Archive for Sports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Guetzkow’s big night lifts Mayer Lutheran to signature win

MAYER – It was a night to remember for Mayer Lutheran senior Madeline Guetzkow. After recording her 1,000th career point in the first half, Guetzkow helped the Crusaders take over the game in the second half as they picked up a 67-58 signature win over No. 2-ranked Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Monday night.

“It feels great,” Guetzkow said about the win and the milestone. “I feel like we played really well as a team and they helped ease my nerves at the beginning of the game. It just made me feel no pressure and relaxed.”

After the Crusaders found themselves in a battle in the first half, the second half couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Mayer Lutheran was held scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the second half and fell behind as BLHS extended their two-point lead at the half to 12 with just over 10 minutes left to play.

“They’re a good team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “They are hard to defend. I thought when we executed the game plan, we defended them very well and made them take tough shots. That’s what we wanted to do but we had some breakdowns and we didn’t contest as well as we needed to.”

Coming out of a timeout facing their biggest deficit of the night, Mayer Lutheran took control of the game. A 17-1 run by the Crusaders not got them back in the game but gave them the lead. With just under seven minutes to go, Guetzkow gave the Crusaders their first lead of the second half, a lead they would hold onto the rest of the game despite one last rally by the Mustangs.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Gustin said. “I don’t know what happened at the start of the second half. We came out flat as can be and they came out fired up. It wasn’t looking good for us and then the momentum kind of shifted. I’m really proud of the way they responded.”

“We just needed to clean up our passes and then we got our offense going,” Guetzkow added. “We were patient and that really helped us. Our coach says once you make one the basket just gets bigger. Our confidence really grew from that.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Mustangs tied the game at 53 with under five minutes to play but it was all Mayer Lutheran down the stretch. The Crusaders closed the game on a 14-5 run as they essentially secured the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A North sub-section with the win. Down by 12 midway through the first half, Mayer Lutheran held BLHS to just 11 points over the final 10 minutes to take all the momentum in the win.

“It starts with defense,” Gustin said. “We can do some things offensively in transition but it really does start with defense. When we execute the defensive game plan, things go well. We switched better in the second half. To hold them to only 11 points is pretty impressive. That’s a good team to clamp down defensively like that.”

Guetzkow was big all game long for the Crusaders, especially in the second half where she scored 17 of her game-high 28 points to help take over the game.

“She stepped up,” Gustin said. “You have to be proud of her. She needed eight points coming into the game to reach 1,000 in her career. That’s always in the back of your mind and once you get it you worry there might be a letdown. She didn’t stop one bit. She played hard till the end and kind of put our team on her back tonight. She really took over offensively. The ball in her hands is a good thing for us and she had the ball in her hands a lot that second half.”

The matchup between two of the top teams was possibly just a preview of what lies ahead next month. Both Mayer Lutheran and BHLS are in the Section 2A North sub-section and will likely battle it out once again in the postseason.

“We’re going to have to be ready to play again,” Gustin said. “We have one of the toughest sub-sections with them and BOLD. This was a big one as we’ll get the No. 1 seed and avoid the second-round matchup, but we’re anticipating playing them again they’re going to come out gunning for us. This is the third time in a row we’ve beaten them and I’m sure they’re going to come with a vengeance.

“This game was big,” Guetzkow added. “It’s most likely in our future again so we’ll know what to expect next time.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Holy Family heats up late in win over Delano

VICTORIA – Delano boys basketball coach Terry Techam has seen a lot over his high school coaching career. He experienced something new this time as his Tigers hit the road for a Wright County Conference East matchup with Holy Family.

Delano had a tall task ahead of them taking on the Fire, one of the top teams in the state regardless of class. Despite a strong first half in which they led the entire way, Holy Family turned up the heat in the second half in a 66-43 win over the Tigers Friday night.

“I’ve been in high school basketball for nearly 30 years,” Delano coach Terry Techam said. “I don’t ever remember having a time where I had to prepare for playing against two very talented 7-footers.”

Delano, a team who loves to get out in transition and push the pace, came into the game with a new game plan and executed it to perfection to take a 28-21 lead into halftime. The Tigers slowed things down and controlled the tempo of the game but were unable to continue that in the second half.

