Boys Basketball: Wingers reach 1AAA finals after beating Winona
Red Wing trailed Winona 24-21 at halftime in Saturday’s Section 1AAA semifinal game. But in the locker room, the Wingers were not at a loss of confidence that they would get back into the game.
“Only being down by three at halftime, I thought it was almost an advantage for us,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. “I remember when we played New Prague last year in the section semifinal, we were down by three or four at halftime and thought that we were ahead because we hadn’t played very well in the game.”
With the offense picking up in the second half and the man-to-man defense continuing to give the Winhawks fits, the second-seeded Wingers clinched a spot in the section finals for the second straight year with a 55-47 victory over the third-seeded Winhawks at Sonju Gymnasium.
“We were like, “All right, the shots are going to come (in the second half.’ They usually come in the second half,” said Red Wing senior Isaac Toivonen. “We knew we were going to come back and we did.”
Holding a team to 24 points in a half is normally enough to take command in a game, but the Wingers offense had trouble clicking in the first 18 minutes.
“You could tell our kids were pretty nervous. We played nervous, missing some easy bunnies, and once you miss those easy shots, it’s kind of hard to get the momentum back,” Doug Toivonen said.
Red Wing needed a lift, and that came on both ends of the floor from senior guard Nick Powers. Down 24-23, Powers hit a 3-pointer that gave the Wingers a 26-24 lead with 15 minutes, 38 seconds to go. After a 3-point play from Isaac Toivonen, Powers drilled another 3-pointer to cap off an 11-2 run and put Red Wing up 32-26.
“Coach just said we needed someone to step up and hit a shot and get the second half to good start,” Powers said. “The shot fell for me. … After that, everyone started having confidence, coming down fast and playing good ‘D.’ It was a huge momentum swing.”
“After (Powers’ 3-pointers), we were hitting layups left and right and we got a couple and-1s,” said Isaac Toivonen, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Then in Winona’s next trip down the floor, Powers drew a charging foul and gave the team another much-needed lift.
“Powers was huge tonight,” Doug Toivonen said. “He had a couple big 3s in the second half and I thought defensively, he was huge tonight. He played really well tonight and he sparked us in the second half.”
Then midway through the second, Red Wing pieced together another big run, scoring seven straight points to go up 42-31 with 7:47 remaining.
From that point, the Wingers’ lockdown defense kept it a two-possession game the rest of the way. Winona had just three field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half, and after scoring 14 points in the first half, the Winhawks’ Jeff Schultz had just one point the rest of the way.
“We really challenged Ben Miller to take (Schultz) and keep him out of the paint,” Doug Toivonen said. “Ben did a great job of stepping up to that challenge.
Doug Toivonen added, “We knew going in we were going to have to play good one-on-one defense and I thought we did that.”
Ty Buck had a team-high 15 points for Red Wing, and Jon Sevlie scored eight of his nine points in the first half. Miller hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds.
Drew Thompson finished with 11 points for the Winhawks, and Trey Bechly had nine in the loss.
After disposing of Winona, Red Wing (19-8) is set for a rematch of last year’s section semifinal against top-seeded Austin. The Wingers and Packers will tip off at 8 p.m. Friday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Austin (25-3) advanced to the 1AAA final after dismantling New Prague 79-64 Saturday in Austin.
Last season, Austin fought off Red Wing for a 52-43 overtime win in the section final. Then this season, back on Dec. 20, the Packers rocked the Wingers with a 53-37 victory in Austin.
“We know how good (Austin) is. We know what it’s going to take to beat them. Whether we can go out and execute that plan, that’s a whole different story,” Doug Toivonen said. “They’re very, very good, they’re very battle tested and they play a very good schedule. Their kids know how to win, and our kids do, too.
“We’re going to have to step up and challenge them and see if we can’t shock the world.”