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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ST. PAUL - Lake City's Will Balow left no doubt in anyone's mind who the best 182-pounder in Class 1A was after Saturday. After pinning top-ranked Collin Huckbody of Walker-Hackensack-Akeley/Nevis in 3 minutes, 12 seconds in the semifinals, Balow faced another daunting task in the championship match against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa's Patrick Rooney. It didn't matter that Rooney was ranked 2nd in the state with a perfect 43-0 record. It didn't even matter that Rooney led the match 2-0 through the first period.
ST. PAUL - As the clock hit zero in the Class 2A 220-pound championship match, Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze had to look at the scoreboard in confusion. Trailing 8-6 to Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley's JD Struxness with 13 seconds left in the match, Broze flipped Struxness over with his signature headlock takedown, scoring a near-fall in the process. But before time ran out, Struxness was able to get a reversal. There was no celebrating; only a silent sense of chaos as the score was sorted out. "I didn't know what happened," Broze said about the final seconds.
ST. PAUL - With three third-place finishes in the Section 1A tournament haunting Goodhue's Kyle Drehmel, Wildcats head coach Josh Grant had a pearl of wisdom for his 126-pound senior heading into the season. "The No. 1 goal is state, and we knew that would not be easy, regardless of weight," Grant said.
ST. PAUL - Throughout the season, the headlock takedown has become the signature move for Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze. It was the move that helped the Bombers junior to a 44-1 record and a No. 2 ranking heading into the Class 2A state wrestling tournament. It was also the move that helped Broze upset nationally ranked Broc Berge of Kasson-Mantorville back in December. "He knows when to use it," said Cannon Falls/Randolph head coach Dudley Flodeen.
GOODHUE - Around Christmas time, Goodhue head boys basketball coach Tony Poncelet had a simple question for his team. "We had played some good teams and I asked the guys, 'What defines us? What defines our team?'" Poncelet said. "They all said, 'Defense,' and that's what we really focused on." And on Thursday, defense stood out in record fashion. In their first game of the Section 1A-West playoffs, the third-seeded Wildcats set a new school standard for points allowed in a game after coming away with a 43-22 victory over sixth-seeded Bethany Academy.
By halftime, the top-seeded Red Wing girls basketball team was cruising along with a 36-20 lead over 8th-seeded Faribault in the first round of the Section 1AAA tournament. In the second half, the Wingers' defense played at a whole new level. Holding the Falcons to just three field goals and seven points in the second half, Red Wing advanced with ease with a 65-27 home victory on Wednesday. "The second half, we definitely picked it up," said Wingers senior guard Tesha Buck.
In hopes of stopping New Prague's twin towers of Paul Friendshuh (6-foot-7) and Michael Soderlund (6-8) in the first half, Red Wing decided to crash the paint and force the Trojans outside. Out on the perimeter, Blake Wooten, who was scoreless in the first half, snapped off 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. From there, New Prague was in cruise control.
The idea of being a state favorite is one that Cannon Falls/Randolph's Clay Broze isn't quite familiar with. Coming into the Section 1AA tournament last week in Rochester, the 220-pound junior found himself the section favorite after finishing sixth last year. "I was a little nervous on Friday, hoping I wouldn't screw up or do anything dumb," Broze said. "I had a lot of tough competition." Broze shined in the role as the favorite, picking up three pinfalls and beating Waseca's Jacob Claybaugh in a 6-5 decision to become the section champion and secure his first state berth.
LAKE CITY - In the past week, the Lake City boys basketball team has played three outstanding halves of basketball against 10th-ranked (2A) Byron. On Tuesday, the Hiawatha Valley League Blue Division champion Tigers pounced on the HVL Gold champion Bears for a 60-43 victory in Byron. And midway through Saturday's rematch for the HVL championship, Lake City looked ready for another win, leading 29-18 at halftime. "We came out, executed and hit open shots from different people," said Tigers head coach Shawn Sweeney. "It was a continuation of our game there on Tuesday.
That familiar, uneasy feeling started to hit Red Wing as Shakopee tried to run its final set. With 23.8 seconds remaining and the Wingers leading 52-51 in Friday's Missota Conference contest, Red Wing fouled on two straight inbounds plays, stunting some of the Sabers' pace as they tried to set up for a final shot. When Shakopee finally got a chance to set the offense, it was something the Wingers were all too familiar with. "It was the same play they beat us with before," said Red Wing junior Kara Norvet, referring to their previous matchup on Jan. 25 which the Sabers won 49-46.