Archive for HJ Sports

MAKING HISTORY: HLWW’s Hintz makes program history by securing state meet appearance

WATERTOWN – There was a little bit of doubt lingering in the mind of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted/Holy Trinity senior Riley Hintz heading into the Section 5A meet. There was none in coach Tammie Thiemann.

After getting off to a shaky start, Hintz dug deep the rest of the way and made school history for the Lakers as she qualified for the Class A state meet in all-around.

“It’s really exciting,” Hintz said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it for all-around but I did. I did way better than I thought.”

Hintz is the first gymnast in school history to qualify for the state meet after posting an all-around score of 35.025 which was good enough for third place overall.

“We’ve never been to state in gymnastics and have never had a single gymnast make it,” Thiemann said. “It’s amazing. It’s by the far the best thing ever as a coach. I’m excited for her. I knew she was going to do it. She’s just so driven that I had no doubt she would make it to state. It’s pretty cool to see.”

It was a tough start for Hintz as she opened things up on beam. She posted a score of 8.150 which was good enough for 10th place overall and put her behind in the race to qualify for state in all-around.

“I had a really bad beam and that was first,” Hintz said. “I was really nervous and discouraged at first.”

From her least favorite event to one of her favorites, the night for Hintz changed in a big way as she made her way to floor.

“Beam is what she feels is always her worst,” Thiemann said. “That’s where we started and I told her let’s get through it. Watching her rise up from that was icing on the cake. You couldn’t have asked for anything more as a coach. She just never gave up.”

Hintz delivered a bounce-back performance on floor posting a score of 9.075 to get things back on track. From that point on, it was smooth sailing for the senior as she delivered in big ways on vault and bars to secure a spot at the state meet for the first time.

“I’ve just always loved floor,” Hintz said. “I get really excited about that. I’ve always been a bit nervous about my first pass on floor but when I landed it, that gave me confidence and I was really excited for the rest of the meet.”

Hintz capped off her night by taking second on bars with a score of 8.600 and tied for second on vault with a score of 9.200 to make school history as the first gymnast to reach the state meet.

The night was also a big one for the Lakers as a team. HLWW/HT posted a new season-best score of 127.150 which was good enough for fourth place overall.

“It’s amazing,” Thiemann said. “I’ve always told them that they’ve had it. I knew today was going to be a big day for them. The team pulled through and that’s what it’s all about. They grew together all season and it was great watching them. It’s the best part of my job.”

“This is perfect,” Hintz said about the night. “Our team had a personal record tonight too. That’s very exciting. It was three points higher than our previous best. That’s really awesome to see.”

Hintz will represent the Lakers in all-around at the Class A State Meet Saturday, Feb. 25 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The competition for Class A begins at 6 p.m.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

SECTION 5A GYMNASTICS: Royals claim ninth-straight section title

WATERTOWN – All season long Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka gymnastics coach Steve Hangartner had to wait and see just how good his team truly was. The wait was worth it as the Royals put on a show at the Section 5A meet and claimed their ninth-straight section championship by posting their best team score of the season when it mattered most Thursday night.

“It’s the first time we’ve had our whole lineup all year,” Hangartner said. “There are still things we’re still trying to iron out and work on, but they did pretty well. I’m really pleased with them.”

“We’ve been dealing with some many injuries this year,” Reagan Kelley said. “This was our first meet having everyone. It feels nice because we’re getting our scores back up to where we kind of think they should be. I’m really proud of us.”

The Royals started their night out on beam which is not an easy task. After Hangartner saw his team go a perfect 5-for-5, he knew his team would be ready to go the rest of the meet.

“Starting out on beam is not easy,” he said. “You can’t be real aggressive at all. You have to be really focused. It’s not like vault or floor where you can run and go all out. With beam, you have to be in control and that’s tough. For them to start out with five sticks was pretty impressive.”

After getting off to a good start, Kelley, the defending state champion in all-around for Class A stole the show with two big-time performances on vault and bars. On vault posted a score of 9.75 while finishing off her meet with an impressive 9.75 on bars to close things out.

