Archive for HJ Sports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Key adjustments, clutch shots lead Royals to road win over Holy Family

VICTORIA – Through three games, the Watertown-Mayer girls basketball team has had its way with its opponents. It was a different story for the Royals this time around against the Holy Family Fire.

A night in which the Royals struggled to shoot the ball, W-M still managed to come out on tip with a 67-57 victory over the Fire Friday night thanks to key adjustments and clutch shots down the stretch.

“We really pulled it together,” W-M guard Carly Killian said. “Every single one of us was engaged. Not just on the court, but the whole bench too. We were all communicating and that brought us all together.”

While Holy Family focused on slowing down W-M’s Maggie Czinano with two or three defenders at times, that put some more pressure on the rest of the Royals throughout. They delivered when it mattered most.

“We want to experience that type of game,” Royals coach John Rosholt said. “We want to experience a team that plays well like that. That’s a solid team. That’s what we want to do. We want to play teams that force us to learn. We learned a little bit on the run tonight. I think we learned from this game, and that’s what we’re supposed to do. We stepped up.”

While W-M’s offense certainly runs through their leading scorer Czinano,  it was players like Carly Killian, Mercedes Burmeister, Lyndsey Penegor, and Bella Barden that came through in big spots time and time again for the Royals.

“More people stepped up,” Rosholt said. “Early on it was one scorer. Then we got two scorers. Now we’re getting a little more balanced. Kids are feeling more confident and being aggressive with the ball. That’s what we want.”

Killian was one of the big sparks for the Royals, especially in the second half. She finished with 14 points in the second half alone, giving W-M big minutes when they needed it.

“Focus,” Killian said about her mindset in the second half. “I tried not to rush anything and let any outside things get in my head. My teammates had my back so I knew that they’re for me.”

Killian knocked down three second-half 3-pointers, all coming at the perfect time for W-M. Her third and final one helped spark the 10-0 run the Royals finished the game on to seal the win and move to 4-0 on the season.

“She’s a high IQ player,” Rosholt said. “She sees things that a lot of players don’t see. We’re going to need her down the road and be that consistent scorer.”

While the Royals suffered one of their worst shooting nights, they made up for it at the free-throw line. W-M went 20-for-27 from the charity stripe, helping them stay in the game when their offense struggled.

Along with capitalizing on free throws, the Royals continued to dig in defensively. W-M has yet to allow a team to score more than 60 points in a game.

“There’s going to be nights when you don’t shoot well, but there’s never a night where you can’t play defense,” Rosholt said. “We made a nice adjustment in the second half and the kids followed through on that.”

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

Follow Kip Kovar on Twiter. @Kovar_HJSports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: ‘QB1′ Rundell, Mueller right the ship as Royals knock off Holy Family

After 18 minutes of play, it didn’t look like the Watertown-Mayer boys basketball team was going to string together enough positive offense to get a comfortable lead despite a strong performance on defense. Then when starting point guard Wyatt McCabe fouled out with six minutes to go, the options dwindled even further.

Enter sophomore forward Albert Rundell, who took the game into his hands, literally, in the closing minutes to help the Royals pull away from Holy Family 54-41 Friday night.

Rundell, the football team’s starting quarterback in the fall, became the de facto point guard once McCabe had to leave the game on a tough loose ball foul, keeping long possessions to stall out the clock on offense and coming from the weak side to make plays in the post on defense. He got to the free throw line and converted five of seven there in the second half as well, finishing with 12 points.

“He’s ‘QB1′, so he knows how to handle it,” head coach Kent Janikula said. “He played point guard the last five or six minutes and hit some big free throws and didn’t turn it over, and that was huge.”

“I’m comfortable with it,” Rundell said of the added responsibility late game. “I’ve been in it before. Going in for Wyatt, playing at the end of the game, it had to be done.”

It wasn’t as smooth in the first half on either end. Both teams were trying to find a rhythm on offense but the opponent disrupted every chance they got. Just eight field goal makes for the Royals and six for the Fire led to a 22-21 Holy Family halftime score. Watertown-Mayer was up 17-10 at one point thanks to a stretch of nine and a half minutes holding Holy Family to two made shots from the field.

“It was a game where if you could put together a 4-0, 6-0 run, it was a big deal,” Janikula said. “We have guys who are a little more inexperienced, so you’re not going to put up 80 every game.”

