Archive for HJ Sports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Watertown-Mayer’s Czinano commits to University of Minnesota

WATERTOWN – In a way, Watertown-Mayer junior Maggie Czinano has been through this all already. Like her older sister, Monika, dealt with the journey of recruiting, that helped create a goal for herself going forward – to go from a small-town high school basketball player to a Division I basketball player.

“I’ve seen my sister do it and that sparked the dream in me,” Czinano said. “It was easier because Monika had gone through the process and so had my mom. The process can be overwhelming, but with my mom and Monika, they eased that pressure and made it enjoyable. I know I didn’t want it to be done after high school. So, from there it was pushing myself, especially in the offseason, to reach that goal.”

The goal became a reality earlier this month as Czinano announced her commitment to the University of Minnesota, a place that felt right for her.

“I know I wanted to stay close to home so the schools out east were too far,” Czinano said. “When I started talking to Minnesota, I knew it was a good distance. My family could come to a lot of my games, and all the coaches were really easy to connect with. Of course, being able to play against my sister one year was a dream and something many people do not get to do. Playing for my home state means a lot.”

Czinano’s growth as a player has been on display over the past few seasons. She took a big step forward in her junior season, with the help of her coaches and teammates.

“As far as who pushed me, I’ve had great coaches that have helped me develop my heart for the game and push me,” Czinano said. “Coach John Rosholt, my high school coach, has helped me work my defense and has forever humbled me. He has shown me that you have to work for what you want. I’m not sure he knows my first name though. I was ‘little Czinano’ for a while, and then just ‘No. 5’.”

The Amateur Athletic Union has also played a big role in Czinano’s development. Playing for the Minnesota Fury, she got the chance to play with and against some of the top talents in the state.

“I’ve played for them for five years, starting on their second team,” Czinano said. “I played three years on that team and then just this last season, I got pulled up to play for Tim Peper on the elite team. My teammates have pushed me each and every practice to be the best player I can be as they are some of the best players in the state.”

While playing varsity and AAU has developed Czinano’s skills over the years, she’s also grown mentally as a player. She’s learning the little things that set players apart from being good and great.

“To play at this level, you have to have a solid work ethic and be really competitive,” Czinano said. “I don’t like losing, so that pushes me. You also have to be selfless and play for your team, knowing that when you succeed, your team succeeds. That was probably the biggest take-away from AAU, the desire for everyone to succeed.”

In her junior season, Czinano averaged 21.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. That stat line helped her earn being named to the Class AA All-State Team. While her junior season was one to remember, she’s ready to finish out her career at W-M as a leader in more than one way.

“I want to make my time as a Royal mean something,” Czinano said. “I want little girls to know that even though they come from a small town, they can make it big. It just takes heart. I’d love to get back to St. Cloud in my senior season and finish business that we fell short of this year.”

When Czinano’s high school career does come to an end next season, more excitement awaits for her. Not only will she be achieving her goal of playing college basketball, but there will also be a familiar face on the Iowa Hawkeyes team when they meet the Gophers.

“I’m stoked to play against Monika,” Czinano said. “Not a lot of girls get to play with their sister in high school and then against them in the Big 10. It’s a given that the Gophers will win, so the big question is, ‘what’s my mom going to wear?’”

 

Vikings Bordering a Full Rebuild

The Minnesota Vikings have had one of the most eventful off-seasons that I can remember. With an aging roster, it seems that the team might have hit their ceiling in the 2019-20 season.

Some tough roster moves on both sides of the ball have had to be made due to the team’s lack of cap flexibility. It seems that we will be cheering for an almost entirely new team this fall and I’m not entirely sure that is a good thing.

At the corner position, the Vikings will trot out two brand new starters, as they have cut Xavier Rhodes to create cap space and let Trae Waynes sign a pricey 3 year $42 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. Say what you want about Rhode’s diminishing play and his large contract, but Minnesota now has to replace two starters, who played 7 seasons and 5 seasons respectfully, with brand new players.

Not only will they need to replace the starters, but nickelback Mackensie Alexander and safeties Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo have also moved on to greener pastures. Considering the Vikings are also rumored to have a desire to trade star safety Anthony Harris, this is a rather alarming changeover in the secondary.

The only remaining players from last season are Harrison Smith, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill. Those are some giant holes to fill.

