Archive for HJ Sports

Dear Kobe

Dear Kobe,

 

From the moment

I started crumpling up a piece of paper

And shooting imaginary

Game-winning shots

In my 1st grade classroom saying “Kobe

I knew one thing was real:

 

You helped me fall in love with the game of basketball.

 

My love for the game is deep and I’ve given it my all -

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul, to be like you.

 

As a six-year-old boy

Deeply in love with basketball

I watched you run out of the tunnel,

Inspiring countless young fans

To run out of their own tunnel someday.

 

And so we ran.

Millions of kids ran up and down every court

After every loose ball like you.

You took pride in your hustle

And gave the game your heart;

We wanted to be just like you.

 

We watched you play through the sweat and hurt

Not just for the show or the challenge

But because BASKETBALL was you.

You did everything for the game

Because that’s what you do

When something makes you feel as

Passionate as basketball made you feel.

.

You crushed a ten-year-old boy from Minnesota’s dream in 2004

And I’ll always remember that.

But it doesn’t seem to matter at all right now.

You gave your entire life to basketball.

Your heart was in the game

Your spirit is a part of the game

The world mourns as they have to say goodbye.

.

It’s not OK.

Nobody was ready to let you go.

We ache for your family

And hope they can find some peace

And can remember and cherish every moment you had together.

You were a husband and a father

You gave all that you had.

.

Just know that despite being gone too soon

You inspired millions of kids across the world

To spend hours alone in the gym

Carrying their basketball with them wherever they go.

To pretend there is :05 seconds on the clock,

Ball in our hands

5 … 4… 3 … 2 … 1

Kobe

.

Respect to one of the greatest of all time,

Jacob Wandersee

 

 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Czinano’s patience, willingness to learn paying off in sophomore season at Iowa

MINNEAPOLIS – For any high school player transitioning to the next level, it’s always an adjustment.

Watertown-Mayer graduate Monika Czinano is a prime example of a player who waits her turn and makes the most of the opportunity in front as she’s becoming one of the top players in the Big 10 conference in her second year at the University of Iowa.

Czinano and her Hawkeyes returned back to Minnesota for the second time in her career this past week. After playing just three minutes in the first game last year, Czinano made her impact felt this time around in a thrilling 76-75 victory over the Gophers Jan. 16.

“Being able to play in the gym where all my college basketball dreams started is so amazing,” Czinano said. “Even more so when we secure an awesome team win like we did.”

Iowa trailed the Gophers by 13 points with just over nine minutes to go in the game. Over the course of those nine minutes, Czinano and the Hawkeyes outscored the Gophers 19-5 the rest of the way to win their fifth-consecutive conference game.

In her second game back at Williams Arena, all Czinano did was be the game’s leading scorer. She finished with 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting as she continued to shoot the ball extremely well. Through 18 games this season, Czinano is second in the nation in field goal percentage (71.50 percent). For the season, Czinano has made 123 of 172 shots for Iowa, and is averaging 15.9 points per game.

“I am confident that I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or the player I am today, without everything I got to learn and experience last year,” Czinano said. “It completely changed me in the best ways. I was playing under one of the best players and under the best coach.”

That player Czinano is referencing is none other than Megan Gustafson. who was the 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy Award winner, given to the best player in college basketball.

Gustafson is arguably the best women’s basketball player to ever play at Iowa, and in her freshman year, Czinano soaked in everything possible from Gustafson in practice and in games.

“Megan taught me so much, it’s actually insane,” Czinano said. “Even off the court, she was constantly teaching me how to juggle the life of a student-athlete. You could list off any aspect of basketball, and Megan forced me to grow and improve on it, but most importantly, she taught me a lot about humility and hard work.”

While playing behind the best player in the country has its benefits, the most important thing Czinano learned in her first season had nothing to do with skills at all.

“The most important thing that I learned from Megan was definitely just seeing her overall work ethic,” Czinano said. “Just having someone to really model what it takes to be good in this conference was major for me.”

While. of course. Czinano wishes she had a bigger role in her freshman season, she wouldn’t change it one bit. Going from high school where she played 30-36 minutes each game, to playing sparingly, it made her the player she has become this season.

“A lot of it was taking last year and absorbing everything I was being told and everything going on around me,” Czinano said. “Without last year’s team, and the team I have now, I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I think I just have an overall better understanding of the game. Every year, I want to get more and more efficient, and that comes with learning a lot from my coaches and teammates.”

While Czinano has grown into a rising star for the Hawkeyes this season, she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. That’s why each time she comes home to play the Gophers, it’s extra special to her seeing her support system there for her in person.

“It’s so awesome to have such a big support system,” Czinano said. “I know that no matter where I am, even if I’m not playing in Minnesota, I have a lot of people cheering for me and those people have my endless gratitude. I wouldn’t be the person I am without the people who helped raise me.”

Czinano Earns First B1G Weekly Honor

University of Iowa sophomore Monika Czinano was named to the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Honor Roll, the conference announced Monday.

The Watertown-Mayer grad averaged 20.5 points for the week, missing only two of 20 baskets and shooting 90 percent from the field.

After playing only four minutes in the first half of the Hawkeyes’ comeback win over Wisconsin, Czinano came back to score 18 points in the second half, including 12 points in the fourth quarter. She ended the 85-78 win over the Badgers with 20 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the field. In Iowa’s comeback win over Minnesota, Czinano shot 10-of-11 from the field, leading the Hawkeyes with 21 points.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Hentges, Bulldogs dig in defensively to pick up fourth-straight win

LESTER PRAIRIE  – Spectrum senior Abby Thompson was a problem early on for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity girls basketball team in their matchup Tuesday night.  The 5-foot-9 guard for the Sting was a thorn in the Bulldog’s side after scoring 14 first-half points to keep her team in the game. To counter Thompson’s hot start, LP/HT coach Mike Lee turned to a defense he’s hasn’t used much to turn things around and help the Bulldogs pick up a 63-49 victory for their fourth-straight win.

“We did do a box and one against Heritage when we played,” Lee said. “We had pretty good success with them for three-quarters of the game. We don’t want to use that junk defense if we don’t need to, but wins are important. This is a big win for us because they’re a bigger school. We just wanted to secure a better seed.”

Senior Myranda Hentges was the player Lee tasked with slowing down Thompson in the second half, a challenge she was certainly up for.

“I just knew I had to stay close to her,” Hentges said. “Just not let her get the ball. I did a little bit there, but I just had to make sure I limited her scoring.”

After Thompson scored 14 points in the first half, Hentges and the Bulldogs limited her to just four second-half points, two of which came from the free-throw line.

“They really didn’t know what to do,” Lee said. “Next time they will. She (Thompson) got frustrated as most kids do at the high school age. You throw a junk defense on one kid and they often don’t know how to handle it. It was nice to see she only got four. I was hoping she wouldn’t get any so we could put something up in the locker room, but four is pretty good when she had 14 in the first half.”

With Thompson held in check the second half, that opened up the offense as well for the Bulldogs. LP/HT opened up a 43-30 lead in the second half after scoring on four-straight possessions to break open the game.

“We kind of laid an egg the first half,” Lee said. “We came back in the second half and did much better. That’s what we needed to do. We should beat these guys. They’re a good and scrappy team, but we should beat them eight out of 10 times if we play well. The first half we didn’t play super well, but we got a nice win.”

“It was so important,” Hentges added. “Especially for our QRF. They’re a Class AA school, so this will help us out a lot when it comes to playoffs.”

It was a big win for the Bulldogs as they continue to try and make a case for a top-three seed in Section 4A. With four wins in a row and some big games coming up, LP/HT will be looking to keep their momentum rolling going forward.

“It’s so important to find that,” Hentges said about the groove the Bulldogs are on now. “Once we get together as a team and start finding that, we’ll definitely come out hard for the playoff season when we need it.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, Jan. 24  edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Crusaders grind out a huge win against Heritage Christian Academy

MAYER – Mayer Lutheran senior Lexi Schermann stood at the free-throw line with a chance to extend her team’s lead late in a big game against rival Heritage Christian Academy. After missing both free throws, she didn’t let that bother her.

After her second miss, Schermann stole the ball right back, laid it up for two points, and gave the Crusaders a three-point lead with just over two minutes to go. That hustle play by Schermann sparked a 10-0 run for Mayer Lutheran to close out the game and come away with a 59-48 victory on their home floor Monday night.

“It’s frustrating, but sometimes when things like that happen, that’s when I feel the drive to go make that next play,” Schermann said. “You’ve got to forget about it. You just got to forget about the last play.”

Schermann’s steal and layup gave the Crusaders a three-point lead late, but it was the resilence that she showed that impressed her coach.

“It’s one of those things where, as a coach, it would be nice to make free throws,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “I looked at Emily on the bench, and then I look up and see Lexi has the ball, making a layup. I guess that’s what you call making up for it. It’s just a great hustle play. That’s her basketball smarts. That’s the mentality we want from our girls. Push that last play aside because there’s nothing you can do about it. Then, just go on and make the next play, and that’s what she did. It was a big play by her.”

Mayer Lutheran outscored the Eagles 10-0 in the final two and a half minutes to get the win. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Crusaders rallied around each other to pick up the big win over a Section 4A opponent.

“Sometimes, it was kind of nerve-racking,” Schermann said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping calm most of the time. We just really worked together and we play as a team. I think that’s what helps us. We always have each other’s back.”

“We really calmed things down when things got tense,” Morgan Chmielewski added. “We pushed the ball to our speed. We didn’t play to theirs.”

A basket inside from Lilly Wachholz gave Mayer Lutheran their biggest lead of the night at seven points, but the Eagles would not go away. An 8-0 run for Heritage Christian gave them their first lead of the game since 2-0, with just over 11 minutes left to play.

“During those times when they were up, I’m not even really rattled because I just have confidence in my team,” Schermann said. “I know that we can battle back. We’ve been down a couple of times during games throughout the season. I feel like, each time that happens, we just know that we can battle back together.”

Scherman’s confidence and demeanor paid off for the Crusaders. With the game tied at 44 with just over five minutes to go, it was Chmielewski who delivered one of the biggest shots of the game for Mayer Lutheran. Chmielewski received the handoff and drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give her team a three-point lead and the momentum.

“She’s a really good 3-point shooter,” Gustin said. “Especially when she shoots in rhythm. She had a goal for herself to shoot at least three a game. I think in the first eight games of the season, she had shot six. We talked about getting her more shots. She came and took that handoff in the corner and just stroked it. That’s a huge shot. She’s a leader out there. She leads with her effort. You know you’re going to get hard work from her every time.”

Chmielewski’s 3-pointer set up Schermann’s big play after the missed free throws as Mayer Lutheran found a way to pull out the win against a team that’s given them fits the past few seasons. Heritage Christian has ended the Crusaders’ season the past three seasons as the two have grown into rivals on the court.

“This is turning into a rivalry,” Gustin said. “There’s a lot of respect both ways. Both teams have had a successful tradition in the last few years. It’s a battle. We knew it was going to be. Those girls play hard. They play physical. There were periods where we were a little bit worried because they were outplaying us. We needed to step up our play. There’s a lot of respect there, and you tip your hat to them and appreciate their love of the game and how hard they work.”

The win for the Crusaders puts them in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in Section 4A. While it’s a big win, Mayer Lutheran knows how important it is to keep getting better as the season goes on.

“I think this game gives us a lot of confidence,” Schermann said. “We know that we can beat them, but we also know, at the same time, that we can’t just think we’re going to beat them. We know that next time if we play them, they’re going to come out hard and ready to beat us. We just have to stay strong and do the things we do.”

“We know what each other are capable of,” Chmielewski added. “We just know that we never give up. We just keep playing.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, Jan. 24 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Vikings Fall Flat Again

Saturday wasn’t the performance that any fan was hoping to see from our Minnesota Vikings. After an emotional win on the road against the 13 win New Orleans Saints, it seemed that anything was possible.

The truth is that it was.

It is really easy to get caught up in wins and losses as a fan of a team. And to be fair, why wouldn’t you? There is no metric that measures success better than wins and championships. For Vikings fans, it does get frustrated being one of the most successful teams in terms of wins and the least successful in terms of championships.

However, the reality is that at the end of the day, 31 teams go home wondering what they are going to do to finally get over the hump to take home the title.

