Archive for Sports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bulldogs top Lakers in slugfest

LESTER PRAIRIE – The idea of small town basketball is alive and well. While the gym on both sides of Lester Prairie High School was packed with faithful fans from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, the girls basketball teams battled it out to close out the regular season.

In the end, it was the Bulldogs who rallied their way to a thrilling 58-53 victory on their home court against its cross town rival.

“It was nice that we got the win,” LP/HT coach Mike Lee said. “They grinded it out is what it was. We didn’t let the reffing affect us too much. There was a lot of fouls. We played through that, and Howard Lake did a nice job of playing through it, too.”

After both offenses struggled to get anything rolling offensively with 27 fouls in the first half between the two teams, freshman Marissa Radtke brought the spark that the Bulldogs desperately needed to start the second half.

“She was very focused tonight,” Lee said. “When she’s focused, she’s a really good shooter. She was focused the second half four sure. It was nice to see. She’s a streaker shooter right now being young, but most kids are when you are young.”

Despite not getting one 3-pointer to fall in the first half, Radtke knocked down three-straight 3-pointers to open the second half on a 9-0 run for the Bulldogs to get them right back in the game after trailing by 12 at the half.

“I think it was just to drive in at the other team with foul trouble, and then that would make it an easier game at the end,” Radtke said. “Just to get our team back into the game was a big thing for us. Just having everybody scoring and coming together was so great.”

While Radtke’s hot shooting brought the Bulldogs within three to start the second half, HLWW’s CJ Decker wasn’t going to let it go that easy. Decker calmed her team down, and helped right the ship by finding the right balance between scoring and passing, while also being able to stay out of foul trouble after two quick ones in the first half.

“Decker did a very nice job of not picking up another foul after getting her first two,” Lee said. “We tried to go at her a bit, but she’s just a nice player that way. She was smart. It’s nice our girls tried, but they didn’t have much success.”

While Decker was able to stay on the court and avoid foul trouble, much of the Bulldogs were not. Seniors Jenna Doelzal and Emma Blashack both dealt with four fouls for much of the second half, which forced freshman Taylor Ebert into the mix a bit more than usual.

Fresh off hitting the game-winner in the junior varsity game at the buzzer, Ebert kept her stellar play going by making big plays down the stretch for the Bulldogs.

“She handled herself pretty well,” Lee said. “She did a nice job. She had a great night. She hit the game-winner  in JV, and hit the game winner for varsity. That’s a pretty good night.”

A 3-pointer from Ebert tied the game at 51 with just under three minutes to go, but Ebert was just getting started.

“I just tried to do what ever I could,” Ebert said. “We just did what we had to do.”

After a pair of free throws from Jenna Dolezal gave the Bulldogs its first lead of the game, Decker had the answer with a bucket on the other end to tie the game. With one minute exactly left on the clock following a timeout from LP/HT, Ebert stepped to the line after being fouled with a chance to win the game for the Bulldogs.

After calmly knocking down the first one, Ebert came up just short on the second free throw. That didn’t faze Ebert, as she grabbed the rebound and put it back in to give the Bulldogs a 56-53 lead with just 23.4 seconds left to play.

“Ebert missing the second one and getting the rebound and putting it in probably was a good thing,” Lee said. “You never want to miss, but it worked out for us. That put a lot of pressure on them to make a three.”

With the pressure on the Lakers, it was Dolezal who came away with a steal and found fellow senior Kayla Weinzierl wide open for the game-sealing layup to complete the exciting win for the Bulldogs.

“I love it,” Radtke said. “Especially since I came from there. I’m so glad that we finally came together as a team. We just got going. We wanted it at practice, and I’m just so glad that we came through.”

The battle between the Lakers and Bulldogs closes out the regular season for both teams as they turn their attention to the postseason which begins next week. With the win, the Bulldogs should have secured a home game in the first round of the Section 4A tournament, and will be looking to build off a gritty win. The Bulldogs will receive their seed Saturday morning when the Section 4A seeds are announced.

