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Royals can’t overcome cold shooting night in semifinal loss

MINNEAPOLIS – The Watertown-Mayer Royals girls basketball team will not end their magical season with a state championship. That doesn’t mean their names won’t go down in school history.

Despite a hard fought effort, the Royals fell in a tough 58-41 loss to No. 2 Sauk Centre Friday night in the Class AA semifinals at Williams Arena.

The Royals came out ready to play, grabbing the early lead. That’s when the Mainstreeters poise and experience took over.

The MainStreeters were making their seventh straight state tournament appearance, and their experienced proved to be too much for the Royals to overcome.

With the Royals desperately needing to get their offense going in the second half, the Mainstreeters were able to hold them in check. The Royals were just 3-for-20 from 3-point range in the loss, and the defensive pressure made it tough for the Royals to get the ball inside to Monika Czinano.

The season is not over yet for the Royals. They take on Wright County Conference foe New London-Spicer at 1 p.m. at Concordia-St. Paul Saturday afternoon.

CLASS AA SEMIFINALS

No. 2 Sauk Centre 58, No. 3 Watertown-Mayer 41

WATERTOWN-MAYER: 22;19;–41

SAUK CENTRE: 30;28;–58

WATERTOWN-MAYER: Kirstin Klitzke 8, Emma Ragner 5, Claire Killian 13, Sarah Zuelzke 2, Monika Czinano 6, Grace Knutson 4, Maggie Czinano 3,

SAUK CENTRE: Kelsey Peschel 9, Jill Klaphake 14, Tori Peschel 20, Maesyn Theisen 11, Alyssa Kohorst 4.

MAKING HISTORY: Royals advance to Class AA semifinals with win over Rochester Lourdes

MINNEAPOLIS – Watertown-Mayer’s Senior Kirstin Klitzke knew she was only 15 points away from her 2,000th career point coming into the Royals’ matchup with Rochester Lourdes. Although she knew that milestone was in reach, she was too busy focused on winning the game that she didn’t realize she already reached it with 10 minutes and 53 seconds left to go in the game.

“I knew it coming in,” Klitzke said. “I kind of forgot about it, and then the crowd got really loud. That’s when I knew.”

Not only did Klitzke record her 2,000th career point, she also helped lead the Royals to their first state tournament semifinals appearance with a game-high 23 points and six assists in their 71-58 win over the Eagles in the Class AA state quarterfinals Wednesday night.

It wasn’t easy for the Royals  though, as they struggled shooting the ball in the early going. The Royals missed their first three shots of the game and had two turnovers on their first five possessions.

“It was definitely weird,” Monika Czinano said about the atmosphere and getting used to the court at Mariucci Arena. “Coming from Watertown, which is a tiny school, our stands are always full, but they’re not nearly filled to this capacity. It was definitely a change, but I think we adapted really well to it.”

After shaking off the slow start, Czinano began to get things going for the Royals inside. With the game tied at nine, Claire Killian picked up her second foul and was forced to sit for the rest of the half.

“I knew that one of our better players is off the court,” Klitzke said about the team playing most of the first half without Killian. “So, that means everyone has to step up their game, and we all have to play as a team and work together, and we did that. We rebounded, we pushed the ball, we reversed it, and we got those wide-open looks, and that’s what kept us in this game.”

With Killian’s absence, the Royals got big minutes off the bench from Maggie Czinano, Emma Maas, Olyvia Schroeder, and Grace Knutson.

“Good minutes by the bench all night,” Royals coach John Rosholt said. “The whole bench did a spectacular job. Kirstin and Monika did a good job scoring for us, but it was a good contribution from everybody.”

It was Knutson who made the most of her playing time with Killian on the bench. In 23 minutes on the court, Knutson was everywhere, making plays for the Royals. She finished with eight rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end, that gave the Royals extra chances.

“I know my part, and I know that I’m not a huge scorer,” Knutson said about her mindset. “I just help out my team as much as I can by getting in there and getting rebounds, so that we have more opportunities to get up and beat the other teams.”

Knutson, at just 5-foot-6, scored just two points, but came down with several offensive rebounds that resulted in easy second-chance points for the Royals.

“I have to use all of my body, and I don’t get away with anything,” Knutson said. “So, I just have to make sure that I’m in there nice and strong, and get good position in there.”

