Archive for HJ Sports

Czinano’s impressive season earns her HJ Girls Basketball Player of The Year

WATERTOWN – What a season it was for Watertown-Mayer junior Maggie Czinano. Not only did she record her 1,000th career point this season, but she also committed to continue her basketball career at the University of Minnesota.

Czinano also was an All-State selection for Class AA this season. Her monster season this year for the Royals also has earned her the Herald Journal Girls Basketball Player of The Year.

“Maggie has been selected as our offensive player of the year for the last two seasons,” W-M coach John Rosholt said. “She led the team in scoring, rebounding, minutes played, steals per game, and blocks. She served as one of the team captains for the season, and led the team to the Section 5AA runner-up.”

No matter who the Royals were playing, Czinano always seemed to bring her best. She averaged 21 points per game this season, while also averaging 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. She shot 41.8 percent from the field, while also leading the Royals in made 3-pointers (46).

Throughout the season, Czinano was held under 10 points just twice. One of those games came in a 70-17 blowout of Patrick Henry where Czinano played limited minutes.

Following the holiday break is when Czinano found her groove offensively. She scored 20 or more points in five of six games to open the new year, helping the Royals get on an impressive streak as a team.

Czinano also finished the season strong. In the Section 5AA tournament, she averaged 18.6 points per game despite being locked in by opponents’ defenses.

“As the season drew to a close, many teams focused their defenses on stopping Maggie,” Rosholt said. “In each of those games, she was never deterred by those defenses and continued to maintain her high level of play throughout the playoffs.”

While Czinano certainly draws a lot of attention offensively, and for good reason, she also does it on the other end of the floor. She led the team in rebounding (263) and steals (63) as she does it all for the Royals.

“Maggie was no slouch on the defensive end of the court as she has the athleticism to be a shut-down defender,” Rosholt said. “With her high basketball IQ, ball skills, athleticism, and fortitude, Maggie is on her way to becoming a complete basketball player.”

2019-2020 Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball Team

The 2017-2018 girls’ basketball season in the area was exciting once again. Whether it was great games, or players reaching a career milestone, the season was filled with many moments to remember. Although none of the four local teams reached the state tournament this season, there was still plenty of talent on display in the local gyms.

ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM

Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

Communication is an important part of what can help a basketball team. For Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted senior Alexa Schumann, that’s just one of the many things she brought to the floor for the Lakers this season.

While being a vocal leader on the floor, Schumann also led it with her play. She averaged a double-double this season for the Lakers in her final season. Schumann averaged 15.4 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game.

“Alexa was a tremendous vocal leader for us all year,” HLWW coach Ryan Petersen said. “She set a great example in practice with her communication and energy. Alexa had a desire to learn something new each day and you could see that with her progression over the last few seasons. Throughout the season she was always willing to help younger girls in our program.”

A force inside all season long for the Lakers, Schumann shot 55 percent from the field and led the team in blocks (73) and rebounds (294).

“During games, she was a force for us inside leading our conference in offensive rebounds and was second in our conference in blocks,” Petersen said. “At the same time, she was the second-leading scorer in the conference.”

CJ Decker (HLWW)

They don’t make many point guards like HLWW’s CJ Decker. That’s why she will be missed dearly next season by the Lakers. Decker, one of the most talented players in the area, had a big season in her final year as a Laker.

“CJ has been everything you could ask for from a point guard and a teammate throughout her career,” Petersen said. “She was able to stay level-headed and take each game one play at a time. She is one of the most committed athletes I have ever seen and her work ethic was a great example set for the rest of our team.”

For the season, Decker averaged 15.3 points per game. She also averaged 6.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. On the year, Decker recorded multiple triple-doubles.

Decker did it all as she helped HLWW win their first playoff in her varsity career.

“CJ led our conference in assists, free throw percentage, and was third in our conference in scoring,” Petersen added.

Morgan Chmielewski (Mayer Lutheran)

There may not be a player in the area who took a bigger step forward in her game than Mayer Lutheran’s Morgan Chmielewski. Forced into a bigger role this season, Chmielewski stepped forward in impressive fashion.