“They’re awfully happy in the locker room which is nice to see,” Lee said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a first-round game here. If it works out that way, that’s all we can ask for.”

“We definitely have some things to work on,” Radtke said. “I’m really excited. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to get through it.”

For the Lakers, they know where they will be headed for its first postseason matchup. The Lakers got the No. 12 seed in the Section 5AA tournament, and will travel to No. 5 Annandale for a first-round matchup with the Cardinals. Annandale defeated HLWW 60-49 in their only meeting this season. The Lakers are Cardinals will battle it out Thursday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in Annandale.

For more info on the Bulldogs and Lakers as the playoffs begin, stay connected with the Herald Journal. You can also follow Kip Kovar on Twitter to stay up to date with all your favorite teams.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports  


Rousu to perform on balance beam at state meet Saturday

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

WATERTOWN — The new rule used to determine which Section 5A gymnasts would qualify for the state tournament left some confused as to why some gymnasts made it and some didn’t Feb. 15 at Watertown-Mayer High School, but all Delano sophomore Clair Rousu knows is that she made it.

Rousu qualified for the Class A state meet in balance beam after winning a tiebreaker for the final qualifying spot from the section.

Rousu and Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka’s (WM/MW) Ella Blinkhorn both scored an 8.35, which tied them for sixth overall in the event. Rousu was given the spot because she received an 8.4 from the chief judge, who awarded Blinkhorn an 8.3.

“When I finished in sixth and tied with somebody else, I didn’t think I made it because it was make-it-or-break-it,” Rousu said. “But, then, I made it, and it was crazy. I just realized all my hard work paid off, because I was working so hard at practice.”

That hard work put Rousu in the state tournament well ahead of her own expectations.

“It was crazy because I didn’t really believe in myself. I never thought I was the best on the team, and always thought someone else would go to state and maybe I would go senior year, or something,” she said. “I always thought it would be crazy if I could ever go, but I never thought I would go this year.”

It took her best score to put her in the big meet.

“That was only the second beam routine I stuck all year,” Rousu said.

Finishing sixth would not have gotten Rousu to state in past seasons, but the new rule throws out the individual event scores earned by every state-qualifying all-around gymnast, and awards the single-event berths to the next finishers.

In beam, the scores for three all-around gymnasts were thrown out. Those scores were the 9.3 from WM/MW’s Ailsa Gilbert; the 8.875 from WM/MW’s Anna Mielke; and the 8.625 from WM/MW’s Teagan Schmidt.

Breck’s Saylor Hawkins won beam with a 9.35 and claimed the first individual beam spot. Hawkins’ teammate, Kiwi Sundeen scored a 9.15, which was third overall, and scored the second individual spot. Rousu was the third individual.

Rousu will compete in the Class A Individual State Tournament Saturday at the Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota. The meet begins at 11 a.m.

“I’m really excited to just touch the beam. That will be crazy,” she said of her goals at state. “I really want to stick my routine — that would be an amazing feeling.”

That hope is shared by Rousu’s coach Jamie Greenberg.

“We’ve been working on pressure situations and she has been doing very well,” said Greenberg. “I am hoping she has a lot of fun, and that she is able to do her routine at state as well as she does at practice every day.”

Rousu was Delano’s top all-around gymnast with 33.95 points.

In her other three events, Rousu scored an 8.525 in vault; and 8.4 in bars; and an 8.65 in floor exercise.

Also in the all-around for Delano, Leah Pinoniemi scored 33.45 points, and Jenna Kuelbs scored 32.775 points.

Pinoniemi’s top event was vault, where she scored an 8.55. She scored an 8.475 in bars; and 8.25 in beam; and an 8.175 in floor.

Kuelbs wasn’t too far from qualifying for state in floor exercise. She scored a 9.2, which was fourth best for individual qualifiers and sixth overall.

Kuelbs’ other scores were an 8.575 in vault; and 8.1 in bars; and a 6.9 in beam.

Gilbert’s 9.65 was tops on floor, but was thrown out because of her all-around prowess.