With the Royals leading by just two at the break thanks to Klitzke knocking down a big 3-pointer shortly before the buzzer to end the first half, the Royals entered the locker room with a little momentum.

Klitzke stayed hot in the second half, knocking down another one of her five 3-pointers, which also gave her 2,000 for her career.

“The feeling is unreal,” Klitzke said about reaching 2,000 career points at the state tournament. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and us getting this far. To be able to experience my 2,000th career point at the state tournament, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I couldn’t be happier.”

The Eagles didn’t go away easy though. A hot start for the Eagles had them ahead 41-34 with 14:36 to go. That’s when Killian put aside a frustrating first half, and played the game she knew she could play.

“It really hits when you get that second foul and you realize that you might be sitting for a while,” Killian said about the difficulties of her having to sit for most of the first half. But I also have a lot of faith in the rest of my team. I knew that without me, they still would be strong. Coming out in the second half, I was just ready to go.”

With the game tied at 46, that’s when Killian and the Royals took over. Killian, who scored 19 of her 22 points in the second half, led the Royals on an 11-0 run to distance themselves from the Eagles.

Like in the section title game, the Royals were clutch from the free throw down the stretch, sealing the win, and advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

“It’s crazy. Just to think that no Watertown girls’ team has ever made it this far,” Killian said. “We’re making history right now. It’s an incredible feeling right now to be a part of this team.”

Future Hawkeye Czinano recorded her straight double-double with a 20-point, 16-rebound performance.

The Royals will face No. 2 Sauk Centre in the Class AA semifinals Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Williams Arena.

“That’s going to be so cool,” Czinano said about playing at The Barn. “Like, watching the Gophers as a little girl, and then going and playing on their court, it’s going to be amazing. I just have to let it sink in right now.”

“That’s crazy,” Killian said about reaching the semifinals and having their game being on live television. “It’s a little bit surreal right now. I still got to let it sink in. I think once we get there and get on the court, I’ll be like, oh my gosh, it’s actually happening. Right now, I’m just going to let this win sink in a little bit.”

Saul Centre defeated Minnehaha Academy in the Class AA quarterfinals. The Mainstreeters found themselves trailing big early, but rallied back to advance to the Class AA semifinals where they will face the Royals.

“They’re a good team,” Rosholt said. “They got a lot of experience. They can dribble drive to the rim, and they can shoot the ball extremely well. They got down big early tonight against Minnehaha, but they’re so poised and so experienced. That’s going to be big for us if we can match their poise.”

 

CLASS AA STATE QUARTERFINALS

No. 3 Watertown-Mayer 71, Rochester Lourdes 58

ROCHESTER LOURDES: 28;20–58

WATERTOWN-MAYER:   30;41–71

ROCHESTER LOURDES: Madison Berg  5, Alyssa Ustby 15, Eleanor Plager 6, Wynter Bergner 17, Megan Hobday 9, Grace Rogers 3, Josie Hansen 3.

WATERTOWN-MAYER: Kirstin Klitzke 23, Emma Ragner 2, Claire Killian 22, Monika Czinano 20, Sarah Zuelkzke 2, Grace Knutson 2.

Class AA State Quarterfinals Scores:

No. 1 Roseau 82, NRHEG 64

No. 2 Sauk Centre 74, Minnehaha Academy 65

No. 3 Watertown-Mayer 71, Rochester Lourdes 58

No. 4 NL-S 48, Esko 43

 

Class AA State Semifinal Matchups:

No. 1 Roseau vs. No. 4 New London-Spicer, 6 p.m. at Williams Arena

No. Sauk Centre vs. No. 3 Watertown-Mayer, 8 pm. at Williams Arena

 

 Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter @Kovar_HJSports

Klitzke notches 2,000th career point as Royals head to Class AA semifinals

MINNEAPOLIS – Senior Kirstin Klitzke knew she was only 15 points away from her 2,000th career point coming into the Royals’ matchup with Rochester Lourdes. Although she knew that milestone was in reach, she was too busy focused on winning the game that she didn’t realize she already reached it with 10 minutes and 53 seconds left to go in the game.

“I knew it coming in,” Klitzke said. “I kind of forgot about it, and then the crowd got really loud. That’s when I knew.”