“Her growth from sophomore to junior year was tremendous,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “As a leader alone, she took over this team. She does everything well.”

The junior point guard averaged 11.9 points per game for the Crusaders this season. She also led the team in assists (136) and shot 48.3 percent from the floor.

Chmielewski was an All-Conference section and was named Class A All-State Honorable Mention.

“Morgan was our point guard and our offense started with her,” Gustin said. “She did everything for our team. We are a different team with her on the floor.”

Chmielewski helped lead the Crusaders to a 23-win season, and a trip to the Section 4A title game.

“Her work ethic and energy are contagious,” Gustin said. “Her growth as a floor leader was crucial for our success. She makes our team better in every aspect.”

Marissa Radtke (LP/HT)

It was business as usual for Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Marissa Radtke. The junior had another big year for the Bulldogs, leading them to the Section 4A semifinals.

On the season, Radtke averaged 21.1 points per game for LP/HT. She also averaged 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 steals per game.

Radtke also recorded her 1,000th career point this season.

“Marissa had another great year,” LP/HT coach Mike Lee said. “She led the team in virtually every category.”

Emma Lade (Mayer Lutheran)

In just her sophomore season, Mayer Lutheran’s Emma Lade became one of the top scorers in the area. Lade took a big step forward, leading the Crusaders in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. She also led the team in 3-pointers made (31) while shooting 44.3 percent from the field.

“Emma led us in scoring and was second on the team in assists,” Gustin said. “Her ability to run the floor, make shots, and see the floor is as good as anyone on our team.”

ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL SECOND TEAM

There was plenty more talent on display throughout the season for girls’ basketball. Below is a look at the Herald Journal All-Area Girls Basketball Second Team.

Libby Heilman (Watertown-Mayer)

Ask Watertown-Mayer senior Libby Heilman to do something on the basketball court and she’ll do it. Whether it’s running the offense as the point guard or being physical inside, Heilman’s versatility was a key piece to the Royals’ success this past season.

“Libby is such a versatile player as she can play every position on the court,” W-M coach John Rosholt said. “Libby led the team in assists and was second on the team in rebounding, steals, free throw attempts and free throws made. Libby served as our captain and part-time point guard.”

While playing point guard, Heilman finished the season averaging 3.1 assists per game. She also wasn’t afraid to be physical inside, averaging 7.3 rebounds per game to go along with her 9.8 points per game.

“When Libby played the point guard position, she controlled our offense and consequently the pace of the game,” Rosholt said. “Due to Libby’s physical style of play, she sustained several injuries this season, but as a tribute to her toughness, she played in all 30 games this season.”

Taylor Ebert (LP/HT)

One of the major reasons the Bulldogs had a successful season once again was the emergence of Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Taylor Ebert. The junior guard found her stride on offense this season, giving the Bulldogs a big boost.

“Taylor stepped up as the year went,” LP/HT coach Mike Lee said. “She began to find her offense more consistently, which opened up opportunities for others.”

Ebert averaged 10.7 points per game this season while also averaging 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.

Lexi Schermann (Mayer Lutheran)

There’s nothing better than having a coach on the floor. That’s what Mayer Lutheran senior Lexi Schermann gave the Crusaders once again this year.

Schermann averaged 10.6 points per game this season for the Crusaders. She led the team in steals (70) while finishing second in made 3-pointers (25).

“Lexi is a coach on the floor,” Gustin said. “She is always encouraging and working with her teammates to be the best they can be. Lexi’s leadership was a huge asset to our program this year.”

Mercedes Burmeister (Watertown-Mayer)

Heading into the season, W-M coach John Rosholt knew he would need some younger players to step up this season. Freshman Mercedes Burmeister took that to a whole new level.

After starting the season as a part-time varsity player, Burmeister quickly showed she belonged at the top level full time. She averaged 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Royals this past season.