“I was so excited to compete on bars last,” Kelley said. “That’s my favorite event. Just nailing that routine felt awesome.”

“She’s competed in all-around every meet this season,” Hangartner added. “She keeps herself healthy. She’s really good at keeping herself healthy. Reagan’s pretty smart and she knows how to regular herself and knows if she needs to push herself or not. Some gymnasts will run through a wall for you but you have to be smart. I can trust her.”

Kelley’s big night earned her the Section 5A title for all-around posting a score of 38.625. Teammate Maggie McCabe also finished second in all-around for the Royals with a score of 36.225.

Other state qualifiers for W-M/MW include Evelyn Mielke on vault, Maddie Sanders on beam, and Payton Hecksel on beam. Of the three state qualifiers, Mielke and Sanders will be making their first state meet appearance for the Royals as well as the younger girls on the roster participating in the team competition.

“I’m so excited for everyone to come to state,” Kelley said. “Some of our girls that qualified haven’t before and I’m just excited about that. We all did really awesome today and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. (We) kind of started a little bit rocky this season. We kind of thought the dynamic of our team was going to change a lot this year but honestly, we’re doing really well. We’re trying to stay healthy and it’s been a really good season so far.”

The Royals will head into the Class A state meet looking to win their third state title in a row. They’ll have their hands full with teams such as Big Lake and Detroit Lakes but they know what they’re capable of now after getting their whole lineup

“I think some people are not even really looking at us,” Hangartner said. “There are teams that have been scoring way more than us all season. Now we’re right behind them. We can improve on a few things in a week.”

Kelley will also be back to defend her state title for all-around, an opportunity that brings excitement and nerves for the senior in her final state meet appearance.

“I’m really excited but also nervous,” Kelley said. “I won last year and I want to set that expectation for the same if not even bigger. I am a little nervous but I’m prepared and think it’s going to go very well.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Guetzkow’s big night lifts Mayer Lutheran to signature win

MAYER – It was a night to remember for Mayer Lutheran senior Madeline Guetzkow. After recording her 1,000th career point in the first half, Guetzkow helped the Crusaders take over the game in the second half as they picked up a 67-58 signature win over No. 2-ranked Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Monday night.

“It feels great,” Guetzkow said about the win and the milestone. “I feel like we played really well as a team and they helped ease my nerves at the beginning of the game. It just made me feel no pressure and relaxed.”

After the Crusaders found themselves in a battle in the first half, the second half couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Mayer Lutheran was held scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of the second half and fell behind as BLHS extended their two-point lead at the half to 12 with just over 10 minutes left to play.

“They’re a good team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Kris Gustin said. “They are hard to defend. I thought when we executed the game plan, we defended them very well and made them take tough shots. That’s what we wanted to do but we had some breakdowns and we didn’t contest as well as we needed to.”

Coming out of a timeout facing their biggest deficit of the night, Mayer Lutheran took control of the game. A 17-1 run by the Crusaders not got them back in the game but gave them the lead. With just under seven minutes to go, Guetzkow gave the Crusaders their first lead of the second half, a lead they would hold onto the rest of the game despite one last rally by the Mustangs.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Gustin said. “I don’t know what happened at the start of the second half. We came out flat as can be and they came out fired up. It wasn’t looking good for us and then the momentum kind of shifted. I’m really proud of the way they responded.”

“We just needed to clean up our passes and then we got our offense going,” Guetzkow added. “We were patient and that really helped us. Our coach says once you make one the basket just gets bigger. Our confidence really grew from that.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Mustangs tied the game at 53 with under five minutes to play but it was all Mayer Lutheran down the stretch. The Crusaders closed the game on a 14-5 run as they essentially secured the No. 1 seed in the Section 2A North sub-section with the win. Down by 12 midway through the first half, Mayer Lutheran held BLHS to just 11 points over the final 10 minutes to take all the momentum in the win.

“It starts with defense,” Gustin said. “We can do some things offensively in transition but it really does start with defense. When we execute the defensive game plan, things go well. We switched better in the second half. To hold them to only 11 points is pretty impressive. That’s a good team to clamp down defensively like that.”

Guetzkow was big all game long for the Crusaders, especially in the second half where she scored 17 of her game-high 28 points to help take over the game.

“She stepped up,” Gustin said. “You have to be proud of her. She needed eight points coming into the game to reach 1,000 in her career. That’s always in the back of your mind and once you get it you worry there might be a letdown. She didn’t stop one bit. She played hard till the end and kind of put our team on her back tonight. She really took over offensively. The ball in her hands is a good thing for us and she had the ball in her hands a lot that second half.”

The matchup between two of the top teams was possibly just a preview of what lies ahead next month. Both Mayer Lutheran and BHLS are in the Section 2A North sub-section and will likely battle it out once again in the postseason.

“We’re going to have to be ready to play again,” Gustin said. “We have one of the toughest sub-sections with them and BOLD. This was a big one as we’ll get the No. 1 seed and avoid the second-round matchup, but we’re anticipating playing them again they’re going to come out gunning for us. This is the third time in a row we’ve beaten them and I’m sure they’re going to come with a vengeance.

“This game was big,” Guetzkow added. “It’s most likely in our future again so we’ll know what to expect next time.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

THE STREAK CONTINUES: Depth proves big as Royals top No. 6 New London-Spicer

WATERTOWN – One of the most impressive winning streaks in Minnesota high school sports history was on the line for the Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka gymnastics team when they hosted New London-Spicer. The Wildcats were the No. 6 ranked team in Class A. The Royals came in wounded and shorthanded.

That didn’t seem to matter for W-M/MW as their depth came through in a big way in big spots as the Royals picked up an impressive win posting a team score of 139.625. NL-S finished with a team score of 135.450.

The win for the Royals pushed their incredible dual meet streak to 110. The winning streak for W-M/MW dates back to 2012.

“It was an unbelievable meet,” Royals coach Steve Hangartner said. “We were not favored and our streak of 109 wins in a row dating back was in jeopardy.”

The Royals came into the dual anything but healthy. Payton Hecksel was still sidelined with an injury and even the girls competing were not at 100 percent. On top of that, Hangartner found out he would be without another athlete the day of the meet due to illness.

“We had a couple of girls out so we were really limping into the meet on one leg,” Hangartner said “I knew we still had a chance to upset them if we were to have the meet of our life. Then I got a call from one of my parents who said their daughter was ill and she wouldn’t make it to the meet. She was an all-arounder, so then I knew we were really in trouble.”

With not many options left, Hangartner turned to his young talent. The Royals had four eighth graders step into big spots and they didn’t miss a beat. Helle Anthony delivered her highest score even on bars to give the team a spark.

On beam, it was Kallie Jackson’s turn to step up. The eighth grader posted a score of 8.80 on beam for the Royals which was good enough for fifth place overall.

“Kallie really stepped up and scored over a point higher than her average,” Hangartner said. “That really lifted the team.”

After a pair of eighth graders steadied the ship for the Royals, the veterans delivered as well. Reagan Kelley posted an impressive score of 9.60 on beam while Maggie McCabe took second with a score of 9.175. W-M/MW closed things out on floor where they claimed three of the top four spots. Grace McCabe posted her personal-best score on floor with a score of 8.725 and the Royals ran away with things as Kelley and Maggie McCabe took the top two spots on floor as well.

Kelley also won the all-around title finishing with a total score of 38.400.

It was a big win for the Royals who have kept on getting better and better as the season has progressed. With the section meet around the corner, W-M/MW will be looking for this meet to really get them going as they look to get back to the Class A state meet to defend their title once again.

“My wife and I were so excited we couldn’t fall asleep until about 2 a.m. because we were so wound up,” Hangartner said. “This was a great meet to propel us to get ready for the section meet coming up.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: HLWW catches fire in win over Rockford

HOWARD LAKE – The past weekend for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball team was a disappointing one. They didn’t let that carry over into a new week as the Lakers got back into the win column in a big way picking up an impressive 76-53 win over the Rockford Rockets Tuesday night.