Not only did Klitzke record her 2,000th career point, she also helped lead the Royals to their first state tournament semifinals appearance with a game-high 23 points and six assists in their 71-58 win over the Eagles in the Class AA state quarterfinals Wednesday night,

Klitzke drained a big 3-pointer shortly before the buzzer to end the first half and give the Royals a 30-28 lead at the break. But the Eagles didn’t go away easy. They started the second half on a 4-0 run, and held a seven point lead over the Royals with just over 14 minutes to go.

With the game tied at 46, that’s when Claire Kilian and the Royals took over. Killian, who scored 19 of her 22 points in the second half after sitting most of the first half with two fouls, led the Royals on a 11-0 run to distance themselves from the Eagles.

Like in the section title game, the Royals were clutch from the free throw down the stretch, sealing the win and advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

Iowa commit Monika Czinano added another double-double to her resume with a 20 point, 16 rebound performance. Grace Knutson was also big for the Royals, playing extended minutes coming off the bench. She finished with just two points, but had eight rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end that gave the Royals extra chances.

The Royals will face No. 2 Sauk Centre in the Class AA semifinals Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Williams Arena.

Look for a full story online tomorrow morning and in the March 20th edition of the Herald Journal.

CLASS AA STATE QUARTERFINALS

No. 3 Watertown-Mayer 71, Rochester Lourdes 58

ROCHESTER LOURDES: 28;20–58

WATERTOWN-MAYER:   30;41–71

ROCHESTER LOURDES: Madison Berg  5, Alyssa Ustby 15, Eleanor Plager 6, Wynter Bergner 17, Megan Hobday 9, Grace Rogers 3, Josie Hansen 3.

WATERTOWN-MAYER: Kirstin Klitzke 23, Emma Ragner 2, Claire Killian 22, Monika Czinano 20, Sarah Zuelkzke 2, Grace Knutson 2.

Class AA State Quarterfinals Scores:

No. 1 Roseau 82, NRHEG 64

No. 2 Sauk Centre 74, Minnehaha Academy 65

No. 3 Watertown-Mayer 71, Rochester Lourdes 58

No. 4 NL-S 48, Esko 43

 

Class AA State Semifinal Matchups:

No. 1 Roseau vs. No. 4 New London-Spicer, 6 p.m. at Williams Arena

No. Sauk Centre vs. No. 3 Watertown-Mayer, 8 pm. at Williams Arena

CLASS AA STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Royals take on Rochester Lourdes in quarterfinals

Class AA State Quarterfinals

No. 3 Watertown-Mayer vs. Rochester Lourdes

Wednesday, March 15 at Mariucci Arena, 8 p.m.

ABOUT THE TEAMS:

Watertown-Mayer Royals (Section 5AA Champions)

26-3 overall

13-1 conference record (Wright County Conference

9-1 in last 10 games

Path To State Tournament:

Section 5AA Quarterfinals: W-M 66, Maple Lake 32

Section 5AA Semifinals: W-M 85, Litchfield 59

Section 5AA Championship: W-M 55, Holy Family 44

KEY PLAYERS:

Kirstin Klitzke (Guard, 5’8, Senior) Klitzke comes into the state tournament with just 15 points away from 2,000 career points. Should she reach that milestone at the tournament, she would the third girl in program history, and the second one this season. Teammate Claire Killian reached that milestone against Eden Valley-Watkins back on Jan. 14.

Klitzke, who will be playing at the next level at MSU-Mankato next year, is a dual threat player on the offensive end. Not only does she knock down the three at at a 40 percent rate, she’s a tough guard as she can blow past her defenders and finish at the basket. She’s averaging 13.5 points per a game this season, and is the reason for the Royals’ up-tempo style. She has 137 assists this season, to just 65 turnovers.

Claire Killian (Guard, 5’9, Senior) – Killian, one of the two girls in program history to already reach 2,000 career points, is another tough matchup for opponents. With her size and quickness, Killian get to the rim easy and is a good fisher as well. She can also knock down the 3-pointer, as she leads the team in 3-pointers made with 56.

Killian, who will also be playing at the next level next year for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, has been quiet the past few games for the Royals by her standards. She’s averaging over 18 points a game, but was held to just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting in the Royals’ 55-44 win over Holy Family in the Section 5AA title game. Look for Killian to get back on track on the big stage tonight as the Royals look to reach the Class AA semifinals for the first time in school history with a win over Rochester Lourdes.

Monika Czinano (Forward, 6’2, Junior) – Czinano is a force to be reckoned with inside. Averaging a double-double with over 16 points a game to go along 10.2 rebounds a game, when Czinano gets position in deep, it’s game over for her defender.

Czinano, an Iowa commit, has been playing some of her best basketball of the season as of late. In the Royals’ Section 5AA semifinal game against Litchfield, Czinano had a team-high 25 points and 13 rebounds. She followed that up with a 22 points] and 18 rebounds performance in the title game against Holy Family. The offense runs through her, and if she gets going, that opens things up for players like Klitzke and Killian. If the big three are clicking, the Royals are a tough team to compete with.

X-FACTORS:

Emma Ragner (Guard, 5’4, Junior) Ragner is a tough-nosed guard who can make some key plays for the Royals. She also is a great passer, averaging over three assists per a game.

Grace Knutson (Guard, 5’6, Junior) For being 5-foot-6, Knutson plays big for her size. She’s not afraid to play hard in the post when asked. She’s averaging over four rebounds a game, and gives the Royals some good minutes off the bench.

TEAM OUTLOOK:

The Royals arguably are one of the most talented teams in the tournament. With three players on the roster heading to the Division one or two level, the Royals are a team that needs to be taken seriously. The Royals are making just their second state tournament appearance, with the first one coming in 2010. If the Royals hope to make a deep run for a shot at a state title, they’ll need their terrific trio along with key reserves to continue to play well, and to play together.

Rochester Lourdes Eagles (Section 1AA Champions)

21-9 overall

12-4 Conference Record (Hiawatha Valley Conference)

8-2 in last 10 games

Path To State Tournament:

Section 1AA First Round: Rochester Lourdes 79, La Crescent 31

Section 1AA Quarterfinals: Rochester Lourdes 60, Caledonia 48

Section 1AA Semifinals: Rochester Lourdes 65, Hayfield 49

Section 1AA Championship: Rochester Lourdes 67, Kenyon-Wanamingo 61

Megan Hobday (Center, 6’0, Senior) –Hobday is one of the top two scorers for the Eagles. She’s averaging over 11 points a game, and leads the team in rebounds as well, grabbing over eight a game. She’s shooting 37 percent from the field this season, and will be a key player for the Royals to contain.

Alyssa Ustby (Guard, 5’11, Freshman) Unlike the Royals who are an experienced bunch led by upperclassmen, the Eagles have some young talent. Ustby is the team’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per a game, and is just a freshman. She is also one of the top players in assists on team as well. How the freshman is able to handle the pressure of a state tournament will play a role if the Eagles can pull of the upset.

Wynter Bergner (Forward, 5’11, Junior) – Bergner is one of three players averaging double digit points per a game for the Eagles. She’s also the team’s best 3-point shooter, making 78 of them heading into the tournament.

TEAM OUTLOOK:

The Eagles came out victorious in a tough section as the No. 3 seed. With three players averaging 10 or more points a game, they will be a tough matchup for the third-seeded Royals.

For in-game updates and analysis throughout the game, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

 

Czinano, Klitzke lead Royals to Section 5AA title

ST. CLOUD – When you want something bad, you go get it. That’s exactly what the Watertown-Mayer girls basketball team did as they grinded out a 55-44 win over Holy Family in the Section 5AA championship game. In a back and forth affair early, the Royals held the Fire to just 19 second-half points, clinching a berth in the Class AA state tournament.

Junior and Iowa commit Monika Czinano led the way for the Royals on both ends of the floor. She had a game-high 22 points, while dominating the class with 18 rebounds. Czinano was nearly unstoppable inside, knocking down 8 of her 14 shots inside, and was nearly perfect at the line as well.

“It’s just be strong,” Czinano said about her mindset in the paint. “I have a really good post coach who teaches me to be physical. I used to do a lot of fading, and I think it’s getting that mentality that you’re big and you’re dominant.”

With the Royals leading 47-40 with just over a minute to go, senior Kirstin Klitzke sealed the game for the Royals down the stretch at the free throw line. Klitzke went 10-for-12 in the game at the line, finishing with 22 points.

“Every free throw is just one shot,” Klitzke said. “We always shoot free throws at the end of practice, and we knew free throws would be crucial for this game. Each player did really well with free throws. If we missed one, we knew we had another shot.”

The Royals will be making their second trip to the state tournament, and the first since 2010. At No. 3 in the Class AA rankings, the Royals are likely to get a top-3 seed in the Class AA state tournament.

