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Boys Basketball: Goodhue fends off Lake City, stays unbeaten

Goodhue's Ben Opsahl soars to the rim during the Wildcats' 60-56 victory over Lake City. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)1 / 2
Lake City's Zach Bremer gets off a 3-point shot during the Tigers' 60-56 loss to Goodhue on Friday. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)2 / 2

GOODHUE – Purple or orange, home or away, there was no black and white at the end of Friday's Hiawatha Valley League showdown between two highly-ranked teams. Except, of course, there was the binary colors of the referee's shirt

And when the whistle blew with 4.3 seconds left in the game, and his arm punched the air towards Goodhue's basket, the Wildcat fans and players and coaches cheered, and Lake City's contingent jeered. Such was the dynamic presented by a charge call that took the ball from the Tigers, who were down two, and gave it to Goodhue, which watched Taylor Buck knock down two free throws to seal the 60-56 victory for Class 1A's fourth-ranked, and undefeated team.

That the game came down to that, however, masks what was a great first half from the Wildcats, and an improbable comeback from Lake City.

Ben Opsahl and Jacob McNamara began a game of pitch, catch and layup about midway through the first half that eventually pushed Goodhue out to a nine-point lead with 3:01 to play in the first half. A Buck three-point play and another Opsahl bucket gave the Wildcats a 32-21 advantage at the break that seemed much larger given the Tigers' inability to defend or hit the long ball on the other end.

“We knew that we'd have a few mismatches that we could take advantage of, and we looked at how they were playing our posts and whether they were fronting. That dictated what we would do offensively,” said Wildcats head coach Matt Halverson. “We can attack different ways. We have very good players, and if a team packs it in, we have outside shooters, and if teams come out then we have cutters like Ben. So far, we've had a counter punch for everything another team throws.”

Many of Opsahl's 24 points were right at the rim, and finished off lengthy possessions that is the Goodhue hallmark.

“That's their style, it's a mental challenge for you,” said Lake City head coach Greg Berge.

But the Tigers, with their usual balanced scoring and ability to light up the 3-point line, were not completely out of it. And with 2:07 left in the game, Nathan Heise hit a 3-pointer that drew Lake City within two at 52-50.

“The bottom line of this game, the more aggressive team was going to win. In the first half, we were lethargic on defense, and on offense we didn't attack like we usually attack, and that lack of energy dug a hole for us,” Berge said. “The second half, we played like we want to. If we would have played like that all game, it could have been ours.”

Their march to the free-throw line already underway, Buck calmly knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to make the lead four again.

After riding Zach Bremer's 17 points and 10 rebounds to get back in the game, Marc Kjos cut the lead in half moments later by driving the lane, which was followed by Opsahl converting the double bonus on the other end.

At 1:15, Kjos hit a floater over McNamara, and an 0-for-2 trip from Goodhue gave Lake City the chance to tied the game, which Kjos did with 35 seconds.

With the score knotted, the Wildcats would not be put back on the line, and points were needed. And like it had been all game, the backdoor cut from Opsahl was on time, and McNamara's pass perfect to make it 58-56 Goodhue with 20 ticks on the clock.

“We have (that play) in our back pocket, and we pull it out whenever we need it,” Opsahl said. “We've been playing together since third grade, we just know what each other is going to do.”

That set up the end of the game, which saw Kjos go behind his back at the top of the key and drive the lane for a kick-out to Reid Gastner for a possible game-winning 3-pointer. But the whistle went off before Gastner caught the ball, and a charge sent Kjos and the Tigers to the other end of the floor still down two.

Buck would finish the game with 14 points, while McNamara had 15 points and five rebounds. Opsahl had eight boards to lead the team. Kjos had 13 points in the loss, with Heise adding 11.

The win moves Goodhue to 15-0 overall, and to 7-0 in the HVL, and drops Lake City, ranked fifth in Class 2A, to 10-2, 5-1.

The Tigers host Triton on Monday, and Kenyon-Wanamingo on Tuesday, while Goodhue puts its perfect record on the line, at home, against Pine Island on Monday. After a trip to the state finals last year, this season seems like an extension.

“I hoped it would go like this, but you never know in the HVL,” Opsahl said. “We have to play the Gold teams, and they're bigger than us, (Class) 2A, 3A schools. But they get us ready for the playoffs.”

And that's exactly what the goal is.

“This group just executes game plans so well. I don't know if it's just belief in the system, that they've had good coaches the whole way like Mark Opsahl. It helps having good coaches from third grade on,” Halverson said. “I just get the limelight and be their coach their senior year, I guess.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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