Boys Basketball: Red Wing advances to first section final since 2004
NEW PRAGUE - The series history tilted heavily toward New Prague in the Section 1AAA semifinal game against Red Wing.
The Wingers last won on the Trojans' home court nine years ago.
On Saturday night, third-seeded Red Wing snapped that streak, overcoming a poor start to grab a 73-66 victory and secure its first trip to the Section 1AAA finals since 2004.
"Sometimes you have to give credit to them, they came out on fire," Wingers' head coach Doug Toivonen said of second-seeded New Prague. "They're more experienced in bigger games than we are and maybe our inexperience showed right away. ... Once we got going a little bit and you could see the kids forgot about what was going on, that it was just a basketball game, we relaxed and did some great things out there."
Isaac Toivonen had an impressive second half for Red Wing, scoring 20 points after halftime and finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals. He had six offensive rebounds.
"I've been harder on Isaac than anybody," Doug Toivonen said. "The one thing you never take away from Isaac is he works his butt off, he doesn't let his offense affect his defense and tonight I thought he was working hard. He got a couple offensive rebounds and a couple put backs.
"The other thing is Ty (Buck) found him a couple times. Whenever someone gets you an easy basket, it's a lot easier to get into a rhythm. He had to make the shot but I thought Ty hit him a couple times where he's just got to catch and finish and it lets you relax a little bit."
Buck tallied 12 points and three assists while Ryan Boldt added 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory.
The Trojans got a game-high 29 points from Luke Rynda who was unstoppable in the second half. Rynda scored 27 points after halftime and had six rebounds and two assists. Paul Friendshuh provided 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks while Nick Johnson scored 11 points.
The Wingers forced a turnover on New Prague's first possession but the first six minutes were controlled by the Trojans. New Prague took a 13-3 lead with 12 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the first half.
"We had the jitters going a little bit," Boldt said. "We couldn't make a basket in the first (six) minutes. We got some open looks and just couldn't knock them down. They got off to a hot start. Our defense kind of settled in which helped our offense get into a rhythm and get back in the game. We forced some turnovers which has kind of been our emphasis this postseason."
The Wingers finished with nine steals Saturday and used their defense to get back in the game. New Prague held a 21-11 lead at the 9:13 mark before Red Wing used a 15-2 run to garner a 26-22 advantage on a 3-pointer by Boldt. The Wingers made 10 of 19 3-pointers in the game.
The Trojans took back the lead but after the terrible start, Red Wing was happy to be close as New Prague took a 27-26 lead into halftime.
"It felt like we were ahead," Doug Toivonen said. "I felt we had the momentum going into halftime even though we were down by one. I thought we'd played really solid. We haven't been ahead of these guys at all (this season)."
Friendshuh scored 12 points in the first half but was held to just four in the second half as Red Wing pulled away. The Trojans quit feeding Friendshuh in the post and started using him more as a screener to open up 3-pointers. Isaac Toivonen and Jack Leurquin did a good job of pushing him away from the paint, Doug Toivonen said.
"One of our main emphases was getting contact before the 3-point line," Isaac Toivonen said. "We wanted to make sure they're not in their comfort zone and I think that made a difference."
New Prague's last lead was 29-28 with 17:26 left as the Wingers slowly strengthened their grip on the game. Isaac Toivonen poured in 13 points in the first 5:06 after halftime as Red Wing established a 43-36 lead.
The Wingers' largest lead was 67-53 at the 1:41 mark on a free throw by Boldt and the Trojans tried to lengthen the game by putting Red Wing on the free-throw line where the Wingers finished 17-for-31. Despite struggling from the free-throw line in the first half, Red Wing knocked down 12 of 18 in the final 2:58 of regulation to seal the victory.
"It's amazing," Boldt said of winning in New Prague. "I've been losing in this building for a while now. ... Everyone stepped up their game tonight."
In the Section 1AAA finals, Red Wing will get a rematch with top-seeded and second-ranked Austin. The Packers (27-0) completed a 51-49 victory over Winona Saturday and defeated the Wingers 64-52 on Dec. 21 in Red Wing. The championship game will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
"Austin is a team with a lot of experience and the kids are going to have to go and find a way to relax because when we relax and play, when we put everything together, we've got some pretty good players on our team," Doug Toivonen said.
"It'll be fun," Boldt added. "We just have to match their intensity and play well like we did tonight and hopefully have a chance to knock them off."