“It’s a steep learning curve for any freshman playing at the varsity level in a team sport and it was no different for Mercedes this season,” Rosholt said. “She met the challenges of her first varsity season with determination, and in the end, exceeded all expectations. Mercedes is a player who is willing to sacrifice her body for the good of the team. She led the team in taking offensive charges this season.”

Burmeister’s biggest game of the season this year came in the Section 5AA semifinals. She scored a team-high 19 points to help the Royals reach the section title game.

“Her 19 points in our section semifinal game was a tremendous shot in the arm for our team and our success,” Rosholt said. “In the end, Mercedes was our third-leading scorer on the team. As a ninth-grader, she stepped up this season and became a major contributing factor to our team on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

Brooke Paulsrud  (Mayer Lutheran)

There’s a lot Mayer Lutheran’s Brooke Paulsrud would do on the court for the Crusaders this season. Whether running the point, guarding the opponents’ best scorer, or doing all the little things, Paulsrud did so with a smile.

“Brooke adapted to a new role this year,” Gustin said. “She played more post this year, which allowed us to run different sets.”

The change of position didn’t bother Paulsrud as she averaged 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. The way Paulsrud adapted to her new role was crucial to the success of the Crusaders to the tune of 23 wins.

“Her second half of the season was impressive,” Gustin said. “She stepped up and was key to our success.”

Gabbert’s big season earns him Herald Journal Wrestler of The Year

WATERTOWN – For Watertown-Mayer’s Austin Gabbert, it’s always been about putting in the work. The hard work and determination the junior wrestler for the Royals paid off this season, earning him the 2019-2020 Herald Journal Wrestler of The Year.

“Austin Gabbert is a tremendous worker and a tremendous leader in our room and in our program,” W-M coach Kurt Becker said. “He not only helps the other guys in his room, but he also helps work with our elementary program.”

After taking fifth place at state a season ago, Gabbert would not be denied this time. Gabbert would finish in second place at the Class AA state tournament at 126.

“Finishing my season in the finals was nice,” Gabbert said. “It was my one goal all season, and when I got there, I wanted to take home the first-place medal. I feel like I didn’t leave everything in my finals match, but it was a great learning experience for me.”

Getting a taste of wrestling in the state title match has only given Gabbert a bigger spark. For a kid that’s already racked up the awards and works hard, the sky is limit for him.

“He has put in countless hours in the off-season and has grown as a person,” W-M coach Bill McDonald said. “He is currently a three-time section champion, as well as a three-time state place winner.”

Just a junior, Gabbert will be looking to get back to that state title match once again in his senior season next year. For his coaches, they are excited to see what the future has in store for one of their top wrestlers.

“He’s a very disciplined wrestler with amazing strength and quickness,” Becker said. “His skill set is beyond solid; it’s fantastic. We are excited to see what Austin can accomplish his senior season and beyond his high school career.”

2019-2020 All-Area Wrestling Team

The 2019-2020 wrestling season was filled with plenty of excitement. Whether it was conference battles or state tournament appearances, the talent was on full display in the area all season long.

Below is a look at the Herald Journal All-Area Wrestling Team.

Jonah Hamberger (Watertown-Mayer)

A state tournament appearance was the highlight of the season for Watertown-Mayer’s Jonah Hamberger. In his first year of wrestling varsity, the freshman had a season to remember for the Royals.

“Jonah is a very hard worker and a very smart kid,” W-M coach Kurt Becker said. “He looked at his statistics last year and made some adjustments in the off-season to improve his skills. Those improvements showed up in spades this year by not going to his back and improving his takedowns.”

Throughout the season, Hamberger worked hard to put himself in the best position come the section tournament. In the end, it paid off as he reached the Class AA state tournament at 106.

“That kind of intelligence shows up when he competes,” W-M coach Bill McDonald said. “It is a huge accomplishment to qualify for the state tournament as a first-year varsity freshman, much less win two matches there. We look forward to having him around for the next three years, and I’m sure he’ll be a valuable asset to our program for years to come.”

Caleb Boese (HLWW)

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team had a motto of ‘Embrace the grind’ this season. Seventh-grader Caleb Boese did just that for the Lakers.

