Archive for DEL Sports

PREP BOYS HOCKEY: Tigers get past frustrating stretch with blowout win over LDC

LITCHFIELD – The past week of the season for the Delano boys hockey team has been an interesting one. There have been highs. There have been lows.

The Tigers have been playing well in their past four games but haven’t had anything to show for it. Coming into their matchup with Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, the Tigers came in a four-game losing streak with all four losses coming by one goal. It was time to put an end to that.

With three days of practice to change somethings up, get back to their style, Delano put it all together in an impressive 7-1 win over LDC Feb. 6 to snap their rough stretch and hand LDC their first loss of the season.

“We’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks,” Tigers coach Gerrit van Bergen said. “We’ve played some good teams or had situations where the puck just doesn’t seem to want to in for us. I think our guys have been playing well, so for us to come away with a very decisive win is a reward for them.”

After a loss to Breck Tuesday night in which Delano came up short by just one goal once again, practice had a different feel for the Tigers leading up to the matchup with LDC. It gave them a chance to take a deep breath, figure things out, and get back on track.

“That’s what we were emphasizing in practice,” Delano senior captain Adam Brown said. “It was just taking a step back and looking over what we had to do in each of our spots. We all just needed to do what we could to contribute and come back and play the game we know we can.”

With Delano looking to shake things up, van Bergen preached patience to his team as they switched up their lines a bit to provide a spark.

“They’ve stayed patient,” van Bergen said. “They’ve been really listening. I think that showed in our play tonight. We did some things we’ve really been focusing on in practice. They went out and played well. We were proud to see them do that. It was so great to have three practices in a row for the first time this season. It allowed us to work on certain things. We adjusted our lines and it allowed us to get some familiarity. We hit some film and showed them some things that we think they can do to make each other better. That was the theme. Make each other better. I think you saw that today.”

The patience and changes paid off right away for the Tigers. Just two minutes into the game, Will Brown gave the Tigers the early lead with his first goal of the season on an assist from Bruce Halonen and Braeden Collings.

Although LDC answered back with a power-play goal from Grant Grochow, Delano seized the momentum back. Gunnar Paulson put Delano up 2-1 with just under five minutes left in the first period on a goal assisted by Jesse Peterson and Colin Lommel.

“That’s something we’ve been telling this group,” van Bergen said. “When they score, we can’t see it as a reason to get down. We’ve got to see it as a reason to step up. I think they felt that way tonight. It wasn’t that typical sit back for a minute or two and feel it out. We just came right back out and after them.”

With Delano back in front, it was their physical defense that took over the game the rest of the way. Although LDC scored on the power play earlier in the first, the Tigers killed off four penalties the rest of the way as they held the high-scoring Dragons to just one goal in the win.

“It’s great to regain that lead,” van Bergen said about overcoming the LDC power-play goal. “We’ve been really happy with our penalty kill, but we also knew their power play would be pretty dynamic. The way they set up their power play doesn’t fit our penalty kill ideally. The power play they run is fairly unusual in today’s game. We made a couple of little tweaks and adjustments, but we just wanted to see how they competed and adjusted themselves.”

LDC came into the game averaging more than four goals a game. The Tigers held them to one as they’ve taken a sense of pride in their defense all season long.

“Aside from a stretch in the first period, I thought we competed super hard on our end,” van Bergen said. “That’s been our identity. That’s who these guys want to be. They want to be a really good defensive team. I think we did a good job of being in lanes outnumbering on low pucks. We had some ideas of where they wanted to go with the puck. That really helped us. We knew some of their tendencies in regards to where their bodies would be. I thought our guys did a nice job of executing a slightly different defensive approach.”

Delano added two more goals (Tyler Selstad and Will Brown) in the second period to extend their lead to 4-1. In the third period, Trevor Oja kept the scoring going a minute in with a goal to put LDC away for good.

“It’s nice to come back and get a win,” Brown said. “The last couple games have been tough. We haven’t been able to put the puck in the net much so we changed a couple of things up and played with confidence this game. With everyone rolling, we can get a win like this.”

