Archive for HJ Sports

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.

SECTION 2A GIRLS BASKETBALL: Crusaders hold off Mustangs for Section 2A North title

ST. PETER – A new section. The same result.

Playing for a section title has become an annual tradition for the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team. For the fourth time in five years, the Crusaders will play for a section title after beating Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart 55-44 for the Section 2A North Sub-Section title Monday night.

“It just feels great,” senior Emma Lade said about getting to play for another section title. “We came out and we played like we can. Sometimes, we start slow, but this game we started showing what we can do right away.”

Mayer Lutheran opened the game on a 12-3 run to put the Mustangs in a hole early on. That’s something the Crusaders have struggled with at times this season.

“We’ve talked about it in the last couple of games,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “We’ve got to figure out how to play right away. The girls did that. They played well. It started with our defense. We kept them in check and really frustrated them all night long.”

With a 13-point lead at the half, the Crusaders extended their lead to as many as 17 in the second half. BLHS wouldn’t go away easily. A 16-4 run by the Mustangs closed the gap to six, but Mayer Lutheran settled down with some clutch free throws.

“It was a lot bigger run than I was hoping for,” Gustin said about the rally by BLHS. “We did a really nice job of pushing our lead up. To their credit, they didn’t stop playing. They fought hard and forced some turnovers and that turned into points. That was a big momentum shifter. I thought the girls did a pretty good job of not getting rattled. They settled down and once we got to the free-throw line, we were able to make them down the stretch which was huge in a close game.”

Lade knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead back to eight and the Crusaders answered with a pair of clutch defensive stops to hold off the Mustangs’ rally for the win.

“We always talk about how it’s a game of runs,” Lade said. “We just happened to have more runs. We just knew we needed to take control when it was their run and then start our own.”

Julia Carns and Lilly Wachholz had things working inside for the Crusaders in the win once again. Both scored in double figures once again for Mayer Lutheran as their patience paid off against the zone defense.

“I feel like tonight we were really ready to go both offensively and defensively,” Wachholz said. “When they came back on that little run, we were still really strong. Me and Julia talked a lot about using our size against these teams. We need to take advantage of that and always try to find each other open. We’re just working really well together and we’ve both really stepped it up these past couple of games.”

“What a zone wants to do to you is to take away and neutralize your strengths,” Gustin added. “Our strength is our size. Lilly and Julia have been playing really well together. Lilly’s had a more offensive edge to her of late. She’s a great passer from that spot too.”

With the win, Mayer Lutheran advances to the Section 2A title game Friday, March 11 at MSU-Mankato. The Crusaders will face the top-seed in the South sub-section, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, in a rematch of the Class A state quarterfinals from a season ago. It will be the fourth time in five seasons that Mayer Lutheran will play for a section title.

Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s knocked off crosstown rival Sleepy Eye in the South Sub-Section final. The Knights are ranked No. 5 in the latest Class A poll while Mayer Lutheran is ranked No. 4.

Playing in a big game will be nothing new for the Crusaders. Whether in basketball or volleyball, Mayer Lutheran has performed on the big stage over and over, something that will give them a boost when they look to reach the state tournament for a second-straight season.

“I think it just teaches us to be calm,” Lade said about playing in big games. “We know what we can do and we can get it done. We’ve been in positions like this before and know how important it is to stay calm and know what we can do as a team.’

Mayer Lutheran will have their hands full trying to contain SESM’s Madison Mathiowetz. The senior and South Dakota State University commit is one of the top players in Class A. She scored 44 points in their state tournament matchup last year and will be a focus for the Crusaders once again in this year’s matchup.

“She’s the kind of girl that can control the game,” Gustin said. “That’s the scariest thing about her. You know she’s going to get points. I think one of the keys for us will be to keep her off the glass. I feel like she got a lot of offensive rebounds and points that way last year against us. “We don’t think we gave them our best last year. Part of it is are we going to try and decide to stop her or are we going to let her have hers and try to make other people beat us. That’s something we’ll have to talk about in the next couple of days.”


STATE WRESTLING: Lakers send five to Championship Saturday, W-M adds four more

ST. PAUL – A 12-15 regular-season record for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team doesn’t seem like much. It’s a big deal considering the competition they went up against all year, it’s paying off on the state’s biggest stage.

At the Class A state individual tournament, the Lakers have five of their six wrestlers advancing to championship Saturday. Raydon Graham and Isaac Busse wrestled their way to the semifinals while Collin Boese, Mitchell Mallak, and Colton Long stayed alive with wins in their wrestlebacks Friday night.

“It’s pretty awesome,” HLWW coach Joe Puncochar said about the success his team is having. “One thing that has helped lead to our success this year is our schedule. Everybody thinks we had a great year. Our team record was 12-15. We had a great year but we wrestled some tough competition so that when we get down here, we’re not phased by that. That showed up big time today.”

The second session of the day started with a bang for the Lakers. At 106, Graham took down the No. 2 ranked wrestler in his weight class with a 4-3 decision over Chatfield’s Javier Berg. Following his win, Graham let out a roar of jubilation as he’ll get the chance to wrestle for a state title Saturday.

“Raydon’s an emotional kid,” Puncochar said. “After his section championship, he had tears in his eyes and he was crying on my shoulder. He was so happy with himself. That’s wrestling. You put everything you have into it. When it all works out like that, it just comes out.”

Graham will take on Holdingford’s Wyatt Norvitzki in the semifinals. Norvitzki is ranked No. 5 in Class A at 106.

“He’s been wrestling really well since January,” Puncochar said. “He’s lost one match since that point and it came against the kid he’ll face tomorrow. We’re ready for that match.”

Also joining Graham in the state semifinals is Isaac Busse. In comeback fashion, Busse won his match against Ottertail Central’s Jaxon Rich. Busse will take on Jackson County Central’s Payton Handevidt Saturday. Handevidt is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in Class at 160.

Joining Graham and Busse will be three other HLWW wrestlers. Mitchell Mallak (138), Collin Boese (170), and Colton Long (220) all won their wrestlebacks to keep their seasons alive.

“To see Collin come back and dominate that next match was nice,” Puncochar said. “He really wants to get on the podium. It’s the fourth time he’s been in this arena. He’s not scared of anybody. It’s time to go for him. The other guys are following his lead because he’s the only one who’s been down here before out of our group. We’re just feeding off each other right now.”

Long weekend for the Royals continues

It’s been a long weekend for the Watertown-Mayer wrestling team. It’s about to get even longer. After finishing fourth in the Class AA team tournament Friday, the Royals brought six individuals to the Class AA meet and four of them will be competing on Championship Saturday.

Bryce Burkett went 2-0 on the day to reach the state semifinals Saturday. Wrestling at 160, Burkett needed a 2-1 decision to pick up his first win. In his second match, he needed some late drama to pick up a 5-3 overtime win to advance to the semifinals.

Also joining Burkett on the final day will be Jonah Hamberger (132), Jackson Drahos (195), and Ashton Congdon (220). All three bounced back with wins in their final matches of the night with their seasons on the line.

The Class AA state tournament resumes Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center.


SECTION 2A GIRLS BASKETBALL: Carns, Mayer Lutheran top Lester Prairie

ST. PETER – When the Lester Prairie Bulldogs were on the schedule for the Mayer Lutheran girls basketball team in the Section 2A North semifinals, the message from head coach Kris Gustin was clear. Although the Crusaders beat Lester Prairie twice in the regular season, Mayer Lutheran knew this was a different team coming into the postseason.

“They’re certainly an improved team,” Crusaders coach Kris Gustin said. “Mike (Lee) is a great coach. He’s always got his team prepared to play. When we started preparing for them, the talk was all about not taking them for granted. Anything can happen. It’s about one game at a time. If we have an off night and they have a good night, who knows what could happen.”

The Bulldogs gave Mayer Lutheran all they could handle in the early going. After going punch for punch with the Crusaders, Lester Prairie struggled to keep up the height and athleticism in a 71-49 loss Thursday night.

“The first 10 minutes or so of the game we played really well,” Lee said. “We did what we needed to do. It’s just the height that hurts us. We just can’t go against that.”

Mayer Lutheran held a 21-20 lead with just over six minutes left to go in the first. The Crusaders then blew open the game with a 22-2 run to take an 18-point lead into halftime.

“We tend to have slow starts,” senior Julia Carns said. “Once we started getting it going, we pretty much just played our game.”

Mayer Lutheran would keep the Bulldogs at bay the rest of the way as they advanced to the sub-section championship. While it was a slow start to begin, Carns delivered with another strong offensive output to give her team a spark. She’s scored 10 or more points in 11 of her last 12 games now after finishing with 15 points in the win.

“She had a little bit of a slump in early January,” Gustin said. “We made a lineup change and she didn’t start a couple of games. It kind of refocused her and energized her. Since she’s been starting again, she’s really come on and played very well.”

While Madeline Guetzkow dealt with foul trouble throughout the first half, her teammates picked her up. Lilly Wachholz finished in double figures with 14 points while Emma Lade once again led all scorers with 23 points.

“We feel like we have several girls who can score,” Gustin said. “We’ve got a lot of ways to get points. That’s part of the blessing of this team. When somebody is having an off night or in foul trouble, we’re there to pick each other up. That’s what we do. We pick each other up.”

For Lester Prairie, the season comes to an end with an overall record of 17-10. While their success might have come as a surprise to some, it didn’t to their coach.

“I knew what we had,” Lee said. “Looking at the calendar at the beginning of the year, I was thinking we could get 18 regular-season wins. I didn’t say that to anybody but that was the number in the back of the head. I was hoping to get at least 12. They did everything they needed to do to get here.”

Senior Kara Lee was a big reason for the strong finish to the season for the Bulldogs. Not only becoming one of their top offensive threats, but she also provided leadership throughout as well.

“The last five games, she’s averaging 17 points a game,” Lee said. “She stepped up. She was shooting the ball well. I wish she would have done that earlier. It’s hard to see her done. She loves playing. That’s the hard part.”

The exciting season for the Bulldogs has Lee thinking about what next year could bring. With Addison Hoof back to lead the way along with the emergence of Jessa Heimerl, the Bulldogs will be looking to repeat their success next season and even take a step forward.

“Jessa has really developed nicely,” Lee said. “If she had another couple of inches and some more post moves, she’d be incredible. She’s more of a forward though that has to play down low for us. Other teams, she wouldn’t be down there. She’s done a nice job and we already talked about next year. It’s about building a program and Jessa’s going to be a big part of that.”

Mayer Lutheran advances to the sub-section championship where they’ll meet the winner of Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart and Central MN Christian. The Crusaders will play either the Mustangs or Bluejays Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at St. Peter High School.


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