Archive for Sports

Check out this weeks Herald Journal high school sports gallery

Not all of our pictures can make it into the paper each week so we decided to put them in a gallery for you to see. These pictures are from all over Herald Journal territory. Check back each week for new pictures.

SECTION 2A BOYS BASKETBALL: Dominant second half leads Bulldogs past BOLD

ARLINGTON – There are two seniors on the roster for the Lester Prairie boys basketball team this season. They both chose the right time to have one of their best games of the season as Gavin Eckstein and Tanner Scheevel helped lead the Bulldogs to an impressive 66-55 win over the BOLD Warriors Thursday night thanks to a dominant second-half performance.

“Credit to Tanner playing through his injury and Gavin was super aggressive getting to the rim and getting rebounds,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “They weren’t ready to be done with their season. They really brought a little extra for us tonight on the court and in the locker room. It was fun to have them leading us and see the other guys follow their lead.”

The Bulldogs struggled at times in the first half but as much as BOLD was in control, Lester Prairie trailed by just five at the half. The Warriors scored the first five of the second half to push their lead to 10 but the Bulldogs answered immediately with an 8-0 run themselves to get back within two thanks to 3-pointers from Tanner Scheevel and Trever Schauer.

“We got some good guys that if we need to make a play, they can go and get one for us,” Dahl said. “I feel like we kind of have the mindset now that we can handle some adversity where earlier in the year we would kind of panic a bit. Now I think we have some mental toughness to withstand a run and make a run of our own.”

Lester Prairie turned up the pressure with their defense in the second half throughout. They held the Warriors to just 20 points in the second half including a six-minute stretch without a field goal.

“We tried some zone defense and we’re not really a zone team. We just tried mixing things up to take away their ball screens and dump-ins. Our man-to-man in the second half really got us some energy with some tips and steals and that got us rolling. We hit some shots and that got us really going.”

A three-point play by Alex Hodny tied the game at 41 for the Bulldogs. Schauer gave the Bulldogs the lead with a three-point play of his own and Lester Prairie led 54-50 with just under seven minutes to go,

“A lot of big performances from a lot of guys,” Dahl said. “I thought everybody really made some good plays for us. It was a good team effort by a lot of different guys tonight which is fun to see.”

The Bulldogs would seal the game holding the Warriors to just five points in the final seven minutes of the game to keep their season alive.

With the win, Lester Prairie advances to the Section 2A North Championship game where they will take on No. 4 Cedar Mountain. The Cougars knocked off top-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s in the other semifinal game. The Bulldogs defeated Cedar Mountain 77-60 earlier this season but Dahl knows how much a team can change throughout the season.

“They shoot the ball well and run the floor,” he said. “We did see them early in the year but it seems like they’ve improved their game since we saw them. It should be a fun matchup.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 5AA BOYS BASKETBALL: Royals take care of upset-minded HLWW

WATERTOWN – Just a couple of years ago Watertown-Mayer boys basketball coach Kent Janikula was showing his team highlights from the NCAA Tournament of No. 12 seeds upsetting No. 5 seeds. This year was a different story as the Royals came in as the higher seed and took care of business with a 73-49 win over the Lakers Wednesday night.

“It’s a little different now when it comes to motivation,” Janikula said with a laugh. “That’s our section though with them being a No. 12 seed. It’s both good and bad to have familiarity with an opponent in the playoffs but we knew what to expect. We took a punch from them early but I thought we executed the rest of the way and that changed everything in terms of momentum.”

HLWW had the feeling of an upset on their minds coming in and looked the part early on. Thanks to some hot shooting from 3-point range to start, the Lakers hung right with the Royals through most of the first half.

“We played extremely hard all game,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “We came out and executed the way we wanted to. The end of the first half kind of got away from us though but I’m proud of how the guys competed.”

HLWW was within five with just over five minutes left in the first half. That’s when W-M made their run as they closed the half on a 13-2 run and then opened the second half with the first six points of the half to break things open.

“Those are big momentum swingers,” Janikula said. “To win the last bit of the first half and come out the way we did in the second half was big.”

W-M’s game plan was clear from the start. With HLWW missing Alex Zimmermann who was out with injury, the Royals leaned on their big men inside each time down the floor as they outscored HLWW 58-18 in the paint.

“That’s kind of our gameplan in general but with them missing a guy inside that was obviously part of the game plan,” Janikula said. “We have three guys who can score inside so we wanted to make sure we found the matchup we like and pound it inside and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Despite missing one of their key big man and scorers, Carr was happy with how his team fought despite being short-handed.