Delano had six players with two or more points in the win. Collin Lommel had three assists, while Bruce Halonen, Oja, Peterson, Colin Pettit, and Will Brown all added two points apiece.

With the monkey off their back and Delano back in the win column, Brown and the Tigers will be looking to keep things rolling after the big road win.

“Just stick to our plan,” Brown said about how they keep things rolling. “We know what our goals are. We all have common goals. Once the plan becomes a common theme for everybody, we can also stick to it and keep going.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

@Kovar_HJSports

PREP BASKETBALL: One-Month Rewind

It’s been just over a month since winter sports practice started up, six weeks later than usual. I’ve been able to see nine of the 12 area hoops teams so far and checked in with the others as the season has progressed. Today in the One-Month Rewind, we take a look at how all 12 are faring 30 days into the season.

 HLWW boys (3-3, 1-3 WCC West)

The Lakers started off strong with a tight win over rival Lester Prairie (the Bulldogs’ only loss) and a takedown of former Central Minnesota Conference foe Maple Lake.

Then the Wright County West buzzsaw hit hard and fast — not that HLWW didn’t battle, though. Losses to Litchfield and Rockford, both top-20 level teams in Class AA, came by a total of seven points. A tough size matchup against Annandale sent them into a three-game losing streak before handling Dassel-Cokato pretty easily Monday.

James Carr has his team’s priority on the defensive end as usual, which will need to set the tone in the next three games especially; road trips to Glencoe-Silver Lake and Litchfield sandwich a home game against Watertown-Mayer who is getting on track at the right time. Spencer Lade and Drew Burau in the frontcourt have been bright spots scoring in double figures along with wing sharpshooter Bennett Anderson. Lade is shooting 55 percent from the field and adding seven rebounds and three assists to his statline this season.

The Lakers will need some extra punch from the guard spots with Carson Woolhouse and Noah Bush to balance things out, and they have their work cut out for them with a tough slate coming — W-M and Litch would be monster wins for Section 5AA implications as well as conference bragging rights.

HLWW girls (1-4, 1-2 WCC West)

The HLWW girls picked up their first win Tuesday against conference foe D-C, a grind-it-out victory that took all the effort they could muster. Coach Ryan Petersen said the energy the team has brought to each game just didn’t translate to a win yet — that changed this week, knocking off the Chargers 51-46 behind another stellar 21-point performance from sophomore point guard Ivy Fasching. She’s shooting the lights out and averaging nearly 24 a game accounting for about half of the HLWW offense.

Signs of life from the rest of the roster showed up too: 6-foot junior center Carolyn Remer is proving to be a two-way paint presence and is the team’s second-leading scorer. Brooke Baumann does a little bit of everything and might be their best wing defender. Erin Horn scored a huge eight points against D-C grabbing a couple offensive rebounds.

The Lakers still have to face the top of the conference twice but with a win finally under their belts the spirits are high and they know there’s plenty to still improve on.

Lester Prairie girls (6-1, 6-1 MCAA)

The Bulldogs faced their first true conference test Monday on the road at Heritage, falling 70-53. That was also without leading scorer and area player of the year candidate Marissa Radtke who has missed the last few games with a bone bruise in her knee and is likely out another couple weeks. The rematch with Heritage at home happens Saturday afternoon, a game Lester Prairie needs to stay above the Eagles in the section standings.

Lester Prairie's Taylor Ebert has stepped up in the scoring column as of late. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Lester Prairie’s Taylor Ebert has stepped up in the scoring column as of late. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Taylor Ebert stepped up for 29 points in the loss to Heritage Monday; she seems very capable of handling the shot creation load sans Radtke, and Lizzy Anderson has been steady in the paint all season averaging 12 points per game as well. The rest of the rotation will need to adjust on the fly to being more primary features in the offense. Kara Lee and eighth-grader Addison Hoof are sparkplug type defenders that can make life miserable for opposing point guards. That could be an important part of how the Bulldogs create their offense — forcing a few more turnovers per game and getting out on the fast break.