The Vikings also have cut defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen in an attempt to recoup some cap room this season while also letting Stephen Weatherly sign elsewhere. The tackle position was fortified with signing Michael Pierce, but there are still holes in this unit that need to be filled.

In easily the most eventful news for Minnesota, the Vikings finally pulled the trigger on a trade that sent star and disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs along with a 7th round pick to the Buffalo Bills for: 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall), 5th round pick, 6th round pick and a 2021 4th round pick.

Only time will tell if this was a “good” trade or not, but for its face value right now, I am supportive of it. Diggs gave us the Minneapolis Miracle, something that all Vikings fans will remember forever. I believe that this play has created an exaggerated connection of appreciation for Stefon and what he truly is as a receiver.

Vikings fans seem to be hastily forgetting the temper tantrums, the yelling, the helmet throwing, the blaming, the standing in the middle of the field with his hands up complaining, and the difficulty he was to work with. Have fun with Josh Allen, the least accurate passer in the league!

This move, however, is not a move that is done by a team that has Super Bowl aspirations for this season. The haul that the Vikings received for Diggs is nice, but at the end of the day, you are still trading away a 26 year old receiver in his prime who is a top 15 receiver in the league.

With Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson as the only two real receivers with experience, Minnesota signed Tajae Sharp, a 25 year old receiver that never really made an impact in his time with the Titans. Whoop-de-freakin-do.

To summarize, the Vikings need to replace starters at corner, safety, defensive end and wide receiver. Not only do they need to add starters, but Minnesota desperately needs to add depth at corner, safety, defensive line, wide receiver and the not yet mentioned offensive line, which could use a lot of help.

Sometimes change is a good thing, but sometimes too much change has an adverse effect. The Vikings and GM Rick Spielman have a lot of work to do to get this roster up to snuff. Minnesota almost never bottoms out and I don’t think the team as constructed will do that, but I fear that they might be much closer to a full rebuild than a Super Bowl.

 

KOVAR: Area athletes share their thoughts on the uncertainty of spring sports

There is no doubt that we are in an unusual place right now as a society. At this time, no sports are going on, and it could be the same for the foreseeable future.

Right now I should be finishing up spring sports previews to run in this week’s paper. That’s not happening. Instead, I’m helping out with general news as much as I can to provide quality and informative content for our readers.

When I’m not working on that, I’ve been thinking about area high school seniors and how they are handling things over this past week. With no warning, their high school careers might be over. With so much uncertainty right now surrounding COVID-19, there’s a legitimate chance that there will be no spring sports season this year. At most, it looks as if it would be a shortened season if anything.

As I’ve transitioned from sports, for now, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I would handle things if I was a senior in this situation. Would I rather just be told now that my high school career is over? Or would I like to hold out hope that there’s a chance of playing part of a season at least? It’s a tough situation for area seniors, and my curiosity got the best of me. I reached out to three area seniors who play spring sports to get their thoughts. I wasn’t surprised at what they had to say. They wanted to play. Even if meant a shortened season.

My first talk was with Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted senior Gracie Mallak. I’ve known for a while that Gracie is a pretty special person with her outlook on life, but her answers to some of my questions just reinforced that even more.

While Mallak, who runs track and field for the Lakers, would be disappointed if there was no season, she knows there are bigger things going on in the world than high school sports.

“As senior student-athletes, we find ourselves in a really weird position right now,” Mallak said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of emotions. We know that there are people in the world right now with far bigger issues than whether or not they will get to compete in their last season of high school athletics. Nonetheless, it is still a tough pill to swallow knowing that we may never get the opportunity to compete for one last time wearing our high school uniforms.”

While there has not been an official decision made on spring sports, Mallak hopes the Minnesota State High School League will elect to have a season in some form or another.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I keep asking myself, would I rather hear right now that my season was canceled or hold onto hope and find out mid-April that my season was canceled?” Mallak said. “Easy. Neither. I just want to have a season, even if it’s a shortened one. While I sit here wondering if I am going to get the opportunity to compete in my final season for the Lakers, I’ve come to realize that all any of us can do right now is control what we can control. We can control our attitude. We can control our efforts. We can control how we choose to support our teammates. In this uncertain time, I’ve realized that I can keep my head down and continue working hard. I’ve realized that I can stay connected and encourage my teammates via social media. While there are a lot of things that we can’t control, we can control these things.”

