confidence over the years and this season, her senior year, she displayed why she is such a valued member of our team and community.”

Entinger’s record season earns him HJ Wrestler of The Year

WATERTOWN – After getting a taste of the state tournament in his freshman season, Watertown-Mayer senior Carter Entinger was committed to get back. That goal became a reality for Entinger, but it didn’t stop there.

“Carter has been a stud for us for years,” Watertown-Mayer coach Kurt Becker said. “After qualifying for state as a 9th grader, and not making it his 10th and 11th grade years,  he made it back this year and placed 3rd.”

A third-place finish at the Class AA individual state tournament was the only proper way to go out for Entinger. It was picture perfect ending for the senior who puts in the time even when everyone else isn’t looking.

“He worked so hard and put in so much time this off season to make that happen,” Becker said. “It was so rewarding to see his hard work pay off for him.  He is such a great kid and great part of our team.  He will be missed next year.”

Along with a third-place finish at the state tournament, Entinger also broke the program record for takedowns in a season. He finished with 154 takedowns, breaking the old record of 151 set by Dave Neuman in the 1994-1995 season.

“He’s just such a great kid to have on the team and all the young kids look up to him,” W-M coach Bill McDonald said.   “He’s a good student. He worked exceptionally hard. He put a lot of time in the off-season to improve his skill-set, and he’s the kind of example you want for your program as a coach. I could not be more proud of someone.  He will be missed.”

Noennig’s versatility, skill-set net him HJ Boys Basketball Player of The Year

MAYER — As the career for Mayer Lutheran’s Baden Noennig comes to an end, his impact never will. Not only will Noennig leave as the school’s all-time leading scorer, he’ll leave as one of the top players in program history as he helped lead the Crusaders to uncharted territory.

“Baden is the leader of this team on and off floor,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “He has led our team to a 46-13 record over the past two seasons with a third-place finish in the state tournament last season. While playing in the state tournament, he earned a place on the all-tournament team.”

After recording his 1,000th career point last season, Noennig became the school’s all-time leading scorer this season. With 1,632 career points, Noennig’s name is atop the list of 1,000-point scorers at Mayer Lutheran.

While scoring points is one part of his game, he’s not afraid to get his teammates involved. To go along with 18.7 points per game, Noennig averaged 2.4 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.

“With him being the only starter from last year’s team returning, he has taken on the challenge to make others better for the team to be successful,” Buchanan said.

Along with becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, Noennig was an All-Conference selection for the MN River Conference. If that’s not enough, he was also a semifinalist for the McDonald Award, which recognizes the best player in the state of Minnesota. He’s also been selected to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game, and will continue his basketball career at the University of Upper Iowa next year.

What makes Noennig so good is his versatility. At 6-foot-6, Noennig has the ability to score all over.

“His athletic versatility is Baden’s greatest strength, as he can score anywhere on the court,” Buchanan said. “He is also a good defender and productive rebounder. With a 3.9 GPA, he defines leading, on and off the court.”

Radtke’s impressive season earns her HJ Girls Basketball Player of The Year

LESTER PRAIRIE – With zero seniors on the roster for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs, leadership might have been hard to come by for them this past season. That’s unless you have a Marissa Radtke on your roster.

Despite just being a sophomore, Radtke was the leader for the Bulldogs on the court this season, doing just about everything. With her ability to lead, score, and defend, Radtke is the 2018-2019 Herald Journal Girls Basketball Player of The year.

“She’s a real nice player,” LP/HT coach Mike Lee said. “She gets the game pretty well. Now, she’s attacking the hoop and knows when to kick it out. There’s a lot more leadership on her part. It’s nice to see.”

Radtke is only a sophomore, but has been a member of the varsity team since her eighth grade season. While her stats are impressive for sure, what’s more impressive is how she’s able to lead her team despite her youth.

“Marissa did a nice job of leading a young and inexperienced varsity team,” Lee said.  “She was a consistent scorer and defender the entire season.”

On the season, Radtke averaged 19.8 points per game, the most out of the four schools Herald Journal covers. To go along with scoring in bunches, Radtke also averaged 3.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. She also led the team in steals with 52.

Radtke was an All-State Honorable Mention for Class A this season. With two more years left in her high school career, Radtke is on her way to reaching the 1,000 career points milestone, as she already has more than 830 career points as a sophomore.