“We talked all week about being persistent and being resilient,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “We know teams are going to go on runs and we need to be able to weather the storm. Tonight it was good for us to see because they kept coming. We were able to get some key stops when we needed them.”

Along with getting key stops throughout the second half, HLWW shot lights out from 3-point range. In the second half alone, the Lakers knocked down seven 3-pointers as a team to break open a tight game.

“It comes out of confidence, Carr said about the hot shooting. “Our guys are really confident right now shooting the ball. The guys are great at knowing who is feeling it that night and feeding guys when they are open. Good things happen when we get downhill and kick out to our shooters.”

“We have a lot of great shooters on our team,” Cole Gilbert added. “It was a big rebound for us. It was important we came out with some fire tonight and we did that. After two losses, it was big to get back into the win column.”

Gilbert finished with a game-high 28 points in the win for the Lakers, 17 of which came in the second half. Cody Stapel also had a big game with 20 points while Drystin Green (11 points) and Alex Zimmerman (10 points) were also in double figures for HLWW.

“We’re trying to make it an equal opportunity offense,” Carr said. “Anyone of our guys can get buckets for us any night. They’re buying into that and because of it, they are playing with such confidence. We just need to keep that going.”

While the hot shooting and timely defensive stops were big parts of the win, HLWW put together one of their most complete games of the season by playing together and not letting one or two bad possessions carry into more throughout the game.

“We talk a lot about being able to reset when things don’t go right,” Carr said. “We know it’s a long game so we stay focused on what we have to do. The last play is history and we move on to the next play. The guys are doing a really good job of that.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier going forward for the Lakers as conference play heats up this month. HLWW is back in action Thursday against Watertown-Mayer, the lone undefeated team in the conference left and a Top 10 team in Class AA.

“This conference is a battle every single night,” Carr said. “We know going into the postseason, we’re going to be battle tested. It’s going to be good for us to get games like this under our belt so we can go into the postseason feeling like we’re going in the right direction.”

PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: HLWW’s comeback comes up just short against Rockford

HOWARD LAKE – It hasn’t been the best season at times for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls basketball team this year. You wouldn’t know that watching them play.

Despite just two wins on the season so far and in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Lakers continued to compete. Even after a tough first half in which HLWW had just two made field goals, they gave the Rockford Rockets all they could handle in the second half but the comeback came up just short in a 41-34 loss Tuesday night.

“We were stuck at one forever,” HLWW coach Drew Waldbillig said. “We couldn’t buy a bucket. Shots didn’t fall but that was some great defense by the girls. They were nonstop all game. We stopped the bleeding but we just didn’t hit our shots right away.”

The Lakers went nearly nine minutes without a field goal to start the game and finished with two made field goals in the first half as they trailed 24-8 at the break. The second half was a different story as HLWW never gave up.

Ivy Fasching hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark the comeback as the Lakers opened the second half on a 19-4 run to get back within just a single point with just under eight minutes to go.

“In the second half, we were smart with the ball and waited for them to come to us and we had some really good open looks,” Waldbillig said. “That helped build our confidence a bit.”

That’s as close as the Lakers would come though as the Rockets answered with a run of their own. After a seven-minute drought of their own, Rockford used a 9-0 run to push their lead back to double digits and hang on for the win.

With the loss, HLWW’s losing streak pushed to six games and they sit at 2-10 on the season. While wins have been hard to come by so far, the Lakers continued to battle and play together each and every day.

“We had a team Saturday morning where we had little mirrors and we wrote down positive affirmations,” Waldbillig said. “That’s huge for their self-confidence. A lot of the girls are pretty hard on themselves. I think that really brought us together as a team. They were helping each other make them. You could tell at the next practice that they were really gelling together. They are really buying into what we’re talking about as coaches and that’s great to see.”