Archive for HJ Sports

CLASS A STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran blows by United Christian Academy

MINNEAPOLIS – Despite missing one of their key players, the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team took care of business in their opening game of the Class A state tournament. Led by some hot shooting from the floor, the Crusaders cruised to a 56-33 win over United Christian Academy Thursday night.

“We talked about having a big start,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “Seeds don’t matter this time of the year. They just had to beat us one time. It was about coming out and focusing so that we start the game out strong.”

The win for Mayer Lutheran was the first win by a high seed in the state tournament thus far. After top-seeded Mt. Iron-Buhl was upset in the opening game of the day, Mayer Lutheran knew they needed to come ready to play.

“Clearly anything can happen on any given night,” senior Emma Lade said. “We weren’t so worried about the No. 1 seed being out. An unseeded team can easily upset a seeded team and that could have happened to us today. We just came out and worked hard.”

“We heard about it and talked about it for a minute or two,” Julia Carns added. “Then we started focusing on this game and how we can get  through this game first.”

Mayer Lutheran came out ready to play. A 26-5 run to open the game for the Crusaders put them in control throughout. United Christian Academy was forced to play catch up all game long as Mayer Lutheran advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 1977.

“We knew we had to come out and take it one game at a time,” Madeline Guetzkow said. “Just keep ourselves composed and play as ourselves.”

Mayer Lutheran’s experience was on full display in the win. With many of the girls experienced on the state’s biggest stage in both basketball and volleyball, the Crusaders felt at home in their first game of the tournament. That’s also helped their team chemistry as they’ve been playing together for a number of years.

“It helps a lot with chemistry,” Lade said. “We’ve been playing with each other for so long. A lot of the girls on the team have gotten to state. I just felt like it helped calm down the nerves a little bit.”

Mayer Lutheran shot 62 percent from the field in the win. Guetzkow led the charge with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting while Lade was also in double figures with 11 points. The Crusaders did have 27 turnovers, a stat they’ll need to improve on going forward.

“It was certainly sloppy at times,” Gustin said. “Some of that was nerves and some of it was just understanding and valuing the ball. What I love about this team is that even when we do turn the ball over, we come back and play hard to try and get it back. We don’t seem to dwell on turnovers which is a real positive.”

Mayer Lutheran will face third-seed Hancock in the Class A semifinals Friday. With one more win, the Crusaders will be looking to play for a state championship for the second time in program history.

“These girls are gamers,” Gustin said. “The bright lights don’t bother them. It’s a big stage. They’ve been there before. They’re just good enough to do it wherever they have to.”

After Wachholz missed the quarterfinal game with an injury, Mayer Lutheran is hoping to have her back in some form in their semifinal game Friday.

“We’ll see,” Gustin said about having Wachholz available. “Her ankle has responded well to treatment. We’re pleased with where she’s at and that we didn’t have to use her tonight. We’ll see if she can give us some time tomorrow. She brings a lot to our team with her size and rebounding. Hopefully, we’ll get a few minutes out of her and see how it goes.”

 Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP FOOTBALL: Legendary Delano football coach Merrill Pavlovich retires after four decades of coaching

DELANO – For 46 years, there’s been only one man pacing the sidelines as head coach of the Delano football team. Come this fall, there will be a new face.

Over the span of four decades, Merrill Pavlovich has been the leader for the Tigers on the sidelines. After winning more than 300 games, the legendary high school football coach is hanging it up.

“There are several reasons,” Pavlovich said about stepping down. “Age is one of them. I’m going to be 75 in April. It’s been a long time that I’ve been doing this. I’ve always had the rule of thumb that when I get up in the morning, if I look forward to going out to the field and enjoying it, then I’ll stay. That’s been my rule of thumb. The last couple of years has taken a toll on me. That made me think that it might be time and I think it is time.”

The last two years of coaching have been anything but easy for Pavlovich. After playing just four games in 2020 as teams across the state battled COVID-19, 2021 was a tough year as well for Delano competing in one of the toughest districts in the state.

When the Minnesota State High School made the switch to districts in 2015 instead of playing a conference schedule, that was a move that didn’t sit well with Pavlovich. Delano has often been put in districts that requires more travel than most teams in the state while also playing schools much bigger than them as well.

“I think district football has been nothing but a nightmare,” Pavlovich said. “Three years ago, we played Moorhead. There wasn’t a team in the state of Minnesota that traveled farther than we did to play them. We passed many school districts that we could have played on the way up there. Then the school we played was two and a half times bigger than we were. The matchups were absolutely terrible.”

The move to districts hasn’t always been bad for Delano. Often in the same district as the Becker Bulldogs, a friendship and rivalry has developed over the years between two of the top coaches in high school football history in Minnesota.

“​​Pav and I have been competing against each other on the gridiron for 40 plus years,” Becker coach Dwight Lundeen said. “District changes have separated Becker and Delano at times, but we have always stayed connected with scrimmages and lower level games.”

Pavlovich and Lundeen rank among the best when it comes to wins in high school football in Minnesota.
As his coaching career comes to an end, Pavlovich is ranked fifth in state history with 315 career wins. Lundeen, still an active coach, is ranked third with 382 wins. Between the two friends and rivals, they’ve combined for nearly 700 total wins.

“Our lives have somewhat paralleled each other as coaches, activities directors, and executive secretaries of our conference,” Lundeen said. “He has been very successful as a football coach, leading Delano to over 300 wins in his 40 years of coaching. Only good coaches win that many games.”

“I can’t recall all of those 40 years of coaching,” Pavlovich added. “I don’t know where all the wins came from. They went by in a hurry. When I look at a list like that, there are some great names. We won a lot of games that we shouldn’t have and we lost a lot of games that we shouldn’t have either.”

While Pavlovich and Lundeen certainly had their rivalries over the years, their friendship remains the most important thing.

“I am blessed to call Pav my friend,” Lundeen said. “At times when I needed help with our football program, Pav was often my first call. He would always listen and help me work things out. I appreciate his willingness to work for the good of Minnesota high school football. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. and I look forward to joining him on Lake Vermillion. I know he can find a 28-inch walleye for me.”

Pavlovich’s presence won’t only be missed by other coaches he competed against, but also by his players. In his four decades of coaching at Delano High School, the number of kids and their names that he’s molded and shaped goes on and on.

“I’ve got a pretty good memory yet,” Pavlovich said. “It’s surprising how many kids I can still see their numbers in my head. They’ll come up and talk to me and I’ll say ‘Hey, 83. It’s just kind of funny that way. One year of our football camp, I put a list of kids that have been in our program in the paper. It covered the whole page. To do that today, it would be even more difficult because there are so many more names.”

To be a coach for 40 years is nearly unheard of in today’s day and age. To do it all at the same place is even rarer. While Pavlovich admits his coaching career has flown by, he won’t hesitate to admit that he enjoyed it all.

“One of the toughest things about how long I’ve coached is there is no way I can recall those 40 years of coaching,” Pavlovich said. “I don’t know where they went. They went by so fast. When those years go by so quickly, that’s a sign that you’ve probably enjoyed what you’re doing and I really did.”

Pavlovich came to Delano in 1970 from the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. In his 50-plus years of being in Delano, he never left as he knew it would be a good home for him. While Delano certainly has changed over the years of his coaching career, it’s all been for the better on and off the field.

“I came here in 1970 and I never left,” Pavlovich said. “I had some opportunities to go elsewhere but I chose to stay here. It’s been a great community. I came from the Iron Range. Every school had an auditorium, football field, and a swimming pool. We had the best of the best in the Iron Range. I never bought a tennis shoe, a piece of paper or anything. It was always provided for you. When I got to Delano in 1970, it was like the Iron Range was driving a Cadillac and Delano was driving an old Chevrolet. Nearly 50 years later, it’s all reversed. We have outstanding facilities and a great school system.”

Coaching hasn’t always been easy for Pavlovich, especially of late. In his early years of coaching, he was often surrounded by the same people every season. As the years went on and he got older, those same people began to disappear around him.

“That was another reason for me stepping down,” Pavlovich said. “I went to a funeral this summer for a good friend. That was hard on me because we’ve been friends for as long as I’ve coached. I lost a lot of my assistants along the way too. When you lose all those people, it kind of takes away from some of the fun you’ve established over the years. We’ve been through so many years together. We came from the same era.”

While Delano’s staff with Pavlovich has changed over the years, one thing has remained the same. When fans attend a Delano football game, they’ll know exactly what they will see each and every game before kickoff.

“One of the things I’ve always been proud of the Delano football team is if you ever watch us when the National Anthem is being played, we’re in the end zone, our helmets are on the left side, and hands are across our chest,” he said. “There’s no disrespect. We practice it one time and the kids know from that point on. Everyone is paying respect to that time and to the flag.”

While the faces have changed along the end zone line over the years, there are some familiar faces as well. The bonus of coaching for more than four decades means that some of the players you coach just might want to come back and help once they moved on.

“When I look down that end zone, one of the best moments I’ve ever had is looking and seeing how many assistant coaches are former players,” Pavlovich said. “There’s probably 15 or 16 guys that have given their time back to the program. I think that always says a lot about your program. They came back wanting to give something back to the program they left.”

As Pavlovich moves on from his storied coaching career, he’ll still be around the game. You can also find him out on Lake Vermilion wetting a line, but just don’t ask him for his hot spot. If he’s not out on the lake, you can bet you’ll find him in the stands under the Friday Night Lights taking in a game that he’s given so much to over the years.

“Coming up in the fall, I like to fish and want to spend more time on Lake Vermilion,” he said. “I’ll also get the opportunity to get out and see other games. You’re kind of restricted to games you see when you’re coaching. Now I’ll have a chance to go out and see other teams play a bit.”


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

Important Winstock Ticket Alert and a Few Words From the Man Himself

SPONSORED POST – With the Early Bird Deadline ending tomorrow and prices increase, Winstock Country Music Festival organizers are encouraging fans to get their tickets soon – not only to save money – but to also ensure tickets are available.

“I know it seems like a marketing gimmick, but if everyone we project purchases tickets prior to the early bird deadline, it is very likely there won’t be many left for purchase after March 15,” said Winstock Country Music Festival Committee Chairman Dave Danielson. “It could sell out earlier than ever this year. We said it a few months ago, but if you have campsites already purchased, please make sure everyone in your group has their tickets secured by the early bird deadline to guarantee they won’t miss out.


VIP, Reserved Seats, and Campgrounds A, B, C, and D for the June 17-18 event in Winsted have already sold out. This is the earliest in its history that reserved seats have sold out, and general admission tickets and campsites have also been selling fast. After March 15, general admission tickets will increase from $140 to $155 for the weekend. Beginning June 1 through the event, the cost is $175 for the weekend, pending availability.

DON’T DELAY – GET YOURS TODAY! Visit or call (320) 485-4287. #Winstock22

For additional announcements, ticket information, and everything Winstock, go to and sign up for Winstock Email news. Be sure to follow the festival on Twitter @WinstockMN, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran receives No. 2 seed in Class A state tournament

Fresh of winning its second-straight section title, the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team found out their seed for the Class A state tournament Saturday morning.

After winning the Section 2A title Friday night, the Crusaders received the No. 2 seed for the state tournament. Mt. Iron-Buhl, who’s been ranked No. 1 almost all season long, is the No. 1 seed while Hancock (No.3), Cass Lake-Bena (No. 4), and Hayfield (No. 5) were also seeded. Nevis, Minneota, and United Christian Academy went unseeded.

Mayer Lutheran drew United Christian Academy in their Class A quarterfinal match. The Crusaders will take on the Thunder Thursday, March 17 at Maturi Pavilion at 3 p.m.

The following is a look at the rest of the matchups for the girls basketball state tournament.

CLASS A QUARTERFINALS – Thursday, March 17

(1) Mt. Iron-Buhl vs. Minneota, 11 a.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(4) Cass Lake-Bena vs. (5) Hayfield, 1 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(2) Mayer Lutheran vs. United Christian, 3 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(3) Hancock vs. Nevis, 5 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS – Wednesday, March 16

(1) Providence Academy vs. Montevideo, 6 p.m. (at Williams Arena)

(4) Albany vs. (5) Rochester Lourdes, 8 p.m. (at Williams Arena)

(2) Fergus Falls vs. Pequot Lakes, 6 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(3) Minnehaha Academy vs. LCWM, 8 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)


(1) Becker vs. Austin, 10 a.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(4) Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. (5) Mankato East, 12 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(2) St. Paul Como Park vs. Grand Rapids, 2 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)

(3) Totino-Grace vs. Detroit Lakes, 4 p.m. (at Maturi Pavilion)


(1) Hopkins vs. Lakeville North, 10 a.m. (at Williams Arena)

(4) Rosemount vs. (5) White Bear Lake, 12 p.m. (at Williams Arena)

(2) Shakopee vs. Roseville, 2 p.m. (at Williams Arena)

(3) STMA vs. Centennial, 4 p.m. (at Williams Arena)

SECTION 2A GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran tops SESM for Section 2A title

MANKATO – Mayer Lutheran girls basketball coach Kris Gustin had a picture of what he wanted his team to do in their Section 2A championship game. His team nearly executed it to perfection.

A quick start and a strong finish were the keys for the Crusaders as they clinched their second consecutive section title with a 58-45 win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Friday night.

“I thought the girls really executed the game plan,” Gustin said. “The message was we’re not going to let others beat us. Trying to stop (Madison) Mathiowetz? You’re not going to do that. She’s going to score so it’s really not about her.”

The Crusaders did a combination of both, holding Mathiowetz to just 25 points, 16 of which came in the first half. As a team, Mayer Lutheran held the Knights to a season-low 45 points.

“It was all about not letting (Allie) Labat and (Reagan) Severson score. If they score in double digits, it’s hard to beat them. I thought the girls did a really great job.”

Mathiowetz came out swinging early, knocking down her first three shots and scoring a quick eight points. From that point on, Mayer Lutheran dug in defensively and took control of the game.

“When Madeline came out for an early timeout, I looked at her and said that’s not the start we wanted, ” Gustin said with a laugh. “After that, she was tired. As that first half wore on, we were able to throw two or three people on her and it just wore her down a bit. She was frustrated and that’s a credit to our pressure and team defense. It was a total team effort with our defense.”

With the defense settled in, Mayer Lutheran went to work on the offensive end. After pounding the ball inside to Julia Carns, that opened up the playbook for the Crusaders.

“We knew we had to figure out who she (Mathiowetz) was guarding,” Gustin said. “She’s such a smart and good defender. We didn’t know if she would guard Madeline or Emma. They started her on Madeline and we immediately looked inside to Julia. Our girls played really well.”

“I think we did really well,” Carns said. “We started off really strong as we possibly could and that’s exactly what we had to do. We put a lot of focus on getting the ball inside. We also hit some shots on the outside. Playing like that was our goal and we played really well. It’s really nice knowing how hard we worked for it.”

The Crusaders led by nine at the half but pushed their lead to as many as 17 in the second half as they had things working on both ends of the floor.

“Our passing was really good,” Guetzkow said. “We saw the open girl a lot today and that was key for us. We knew we could do it. We just had to keep working at it.”

Leading by double digits most of the second half, Mayer Lutheran used their patience to keep their lead and run down the clock. Both were key in keeping the Knights at arm’s length as they were unable to rally in the second half.

“A lot of fans will start cheering because they’re playing good defense,” Gustin said. “Ultimately. We’re reversing the ball and getting good looks every time. That way they have to work defensively. We’re setting screens and we’re making cuts. All of that is advantageous to us.”

With the win, Mayer Lutheran moves one step closer to their ultimate goal. After grinding out a tough regular season and section tournament run, the Crusaders will be battle-tested heading into their second state tournament appearance in a row.

“It helps us a lot,” Carns said about the tough schedule. “We play a lot of bigger schools to get ready for games like this. It helps us stay calm in games like this.”

“We challenged them to finish,” Gustin added. “All season has been geared to what this team can accomplish. We believe we’ve got three more wins in us. It’s stepping up in big moments and not trying to do too much. This team had embraced that. They really played well tonight.”

Mayer Lutheran will open the Class A state tournament Thursday at Maturi Pavillion. The Crusaders will find out what seed they are Saturday morning.


SECTION 1 – Hayfield

SECTION 2 – Mayer Lutheran

SECTION 3 – Minneota

SECTION 4 – United Christian Academy

SECTION 5 – Nevis

SECTION 6 – Hancock

SECTION 7 – Mt. Iron-Buhl

SECTION 8 – Cass Lake-Bena


Thursday, March 17 – at Maturi Pavillion

(1) vs. Unseeded, 11 a.m

(4) vs. (5), 1 p.m

(2) vs. Unseeded, 3 p.m

(3) vs. Unseeded, 5 p.m.


PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Mayer Lutheran’s Lade becomes program’s all-time leading scorer

MAYER — The Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team had a decision to make coming into this season. They needed to figure out who was going to replace Morgan Chmielewski as the point guard.
With Chmielewski being the only player not back from last year’s state tournament team, Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin turned to Emma Lade to run the show for the Crusaders this season. It’s worked out pretty well.

Not only did Lade reach the 1,000 career point milestone, she also became the program’s all-time leading scorer early on in the Crusaders’ win over Buffalo Lake-Hector Stewart Monday night.

“It’s crazy,” Lade said about the moment. “Especially with last year, I never thought I’d come this close. I couldn’t have done without my teammates and their passes and everything they do for me.”
Instead of pouting when put into her new role, Lade took charge of the team as they’ll be playing for a section title for the fourth time in five seasons this Friday.

“She’s a gamer,” Gustin said. “She works really hard. She’s really grown over the year. She was always a good shooter and we put her in a really uncomfortable position this year asking her to be our point guard. She’s stepped up and done that well.”

Lade passed Mya Chmielewski to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. She is also tied for the career record in assists, a record she’ll most likely break as Lade and the Crusaders look to capture the Section 2A title Friday.

“She’s always seen the court well,” Gustin said. “Putting the ball in her hands was just the best thing for this team this year. She’s a great competitor and a great teammate. She has earned this. She puts in the time. It’s who she is. She wants to compete and she wants to win. It’s a testament to what she’s put into the game and it’s all been her effort.”

Lade will enter the Section 2A title game with 1,517 career points. She also has 338 career assists, needing just one more to surpass Jessica Klaustermeier for most in program history.