“We’ve dealt with injuries all season and have had guys step up into big roles,” he said. “It was fun to see guys step into positions where they kind of played out of position a bit. They got after it and worked really hard.”

With the loss, HLWW’s season comes to an end with an overall record of xx-xx. The Lakers took a big step forward this season as a program thanks to two key seniors in Cole Gilbert and Chase Deiter.

“Cole was kind of the heart and soul of our team,” Carr said. “He rebounded for us and almost averaged a double-double. He was able to hit tough shots and could get as hot as any player we’ve seen. He hit a lot of big shots. Chase was our absolute motor when it came to energy. We know when we put Chase in there he is going to give us everything he has. Chase and Cole take charges every single night and our younger guys saw that and it carried over to them. That’s a huge energy thing for us and it started with our seniors. That’s a selfless play. When your seniors and captains are doing that, it’s a good thing for your program.”

The future is bright for HLWW going forward with several sophomores and juniors returning next season. After getting a taste of what varsity basketball is all about, Carr is excited about the future of the program going forward.

“It was good for them to experience a playoff game with this much intensity and experience the grind of a full varsity season,” he said “A lot of these kids who were playing didn’t play a lot on junior varsity or have many varsity minutes. All these minutes they got this year will pay dividends next year.”

With the win, W-M advances to the Section 5AA quarterfinals where they will face either Minneapolis Edison or Southwest Christian. While W-M’s section is loaded from top to bottom, Janikula is hoping the experience his team brings pays off.

“Pretty much every kid who’s playing for us has playoff experience,” he said. “I think that does matter. Last year we played the state champions twice and the runner-up in the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of experience. These kids played in the state football playoffs and the state baseball tournament. I think that helps. I thought the kids were excited and not nervous in the locker room beforehand. I think that’s a credit to the success they’ve had across the board.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE: Schauer, Bulldogs hold off an upset bid from BLHS in Section 2A opener

LESTER PRAIRIE – When the final horn finally went off, Lester Prairie boys basketball coach Andrew Dahl could finally take a sigh of relief.

All game long Dahl and the Bulldogs had fans on the edge of their seats as they never could quite pull away for good from Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in their Section 2A North Sub-Section quarterfinal matchup. Despite being in control for most of the game, it came down to the wire and it was junior Trever Schauer coming through in big spots down the stretch in a thrilling 57-55 win for Lester Prairie Tuesday night.

“That’s the thing about March I guess,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “You just have to find a way to win. We had some really good stretches and some tough ones too where we couldn’t get stops. I’m proud of the guys for executing down the stretch and getting a bucket when we needed one. I’m just happy to advance at this point.”

With BLHS trailing by three with 22 seconds coming out of a timeout, a desperation shot from the corner found the bottom of the net to tie the game at 55 with just 6.3 seconds left to play. Coming out of a timeout of their own, Lester Prairie got Schauer in space who drew a foul with 3.6 seconds left. Schauer would sink both free throws to put the Bulldogs up 57-55 but he wasn’t done there. He came up with a huge block at the buzzer on the Mustangs’ final shot as Lester Prairie held on for a thrilling win at the horn.

“He’s big time,” Dahl said about Schauer. “He scores inside or outside. He’ll play a little point guard for us too at times. I’m really proud of him for finding some ways to get some buckets when we needed him. He does a lot for us and he did it tonight.”

The Bulldogs were in control of the game throughout but never could pull away. BLHS led 3-0 out of the gate but never led the rest of the game as Lester Prairie kept them at bay for most of the game until the final minutes.

“We knew they weren’t going to go away so we just had to keep as much of a lead as we could,” Dahl said. “They have some good players and those guards are tough. They can shoot the ball and they’re quick and aggressive to the rim. I think it was good for us to have a close game though to prepare us for games going forward.”

Lester Prairie’s execution out of timeouts and halftime were crucial in the win. The Bulldogs came through with easy buckets out of a set play multiple times in the win, a big key in a close game in the postseason.

“For the postseason, we’ve worked a little more on that in practice,” Dahl said. “It’s nice having a couple of sets that we can go to for some easy buckets. In a tight game like that, those are huge to get some easy buckets. I’m proud of the guys for locking in and doing their roles when they needed to make the right play.”