“Caleb is a model for our team slogan,” HLWW coach Joe Puncochar said. “He had perfect practice and meet attendance.”

Wrestling at 106, Boese was just one of three seventh-graders to reach the Class A state tournament at 106. While being young, Boese didn’t let being young bother him as he brought home a sixth-place finish at the state tournament in his first appearance.

“He never backs down from a challenge, and he is mentally tough well beyond his years,” Puncochar said. “We are in good hands for the next five years at whatever weight class Caleb Boese is wrestling.”

Collin Boese (HLWW)

There’s no doubt that HLWW’s Collin Boese is one of the most talented wrestlers for the Lakers. He proved that by reaching the state tournament once again this season.

“Collin is a pure athlete,” Puncochar said. “The things he’s able to do athletically are unlimited. His mental toughness has improved and his skills are some of the best we’ve had.”

Boese finished the season at the Class A state tournament. After winning his first match of the tournament, Boese finished just one spot short of placing at the state meet.

Being just a sophomore, his coach knows it’s only a matter of time until he puts it all together.

“His biggest obstacle is sometimes himself,” Puncochar said. “Once he figures out the only person to worry about is himself, there is no doubt in my mind he will be on the podium at the end of the year.”

Danny Mosford (HLWW)

No wrestler in the area had a tougher season than HLWW’s Danny Mosford. After battling injuries throughout the season, Mosford got healthy at the right time to qualify for the Class A state tournament.

“Danny has ridden the roller coaster more than most athletes this season,” Puncochar said. “He finds ways to win tough matches and is improving his offensive repertoire.”

Mosford finished one spot short of placing at the Class A state tournament. As Mosford returns for his senior year next year, his coach is excited to see what he can do.

“I am stoked to see what Danny will be able to do in his upcoming senior season,” Puncochar said.

Keegan Lemke (G-SL/LP)

Lester Prairie’s Keegan Lemke found himself in a spot he wasn’t sure was possible at the beginning of the season. Even though his appearance at the Class AA state tournament was short-lived, Lemke took a big step forward for the Panthers this season.

“Overall, it was a great experience and feeling, making it to state,” Lemke said. “Having the towns of Lester Prairie and Glencoe supporting me was an awesome feeling.”

Lemke lost both his matches at the state tournament, but the experience has ignited a fire to get back next season.

“Now, I’ll just need to put more work in on the offseason with camps, and hit the weights harder,” Lemke said. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think state was achievable. I’ve never placed high in sections. But this year, I changed practice partners. Without Zach Voelz, I don’t think I could’ve competed with better competition. He put the time in with me at the gym. This is the first year I’ve finished with a record over .500.”

It’s Just a Game

I’ve only been alive for 25 years, so I am not bringing a ton of experiences to the table. I can confidently say that this past week has been the strangest week in my life. I’d imagine that it is right up there for many of us, regardless of our ages.

It escalated very quickly. I was at St. Michael Albertville High School last Thursday to watch the Blake Bears take on the Rockford Rockets in a Section Semi-Final game.

We knew that Covid-19 fears were increasing. The NBA had been developing a plan of action, starting with banning media and escalating it to playing games with no fans.

During a time-out in the 2nd half of the game, I checked Twitter to find that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with Covid-19 and that the NBA was going to be suspended indefinitely.

Within a few days, the NHL, NCAA Tournament, MLS, MLB and Minnesota State High School League announced the same postponements, effectively ending all sports in our lives likely until the end of May or June.

Personally, this last week was quite boring for me. There was no NBA on TNT or ESPN or ABC, Selection Sunday was limited to me selecting how many desserts I wanted to have and there has been no relief from the constant and pressing Covid-19 discussions.

Thankfully, two things kept me busy. First, the NFL offseason has been spicey with the Vikings making moves and Tom Brady joining the Tampa Bay Bucs. Second, they replayed a WWE Royal Rumble on USA on Monday to keep me occupied, much to the dismay of my wife who didn’t know what the WWE was.