“This has been our goal for so many years,” senior Claire Killian said. “To get here, just feels unbelievable. I got to let it sink in a little bit.”

 

SECTION 5AA CHAMPIONSHIP

No. 1 Watertown-Mayer 55, No. 3 Holy Family 44

HOLY FAMILY:25;19;–44

WATERTOWN-MAYER: 25;30;–55

HOLY FAMILY: Allie Spinner 2, Grace Conroy 3, Brooke Bowlin 11, Leigh Steiner 4, Shea Thompson 6, Julia Geuers 13, Molly Kalb 5.

WATERTOWN-MAYER: Monika Czinano 22, Kirstin Klitzke 22, Emma Ragner 2, Claire Killian 8, Grace Knutson 1.

Stay connected with the Herald Journal on Facebook and Twitter to see which seed the Royals get in the Class AA state tournament and who they will play in the first round.

Facebook: Herald Journal

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

 

SECTION 2A BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Crusaders looking to get past Clippers

Section 2A North Subsection Semifinals

No. 2 Cleveland vs. No. 3 Mayer Lutheran

Thursday, March 9 at St. Peter High School, 8 p.m.

ABOUT THE TEAMS:

Mayer Lutheran Crusaders

17-10 overall

7-5 conference record (MN River Conference)

7-3 in last 10 games

KEY PLAYERS:

Kobey Woolhouse (Guard, 6’0, Junior) – Woolhouse has the ability to take over a game at any minute. If he get’s hot, he could help the Crusaders knock off the Clippers. He’s able to knock down the three consistently, as well as get to the basket. He was held to six points in Mayer Lutheran’s 62-55 win over Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity in the first round, but could bounce back against the Clippers.

Garrett Tjernagel (Center, 6’6, Junior) – Tjernagel scored the first 8 points of the game for the Crusaders in their opening round win over LP/HT. Tjernagel has been playing great as of late, scoring in double figures in his last two games.

X-FACTORS:

Cole Hagen (Guard, 5’11, Junior) – Hagen has been struggling in his two games. He’s 0-for-9 from 3-point range, including being scoreless in Mayer Lutheran’s win over LP/HT. Although he is struggling, he’s still one of the best 3-point shooters in the state, and could get hot at any minute.

TEAM OUTLOOK:

There’s no doubt the Crusaders can score enough to win any game, but whether or not they actually do win will depend on their defense. After pulling off a close win in their first section game, the Crusaders will get a rematch with the Clippers. The Clippers are a different team compared to when they met earlier this season. Carter Kopet, one of the top players in the section, will not be playing as he is still sidelined with an injury. The Clippers also knocked off the Crusaders last year in the Section 2A North Subsection semifinals.

If the Crusaders hope to move on, Hagen will need to get going. Hagen has struggled from deep shooting the ball, but has still managed to rack up the assists. The duo of Tjernagel and McHayl Diedrick will also need to show again. The two combined for 27 points in the win over the Bulldogs as they dominated inside.

 

Cleveland Clippers

24-3 overall

10-0 Conference Record (Valley Conference)

7-3 in last 10 games

KEY PLAYERS:

Austin Plonsky (Guard, 5’11, Junior) – WIth no Carter Kopet in the lineup, Plonsky becomes the main guard for the Clippers. Plonsky is one of three 1,000 point career scorers on the Clippper roster. He’s a dangerous 3-point shooter that the Crusaders will need to keep an eye on. Plonsky also rebounds well for his size. He had nine rebounds in their win over the Greyhound to kick off their playoff run.

Jaiden Zishka (Forward, 6’3, Senior) – Zishka is the big man in the paint for the Clippers. Like Plonsky, he’s scored over 1,000 career points, and is a force to be reckoned with inside. Zishka had 21 points in Cleveland’s 60-57 win over New Ulm Cathedral in the first round.

 

TEAM OUTLOOK:

After sneaking by New Ulm Cathedral in the opening round, the Clippers have another tough matchup in the subsection semifinals. They’ve defeated the Crusaders once already this season, but that was with Kopet in the lineup. If the Clippers hope to keep their season alive, they’ll need Zishka and Plonsky to play well. They will also need their defense to slow the high-powered Crusaders’ offense.

 

 For in-game updates and analysis throughout the game, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter. 

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports