Archive for HJ Sports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: HLWW’s Schumann records 1,000th career point in thrilling win over Litchfield (With Video)

LITCHFIELD – It was a big night for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls basketball team in more ways than one. For senior Alexa Schumann, it meant hitting the 1,000 career points milestone. For junior Mariah Anderson, it was hitting the game-winning shot in a thrilling 53-52 victory over Litchfield on the road Tuesday night.

It was a big moment for Anderson, who had her struggles early on. Despite that, with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock, Anderson drilled the game-winner for the Lakers for her only three points of the game.

“Mariah has put together some really good practices lately, and has had some good stretches in games,” HLWW coach Ryan Petersen said.  “She missed a few early in the game, but she knows her role and knew that if she kept shooting. her shots would start to fall.  One just happened to fall at a pretty convenient time. Credit to her for keeping her head up and still looking to score, even after her early misses.”

The Lakers wouldn’t have been in the game with a chance to win it late if it wasn’t for the play of Schumann. The senior forward had another big night with 23 points, including scoring her 1,000th career point.

“Reaching this milestone means more than just scoring to me,” Schumann said. “It’s all about the hard work and hours put in the gym, the coaches who never let me give up and ultimately never gave up on me, and my teammates that always pushed me to do my best. Reaching this milestone would have never happened if I didn’t have the support that I do from my friends, family, coaches, and teammates.”

Schumann stepped to the free-throw line just minutes into the second half. After draining the first free throw, Schumann calmly knocked down the second one as well, putting her at exactly 1,000 career points.

“Scoring my 1,000th point was always a dream of mine and a goal that I’ve always wanted,” Schumann said. “Ever since I was a kid. I have strived for this goal, and finally getting it was more like a dream come true. The hard work has paid off, but now it is time to be the best team player I can be and keep playing the game I love with the team that I love.”

While reaching 1,000 career points was a dream come true for Schumann, it also came as a relief.

“Overall, it is more like a stress relief to reach that milestone,” she said. “After I scored my 1,000th point, it immediately felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. So many years of playing and practicing, and my dream finally came true.”

Since her freshman season, Schumann has improved each and every year for HLWW. She’s developed into a legit threat inside on both ends of the floor, according to her coach.

“It has been fun to see her growth on the floor and as a teammate over the past three seasons,” Petersen said. “She is a great kid who is eager to learn each day, even at this stage of her career, and I think that shows in the success that she has had on the court.”

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Late surge keeps Mayer Lutheran perfect with win over Maranatha Christian

MAYER – It was a tale of two halves for the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team in their matchup with Maranatha Christian Academy Tuesday night. Just minutes into the game, the Crusaders found themselves down 10-0. Instead of panicking, Mayer Lutheran fought back and used a big run in the second half to stay perfect on the season with a convincing 70-51 victory over the Mustangs.

“I think it shows we’re a mentally tough team,” senior Lexi Schermann said. “This is the first game where we were behind. It shows that we can come back and overcome our mistakes. We’re all here to lift each other up, and that’s what we did to get back into the game.”

“Part of it was a slow start by us,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “Part of it was a hot start for them. I think they made their first four shots. We talk about being resilient and being gritty. Ultimately, that’s what we saw tonight. We just had to respond to the pressure. I’m really proud of the way the girls played and bounced back.”

Mayer Lutheran battled back to take a one-point lead into the locker room. Despite that, they still found themselves down 44-42 with just over 10 minutes to play. That was until the Crusaders seized control of the game in all aspects.

“We definitely picked up our defense,” Schermann said. “In the first half, it was a struggle at times. Then we picked it up. We work as a team very well. It’s very unselfish.  We move the ball around and look for those open girls.”

In a span of fewer than five minutes, the Crusaders broke open the game with a 24-0 run to take a commanding 66-44 lead over the Mustangs with just under six minutes left to play.

“I didn’t realize that it was that big,” Gustin said. “I knew it was a run because we kind of pushed that lead above 20. Maranatha took away our transition game early. In the second half, we saw more transition opportunities which is the way we want to play.”

The big run by the Crusaders helped them cruise to a victory down the stretch. With the win, Mayer Lutheran is a perfect 7-0 and their confidence early on is sky-high as a team.

“I think this team walks out on the floor and thinks they can beat anybody,” Gustin said. “This was a good one for us. We really haven’t been behind deep into games, so for us to be in a situation where we’re trailing, those are opportunities for growth. That’s a real positive. We know that even if things don’t go well, we can adjust and make plays. That’s a huge growing lesson for these girls.”

Schermann finished with a team-high 18 points for the Crusaders in the win. She knows playing tough teams like this will only prepare her and her team for the schedule they have ahead of them.

“It’s definitely a big help to be playing tough teams like this,” Schermann said. “It’s just going to prepare us for the big games in conference and in sections.”

For now, Schermann and the Crusaders will look to take it one game at a time. Although they’re confident riding a seven-game winning streak to open the season, they know how important it is to keep looking forward.

“We’re definitely confident,” Schermann said. “It’s a good high to be on. We just got to keep looking at our next game and just keep doing the things that we’re doing right now.”

Gophers Historic Season Sputters

When it seemed like the whole world was open to the Minnesota Golden Gophers Football team, the door was quickly and forcefully slammed shut. Sitting at 9-0 after one of the biggest wins in the past 50 years, going 2-1 was all that was needed to put a confident stamp of approval on this season.

The Big 10 West title and a Big 10 Championship game appearance were in play. The Rose Bowl would be almost a surefire outcome. The College Football Playoff was a legitimate aspiration.

However, the Gophers didn’t really even come close to getting the job done. After getting destroyed in the first half by Iowa, Minnesota tried to claw back. However, it was too late and their effort fell short in a 23-19 loss.

Then, they beat Northwestern. Congratulations.

Last week, Minnesota finally got it’s wish. After clamoring, complaining, begging and prodding online, College Gameday decided to make its first appearance at the University of Minnesota to witness the #8 Gophers battle the #12 Wisconsin Badgers for a trip to the Big 10 Championship.

Even in the snow, the event was a serious success. The crowd was electric. The signs were pretty good. The ratings were the highest for the season.

If only the game could have been that successful.

After a 3-and-out by Wisconsin, the Gophers hit on their second play from scrimmage, a 51 yard bomb from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman through the wind and snow. Everything was coming up Maroon and Gold.

For the rest of the first half, the Gophers were stifled. They went into the break down 10 to 7 and it seemed that it was going to be a defensive battle. Wisconsin however, had different plans. Racking up 453 yards of offense, the Badgers went on to route Minnesota in the 2nd half to the tune of a 38-17 final score.

The Badgers left the snowy turf with the Axe along with all of the Gophers postseason dreams.

It is difficult to put this season into perspective. As I’ve talked about in previous columns, this season was historic in so many ways. However, it is easy to look past that and think about the two awful performances from the team in the games where it mattered the most, with everything on the line.

PJ Fleck has proven he can recruit. PJ Fleck has proven he can build a successful culture. Now, it is time to prove that he can coach a big game.

I hate using the argument that a coaching staff or team was unprepared. I can’t imagine the amount of hours PJ and his staff put into building a plan to beat Wisconsin and neither can you. However, there was something about their games against Iowa and Wisconsin that simply didn’t add up.

A combination of questionable play calling, scheme and game theory (like punting on 4th and 1 on the opponents 35 yard line with a 7-0 lead at home?) seemed to destroy Minnesota in the two biggest games of the season.

PJ has proven that he is the right coach for this university. He has breathed life into a football team that has largely been forgotten by this state. But there is still work to be done. Minnesota has had one-off successful seasons in the past, but now let’s see them build something more.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Hot start, relentless pressure leads HLWW past rival LP/HT

LESTER PRAIRIE – From the opening tip, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball was ready to be aggressive. From their full-court pressure to an up-tempo style of offense, the Lakers got the start they wanted against rival Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.

The result was an impressive road win for the Lakers after holding off the Bulldogs late in the second half for a 61-53 victory Thursday night.

“It was good because we’ve been talking about picking up the pace of games since we started this year,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “When we can visually see what happens when we run ourselves the right way, we can go on runs. We can play really solid defense, and that’s fun to see.”

HLWW opened the game on a 12-1 run to take an early lead. Carlos Jones knocked down two 3-pointers to get the Lakers going, putting LP/HT behind from the get-go.

“We just came out a little flat,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “But then we answered. The second part of that first half, we really got after it and changed the game a little bit.”

A 3-pointer from Evan Lee capped off an 8-0 run to get the Bulldogs within four. Later in the first half, Tanner Scheevel scored off an HLWW turnover, tying the game at 24 with just under three minutes left in the first half.

Fouls allowed the Bulldogs back in the game as HLWW had several players with multiple fouls. The Bulldogs took advantage, as Alex Heimerl knocked down a 3-pointer in the final minute to give LP/HT a 28-26 lead into the locker room at the half.

After seeing their early lead slip away to start the second half, there was no panic for HLWW. Carr trusted his bench as the Lakers played more than 10 guys to turn up their pressure on defense.

“It’s awesome to go deep,” Carr said. “We’ve got a lot of athletic kids. When a guy gets tired, it’s a next man up mentality, and the guys are really buying into it.”

Both teams traded blows early on in the second half, but a technical foul on the Bulldogs four minutes in gave the Lakers a spark. HLWW was aggressive defensively, and unlike the first half, they did so without fouling.

“It all came down to that we stopped fouling,” Carr said. “We stopped fouling and started playing good, sound defense. Good things happen when you don’t foul and you can get in a flow. It was great to see.”

HLWW’s aggressive defense frustrated the Bulldogs early in the second half, resulting in a technical foul that gave the Lakers all the momentum. A one-point lead for HLWW quickly rose to eight as the Lakers made the Bulldogs pay.

“After halftime, we had a little technical situation,” Dahl said. “That kind of turned the momentum. That kind of got them going and they hit some shots. It’s tough to bounce back from that.”

3-pointers from Brandon Huston and Jones sparked the rally for the Lakers after the technical foul. Despite playing limited minutes to foul trouble, it was Jones who delivered in the clutch with a team-high 16 points for the Lakers.

“He’s so dynamic,” Carr said. “He’s got really quick hands. He’s a good shooter. He can make an impact on both ends of the floor. It was awesome to see him have that success because I know how much he loves the game and how hard he’s worked.”

Jones’ best shot of the night came off a highlight assist from senior Cody Dickhausen. After finding himself in trouble in the lane, Dickhausen threw a perfect behind the back pass to Jones for a wide-open 3-pointer to put HLWW up nine.

The Bulldogs would get back within six with plenty of time to go, but they couldn’t get the clutch shots to fall when they needed them. Despite an off night shooting, Dahl knows his team will be fine going forward as they were getting good looks.

“Those are shots we hit on Monday night,” Dahl said. “Those are shots we make in practice. I’m confident in our guys that we’ll bounce back. We’ll be a good shooting team. I think maybe we rushed a few and forced a couple that maybe we shouldn’t have. For the most part, we got good looks.”

HLWW improved to 1-1 on the season with the win. With no true post player on their roster this season, the Lakers are changing things up on both ends of the floor to accommodate the players they do have.

“The dynamic of the team has totally changed in what we’re trying to do,” Carr said. “Last year, we were an inside-outside kind of team. This year, we’re much more outside and trying to drive and find shooters. It’s a fun way to play. We’re going to keep working and getting better.”

With the loss, LP/HT falls to 1-1 on the season. Despite being handed their first loss, Dahl is hoping his younger players learn from this experience, and they come ready to bounce back.

“It should help us out,” Dahl said. “Some of those guys just played a ton of minutes in a full-court press situation. Hopefully, it benefits us going forward. Maybe we should have gone a little bit deeper on the bench with all the pressure they put on us, but it’s tough to trust anyone else than that top three ball handlers we have. (We just need to) bounce back. Learn from it. We’ll kind of clean up somethings that we can. Just keep playing hard and box out. I think we’re going to have a good year, so hopefully, we can build on this one.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

FAB FIVE: Five area boys’ basketball players to watch this season

The boys’ basketball season is officially underway and there’s plenty of talent once again in the area. Below is a look at five of the top players in the Herald Journal coverage area to watch this season.

Sean Buchanan (Mayer Lutheran)

Sean Buchanan is a new face for area players this year. The transfer from St. Michael-Albertvile will be in his first season with Mayer Lutheran, and could be in store for a big season.

With an abundance of talent around him this season, Buchanan will be a go-to guy on both ends of the floor for Mayer Lutheran. Whether it’s scoring or getting his teammates involved, there’s no doubt Buchanan will be a big piece to the puzzle for the Crusaders this season.

Last season, at STMA, Buchanan averaged just under eight points a game. Now, playing for his dad at Mayer Lutheran, that number will likely go up as the Crusaders look to get back to being one of the top teams in Class A.

Noah Bush (HLWW)

Over the past few seasons, the progression has been there for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Noah Bush. Back for his junior season, look for Bush to take an even bigger step forward this year as one of the top players for the Lakers.

A season ago, Bush averaged 8.2 points and 3.1 assists per game. Bush will have the ball in his hands a lot this year, and could be in store for a monster season for HLWW.

Bush also does it on the defensive end, as he is often tasked with defending the opposition’s best guard.

Zach Jackson (LP/HT)

Junior Zach Jackson grew into a bigger role last season for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity boys basketball team. After senior Michael Ziermann opted to have surgery on his shoulder and missed the entire season, it was Jackson who took it upon himself to step up his game.

As a sophomore last season, Jackson showed his ability to score in bunches. He’ll be leaned on for that once again this season, as the Bulldogs will have several younger players stepping into bigger roles this year.

Will McBee (Watertown-Mayer)

There’s always a need for a big man inside, and Will McBee fills that role for the Watertown-Mayer boys basketball team. The senior forward is one of the top big men in the area, and will be a big part of the Royals’ game plan once again this year.

Last season, McBee averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game. Look for those numbers to go up even more as head coach Kent Janikula has said that McBee has improved in all areas of his game.

Sam Ragner (Watertown-Mayer)

Another key player for the Royals this season will be Sam Ragner. A senior guard, Ragner is tasked with keeping the offense rolling.

In his junior year, Ragner averaged 13 points, three assists, and four rebounds per game for the Royals. In his final season at Watertown-Mayer, Ragner could be in for a big year as he will be relied on heavily for his ability to score, as well as to get others involved.

FAB FIVE: Five area girls basketball players to watch this season

Once again, the area is loaded with talented girls’ basketball players. With a strong senior class in the area, as well as some younger players taking steps forward, there will be plenty of exciting basketball to watch this winter.

Below is a look at five of the top girls’ basketball players in the Herald Journal coverage area to watch this season.

Marissa Radtke (LP/HT)

Back for her junior season, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Marissa Radtke returns as one of the top players in the area. After a big season last year, Radtke will be looking to carry that over into this year.

In her sophomore season, Radtke averaged 20 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals per game. She’ll look to duplicate those numbers once again as she continues to improve. With nearly everyone back for the Bulldogs this season, Radtke and her squad have their sights set high as they’ll look to chase a conference and section title.

Lexi Schermann (Mayer Lutheran)

There’s not many things that Mayer Lutheran’s Lexi Schermann can’t do on a basketball court. Back for her senior year and first full season with the Crusaders, Schermann looks to help Mayer Lutheran get over the hump this season.

In her first year with Mayer Lutheran a season ago, Schermann averaged just under 14 points a game for the Crusaders. With a chance to play a full season now, Schermann could emerge as one of the top players in the area as she can do it on both ends of the floor.

CJ Decker (HLWW)

Having a coach on the floor during a game would be nice. That’s basically what the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Lakers have in senior guard CJ Decker.

Decker has been a starter since her freshman season, and has only improved each year. After averaging 13.7 points, 4.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.1 steals per game last season, Decker will look to close out her high school career with another solid season.

Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

One of the most improved players throughout her high school career has been HLWW’s Alexa Schumann. The senior gives the Lakers a legitimate threat inside, while also opening things up on the perimeter for her teammates.

As a junior, Schumann nearly averaged a double-double with 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She’s also on the verge of scoring her 1,000th career point this season.

In her senior year, she’ll look to help lead the Lakers to the next level as they return several key pieces around her.

Maggie Czinano (Watertown-Mayer)

The way Maggie Czinano can take over a game is something special to watch. With her size and athleticism, Czinano is a tough matchup for a lot of teams. She can hurt you on the perimeter with consistent jumper, or she can take it to the hoop and finish through contact.

As a sophomore, Czinano averaged 16.5 points per game to go along with 9.5 rebounds a game. She’s capable of putting up a double-double each time she takes the floor as she’ll look to lead the Royals this season.