Boys Basketball: Kjos leads Lake City upset of Caledonia
ROCHESTER – Marc Kjos is quiet in interviews, toeing the company line and deferring to his coach and teammates for success. But on the court, the Lake City junior has some swagger. On Thursday, Kjos put on a 36-minute display of why in a 55-51 victory over top-seeded and second-ranked Caledonia in the Section 1AA championship game at the Mayo Civic Center Arena.
The Warriors, the three-time defending section champions, were widely expected to return to state. But Kjos led the Tigers to a 29-23 halftime lead with a late 3-pointer, then made every play he had to down the stretch, all while scoring 15 of his 27 points over the final 18 minutes.
“We just had confidence,” Kjos said. “We didn't let any article about us keep us down. We weren't supposed to win the HVL title, and we did that for the third straight time.”
Kjos and his teammates never looked like that confidence wavered, even when Caledonia went on a 13-7 run midway through the second half to take a 48-44 lead. Nathan Heise, who finished with 20 points, finally got Lake City back on track, scoring with 4:51 on the clock. Kjos immediately stole the inbound pass, and knotted the game 48-48.
In what would become a trend, the Warriors missed on the other end. Heise hit two foul shots before Noah King tied the game 50-all. The Tigers would aim to run the final two minutes off the clock, like it had at the end of the first half. But a near-fatal turnover almost cost Kjos and the Tigers the game.
While running a weaving offense, Kjos and Heise had passed back and forth several times. But the final time saw Kjos hit a cutting Heise in the back, and Owen King picked it up and tried to fly by Kjos.
But Kjos fouled Owen, sending the junior Division I recruit to the line. King would hit just one.
Kjos then drove to the hoop, hit a layup through contact, connected on the and-one attempt and gave the Tigers a 53-51 lead.
The ensuing Caledonia possession saw Owen King take a jump shot, which was rebounded by Noah. But Kjos, in perfect position, grabbed the ball as Noah descended, coming up with the steal. Two more free throws sealed the game as Owen's final shot beat the buzzer but caromed off the rim, irrelevant had it gone in or not.
“I love these kids,” said Lake City head coach Greg Berge. “They're all gritty, they're all competitors, they're good ball players. They did exactly what we needed to do. We slowed the game down and spread them out. We have great guards, and it's hard to guard them. We have great shooters and we hit our shots.”
This could be a preview of the 2018 section title game as well. Lake City graduates just one starter in guard Mitch Marien, while Caledonia will return its top five, including Owen, who finished with 26 points.
But for now, it's the Tigers time to shine. For the first time since 1990, Lake City will be in the state tournament. And it couldn't have come at a better time for Marien.
“It feels amazing,” Marien said. “It's a great way to finish my year out. Nobody thought we'd make it this year. It feels great because we were slept on all year.”