While Mallak waits to see if her high school career is over or not, she’s taken the time to put everything into perspective.

“I’ve been challenging myself to look at our current circumstances as an opportunity to reflect on why I decided to get involved in athletics in the first place,” Mallak said. “So far, I’ve realized that I got involved in sports because they were fun. I loved being around my teammates, and I loved to compete. I truly hope that I’ll get one last season to truly embrace all of the reasons that I began my athletic career in the first place. I also understand that if we don’t get our senior season, there’s more to life than running around in circles.”

The same goes for another HLWW senior. Cody Dickhausen, who played two spring sports (baseball and golf) last year, has admitted the past few weeks of uncertainty had been tough.

“It’s been difficult,” Dickhausen said. “Like most athletes, I was supposed to have practiced all last week and this week. I think I can say all the athletes would rather be out with our teams getting ready for the season. I know I’d rather be.”

Dickhausen is also in favor of waiting things out to see if they can play part of a season at the very least.

“I’d rather wait it out and hope for some sort of season,” Dickhausen said. “I’m not sure how it would work. I’d rather try to have any form of a spring season than not have one at all. We’ve all been working our entire high school careers for our senior season and it’d be a shame if some people didn’t get to see their efforts be put into effect. I hope the MSHSL can work something out to still have some type of spring season. Even if it was altered I think it would be better than canceling it altogether.”

The uncertainty has also crept into the mind of Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity senior Alex Heimerl. A three-sport athlete, Heimerl was supposed to have one last go-around in his high school sports career.

“Sitting around my house not doing much has been hard, especially when you get to thinking about things,” Heimerl said. “You kind of start to reminisce about all the things you’ve done up to this point, and it makes you miss the things you love to do so much more. Since the beginning of your senior year, all you think about is one last ride in each sport with all the people that you’ve gotten the closest to. I think I’d give just about anything to throw on the hat and jersey one more time and take the field with some of those guys.”

As a decision on spring sports will likely come in the next week or so, Heimerl hopes they do whatever they can to let him and other seniors play one last time.

“I would kind of like to see them take their time in deciding on what to do,” Heimerl said. “I would be happy just to play a single game if that’s as long as the season needs to be. If spring sports were to happen, I would be pretty darn grateful. I’ve talked to coach quite a bit about it, and I think we both agree that we would be willing to play as short of a season as possible. Just to get that chance to be outside and enjoy this one last ride as a team.”

When that decision comes, no matter what it is, Heimerl hopes that underclassmen realize that high school sports fly by and not to take it for granted.

“To all those underclassmen out there, don’t take your four years of every sport for granted,” Heimerl said. “Getting the chance to think about things over the last week has made me realize how much I miss things like, going to school and walking up and down the halls with your classmates. Cherish the moments you have while you still get the opportunity, you never fully realize how lucky you are until it’s almost over or possibly over.”

Vikings Shock the System

The NFL offseason has provided some much needed entertainment and distraction from the real world. Our Minnesota Vikings have been front and center in this charge and some would argue that it is not for the better.

Whether it is for the better or not, there have been some major changes taking place to the Vikings roster. If you are a passive Vikings fan and don’t pay attention to anything until opening kick-off, you are going to be quite surprised to see some names missing that once seemed essential to the makeup of the team.

First, you’ll notice some names missing on the defensive side of the ball. At the corner position, the Vikings will trot out two brand new starters, as they have cut Xavier Rhodes to create cap space and let Trae Waynes sign a pricey 3 year $42 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Say what you want about Rhode’s diminishing play and his large contract, but Minnesota now has to replace two starters, who played 7 seasons and 5 seasons respectfully, with brand new players. With virtually no depth to speak of at the corner position, this will be a lofty task for the Vikings to accomplish via the draft and the remainder of free agency.

The Vikings also have cut defensive tackle Linval Joseph in an attempt to recoup some cap room this season. Joseph was another player whose play had fallen off, but it is another player that Minnesota also has to replace with a young player.

In easily the most eventful news for Minnesota, the Vikings finally pulled the trigger on a trade that sent star and disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs along with a 7th round pick to the Buffalo Bills for: 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall), 5th round pick, 6th round pick and a 2021 4th round pick.

Only time will tell if this was a “good” trade or not, but for its face value right now, I am supportive of it. Diggs gave us the Minneapolis Miracle, something that all Vikings fans will remember forever. I believe that this play has created an exaggerated connection of appreciation for Stefon and what he truly is as a receiver.

Vikings fans seem to be hastily forgetting the temper tantrums, the yelling, the helmet throwing, the blaming, the standing in the middle of the field with his hands up complaining, and the difficulty he was to work with. Have fun with Josh Allen, the least accurate passer in the league!

The truth of the matter is that it sucks to trade away a 26 year old receiver who is talented and probably entering his prime. However, there comes a point where it isn’t worth the headache and when a player has made it clear that he wants to leave, sometimes you have to grant that wish.

Consider this: The Houston Texans traded the 2nd best receiver in the entire NFL (wayyyyyy better than Diggs) on the same day that the Vikings executed the Diggs trade. Houston traded Hopkins because he wanted $16-18 million a year, a fair price for an elite receiver.

The details are as follows: Houston trades Hopkins and a 2020 4th round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson (a running back who was benched multiple times last year), a 2020 2nd round pick, and a 2021 4th round pick.

In the aftermath of that deal, the fact that Minnesota was able to get a 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th for someone much worse than Hopkins should leave Vikings fans with a smile on their faces.

The Vikings and General Manager Rick Spielman are being forced to make some difficult decisions. They are attempting to overhaul an aging roster while remaining competitive for a division title. They’ve done a good job of clearing cap space and hoarding draft picks, but only time will tell if they can choose the right players.

Bill Belichek has made a career out of keeping a player until his effectiveness is about to drop off and letting them go, regardless of who the player is. Apart from having the greatest quarterback of all time for 20 years, this is how the Patriots have remained a successful dynasty.

The Vikings seem to be trying to follow this same strategy by letting go of Rhodes, Joseph, Waynes and even Diggs. If executed correctly, the future is bright for our Minnesota Vikings. If it is botched, things might get pretty ugly for the next few years.

Let’s hope that Spielman has some of that Belichek magic in him.

McBee’s monster season nets him HJ Boys Basketball Player of The Year

WATERTOWN – There was no doubt that Watertown-Mayer senior Will McBee was a man on a mission this season for the Royals. After missing the Royals’ playoff run last season due to injuries, McBee made the most of every single game in his senior season. The result was an impressive season all around, earning him the 2019-2020 Herald Journal Boys Basketball Player of The Year.

“Will was our rock this season inside,” W-M coach Kent Janikula said. “Every team we played knew we were going to play through him. Teams scouted us to take him away. Despite that, he put up consistent numbers all season long.”

McBee finished the season averaging a double-double with 16.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. If that’s not enough, he was also fourth on the team in assists with 49.

“He is an unselfish player that makes the correct read in the post,” Janikula said. “He doesn’t force shots. When a double team came, he did a great job of finding the open man.”

McBee’s ability to do so many things for the Royals was the key to their success this season. Whether being relied on to score or defend, McBee was always there for his team in each game.

“Another thing that he deserves credit for is his defense,” Janikula said. “He is no slouch inside. He played in all 28 games this season and did not foul out once. He never once was taken out of the game either for foul trouble. To be a defensive presence like he was. and not ever be in foul trouble is tremendous.”

The Royals had a goal this season, as a team, to be at least .500 in the Wright County Conference. They did that, and McBee was a big reason why. After losing their point guard from last season (Jayden Heimermann who transferred to Mound Westonka), McBee stepped up his game in a big way all season long.

The 15 wins this season for McBee and the Royals were the most in a single season since the 2017 team racked up 24 wins in Trae Berhow’s senior year.

McBee’s most impressive stretch of the season came in mid-January. Against Glencoe-Silver Lake, McBee had a monster game with 32 points and 23 rebounds. He followed that up in the next game, against New London-Spicer, with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

“We could count on him night in and night out to give us a consistent effort and output,” Janikula said. “Having a post who puts up consistent numbers and stays out of foul trouble is a coach’s dream.”

2019-2020 Herald Journal All-Area Boys Basketball Team

If you didn’t get a chance to catch some prep hoops action in the area this season, you missed out. The talent was on full display, as all four teams enjoyed some success.

There were 1,000-point scorers, and many other memorable moments this season in the sport of boys’ basketball.

ALL-AREA BOYS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM

Sam Ragner (Watertown-Mayer)

A lot was asked of Watertown-Mayer’s Sam Ragner. In his senior year, Ragner was asked to take a step back in the scoring part of the offense and focus on running it instead. He did just that for the Royals while still being able to score in clutch situations for W-M.

“While Sam’s scoring numbers may not have been as good as they were his junior year, he did an awful lot for us this season,” W-M coach Kent Janikula said. “When our returning point guard transferred before the season, we thought we would have a bit of a point guard by committee approach. By the end of the year, it was Sam who was handling the ball for us with great consistency. He sacrificed some of his scoring to be more of a playmaker for us.”

Ragner still averaged 9.6 points per game for the Royals. He also averaged 3.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He simply did whatever it took to win.

“Sam is such a competitor,” Janikula said. “In some of our most important games, he played at his best. Sam was vital to our team’s success this season. Sam gave our team energy.”

Teigan Martin (Mayer Lutheran)

In a season filled with injuries and uncertainties, sophomore Teigan Martin was a cornerstone for the Crusaders all season long. Whether offensively or defensively, Martin led the charge for Mayer Lutheran throughout the entire season.

“He led a team full of key injuries this season,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “He helped us become a good defensive team. The growth that Teigan has had throughout this year is the best I’ve seen from a sophomore.”

Martin finished the year averaging a team-high 18.4 points per game. His biggest game of the season came when he scored a career-high 36 points in a huge win over conference rival, Jordan.

“As a sophomore, Teigan led our team in points, rebounds, and blocks,” Buchanan said. “Teigan more than doubled his average in scoring from last year. He was dominating in the paint.”

Sean Buchanan (Mayer Lutheran)

Playing the final season of your high school career with a completely different team can be a tough task. Mayer Lutheran’s Sean Buchanan handled it just fine as he helped lead the Crusaders through a tough season.

“Sean has been a great addition to the team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said. “His ability to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player frees up others to focus on different jobs. While handling the ball for us for most of the year, Sean made it easier for us to bring the ball up the floor and to jump-start our offense.”

Buchanan did a little bit of everything for the Crusaders as one of the few seniors. He averaged 9.1 points per game to go along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.

“We became a more balanced team with Sean,” Buchanan said. “His leadership was essential to the growth of all our seniors and sophomores. We finished the season where we were, in part, due to his presence on the team.”

Evan Lee (LP/HT)

One of the most electric players in the area this season was Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Evan Lee. Whether getting his teammates involved or being aggressive on his own, Lee had a big senior season to lead the way for the Bulldogs.

“Evan was a true leader on and off the court for us this year,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “The guys really looked to him to carry us in big games and take charge when we faced adversity or uphill battles on the scoreboard. He’s an outstanding dribbler in both handling pressure and getting us into our sets, but excelled in an open and full court.”

Lee averaged 12.4 points per game this season for LP/HT but was playing his best down the stretch. He led the Bulldogs to a 16-11 record this season and will leave a big hole for LP/HT to fill next season.

“He was great at setting up teammates for open looks and getting everyone involved offensively,” Dahl said. “It was fun to see him get on a roll when he was being aggressive. He had an excellent career at LP/HT, and was a pleasure to coach in my two years here. He leaves big shoes to fill next year.”

Noah Bush (HLWW)

Defense was a key part of the success for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Lakers all season long. Junior Noah Bush was a big reason for that.

Bush averaged 2.4 steals a game and was crucial to the Lakers’ defense all season long. As a team, HLWW allowed just 50.8 points per game to their opponents.

“Noah is awesome defensively,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “He can play the passing lanes, he has quick hands, and his ability to pick up the opposing teams’ point guard full court made it hard for teams to run their half-court offense.”

Bush also did it on the other end of the floor for the Lakers. He averaged 8.5 points and 204 assists per game. He also averaged 5.6 rebounds per game, a stat not lost on his coach.

“On offense, he can make big shots at big moments of the game,” Carr said. “What sometimes goes overlooked is his ability to rebound the basketball.  He was one of our best defensive rebounders. This allowed him to get us into transition right away and push the tempo.”

ALL-AREA BOYS BASKETBALL SECOND TEAM

On every good team, there is a good role player who knows his job and does it well. Those guys might not be the most talented players or flashiest guys, but they get the job done and are a critical part of their team’s success. They’re “glue guys”, and some of the most important parts of their teams.

Below is a look at the 2017-2018 Herald Journal All-Area Boys Basketball Second Team.

Zach Jackson (LP/HT)

A slow start to the season didn’t stop Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Zach Jackson from helping lead the Bulldogs. After opening the season trying to overcome the ankle injury he suffered in football, Jackson returned to form down the stretch to be one of the top scorers for the Bulldogs.

“Zach was voted as a captain as a junior, which says a lot about his leadership and the respect he has from the team,” LP/HT coach Andrew Dahl said. “He was our leading scorer this year by a few points as we were a pretty balanced scoring team overall. I appreciated that Zach didn’t try to do too much and took what the defense gave him. He is probably our top offensive threat as he has a nice game at all three levels.”

Jackson averaged 12.2 points per game this season for the Bulldogs. He also averaged 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

“Zach is a very well-rounded player,” Dahl said. “A couple of his top games came in big games for us.”

Carson Woolhouse (HLWW)

For the Lakers to get where they wanted to go this season, they would need someone to step up and be a scorer. That’s exactly what Carson Woolhouse did for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted.

The junior guard took a big step forward this season, averaging 8.9 points per game. He also averaged 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.

“Carson makes things happen on both ends of the floor,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “He is an extremely exciting player. He uses an array of dribble moves, ball fakes, hesitations, and driving angles to get to the rim. He anticipates well. This allows him to make some amazing passes in the halfcourt. He worked very hard on his defense this season, and at times he was asked to take on the opposing team’s best scorer. He was also one of our team leaders in charges taken. He loves big moments, and is always looking to help his team win.”

Spencer Lade (HLWW)

Every team needs a versatile player. HLWW’s Spencer Lade was that to the Lakers this season. Lade did a little bit of everything for the Lakers this season. He can score in a hurry, but also grind things out defensively, as well.

“He is one of the most versatile players you will find,” Carr said. “Defensively. he lined up against the opposing team’s best guard or best forward. He has the speed, quickness, and length to guard any position on the court. He rebounded well all season, and his passing led to some high assist nights. He was great at putting pressure on the rim and getting to the free-throw line.”

While Lade’s averages might not blow you away, there’s no doubt he was a crucial piece to the puzzle for the Lakers this season.

“There were games this year where Spencer’s impact on the game might not have come across on the stat sheet,” Carr said. “It was clear to those on the court and in the stands.”

Alex Heimerl (LP/HT)

LP/HT’s Alex Heimerl was a senior who was not ready to let his career come to an end this season. As each game passed, Heimerl only got better as he helped lead the Bulldogs to another exciting season in his senior year.

“Alex had a nice season for us, leading us in rebounds and blocked shots in addition to averaging more than 11 points per game,” Dahl said. “Using his size and athletic frame, he provided a versatile threat offensively as he was able to score inside and step out and hit 3-pointers. He also did a nice job battling opposing post players on the defensive side of the ball.

Heimerl got better and better as the season went on as he became a go-to scorer for the Bulldogs. He finished the season averaging 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. That production will need to be replaced as Heimerl graduating leaves a big hole for the Bulldogs to fill.

“Alex grew as a player and a person in my two years coaching him and has a bright future ahead,” Dahl said. “His production, which included a big 25-point performance at home against Spectrum, will be missed next year.”

Cale Wabbe (Watertown-Mayer)

While the Watertown-Mayer boys basketball team was looking to take a big step forward as a team this season, senior Cale Wabbe did so with his own game, as well. Wabbe, one of the most improved scorers in the area, averaged 9.5 points per game and was one of the top 3-point shooters for the Royals.

“The improvement that Cale has made over the last few seasons speaks volumes to the type of kid he is,” W-M coach Kent Janikula said. “Cale has always been an outstanding shooter, but this season he was a complete player on both ends of the floor. He has a tremendous basketball IQ and is such a smart player.”

Wabbe was also asked to be a facilitator for the Royals this season. He averaged 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 rebounds per game.

“Early in the season, when Ragner was out with an injury, Cale stepped up big time in providing us with a scoring boost on the perimeter,” Janikula said. “As the season went on, he was a consistent threat from the perimeter on our team, which, at times, struggled to hit outside shots. Cale was so valuable for us this season. He is one of the most unselfish players you will ever find. He was an absolute treat to coach.”