The Bulldogs came into the matchup shorthanded as they were missing senior Tanner Scheevel who was out with an ankle injury. That gave players like Caiden Herrmann, LaDamien Gatlin-Coellner, and Kaden Otto a chance to step up and deliver and they did just that in the win.

“A lot of the other guys stepped up too,” Dahl said. “Missing Tanner, it was nice to have a few guys step up and take those minutes and make plays for us.”

Despite coming into the postseason on a three-game losing streak, Lester Prairie was feeling good about themselves coming in.

“We lost three in a row but I thought the last two we played pretty well,” Dahl said. “We were scoring better so we had some positive things coming in even though we didn’t get a win. It was nice to get out there again though. It was a long week waiting for our first playoff game but I’m glad we came out and got it done.”

With the win, Lester Prairie is scheduled to take on No. 2 BOLD in the Section 2A North semifinals Thursday. Section games around the state have been moved around due to forecasted weather for Thursday. Stay connected with Herald Journal to see if a schedule change is made to the Section 2A Tournament.

“We knew BOLD is a good team,” Dahl said. “They got some size and some athletes. We played at their place last year and had a good competitive game with them. We kind of expect the same thing later this week.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 2A BOYS HOCKEY: Brown’s big night sends Delano back to section title game

ST. LOUIS PARK – Slow starts have been a common theme for the Delano boys hockey team of late. That script changed in a big way in their Section 2A semifinal matchup with Waconia as the Tigers scored early and often in a 6-1 win over the Wildcats Tuesday night.

“I thought for a majority of the game we were really good,” Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen said. “Overall, it was really good. It was fun to score a little bit because we haven’t been scoring a bunch much.”

“It was pretty fun for the boys to get a big win,” senior Will Brown added. “It’s even more exciting knowing we’re going to be playing again Friday. We’re looking forward to that.”

After scoring just one goal in the first period in their past four games, Delano got things going early. Will Brown opened the scoring off an assist from Brayden Coppin and the floodgates opened after that for Delano. Cooper Nielsen and Teague Collings each added goals just seconds apart as the Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

“It was huge to get ahead early, especially against a team that looked hot coming in,” Brown said. “They upset a team that we lost to so it was pretty big to get ahead early and put them away.”

Despite a three-goal lead entering the second period, Delano knew they needed to stay aggressive as Waconia came out of the break firing.

“I thought our end of the first period was terrible,” van Bergen said. “The message was we were up by three and that we can’t stop competing. We can’t stop playing to our identity and they knew that. They knew they didn’t do that and that’s what is great about this group. They’re really honest and really humble. When we’re hard on them, they respond because they want to be better. That’s what’s fun about this group.”

The Wildcats had a few good looks early on as they came out with some extra energy but Brown quickly silenced them with his second goal of the game to make it 4-0 Delano.

“I thought we got back to our identity really quick,” van Bergen said. “That doesn’t mean we were super smooth, but we were more physical and simple with things and communicated and worked harder. Even though they had a little buzz going early, we had no sense of panic because we knew we were already playing better.”

Waconia would get on the board midway through the second period but it was Brown who once again had the answer with his third goal of the game to put the Tigers back up by four.

“I’m super tough on Will,” van Bergen said. “I’ve known him since the day he was born. He’s a guy that we need to score and he knows that. Getting him to the middle of the ice without the puck so we could get him the puck was really big tonight. He’s such a valuable piece of this team.”

Teague Collings and Aaron Lewis also played a big role in the win. Both are guys who have been playing well as of late for the Tigers and success is coming along with that.

“Teague and Aaron have really been good too,” van Bergen said. “Teague has been on an absolute tear. Aaron just played his game. He’s huge and just goes straight forward and when he does that where he plays on top of the puck, there’s only one guy I know who can compete with him.”

Despite a 13-12 record during the regular season, Delano finds themselves playing for a section title once again. It’s the fifth season in a row the Tigers will play for a trip to state and they don’t care what their record looks like because they know it’s helped them get to where they are at.

“We tried to put together the most challenging schedule we could,” van Bergen said. “Our schedule is filled with teams who are in the top 20 across the state. That’s who we want to be. We’re hoping we’re taking steps toward that. We knew going in it was going to be hard to have a good-looking record because of who was on our schedule and that was OK with us. Although it’s not easy at the moment, I think this group likes what it represents. We wanted to challenge them. We play those games so when it comes to crunch time, it’s not the first time you’re under pressure in a big game.”

“The schedule we play is tough,” Brown added. “We assembled that for good reason. We want to be challenged during the year and I hope it pays off here down the stretch.”

Over the years of success for Delano, they’ve had a history of changing previous outcomes in the postseason. Over the past three seasons, The Tigers are 3-1 against teams they lost to in the regular season and then played again in the postseason including a double-overtime thriller against Orono last season. Delano will be looking for that trend to continue as they’re set to face off with rival Orono in the section championship.

“I think what we’ve done, and we’re really intentional about it, is that we don’t push a certain identity until it’s time,” van Bergen said. “A lot of times that identity comes really late. We thought we had an idea of what our identity would be early and we were wrong. We had to make adjustments. In my experience, it’s easy to get a team to peak early but it’s really hard to get a team to peak at the right time. We don’t worry about our identity early on. I don’t think the style we’re playing right now is what we thought it would be earlier this season. They’re really starting to like that identity because they’re starting to feel success. That’s what I hope is the difference for us. We’re going to work hard the next two days in practice and we’ll take a run at them.”

The Tigers will be playing for the section title for a fifth-straight season. They are 3-1 in the previous four section championship games and looking for their first state tournament appearance since 2021 after finishing as runner-ups last year. They’ll face off against Orono in the Section 2A championship game Friday night at the St. Louis Park Rec Center at 7 p.m. The Spartans defeated Delano 5-1 earlier this season.

“It’s my fourth time in four years playing in a section final,” Brown said. “It’s really cool for our team. It’s super fun to play in these kinds of games and it’s got a big energy level. It’s going to be great going against our rival and should be a lot of fun.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

STATE OF MIND: W-M/MW’s Kelley cliches second-straight Class A all-around title

ST. PAUL – There was a time in Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka’s Reagan Kelley’s life when gymnastics was a question mark. After years of competing in club gymnastics took a toll on her body and mind, there was a sense of doubt hovering over her gymnastics career.

“There was a time where she was going to walk away from gymnastics,” W-M/MW coach Steve Hangartner said. “She didn’t want to do it anymore. Now she just loves gymnastics again. That’s a big reward to us when you see that. She still wants to do it. We knew she had a lot of talent but she was going to walk away. To see where she is now is awesome.”

Kelly’s love for the sport was on full display as she capped off her high school career winning her second-straight Class A state title in all-around Saturday night, posting a score of 38.500.

“Coming in today, I felt like there was a lot more competition than there was last year,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of girls’ all-around (scores) go up and up this year. I was a little bit nervous, but I have a lot of confidence in myself. I know what I needed to do to pull it off and I did and it feels really good.”

Coming off a stellar performance in the team competing the night before, Kelley picked up right where she left off. A score of 9.85 on vault for her opening rotation set the tone for what was to come the rest of the night.

“It gave me such a confidence boost to start off strong with a stick,” Kelley said. “Today I actually stuck it. It gave me a big confidence boost for the rest of the meet. It was a great way to start off.”

There was just one focus for Kelley throughout the night – herself. With multiple gymnasts on her heels, Kelley took care of business and it paid off with her second-straight state title.

“Today, I came in just thinking about myself,” she said. “I was just trying not to look at other people. I just needed to pull it together on my own and I think I did a good job at that.”

“I noticed today how positive she was,” Hangartner added. “She was focused. I came up to her and told her that she missed this and this and she just told me that it’s alright. I just had to make sure I stayed positive to keep on pumping her up. She was in the zone all night. She was ready to go and we just left her alone.”

Kelley carried a ton of pressure on herself this season, labeled as one of the top gymnasts in the state. Looking to help lead her team back to the state meet again, she did just that as she helped an almost entirely new roster keep their impressive winning streak intact this season.

“We noticed that she took on a lot of pressure this year,” Hangartner said. “She took on a lot more this year. With how good she is, even if she doesn’t hit, her score is still going to count. If she misses, that’s five-tenths off our team score and she knows that. She really had support from the whole team all year. She was crying just because she didn’t want the season to end.”

Kelley’s presence for the Royals will be missed beyond her talent. She had a way of connecting with her teammates all season long, a bond that helped herself and the team make it another memorable season capped off in the best way possible.

“She was just a joy to have around,” Hangartner said. “She was hanging out with eighth graders like they were best friends. For those girls to get to hang out and practice with the best gymnast in the state, that’s awesome. That’s memories they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. You get to know these girls in a personal way and it’s really rewarding.”