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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MINNEAPOLIS - Over the last two years, Williams Arena has been a house of horrors for the Red Wing girls basketball team. But after conquering Missota Conference rival New Prague on Wednesday, the fifth-seeded Wingers are finally headed to the Target Center with a berth in the state championship game just one win away.
For the past two years, Red Wing's season has come to an unceremonious end at Williams Arena with consecutive first-round losses in the Class 3A state tournament. With that extra sense of urgency, the Wingers' trio of seniors - Tesha Buck, Macy Kelly and McKenna Schaffer - are not content with their season ending on the raised court of the University of Minnesota. "We don't want to be done at 'The Barn' again," Kelly said.
NEW PRAGUE - Cannon Falls took every punch that Waterville-Elysian-Morristown could dish out. But the Bombers saved their haymaker for the final minutes. Trailing 52-51 with 5 minutes, 35 seconds left, Cannon Falls closed out Thursday's Section 2AA-North semifinal game on a 13-6 run to punch its ticket to the sub-section finals with a 64-58 victory at New Prague High School. "It was like a heavyweight fight; back and forth," said Bombers head coach Josh Davisson.
The pressure was on for Red Wing senior Luke Bryant. With the 3rd-seeded Wingers trailing 56-55 to No. 6 Albert Lea after Dylan See-Rockers drained a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, Bryant got to the line for a 1-and-1 with 3.5 seconds on the clock. "Our kids came down and we tried to attack the basket," said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. "The ball gets tipped and you're like 'Uh oh.' And Luke picked it up, was going to shoot it and he got fouled." At this point, Bryant was 1-for-3 from the free-throw line. And to say the pressure was mounting is a vast understatement.
The dissolution of the eight-team Missota Conference continues as Red Wing awaits word from the Big 9 Conference. Reported by the Chaska Herald on Tuesday, Chaska and Chanhassen will leave the Missota Conference to become charter members of the newly-formed Metro West Conference. Joining the Hawks and Storm are Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Richfield, St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale Cooper.
ST. PAUL - Along with state champions Will Balow of Lake City and Clay Broze of Cannon Falls/Randolph, five other area wrestlers reached the medal podium during the state wrestling tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Coming into the tournament with high hopes, Cannon Falls/Randolph's Paul Fitterer's hopes were dashed in the Class 2A 106-pound championship quarterfinals when he lost 6-1 to top-ranked Trevor Schultz of Fairmont/Martin County West.
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.