The individual qualifiers for floor were Sundeen (9.425), WM/MW’s Rosie Unglaub (9.35) and WM/MW’s Paige Thibault (9.275).

Schmidt won the section all-around championship with 36.75 points. Gilbert finished second with 36.425 points, and Mielke was third with 36.025 points.

Schmidt won vault with a 9.625, which was the top score of the meet.

The individual vault qualifiers are Orono’s Samantha Abler (9.275) and Chelsea Landis (9.125), and WM/MW’s Taylor Hix (9.25).

WM/MW’s Paige Thibault won bars with an 8.975. The other individual qualifiers in bars are WM/WM’s Kate Thibault (8.825) and Hawkins (8.65).

To nobody’s surprise, Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka won the team championship. The Royals finished with 145.85 points. They will compete in the team state tournament Friday at 11 a.m.

Delano finished fourth with 132.225 points at the section meet.

BOYS HOCKEY: No surprise, Delano to meet Breck in playoffs

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

DELANO — At this point, it should come as no surprise to Delano hockey fans that the Tigers will meet Breck in the Section 2A playoffs this season.

Delano enters the playoffs with a 13-12 record and the No. 3 seed in the section. Breck is 7-18 and the No. 6 seed.

A typical eight-team bracket means Nos. 3 and 6 will play each other in the first round, and that is exactly what Delano and Breck will do Saturday night at Parade Ice Gardens in Minneapolis.

The puck will drop at 6 p.m.

“It wouldn’t be playoffs if we didn’t play Breck. They are our playoff rival, so we are excited for Saturday night,” said Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen. “Both teams have adopted a different style this season so I think the game will be really competitive and a battle until the end.”

Don’t be fooled by Breck’s sub-.500 record, van Bergen warns.

“No doubt Breck is a really good team, Yes, they were limited to seven regular season wins but they, like us, play a really challenging schedule,” he said. “Considering history and looking at common opponents this season; oh man, it’s going to be nuts.”

The fourth game of the quarterfinals will follow at 8 p.m., with No. 2 Mound-Westonka (18-6-1) playing No. 7 Bloomington Kennedy (2-15).

The section playoffs begin Friday night, with No. 1 Orono (17-7-1) playing No. 8 Waconia at 6 p.m., and No. 4 Minneapolis playing No. 5 Providence Academy at 8 p.m.

The section semifinals are Tuesday, Feb. 27, and the championship game is Friday, March 1.

Saturday’s meeting between Delano and Breck will be the second of the season. The Mustangs took the first game, 2-1, Dec. 1 in Delano. A lot has changed since then.

“In our game earlier this season, it came down to capitalizing on limited opportunities, because both teams played really tight defensively,” said van Bergen. “We have seen so much growth from our team this year and we are excited to put that growth to the test.”

The rivalry between the Tigers and Mustangs, however, goes much deeper than a regular-season game in December. It is specifically a playoff rivalry, which, until last season, had been controlled exclusively by Breck.

Before Delano defeated Breck 2-0 last season in the section title game, the Mustangs had won all six postseason meetings against the Tigers in the seven previous seasons they shared Section 2A. Three of those six Breck wins over Delano came in the section championship game.

This season, Delano is 4-5 against section opponents. To go with the early-season loss to Breck, the Tigers also lost both games in the two-game series against Orono and Mound-Westonka.

Delano’s section wins are against Minneapolis, Bloomington Kennedy, and Waconia twice.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mustangs’ depth too much for Mayer Lutheran

MAYER  – Just when you think you have the Maranatha Christian Academy girls basketball team where you want them, their depth shines through. Mayer Lutheran experienced that first hand Thursday night when the Mustangs had a run for every push by the Crusaders in their 93-78 victory.

“I thought we made a nice little run in the second half,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “We got it down to 10 at one point, but we were just exhausted. You don’t ever see Mya (Chmielewski) back up off a girl. Part of it is, you’re just tired and their depth. They were able to run fresh legs in a little bit more than we were able to. They’re a good team. They do what they do, and they do it well.”