But the Royals didn’t get a double-digit lead out of nowhere in the second half. Sophomore John Mueller had just two points in the first frame but scored nine of the team’s 11 points on a run out of a tie game at 29 to give W-M the advantage for good, taking his mismatches into the paint for easy buckets at the rim, often set up by a crisp Rundell pass.

“They got us out of our rhythm in the first half, but we kinda just brought the energy and got back to playing our basketball,” Rundell said.

Some late free throws by Sawyer Ritter and Will Hensel helped cushion the Royal advantage as well, which was cut to six points with a handful of minutes to go before W-M controlled the pace at the end.

“We got a little stagnant in the first half, and John got us going a bit later on,” Janikula said. “He’ll be a reliable scoring option for us, but we need players to start establishing their roles too. And we’re only 10 practices in.”

Mueller scored 19 points for the game, 17 of them in the second half. Hensel, McCabe and Mitchell Burns added five points each, and Burns held tough against 6-foot-10 Fire center Boden Kapke as well.

The Royals now have two Section 5AA wins and head to Glencoe-Silver Lake Tuesday night.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Jan. 22 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP WRESTLING: Watertown-Mayer toughs out pair of wins; Delano falls twice

The Watertown-Mayer wrestling squad hosted Tri-City United and Delano Thursday night, the home team coming away with two victories while the Tigers couldn’t string together enough strong performances to get a win.

Watertown-Mayer 34, Tri-City United 30

Watertown-Mayer 61, Delano 15

Tri-City United might have driven a long way to take on their Section 2AA opponent, but they were ready to put up a competitive dual against the Royals. W-M eked out a win 34-30 to open the tri against another team receiving top-12 votes in Class AA, according to The Guillotine.

“It was a tough match against TCU and the guys found a way to come out on top,” coach Kurt Becker said. “It was a big section win against another ranked team.”

Even more impressive was the next match — the Royals took down conference foe Delano 61-15, holding control of the mat throughout. Senior Austin Gabbert made quick work of his opponent at 132 pounds. Eighth-grader Bryce Burkett had a nice win by decision at 145 pounds, while Jackson Drahos and Jason Fenske put up big decisions at the 182 pound and heavyweight divisions to seal the win.

It was a sign of focus for Becker’s squad to come back after a tightly-contested first matchup and go to work like nothing happened against Delano.

“I really like how our guys followed up that win with a dominating performance,” Becker said. “It was a good finish to the night. I love how our team battles every match. And if one guy doesn’t have his best night, one of his teammates steps up for him.”

W-M heads to Mankato West Friday for duals with the Scarlets and the Owatonna Huskies.

Tri-City United 48, Delano 21

TCU had the Tigers’ number most of the way in the first match. Wins for Cael Olson at 113, Aiden Quast at 132, Carson Tschudi at 152, Clete Scherer at 160 and Max Harder at 182 highlighted Delano’s performance, but it wasn’t enough as only one of those wins was more than a decision. For Delano against Watertown-Mayer, Tschudi won at 152 pounds with a very quick pin and Olson picked up another victory at 113 pounds. Otherwise, advantages were hard to come by in both duals.

“Both TCU and Watertown-Mayer have excellent teams this year,” coach Jeff Olson said. “But we need to execute better and more importantly we need to compete better than we did tonight.”

Delano heads to Annandale Friday for matches against the Cardinals and the Jordan Hubmen.

PREP BOYS SWIM & DIVE: Delano/W-M team effort holds off Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield

The Delano/Watertown-Mayer boys swim and dive team took home nearly every first-place finish in their dual against Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield Thursday night, led by improved performances across the board, for a 110.5-67.5 win.

“They are swimming above expectations for this early in the season,” coach Mark Seguin said. “The divers have definitely stepped up a level this year.”

Stepped up they did: Hans Anderson won the diving event with a score of 178.5 and Haakon Sundheim finished second with a 120.45 tally. D-C/L’s Evan Johnson finished a close third at 108.6.

The D/W-M 200 medley relay team got things going fast, taking home first place by nearly nine seconds. The quartet of Nick Black, Gentry Nuytten, Joe Coyle and Colby Kern timed a 1:43.98, while the D-C/L group of Steven Mengelkoch, Logan Christopherson, Jackson Resop and Emmanuel Johnson put up a 1:52.80 time.

Colby Kern continued his stellar racing with a decisive win in the 200 individual medley

“It will still be another four to six weeks of training before they have the endurance they need to finish strong,” Seguin said. “They’ve been working hard and pushing each other in practice and that’s showing up in the meets.”

In addition to D-C/L’s relay teams showing nicely, Russel Wesa came within two seconds of first place in the 200 freestyle with a time of 2:06.44 and tied for second in the 100 freestyle at 56.10.

“I felt the meet went really well. We had some very impressive time drops after swimming our second meet in two days,” D-C/L coach Pete Travis said. “As a team we had 32 improvements tonight. The guys showed some real grit after a tough dual with Monticello. Even though the score didn’t reflect the nice swims we had, I was happy to see our improvement.”

Logan Christopherson tallied a 1:06.99 time in the 100 breaststroke for a win, and the Charger foursome of Resop, Johnson Anders Borg and Christopherson won the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:57.17.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Jan. 22 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: HLWW’s late rally comes up short in WCC opener

HOWARD LAKE –The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball team are the new kids on the block in the Wright County Conference West this year. In their first taste of conference play, the Lakers showed they won’t be an easy task as they took one of the early season favorites down to the wire.

Hosting the Litchfield Dragons, HLWW nearly rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half. The comeback attempt came up just short as Litchfield held on for a 54-52 win on the road Thursday night.

“I was really impressed with how we competed,” Lakers coach James Carr said. “They got up and the guys just making really good reads and kept making big shots. Battling back from where we were to giving us a chance to win the game is exactly what we want.”

HLWW trailed by as many as 16 in the second half after a series of bad possessions. After a pair of turnovers, Litchfield quickly turned those into six points on the other end, pushing their lead to 41-25.

A 3-pointer from Bennett Anderson sparked a 10-0 run for the Lakers, and just like that, they were right back in it.

“The difference was we just started making the easy play,” Carr said about his team’s run to get back in the game. “We just rotated the ball and took what the defense gave us. I thought we did a pretty good job of that all night. That run really started with just playing unselfish basketball. That’s exactly what we want.”

HLWW had three different players score in that run. After Anderson’s 3-pointer started it, Drew Burau delivered with a bucket inside, while Noah Bush got going with five-straight points of his own.

Burau was big inside all night for the Lakers. He finished with nine points all while doing the dirty work in the paint for the Lakers off the bench.

“We need rebounding,” Carr said. “We need guys to protect the basket and he’s (Burau) doing both of those things. He’s really stepping into his role and working hard.”

With Burau giving the Lakers big minutes inside, Anderson caught fire in the second half from deep. Anderson connected from 3-point range for the third time in the second half alone, bringing HLWW back within six with just over four minutes to go.

“He’s not afraid of taking the big shot,” Carr said. “The first game he hit the game-winner for us. In this game, he hit some very timely shots for us to pull us back and give us a chance. I’m really proud of how he’s playing.”

Anderson wasn’t done there.  After a bucker inside from Spencer Lade got HLWW within three, Anderson connected from deep again after a pair of made free throws by Litchfield. Anderson’s fourth 3-pointer of the second half brought the Lakers within two with 3.2 seconds left to play.

After a missed free throw, HLWW had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but wasn’t able to get a shot off because of a turnover as Litchfield held on for the win.

“I was telling the guys that we may have lost, but I’m still happy with how we played,” Carr said. “I was happy with how we responded when things weren’t looking that great. We kept after it.”

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

Follow Kip Kovar on Twiter. @Kovar_HJSports

PHOTO_MaddyTax2

W-M’s Maddy Tax stays busy — including beating cancer and making a difference

Maddy Tax’s “new normal” as a sophomore at Watertown-Mayer High School last spring meant getting three of her primary school activities cut down by the pandemic. Hopefully her junior year calculus class in the fall would be just like any other: taking notes at a desk, surrounded by classmates.

Instead she was at the dining room table on a Zoom video call, writing equations with one hand while trying to stay still as the opposite arm received blood transfusions.

Maddy was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on June 18, 2020.

“I already didn’t have golf season at all. We started spring play practices and after two weeks got shut down. I was hoping to go to state for speech and debate again,” Maddy said. “All of that not happening and then going into this made it hard on my mental health without those distractions.”

The first thing she noticed was a slightly painful bump near her throat, but she shrugged it off.

“I thought it was a weird muscle knot,” Maddy Tax said. “Until we got the actual biopsy results, I was convinced it was just that.”

The doctors immediately knew the three lymph nodes they removed were cancerous. It had spread to her lungs, heart and into her neck.

