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Boys Basketball: State success a family affair for Tiger duo

Freshmen Nathan Heise (front) and Reid Gastner (middle), along with the rest of the Lake City boys’ basketball team will make the school’s first state appearance since 1990 at 6 p.m. today at Target Center when the unseeded Tigers take on top-seeded Minnehaha Academy. (RE file photo)

When Lake City tips off the Class 2A state tournament on Wednesday, the end of a 27-year drought will finally come. In 1990, the Tigers won a state championship, and until this season, it would be the last time Lake City would get out of the section.

Almost three decades later, the Tigers will be represented by two familiar names: Gastner and Heise. Freshmen Reid Gastner and Nathan Heise will step onto the court at Target Center to face Minnehaha Academy, and in doing so, will be joining their fathers, Cris Gastner and Tony Heise, in playing for Lake City in a state tournament.

“It’s really cool,” Reid said. “They’re really proud of us.”

That pride also comes with a bit of snark.

“We hear about it,” Nathan said, noting that they have yet to play in the game and that the fathers won a title. “And even if we win it, they’ll still probably say theirs was better because it was just two classes then.”

And there is the fact that Cris and Tony coached the two for years, along with Greg Berge, who eventually took over as the head coach at the high-school level.

“My son is in the same grade as them,” Berge said. “I’ve known them since they were born, basically. It’s pretty special to be able to coach them now.”

If Cris and Nathan are able to bring a state championship back to Lincoln High School, they will need another in a lengthening line of upsets. The Redhawks are the top seed in the tournament, and the No. 1-ranked team in the class. And Minnehaha knows precocious freshmen as well.

The Redhawks boast ninth-graders Jalen Suggs and Terry Lockett that score 21.7 and 12.0 points per game. Suggs is a highly-regarded national recruit, a 6-foot-3 guard who can pass as well as score and has led Minnehaha to a 23-5 record that includes a 16-game winning streak coming into state.

Throw in 6-6 JaVonni Bickham’s 14.9 points per game in the post, and the Redhawks will pose many problems for the Tigers.

“They’re young but they’re talented,” Berge said.

Working in Lake City’s favor is Nathan and fellow guards Mitch Marien, a senior, and Marc Kjos, a junior. The trio’s ability to handle the ball, and hit 3-pointers, allows the Tigers to control the tempo of the game. And that might matter more than the pure talent on the floor.

“They want to run,” Berge said of the Redhawks. “We have to play our game.”

That means slowing things down, and finding good, open shots like Lake City was able to do in its last two games. Against St. Charles, in the section semifinals, and against three-time defending section champion Caledonia in the finals, the Tigers did what they wanted. And against the second-ranked Warriors, especially, Lake City may have found the perfect way to take down Minnehaha.

“If we slow it down, and play our game, it seems to work,” Reid said.

Balanced scoring is also a big part of the game plan. Kjos (14.8), Marien (12.7), Reid (11.4) and Nathan (10.9) all average in double figures, with Zach Bremer (8.2) capable as well.

Beyond Minnehaha, the field is fairly open. Fifth-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral is the No. 2 seed and faces unseeded but ninth-ranked New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva while Crosby-Ironton, ranked fifth and the No. 3 seed, will face unranked and unseeded Breckenridge. The other quarterfinal pits two other unranked teams in No. 4 seed Annandale and No. 5 seed Jackson County Central.

Get by the favorite, and Lake City has a great chance to make some real noise. And, who knows, maybe there is a way for Reid and Nathan to one-up their fathers. But that would mean at least one more trip to Minneapolis.

“We still have three more years, but it’s not guaranteed we make it again,” Nathan said.

Added Reid, “We just have to soak it in. We just have to win one game after another.”

Class 2A boys' basketball at a glance

1. Minnehaha Academy Redhawks

Record: 23-5

Rank: 1

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 75.5 PAPG: 58.3

Leading scorers: Jalen Suggs 21.7, JaVonni Bickham 14.9, Terry Lockett 12.0

State appearances: 5 (2013 state champions)

2. St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders

Record: 26-4

Rank: 5

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 74.8 PAPG: 59.0

Leading scorers: Michael Schaefer 21.5, Mitchell Plombon 19.1, Jackson Baustian Jangula 9.7

State appearances: 3 (No state championships)

3. Crosby-Ironton Rangers

Record: 28-2

Rank: 4

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 69.1

PAPG: 46.0

Leading scorers: Jack Silgen 17.6, Trey Jacobs 15.7, Evan Edmundson 11.1

State appearances: 21 (No state championships)

4. Annandale Cardinals

Record: 26-4

Rank: N/A

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 67.4 PAPG: 50.4

Leading scorers: Jarod Wilken 18.8, AJ Hinz 12.6, Nick Bieniek 11.5

State appearances: 6 (No state championships)

5. Jackson County Central Huskies

Record: 26-4

Rank: N/A

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 78.0 PAPG: 62.1

Leading scorers: Jacob Christopher 18.5, Ryan Christopher 11.4, Rudy Voss 9.9

State appearances: 2 (No state championships)

Breckenridge Cowboys

Record: 26-2

Rank: N/A

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 75.3 PAPG: 51.4

Leading scorers: Stevin Lipp 16.5, Noah Christensen 15.4, Derek Dahlgren 12.5

State appearances: 8 (1940 state champions)

New Richland-HEG Panthers

Record: 28-2

Rank: 9

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 62.4

PAPG: 43.7

Leading scorers: Oakley Baker 16.8, Tyler Raimann 13.0, Benji Lundberg 11.4

State appearances: 1 (No state championships)

Lake City Tigers

Record: 23-6

Rank: N/A

vs. the field: 0-0

PPG: 64.2

PAPG: 52.4

Leading scorers: Marc Kjos 14.8, Mitch Marien 12.7, Reid Gastner 11.4, Nathan Heise 10.9

State appearances: 7 (1978, 1979 and 1990 state champions)

Schedule

Wednesday’s games

Quarterfinals

At Target Center

Minnehaha Academy vs. Lake City, 6 p.m.

Annandale vs Jackson Co. Central, 8 p.m.

At Williams Arena

St. Cloud Cathedral vs. NRHEG, 6 p.m.

Crosby-Ironton vs. Breckenridge, 8 p.m.

Thursday’s games

Consolation semifinals

At Concordia University

Top quarterfinal losers, 6 p.m.

Bottom quarterfinal losers, 8 p.m.

Friday’s games

Consolation final

At Concordia University

Consolation semifinal winners, 2 p.m.

Semifinals

At Target Center

Top quarterfinal winners, 6 p.m.

Bottom quarterfinal winners, 8 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Third-place game

At Concordia University

Semifinal losers, noon

At Target Center

State championship

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

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 kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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