Not only did the Mustangs, the third-ranked team in Class AA, show off their depth, they showed how hard it is to keep up with them in transition as they continually got easy buckets off missed shots by the Crusaders.

“They run the floor really well,” Gustin said. “We talked about it. The key to the game for us was take care of the ball, which I thought we did a pretty good job of. He (MCA coach Chris Buermann) didn’t press us which I thought was a little bit surprising, but we talked about transition defense. In the first half, our transition defense just was not present. Our first step was forward, and it’s hard as a pressing team that really gets into people’s grills. It’s hard to pull that back. They run the floor really well and they converted it to easy looks.”

While the Mustangs were running up and down the court, the Crusaders, a team that thrives on the full court pressure and turnovers, couldn’t manufacture its usual steals due to the play of Maranatha Christian’s Kylie Post. Post was unfazed by the press for the Mustangs, turning Mayer Lutheran’s pressure into easy buckets on the other end.

“I thought in the first half, and early in the game, we were able to get her stopped,” Gustin said. “Then we took some bad angles and we just opened up too much on her. It’s just those little things that when you don’t execute make a big difference against good teams, and good teams take advantage of it when you don’t execute.”

Look for the rest of the story, as well as more HJ sports coverage, in the Friday, March 2 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Delano wrestlers begin bids for state Friday

Matt Kane
Sports Editor
DELANO — Delano fell short of its goal to reach the team state tournament last weekend, but, of course, in the sport of high school wrestling, the end of the team competition does not mark the end of the overall season for the Tigers as individuals.

Delano’s top 13 wrestlers (145 pounds is open) will hit the mat for at least one more match at the two-day Section 2AA Individual Championships at Mankato West High School, beginning tonight, Friday, at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, the semifinals and consolation quarterfinals begin at 11 a.m.

Albeit in a different section, three Tigers are hoping to survive the two-day tournament again, and, again, head back to the individual state tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, at the Xcel Energy Center.

Senior Steven Hajas (220 pounds), junior Tanner Kroells (138) and freshman Carson Tschudi (132) represented Delano and Section 6AA at the Xcel Energy Center last season.

Hajas and Kroells are looking for a third trip to state.

Delano’s Section 2AA Line-up

106 pounds
Tyson Kroells Soph. 19-6
113 pounds
Reier Sjomeling Jr. 24-10
120 pounds
Clete Scherer    8th 22-11
Leo Vanderlinde 8th 14-15
126 pounds
Clete Scherer    8th 22-11
Leo Vanderlinde 8th 14-15
132 pounds
Carson Tschudi Fr. 17-7
138 pounds
Tanner Kroells Jr. 34-3
145 pounds
152 pounds
Camden Tschudi Sr. 26-10
160 pounds
Eric Rasmussen Soph. 2-11
170 pounds
Eli McCune Soph. 26-9
182 pounds
Jacob McDonald Sr. 23-13
195 pounds
Edward Hajas Soph 29-9
220 pounds
Steven Hajas Sr. 27-2
285 pounds
Carson vanSytzama Sr. 11-6

Dragon boys down Windom, move on to semis

LITCHFIELD – The Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato boys hockey team defeated Windom 5-2 Thursday in the Section 3A quarterfinals.

The victory means the Dragons, seeded #2, will face #3 Marshall Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus in the semifinals. Marshall defeated Redwood Valley 3-1. Game time is 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Dragons fell behind 1-0 after just 25 seconds into the game, after committing a penalty just nine seconds in.

Brandt Pedersen evened the score at 4:26, but Windom again took a one-goal lead at 11:52 on Kyle Esperson’s second goal of the game. The Dragons, however, scored the equalizer just 26 seconds later to make it 2-2 after one period.

Pedersen scored his second of the game, and Blake Johnson added a goal in the second period. Ben Lindquist made it 5-2 with a late goal in the third period.

The Dragons outshot the Eagles 27-12. Darby Halonen stopped 10-of-12 shots in net for LDC.