Despite the initial confidence that the lumps were harmless, she always had the thought in the back of her mind that the worst could happen. When that fear was confirmed, Maddy’s family wasted no time entering planning mode.

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Maddy and her friends dyed their hair purple – the signature color for lymphoma. | Submitted photo

Maddy’s first round of treatment was set for July 8, two days after her 16th birthday. Add in COVID-19 procedures and she would be preparing for a stay in the hospital even earlier than that. She asked to delay the treatment a few days so she could celebrate her birthday with her closest friends and family — which included everyone dying a bit of their hair purple, the signature color for lymphoma.

Treatment started July 10 in four three-week cycles. This was happening three months into a deadly pandemic; Maddy’s immune system was weaker than ever.

“The first weekend was rough, figuring everything out and going through the side effects of chemo, the nausea and stuff like that,” Tax said. “I ended up in the hospital after each of the four rounds because anytime I got a fever during that next weekend my blood counts were dropping.”

The process was tiring. Appointments came and went.

“It got to the point where she said, ‘I just don’t even want to hear the c-word [cancer/COVID] anymore,’” Maddy’s mom Jenny said.

Golf courses opening last summer helped her cope in between treatments. Maddy would go out and swing on a few holes to get that sense of normalcy back, even for just a little while. When she did have to be in the hospital, her friends would set up Zoom calls for virtual game nights.

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Maddy is a regular at Timber Creek Golf Course in Watertown. She made sure to play a few holes in between treatments when courses opened up again last summer. | Submitted photo

“People from all my activities and groups were so supportive and always there,” Maddy said.

Regular scans showed that treatment was working throughout — the cancer was disappearing. In late September she had a routine scan early in the week, and one of her doctors wanted to tell them the news in person; the Taxes had to wait until Friday afternoon to find out the update that she was cancer-free. That was Oct. 2.

“Hearing it at the end, it felt so good,” Maddy said. “I felt on the end of my rope, and it was only a couple months. I couldn’t imagine what people had to go through for years on end with this.”

“Four months was hard. It was a whole change to our life,” Jenny said.

Two months ago Maddy was approached by a Watertown-Mayer graduate who had been diagnosed with leukemia as a young child and is now working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Maddy was nominated to assemble a team and participate in a fundraiser running from mid-January to Feb. 28.

It was the last thing she wanted to be involved in once she came out on top in her own fight. She said yes anyway.

“I said I’m out, I’m done,” Maddy said. “My theater director asked me one day if I was going to shut the door once it was over. I said I wanted my story to be over and not have to remember everything again.”

Her mother expected the same. “We were thinking, ‘this isn’t who she is,’” Jenny said. “Is she sure she wants to be a part of this?”

Maddy wasn’t the only one who accepted the challenge. With a widespread reach to all of her school activities, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a roster of supporters.

“Usually teams are like 10, 15 people,” Maddy said. “We have 35.”

Maddy’s team set its fundraising goal at $150,000 — a high number, but she’s already optimistic about the results so far. If her campaign reaches $100,000 donated, she’ll be able to have her name attached to two research grants and be involved with the research on blood cancers. Should the goal be fully met, Maddy gets the chance to go to the east coast and have dinner with scientists and researchers who are actively working on blood cancers.

“Working on this campaign has helped me come to terms with my battle and give me more closure,” Maddy said.

“We certainly learned a lot,” Jenny added. “It’s the number one cancer diagnosis among kids, teens and young adults. No one wants to hear the word ‘cancer’ with their child’s name attached to it at any age. Last summer was not a fun summer. We’re on the upside now.”

If anything, Maddy says, she wants to make sure people don’t have to go through what she went through — and if they are, to make sure it’s easier for them.

“This campaign is not just about Maddy,” Jenny said. “It’s her story behind it, but it’s about everybody else.”

Plans for the fundraiser include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and a virtual silent auction to help reach the goal of $150,000.

Sports and activities returned at the right time for Maddy. Mock trial competitions have begun. Hopefully the spring play and a golf season will get the green light this spring. She’ll be headed back to school in the coming weeks to see all those people on her team again.

Not just her golf, mock trial, theater or speech teams. Her “I beat cancer and now we’re going to all beat it together” team.

Donations to Maddy’s campaign can be made at tinyurl.com/teamtax2021.

For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Jan. 22 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Jared Martinson on Twitter: @JaredNHR