If you played that game against the San Francisco 49’ers ten times, the Vikings would probably win three or four times. If you simulated the NFL season from the beginning, there are probably five scenarios where the Vikings come out as Super Bowl champs.

So what can we really be upset about? Yes there are many improvements that can and should be made. They also have the worst cap situation in the league and will need to discuss the futures of Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Riley Reiff and many more. They will need to replace multiple coaching positions, most importantly the Offensive and Defensive Coordinator positions.

However, in any league of any sport at any level, you just want to have a seat at the table. The Vikings won 10 games this season, a successful season by any metric. They made the playoffs, something that only 12 of the 32 teams are able to do. They won a first round game, meaning that for this season, they were one of the best eight teams in the league.

The Vikings had a seat at the table. They had a chance to make some noise, rack up some wins, and finally get over the hump. Just because they faltered in a tough game doesn’t mean that the team was a complete failure.

Minnesotans are quick to play the “Woe are We” card when it comes to our fandom. We pretend that we are the only fans who have experienced troubling seasons and devastating losses. Other than the New England Patriots, most fan-bases are right there with us saying the same things that we do.

The Cleveland Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. The Seahawks were one yard away from beating the Patriots. The Ravens won 13 games this season and got demolished by the Titans.

It is incredibly hard to sustain greatness and even harder to win a Super Bowl. It takes a lot of luck, skill and good timing. So far, those stars haven’t quite aligned for the Vikings, but they still have a seat at the table.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Top-ranked Warriors too much for Mayer Lutheran

MAYER – For the Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team, it was a good test to see where they are at as they hosted the No. 1 ranked team in Class A. In the end, it was the BOLD Warriors who proved worthy of the top ranking as they showcased what they could do in an 82-47 victory over the Crusaders Tuesday night.

“We have to learn from this,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “That’s what winning basketball looks like. That’s what basketball with will and determination looks like. Those guys have everything that you look for in a basketball team. They are veterans, but they know what it’s like to lose and be on the other end. They don’t like that feeling. It’s an all-or-nothing type of mentality for that whole team and their coaching staff.”

Led by one of the top backcourts in the state in Jordan Sagedahl, Gavin Vosika, and Drew Sagedahl, the Warriors came out swinging early. BOLD’s lead was cut to 20-13 after a 3-pointer from Ty Hoese, but then it was all Warriors down the stretch. A 13-2 run pushed BOLD’s lead back to 17, and the Crusaders found themselves down 16 at the half.

After finishing the first half in dominant fashion, it was more of the same for the Warriors in the second half. BOLD opened the half on a 14-0 run, ultimately putting the game away in the opening minutes by taking a 30-point lead over Mayer Lutheran.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s about being prepared,” Buchanan said about how BOLD can score in a hurry. “I don’t think we were prepared for this game mentally. I don’t think we were mentally prepared at all before this game. It’s no excuse, but we had some youth that played young. They don’t know what that type of game is like. You got to learn.”

BOLD’s trio of guards combined to outscore the Crusaders alone with 57 points. Vosika led the way with 23 points, while Drew Sagedahl finished with 18, and Jordan Sagedahl added 16 points.

Hoese was the lone player in double figures for Mayer Lutheran. He finished with 11 points, while Dylan Nelson, Brady Harnung, and Tyler Neitzel each added five points.

The Crusaders don’t have long before another big game appears on the schedule. Mayer Lutheran hosts Jordan Thursday night in a crucial MN River Conference matchup.

“Not letting today happen ever again,” Buchanan said about what’s most important. “That’s the biggest thing to learn. Whatever happened today, don’t let it happen again.”

BOLD 82, Mayer Lutheran 47

Scoring

BOLD: Drew Sagedahl 18, Gavin Vosika 23, Blake Plass 6, Jordan Sagedahl 16, Trenton Ziesmer 4, Joey McMath 3, Andrew Sheehan 2, Matt Moorse 4, Bradaen Tersteeg 3, Cole Visser 3.

MAYER LUTHERAN: Austin Crown 4, Eli Johnson 3, Ty Hoese 11, Dylan Nelson 5, Zander Flucas 4, Brady Harnung 5, Tyler Neitzel 5, Riley Krueger 4, Isaac Hahn 2, Teigan Martin 4.