The MCAA slate isn’t all that challenging past Heritage. But the big game circled on the schedule is a March 2 faceoff against the best team in Section 4A, Mayer Lutheran. If Radtke’s available by that time, expect a doozy.

Lester Prairie boys (6-1, 5-0 MCAA)

Having a similarly dominant season are the Lester Prairie boys, 6-1 on the season, the only blemish in the season opener to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted. Two gritty wins over Spectrum and two more against Heritage highlight the Bulldogs’ record so far.

The two-headed monster of Jack Behning and Zach Jackson has reared its head in almost every game. Both players are averaging 20 points per game and the rest of the MCAA has little to counter them. Not only have the two most experienced Bulldogs been excellent, senior Jack Niesen and freshman Trever Schauer are averaging double figures and grabbing every rebound in sight. Schauer has been particularly active on defense, consistently grabbing two steals and two blocks a contest.

Though the program’s numbers are down this season, the Bulldogs seem pretty deep with playable guys. Donovan Harrison and Tanner Scheevel are reliable wings that use their craft and strength to make winning plays. Zach Zebell and Layne Teubert excel in their roles as defensive guard stopper and three-point specialist, respectively.

Two big games against a good Legacy Christian team appear on next week’s schedule along with Mayer Lutheran Feb. 15. Can Lester Prairie stay undefeated in the MCAA and get a big section win?

Dassel-Cokato boys (1-5, 0-3 WCC West)

It’s a new style of play and some new faces on the varsity roster for D-C this season. The adjustment period is ongoing but the flashes of everything falling into place are visible. The Chargers, led by head coach Tony Dehler in his first season, play a super uptempo style with a lot of pressing on defense. The outside shots haven’t been falling so it’s up to the defense to create turnovers and fast break points. Athlete Eli Gillman is a key cog in that strategy along with physical specimen Collin Asplin. In the win against Hope Academy, D-C forced 31 turnovers.

They’re going to have a chance in every game they play; two losses have come by a total of five points and the Chargers almost got back in the game against HLWW Monday despite being down 30 in the second half.

Four of their next five games are on the road, while all are against tough conference opponents like Rockford, Watertown-Mayer and Annandale. Gillman and Asplin usually are the leading scorers at around 10 points a game while Gaige Webb is a steady hand at point guard. They’ll need some extra punch from rotation players three through five to stay in these games.

Dassel-Cokato girls (0-6, 0-3 WCC West)

The Chargers girls squad has had trouble playing a consistent two halves most of the season, especially early on. Losses to Rocori and Litchfield were within striking distance for a half before things got out of hand.

Another struggle has been finding a go-to scorer when the offense is stalling out. There’s a recent development in that respect with junior guard Bailey Quern, who scored 18 in a close loss to HLWW Tuesday. and is the team’s leading bucket-getter. Her improvement as the season goes on could get her some attention as a senior.

Kezia Lee's defense and rebounding have been bright spots for Dassel-Cokato. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Kezia Lee’s defense and rebounding have been bright spots for Dassel-Cokato. | Photo by Jared Martinson

In terms of the game against HLWW, both teams were looking for their first win of the season. HLWW got up by 11 quickly but a nice run to end the half got D-C within 26-22. They added to that with eight straight to open the second half and were up 37-32 at one point as well. Closing out the game while having the lead hasn’t happened enough yet this season for the Chargers to capitalize. Now that they’ve been in that late-game situation (as well as in a close loss to Delano in January), my guess is they’ll snatch a couple wins from the teams right above them in the standings.

Senior Kezia Lee, a Winona State track and field commit, has ramped up her defensive effort as of late as well. Her length and speed bothers opposing wing players and she made some big deflections against HLWW. Amelia Travis is an undersized post player but she is tough and works hard to box out and defend bigger centers.

Delano boys (5-2, 1-2 WCC East)

A hot 4-0 start for the Tigers has quickly simmered with two losses in conference play — a not-quite-enough comeback against Jordan came up short and then a setback at Mound-Westonka Tuesday. But those first four games, everything seemed to be clicking — St. Croix Lutheran, Princeton and St. Thomas Academy are all very respectable teams in Class AAA, and Terry Techam’s squad handled the pressure with aplomb.

All Delano basketball roads cross at Trey Longstreet. The Northern State-committed senior is averaging 26 points a game, with a season-high 35 coming in the barn burner against Princeton; he needed 33 to reach the 1,000 milestone and that he did. Playing point guard, rim protector and earning a top defensive assignment are just a few of the roles he’s taken on with an otherwise entirely new varsity crew.

Let’s not coast past those new faces that have stepped up. Freshman guard Will Strandemo has lived all over the world and finds himself back at Delano to begin his high school basketball career, coming off the bench to score 11.4 points per game. His lefty elbow pullup jumper is automatic.

Delano senior Trey Longstreet has led the Tigers to a 5-2 start. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Delano senior Trey Longstreet has led the Tigers to a 5-2 start. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Senior forward Carter Tool is another trusted ballhandler; at 6-foot-6, he has vision to see what other guards can’t, and he pairs with Longstreet as two of the only players to not come out of the game every night. Carter posted a near triple-double of 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a win over Waconia Friday.

Ty Weiman, Trent Techam and Colin Tolkkinen all play vital roles as defenders and open shot-makers too. The bummer of the season so far is junior center Levi Farniok being lost for the season with a torn ACL. Sophomore Jackson Stewart will have to continue his strong play on the glass in replacement.

Delano girls (2-5, 1-2 WCC East)

There’s a lot of promise to the Delano girls basketball team; they just need to get some games in their back pocket. Two losses to strong Wright County West teams in Annandale and Watertown-Mayer were followed by a grind-it-out victory over Dassel-Cokato, 45-41. The Tigers are 2-5 coming off a one-point win against Mound-Westonka. Like the Chargers of D-C, this young team seems to be learning how to capitalize in tight games. The next step is staying in the games that aren’t so tight.

Freshman pair Taylor Tool and Norah Danielson seem to be a foundation to build on as the team’s top two leading scorers. Tool is a post presence with some smooth footwork and passing ability, rare for a freshman. She can also step out and shoot the three.

Danielson is more of a ballhandler, taking some expected lumps with turnovers but also flashing some craft with her game. She has the team’s season-high for points in a game with 22 against Jordan. The tandem of these two young players gives coach Seth Potter really nice building blocks along with what he’s got in the upper classes, like Macki Deters, Maddie Elstad and Sidney Schmit on the wings. Louisa Stowman and Kendall Dreger lead the way on defense, racking up steals with their hand quickness and speed.

The Wright County East schedule does no favors any year. Delano has a couple wins in the bag now and can rally around that confidence to move up in the standings. The next three Tiger opponents all have winning records. How will they respond?

Mayer Lutheran girls (5-1, 5-0 MN River)

I haven’t had the gift of seeing them live yet, but Kris Gustin’s squad is once again dominating the Minnesota River slate. Just one of their five conference wins has been by less than 19 points. The three-headed offensive attack of Emma Lade (17.2 PPG), Morgan Chmielewski (15.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and Madeline Guetzkow (13.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG) is as fearsome as any in the area and the section. Julia Carns is a stellar paint presence averaging eight points and seven rebounds.

The Crusaders haven’t played a team in their section yet — that changes when United Christian comes to town Friday. They’ll also face Lester Prairie and Heritage Christian in March, the two other most likely contenders for the 4A crown. Heritage knocked them off in sections last season. Regardless, the buzzsaw that is the Crusader defense leading to offense is scary.

Mayer Lutheran also hits the road to play Minnehaha Academy in an exciting non-conference matchup late in the regular season.

Mayer Lutheran boys (7-0, 6-0 MN River)

The Crusaders now sit atop the Minnesota River standings after defeating Southwest Christian 80-76 Thursday night. The second round of league play begins against Norwood-Young America Tuesday. Only Tri-City United and Southwest Christian stayed within 10 points of Mayer Lutheran.

There are a lot of football players on this team, but they also play like basketball players on the court. Teigan Martin is a bona fide star in the paint but is skilled enough to step out and shoot it too. He’s putting up 24 points and seven rebounds per game to lead the offense that puts up 75 points a night. Sharpshooting Tyler Neitzel and point guard Ty Hoese are in double figures so far this year and were key in the win over Southwest Christian.

Remind yourself like I had to: this team is all juniors and one sophomore! Plenty of time left for the Crusaders to rise up the Class A ladder under new coach Keith Traska. He’s said how much he loves coaching the effort these guys show. It’s already paying off nearly halfway through the season.

Section rivals Lester Prairie and New Ulm Cathedral are still on the slate along with the rest of the Minnesota River. An undefeated record going into the section tournament isn’t out of the question.

Watertown-Mayer boys (3-2, 1-2 WCC West)

The Royals have had their share of frustrating moments and games so far. Two nice wins over Southwest Christian and Holy Family to start the year were quickly deflated by a blowout loss to Glencoe-Silver Lake and a too little, too late game at Rockford. It seems that the momentum has shifted back above the red with a trademark gritty win over Litchfield 42-31 Tuesday.

Litch is a top-15 or 20 team in Class AA, notorious for playing slow and physical. That’s the kind of game Watertown-Mayer wants to be in — and it worked. The Royals held the Dragons to 13 second-half points and pulled away.

It’ll be the more uptempo games that give them trouble unless the offense starts clicking a little faster. Coach Kent Janikula has said the pecking order of scoring and creating will need to play itself out so each player has a distinct role. Sophomore forward John Mueller is the team’s leader on offense at 18.8 points per game while classmates Albert Rundell and Wyatt McCabe average 8.8 and 8.4 respectively. Rundell has been very versatile, just recently moved to the starting lineup as a secondary ballhandler and main perimeter defender.

Wyatt McCabe slices into the paint against Rockford Jan. 29. | Photo by Jared Martinson

Wyatt McCabe slices into the paint against Rockford Jan. 29. | Photo by Jared Martinson

The Royals are tough and they’ll fight back. Whether they can weather bigger teams like Annandale, more offensively potent teams like Glencoe or just plain elite teams like Rockford will be the question moving forward. And where does that consistent outside shooting come from down the stretch, when offense in the playoffs is at a premium?

I’ll personally look forward to their matchup with Lester Prairie March 11.

Watertown-Mayer girls (6-1, 2-1 WCC West)

Off to a start that most expected of them, John Rosholt’s group of Royals have taken care of business, all six wins by at least 10 points and the lone loss coming to strong program Glencoe-Silver Lake. Maggie Czinano is cementing herself as one of the best scorers in W-M history, not to mention the entire area, at 27 points per game. As we’ve written before, she’s doing that in all new ways as defenses try to find creative strategies to slow her down — it hasn’t really mattered.

Carly Killian and Mercedes Burmeister are both in double figures too, reliable options when Czinano is being doubled or zoned.

The Section 5AA contenders are just as tough, though. Minneapolis North, Maranatha Christian and Providence Academy all sit just a little higher than the Royals in QRF rankings (though I’d say W-M’s conference is on the whole just as if not more competitive than the Minneapolis City, Skyline and IMAC).

The Royals score plenty but also only give up 49 points per game. That’s a great starting point to carry over into playoff time, when neutral gyms, nerves and stronger scouting all can come into play and affect the flow of a game.

W-M faces their biggest test yet Friday against the number one team in AA, New London-Spicer, on the road. They also notably still have Annandale twice and a rematch with the Panthers of Glencoe-Silver Lake.

PREP GYMNASTICS: Lommel, Delano top Litchfield in home opener

DELANO – It was a strong start to the season for the Delano Gymnastics team in their season opener against Glencoe-Silver Lake last week. It was an even better performance by the Tigers in their home opener Thursday night as they posted a score of 135.275 in a win over the Litchfield Dragons.

“I think they are doing awesome,” Tigers coach Jamie Greenberg said. “This season is unlike any other season. To have them come in a full two months late and have them perform the way they did last week and tonight, I’m just so proud of them.”

The score of 135 posted by the Tigers is a full two points better than their score in the first meet of the season. Despite missing one of their top gymnasts, Delano continues to show improvement while posting impressive scores early in the season.

“They’ve been working really hard in practice,” Greenberg said. “The score went up from last week so I’m happy.”

Confidence was the key for the Tigers in their second meet of the season. With one meet under their belts already, they were ready to roll in their first home meet of the season.

“I think confidence,” Greenberg said about what the difference was for her team tonight. “They’ve been working hard, but they’re more confident in their routines and skills now.”

Avery Lommel led the way for Delano winning the all-around with a score of 34.750. That makes it back-to-back wins for Lommel to start the season.

“It was a really good experience to come from two weeks of practice to meets right away,” Lommel said. “It’s nice to pick up right where I left off last week.”

Lommel edged Litchfield’s Grace Bororwicz in the all-around, while Delano’s Peyton Dickhausen took third place with a score of 33.400.

Lommel’s best event came on vault where she posted a score of 8.950, while Dickhausen finished first on floor with a score of 8.825.

While Lommel and Dickhausen led the way in all-around, it was Gabby Stoudt who took home first place on vault for the Tigers. Stoudt finished with a score of 9.000.

Jenna Kuelbs took second on bars with a score of 8.025, while Jennifer Coons finished in third with a score of 8.700 on floor.

With two impressive meets under their belts now, Delano will turn their focus to keep the improvement going. Their team chemistry and dynamic will be a key to their success going forward.

“I love the team,” Lommel said. “I think it’s really important the team has a good relationship. We can all be laughing and having fun during a meet.”

“This group of girls is amazing,” Greenberg said. “They get along really well. I feel like they are just friends inside and outside the gym. They are there for each other. They encourage each other. That’s really what you want to see.”

BEYOND THE BOX: Young talent, learning by leading, and kids buying in

Beyond the box is a weekly look back on three of the best moments from the last week of high school sports. As sports editor, I often finish a week of coverage and move right into the next week. This weekly column will give me a chance to look back on things to put it all in perspective.

WINSTED – High school sports offer so much. In today’s climate where a global pandemic steals most of the headlines, it’s important to remember what high school sports are doing for so many people right now.
These kids are getting the chance to be active, playing the sports they love with their friends, and develop skills that will help them far beyond high school. It’s why we play.

These are important times for high school students. It’s important for them to be back in school. It’s important for them to be playing sports.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what happened this past week.

Delano girls hockey team showcases young talent

I got my first look at the Delano girls hockey team Tuesday night. Heading into the season I wasn’t sure what to expect from this team as it would be my first time covering them. Let’s say I left that game impressed.

Talent is one thing the Tigers have. They are also extremely young. Delano has just six upperclassmen on their roster this season. The average age of the team can’t even drive a car.

Taking on Hutchinson Tuesday night, it was a pair of eighth-graders who got the Tigers off to a good start. Then it was a freshman scoring. Then a sophomore.

The amount of young talent at Delano this season is fun to watch. It’s a group of girls that have already seen success this year, and with more experience, as they go on, the state of the Delano girls hockey program is bright going forward. I’m excited to see where this group can go this year and for years to come

Czinano learning while leading

The name Maggie Czinano has become a household name around the area when it comes to basketball. That’s for good reason. The University of Minnesota commit has been one of the top players in the area and seems to only get better each season.

This year has been a unique season for Czinano and the Watertown-Mayer Royals. Putting COVID-19 challenges aside, Czinano has taken on a bigger scoring role for her team this season. While she’s always been able to score, teams have been keying in on her defensively all season long.

While Czinano is still putting up big numbers against double and triple teams, it’s been impressive the way she’s done it. She’s not forcing things. She’s taking what is given to her and getting her teammates involved at the right time. While she has certainly been a leader this season, she’s also had to learn. That’s not easy to balance.

It’s been impressive to see how Czinano has carried herself so far this season. It’s not easy to learn on the fly while leading like she’s doing. It’s a testament to her as an athlete and person.

HLWW’s Carr gets the most of out his guys

Anyone who knows me around the game of basketball knows that I have a soft spot for teams and players who play defense. You can’t make every shot, but you can defend on every play. That’s been my motto for basketball since I started playing.

It’s no secret that the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball team isn’t blessed with an abundance of elite talent like other schools across the state. Instead, they feature a group of guys who work their butts off, play hard, and play the right way. That starts with their head coach James Carr.

Carr is in his fifth year as head coach for the Lakers. I’ve been lucky enough to cover all five seasons. Each year, no matter the numbers or talent level he has, he’s right in the thick of things every year.

This year, HLWW moved to the Wright County Conference. It was a clear step up in competition for the Lakers, and they’ve shown they belong with some of the top teams already. How have they proved they belong? By buying into Carr’s philosophy. Those kids work hard each and every play. They’ve bought into working hard on defense and it’s paying off. It’s fun to watch. It feeds off on the offensive side as well. Carr talks a lot about passing up good shots for great shots. That’s a testament to kids buying in and working as a team.

When you watch HLWW play in person, you can bet that they will be the hardest working team on the floor that night. They might not win every game, but they give it all every game.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

PREP GIRLS HOCKEY: Delano shows off range of talent in 5-1 win over Hutchinson

DELANO – Most high school sports teams think there needs to be a large group of upperclassmen to be successful. The Delano girls hockey team would disagree with that.

While the average of the roster of the Tigers this year isn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license, that’s not stopping them from playing at a high level. With a combination of young talent and veteran leadership, the Tigers showed how dangerous they can be in a 5-1 win over Hutchinson Tuesday night.

“Our average age of our varsity team is 15-years-old,” Tigers coach Jackie Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to rely on some of our youth. They’ve definitely stepped up to the plate so far.”

Delano had five different goal scorers in the win over Hutchinson. One from an eighth-grader. One from a freshman. One from a sophomore and two from seniors. That wide range of talent is what is making this team got this season as they picked up their fourth win of the season.

“They love the younger girls,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of talent at our younger levels. It’s really exciting for us a program, but at the same time, those older girls are just trying to be mentors. They understand what Tiger hockey is all about. Their biggest thing is to teach. They know what we expect. I think it’s really coming together and they’re starting to bond. It’s starting to see in our play now, too.”

It was eighth-grader Kendall Hassler who got the scoring started for Delano with a first-period goal. Off an assist from another eighth-grader (Kayleigh Olson), Hassler scored her third goal of the season against Hutchinson alone to give Delano the early lead.

“She’s a great player,” Johnson said about Hassler. “Today, I thought was one of her best games. We’ve been working on using her speed and skillset to make everyone around her better. She did a good job of being a team player. That’s something she’s continuing to get better at.”

After a pair of eighth-graders got things rolling in the first period, senior Kylee Heinzen kept it going in the second period. Heinzen scored off an assist from Sydney Stansberry, making it 2-0 Delano.

Leading 2-0 heading into the final period, Delano refused to let off the gas. Just 35 seconds into the third period, sophomore Ava Reierson extended Delano’s lead to 3-0 off an assist from senior Mary Beth Kivisto as the Tigers had things rolling.

“We work together really well,” Kivisto said about the younger and more experienced players. “I think our connection is super strong. This is one of my favorite teams to play with. It’s just super fun.”