Changing from their pressure zone, Holy Family switched to a man-to-man defense and sped up the Tigers to change the momentum. The Fire opened the second half on a big run including knocking down three 3-pointers in less than a minute to break things open. In the second half alone, Holy Family outscored Delano 45-15.

“I’m very proud of how we played,” Techam said. “I thought we competed well and played really well in the first half. We got them out of their zone and then they went man, we really struggled to score.”

Despite the loss, Techam learned a lot about his team. Sophomore JJ Longstreet entered the starting lineup while freshman Max Iversen (one of the team’s leading scorers) saw his minutes take a big hit as Delano slowed down the pace throughout the first half.

“We usually want to go up and down and we want the shot clock,” Techam said. “We want to play fast. We decided tonight that if we play fast, it just multiplies how many times we have to stop them which gets tough. Our best offensive lineup features three guys under 5-foot-10 which makes it tough to guard a team that has five guys 6-foot-2 and over.”

The change in the lineup and the rotation didn’t bother the team. Techam has his guys buying in where all they care about is winning.

“That’s what is fun about this team,” he said. “They’re all about the team. That’s one of the joys of coaching this team. Our slogan is we over me. It can be just a saying to some but our team really believes in that.”

Holy Family remains atop the WCC East standings with a record of 4-0 in conference play. Delano fell to 2-2 in the conference with the loss and sits at 13-6 overall.

THE STREAK CONTINUES: Depth proves big as Royals top No. 6 New London-Spicer

WATERTOWN – One of the most impressive winning streaks in Minnesota high school sports history was on the line for the Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka gymnastics team when they hosted New London-Spicer. The Wildcats were the No. 6 ranked team in Class A. The Royals came in wounded and shorthanded.

That didn’t seem to matter for W-M/MW as their depth came through in a big way in big spots as the Royals picked up an impressive win posting a team score of 139.625. NL-S finished with a team score of 135.450.

The win for the Royals pushed their incredible dual meet streak to 110. The winning streak for W-M/MW dates back to 2012.

“It was an unbelievable meet,” Royals coach Steve Hangartner said. “We were not favored and our streak of 109 wins in a row dating back was in jeopardy.”

The Royals came into the dual anything but healthy. Payton Hecksel was still sidelined with an injury and even the girls competing were not at 100 percent. On top of that, Hangartner found out he would be without another athlete the day of the meet due to illness.

“We had a couple of girls out so we were really limping into the meet on one leg,” Hangartner said “I knew we still had a chance to upset them if we were to have the meet of our life. Then I got a call from one of my parents who said their daughter was ill and she wouldn’t make it to the meet. She was an all-arounder, so then I knew we were really in trouble.”

With not many options left, Hangartner turned to his young talent. The Royals had four eighth graders step into big spots and they didn’t miss a beat. Helle Anthony delivered her highest score even on bars to give the team a spark.

On beam, it was Kallie Jackson’s turn to step up. The eighth grader posted a score of 8.80 on beam for the Royals which was good enough for fifth place overall.

“Kallie really stepped up and scored over a point higher than her average,” Hangartner said. “That really lifted the team.”

After a pair of eighth graders steadied the ship for the Royals, the veterans delivered as well. Reagan Kelley posted an impressive score of 9.60 on beam while Maggie McCabe took second with a score of 9.175. W-M/MW closed things out on floor where they claimed three of the top four spots. Grace McCabe posted her personal-best score on floor with a score of 8.725 and the Royals ran away with things as Kelley and Maggie McCabe took the top two spots on floor as well.

Kelley also won the all-around title finishing with a total score of 38.400.

It was a big win for the Royals who have kept on getting better and better as the season has progressed. With the section meet around the corner, W-M/MW will be looking for this meet to really get them going as they look to get back to the Class A state meet to defend their title once again.

“My wife and I were so excited we couldn’t fall asleep until about 2 a.m. because we were so wound up,” Hangartner said. “This was a great meet to propel us to get ready for the section meet coming up.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: HLWW catches fire in win over Rockford

HOWARD LAKE – The past weekend for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball team was a disappointing one. They didn’t let that carry over into a new week as the Lakers got back into the win column in a big way picking up an impressive 76-53 win over the Rockford Rockets Tuesday night.

“We talked all week about being persistent and being resilient,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “We know teams are going to go on runs and we need to be able to weather the storm. Tonight it was good for us to see because they kept coming. We were able to get some key stops when we needed them.”

Along with getting key stops throughout the second half, HLWW shot lights out from 3-point range. In the second half alone, the Lakers knocked down seven 3-pointers as a team to break open a tight game.

“It comes out of confidence, Carr said about the hot shooting. “Our guys are really confident right now shooting the ball. The guys are great at knowing who is feeling it that night and feeding guys when they are open. Good things happen when we get downhill and kick out to our shooters.”

“We have a lot of great shooters on our team,” Cole Gilbert added. “It was a big rebound for us. It was important we came out with some fire tonight and we did that. After two losses, it was big to get back into the win column.”

Gilbert finished with a game-high 28 points in the win for the Lakers, 17 of which came in the second half. Cody Stapel also had a big game with 20 points while Drystin Green (11 points) and Alex Zimmerman (10 points) were also in double figures for HLWW.

“We’re trying to make it an equal opportunity offense,” Carr said. “Anyone of our guys can get buckets for us any night. They’re buying into that and because of it, they are playing with such confidence. We just need to keep that going.”

While the hot shooting and timely defensive stops were big parts of the win, HLWW put together one of their most complete games of the season by playing together and not letting one or two bad possessions carry into more throughout the game.

“We talk a lot about being able to reset when things don’t go right,” Carr said. “We know it’s a long game so we stay focused on what we have to do. The last play is history and we move on to the next play. The guys are doing a really good job of that.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier going forward for the Lakers as conference play heats up this month. HLWW is back in action Thursday against Watertown-Mayer, the lone undefeated team in the conference left and a Top 10 team in Class AA.

“This conference is a battle every single night,” Carr said. “We know going into the postseason, we’re going to be battle tested. It’s going to be good for us to get games like this under our belt so we can go into the postseason feeling like we’re going in the right direction.”

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: HLWW’s comeback comes up just short against Rockford

HOWARD LAKE – It hasn’t been the best season at times for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls basketball team this year. You wouldn’t know that watching them play.

Despite just two wins on the season so far and in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Lakers continued to compete. Even after a tough first half in which HLWW had just two made field goals, they gave the Rockford Rockets all they could handle in the second half but the comeback came up just short in a 41-34 loss Tuesday night.

“We were stuck at one forever,” HLWW coach Drew Waldbillig said. “We couldn’t buy a bucket. Shots didn’t fall but that was some great defense by the girls. They were nonstop all game. We stopped the bleeding but we just didn’t hit our shots right away.”

The Lakers went nearly nine minutes without a field goal to start the game and finished with two made field goals in the first half as they trailed 24-8 at the break. The second half was a different story as HLWW never gave up.

Ivy Fasching hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark the comeback as the Lakers opened the second half on a 19-4 run to get back within just a single point with just under eight minutes to go.

“In the second half, we were smart with the ball and waited for them to come to us and we had some really good open looks,” Waldbillig said. “That helped build our confidence a bit.”

That’s as close as the Lakers would come though as the Rockets answered with a run of their own. After a seven-minute drought of their own, Rockford used a 9-0 run to push their lead back to double digits and hang on for the win.

With the loss, HLWW’s losing streak pushed to six games and they sit at 2-10 on the season. While wins have been hard to come by so far, the Lakers continued to battle and play together each and every day.

“We had a team Saturday morning where we had little mirrors and we wrote down positive affirmations,” Waldbillig said. “That’s huge for their self-confidence. A lot of the girls are pretty hard on themselves. I think that really brought us together as a team. They were helping each other make them. You could tell at the next practice that they were really gelling together. They are really buying into what we’re talking about as coaches and that’s great to see.”

YEAR IN REVIEW: A look back on the top sports moments for Delano Herald Journal coverage area

What a year 2022 was across the board in area sports. There was so much going on that I honestly feel like I only got to cover or experience a tiny bit of it.

To be honest, the 2022 coverage season was an absolute grind. Covering six schools and an endless amount of events really takes a toll on a guy. Between running to all the events, writing stories and taking photos, editing stories, and doing the layout for the newspaper, it was a long year for me to say the least.

At this time of year, things tend to slow down a bit here in the sports world due to the holidays. Each year around this time I take the time to look back on the past year of coverage. This year was a bit more fun to look back on all the things I covered. Usually, once I finish a week of coverage, there’s not much time to dwell on it. It’s moving on to next week so I often forget some of the stories or moments I’ve covered.

I want to thank everyone for following along with this exciting year of sports coverage and I hope you continue to do so in 2023. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the top sports moments from the coverage area in the past year.

Avery Lommel’s journey to a state title

It was by far my favorite story of the year to tell. There’s something special about a high school athlete overcoming adversity and making the most of things. That’s exactly what Delano senior Avery Lommel did for the Tigers this fall.

After losing sight in one eye, Lommel didn’t sit and feel sorry for herself. Instead, she worked even harder so that he could get back to the sport she loved. It paid off in a big way.

Not only did Lommel make it to the Class A state swim and dive tournament, but she also won the state title to cap off her inspirational story.

For those that know me or have followed my work over the years, there’s always one message I share. It’s more than a game. Lommel and her journey are a testament to that and it was an absolute blast and honor to cover her this past season and see how she turned adversity into inspiration for not only her but everyone who knows her.

Delano volleyball makes a magical run

All season long covering the Delano volleyball I knew there was a lot of talent and if they came together they could make a run at things. I just wasn’t sure if it would come together at the right time. Spoiler alert. It did.

I know the Tigers feel they came up short this season but the moments they provided in those final two matches against New Prague and Benilde-St. Margaret’s were some of the best I’ve ever seen in any sport. I’ll never forget those matches, especially the fifth set against the Trojans that sent them to the Section 6AA title game.

The section championship game didn’t disappoint either. Although Delano came up just short, it was an incredible match and atmosphere and one those players should remember forever. As a journalist, you’re supposed to remain as neutral as possible but there was no doubt I wanted to see Delano cap off their run with a section title. I played the what-if game throughout the state tournament wondering what could have been for the Tigers as I saw B-SM reach the state title match. Regardless, the run by the Tigers was one of my favorite moments I’ve ever covered.

The dominance of Delano softball

One of the best parts of covering high school sports is getting the variety of sports to mix things up. Being able to cover really good teams is also a huge plus.

One of the really good teams I covered this past year was Delano softball. No matter who they play, the Tigers hit the cover off the ball and it was a blast to watch.

Like the volleyball team, Delano’s season came to an end in the section championship game. While driving to the game I had a feeling the Tigers would be playing two games and breaking through against B-SM. It wasn’t meant to be but that team and the way they play the game was so much fun to watch over the course of the season.

Toby Hanson’s walk-off in Class C quarterfinals

The amateur baseball beat is one of my favorite things to cover. A lot of time, hours, and energy go into it but it’s all worth it.

After making several trips down to Faribault and Dundas for the Class C state tournament, there wasn’t a bigger moment for my coverage area than what Toby Hanson did for the Delano A’s.

Taking on one of the favorites (St. Patrick), Delano pulled off one of the most exciting finishes of the tournament. In the bottom of the ninth, Hanson delivered a walk-off home run to send the A’s to the Class C semifinals.

It was an absolute no-doubter for Hanson and a perfect way to cap off an incredible game between powerhouse programs. It was one of the games you’ll remember forever and one I’m glad I got to see and cover firsthand.

Loretto’s marathon with Bird Island

Continuing with the amateur coverage beat, the matchup between Loretto and Bird Island is a story all in itself. It’s a game I wish I was physically at.

I remember leaving Waconia and seeing that Loretto and Bird Island were still playing. They were about to head into extra innings as I turned them on. About five or six innings later, I thought about making the drive down in case things continued. I ultimately decided not to but looking back I wish I did.

The Larks and Bullfrogs ended up playing the longest game in state tournament history – 22 innings. I watched every single pitch over the final 13 innings. I ended up going to bed around 2 a.m. and then got up to work at the golf course at 5 a.m. Totally worth it.

An incredible game and an incredible part of what was an awesome tournament this year for the Minnesota Baseball Association.

Delano dance gets back to state

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about what it takes to be good at dance or what goes into dance. What I do know is the pure joy Delano showed as a team and individuals make it back to the state tournament last season.

A lot of time and hard work were put in by the coaches and athletes last season. It was fun to see their hard work pay off by competing on the state’s biggest stage. It was also a lot of fun to knock off a state tournament that I haven’t covered before.