Obviously it is great to be informed and have up-to-date information on Covid-19 as that can help shape our behavior and keep us collectively safe as a community and country. However, I think this past week has shown us just how important sports are to many of our lives.

It starts with the high school level. Student-athletes, coaches and communities were elated to continue advancing in the playoffs, a dream many of them have had since they were young. This dream was ripped away from them and is something that they will never get back.

Sports are also a huge industry in our country. They provide jobs at stadiums and news outlets. They provide entertainment and reach a vast number of people across the globe. They provide a distraction from our realities, which would be welcomed right about now.

Sports also motivate us to be better. Athletes motivate us to keep grinding, to keep working out, to keep running and lifting and oftentimes to be better people.

Over the years, I’ve heard so many people say “it’s just basketball, a stupid game, why does it matter?”

This past week should prove to everyone just how important sports are to our culture. Whether you are a professional or amateur athlete, a coach, a parent or a fan, sports provide us with so much and this is glaring in a time where they can provide us nothing.

I recommend taking to Youtube and watching some old games of your favorite sport or team. So far, I have watched game 6 of the 2008 Finals where the Boston Celtics crush the LA Lakers as well as game 6 of the 2000 Finals where Kobe and Shaq win their first title by beating the Indiana Pacers.

For you football fans, maybe it is watching the Minneapolis Miracle again to serve as a nice pick-me-up.

Either way, I encourage you to stay vigilant and to keep a positive attitude. This is going to be a weird couple of months to say the least, so let’s hunker down, watch some classic games, and look forward to the day when our favorite sports are back again.

 

The End of the Season is Never Easy

My third season of coaching high school basketball as the Varsity Assistant at Watertown-Mayer has come to a close and I can confidently say that the end of the season is never easy.

Nothing in sports will ever compare to the feeling as a high school senior, knowing you just played your last high school basketball game. The idea that this sport, which you dedicated a large portion of your 18 years of life to, is over is an overwhelming thought in the moment.

You think about your friends and how you’ll never celebrate a big road victory with a chaotic bus ride. You think about how you’ll never quite feel those same competitive juices again. You think about how your friends, family and community will never watch you play again.

However, it doesn’t get that much easier as a coach, at least for me.

Every season, our season ends earlier than I am hoping. By that I simply mean that I never want it to end. This year was no different.

There are many reasons to become a coach. First of all, it is great to get to know the kids and form relationships. It is rewarding to work with these student-athletes every day for almost 4 months and learn about what makes them tick.

It is also enjoyable to watch them grow, both as players and people. We work on their post skills, shooting, defense and  basketball IQ while also working on their discipline, character and maturity. After players graduate through our program, it is rewarding to see how far they have come.

Coaching is also a complex and entertaining puzzle. I thoroughly enjoy analyzing a group of players and trying to devise a plan on how we can be the most successful as a team. Spending time scouting opponents doesn’t feel like work, even if it is deep into the night and I need a couple of coffees the next day to stay awake. The game strategy is a fascinating aspect to coaching that keeps me interested every day.

After beating Brooklyn Center this past Thursday, a rematch with the Blake Bears was waiting. We had lost to Blake earlier in the season and really wanted to avenge that loss and advance further into the playoffs.

The game was a hard fought, back-and-forth battle from the tip-off to the final buzzer. The boys played hard, they executed the game plan and we had a chance to win all the way to the end. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day and we fell short in a three point loss.

I believed that both of our final 3-point attempts to tie the game were going in and I felt the sudden dread and sadness when neither shot found the net. Watching Blake celebrate the win is enough to rip your heart out.

After congratulating the opponent, I began wandering to the locker room with our team as we realized the reality of the situation and our emotions started to show.

In the locker room, I realize that I will not get to coach this outstanding group of young men again and for the third year in a row, a slight tear is in my eye and my throat closes up, leaving me unable to speak.

I am thankful and appreciative for every second that I get to coach high school basketball and am proud of Cale, Devyn, Ethan, Pat, Sam, Tadlock and Will, just like I am of each senior class, for representing Watertown-Mayer and being a tremendous group to coach.