“It’s really fun playing with kids your age and then being with the older girls,” Hassler added. “You’re getting the experience from all different levels.”

A goal from Brooklyn Gillette, a freshman, pushed Delano’s lead to 4-0. Then it was Kivisto’s turn to get in on the scoring action as she scored with 53 seconds left in the game to make it 5-0 Delano.

“It’s so fun,” Kivisto said about playing with the younger girls. “We’re all developing this program. I’m excited that these younger girls are really showing what they can do and are scoring. That’s going to bring us a lot of depth. Hopefully, that can keep giving us wins. That will get us ready for sections.”

Defense was also a big key for Delano in the win. They held Hutchinson to just 23, outshooting them by 18. Goalie Kayla Simonson had 22 saves including several big ones early to keep Hutchinson off the board.

“We played better tonight than we did the first game against them,” Johnson said. “The goal at the end kind of put a damper on how we played, but overall we played better. We limited them on their shots in our defensive zone. That’s something we’ve been harping we’ve been continuing to harp on. We definitely got better as a team tonight.”

Getting better as a team is a focus for Delano each day. With a strong group building towards a common goal together, it’s all about taking things one day at a time.

“We’re just worrying about tomorrow,” Johnson said. “We’re not worried about a month from now. We’re just trying to get better. With youth, you continue to get better and grow. That’s all you can ask of them. We’re better than we were in the first game. We know we’re going to be better in a month and a half, too.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 5 edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

@Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: First Delano loss comes in tight physical battle with Jordan

DELANO — The grueling Wright County East schedule got off to a blazing start for the Delano Tigers boys basketball team tonight, a close 74-71 loss to Jordan at home.

The Hubmen made their presence known on defense, despite not having a lot of size or length to contend with Delano’s. The Tiger ballhandlers had a hard time running offensive sets and Jordan was aggressive to the rim drawing fouls. On the scoring end of things, a couple cold spells from Delano contributed to the need for a late-game comeback that fell just short at the final buzzer.

“They are physical. We were expecting that, but our main struggle was knocking down open shots,” coach Terry Techam said.

The game was nip-and-tuck in the first half, both teams finding their own strengths being countered on both ends. A late mini-run by Jordan junior Isaac Young, who had 15 first half points, gave the Hubmen a 35-28 lead at the break.

There were a couple marks early in the second half where it seemed Jordan would pull away, including a 10-point lead at 40-30 just two minutes in. Then the Tigers started getting stops and pushing the pace in transition, beating Jordan down the floor — something Techam was begging his team to do from the sideline.

Trey Longstreet and Will Strandemo pieced together a 10-0 burst to tie the game at 40, but it didn’t come without cost. Starting center Levi Farniok got twisted up on a free throw rebound and had to leave the game with a knee injury. The pause stemmed the Tiger momentum and gave Jordan an advantage on the glass for the rest of the game.

The Hubmen continued to reach the free throw line and keep the lead between eight and 12 points until the last minute of play. Down 70-63, Delano’s Trey Longstreet sandwiched a steal between two layups and Will Strandemo hit an elbow jumper to make it 70-69 with 20 seconds left. The Tiger press defense forced two big turnovers in that stretch to have a chance. After two made free shots from Jordan, Longstreet got a decent look from deep but missed, and Delano’s clawing back came up short, 74-71.

An early challenge that forced young players to grow and adjust in real time will be helpful as the Tigers enter a tough stretch of opponents within the conference.

“Every game in the Wright County East is going to be tough and physical,” Techam said. “It was great to see us have a shot at the end of the game to tie. With such a young team in terms of varsity experience, it was rewarding to see the no-quit attitude.”

Longstreet continued his hot start with 35 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Will Strandemo added a big 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists off the bench. Jackson Stewart stepped in for Farniok in the second half and tallied seven points plus 11 rebounds, while Carter Tool played all 40 minutes and was huge on defense late in the game with eight rebounds and four blocks. Ty Weiman played some strong defense in crunch time as well.

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Jan. 29 edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR