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Boys Basketball: Red Wing ready to avenge section title loss

Red Wing’s Jon Sevlie, shown in last season’s Section 1AAA championship game, returns to the Wingers’ lineup as one of the team’s five seniors. (RE file photo)

What if?

That’s what the Red Wing boys basketball team was left asking after last year’s Section 1AAA final. Playing against then-No. 2 Austin, the Wingers forced overtime with a buzzer-beater, but could not cap off the upset in a 52-43 overtime loss. 

The Packers went on to reach the state championship game and finished as the Class 3A runner up as Red Wing watched from the stands.

Now, as they gear up for the 2013-14 season, the Wingers want to end the year without wondering what if.

“We were so close to beating the second-ranked team in the state. We don’t want to go through that again,” said Red Wing senior forward Isaac Toivonen. “We want to take that as our motivation this season to go all out.”

After going through an up-and-down season on the way to a 15-14 record, Red Wing played its best basketball in the section playoffs with wins over Albert Lea and New Prague. The Wingers hope to carry some of that section momentum into this season, starting with Faribault in the first day of the Red Wing tournament starting Nov. 22.

“We have the same mindset as a team that we did last year at playoff time,” said junior Ty Buck, who scored a team-high 13.6 points per game on the way to first team All-Area honors. “Hopefully that carries over at the beginning of the season and we can bring that intensity right away.”

Helping in the team’s quest for section vengeance is a group of 13 upperclassmen (five seniors, eight juniors) and two two-year starters in Buck and Isaac Toivonen. Seniors Jon Sevlie and Nick Powers and junior Ben Miller also return with some starting experience.

“To have this many guys coming back, they’re doing a good job role-modeling for our younger kids and showing how hard you have to play to be successful,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen.

Sevlie added, “The chemistry is really good right now. … We all know what we do and we know our sweet spots.”

Like last year’s team, the Wingers return a slew of wing players between 6-foot and 6-4 who can shoot from the outside as well as cut into the paint. But like last year, Red Wing lacks that big body that can eat up space in the paint and crash the board.

“What I see our team doing is having three guys, probably Isaac, Ty and Jon, maybe Ben Miller, rotating a little bit and playing some post defense,” Doug Toivonen said. “We don’t have that big body and unfortunately, there are some good post players in the conference like in New Prague and Shakopee.

“On the other end, we have to take advantage of (our athleticism). Their bigs will have to come out and guard somebody, too. With as many shooters as we have, we can take a close game and expand that lead in a hurry.”

Between the team’s size and the players on the court, a lot of things look the same for Red Wing. But if the Wingers have it their way, the only thing that changes is the end result.

“(Last year’s section loss) made an impression on me,” Sevlie said. “We peaked at the right time and hopefully we can build off of where we were and go higher in order to be a better team this year.”

Buck added, “We got to come out this year and just play our game. And if we get back to the section final, we can beat (Austin) this year, or whoever we play this year.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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