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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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.
GOODHUE - With a top 10 ranking in Class 1A all season and the No. 2 seed in the Section 1A-West playoffs, the Goodhue girls basketball team knows it's going to get every team's best effort. And early on in Thursday's second-round game against visiting Randolph, the 5th-ranked Wildcats were caught off-guard by the cagey Rockets. "They definitely gave us their all, and we expected it," said Goodhue junior Mikayla Tipcke.
After a back-and-forth first half, the Red Wing boys basketball team ran out of steam in the second half Tuesday against Chanhassen. Throughout the second half, the Wingers missed open shots, and the Storm snatched 11 offensive rebounds to escape with a 58-53 Missota Conference victory. "I thought we got beat to some loose balls and didn't do the little things nearly as well as we had in the first half," said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. "It was disappointing.
Without many common opponents, the Red Wing girls hockey team admits it doesn't know much about Alexandria, its first-round opponent in the Class 1A state tournament. But with the team outscoring opponents 168-48 on the way to a 25-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, the Wingers are focused on playing their game. Red Wing is back at state for the third straight year and the fourth time in five years, so why mess with success? "We'll just lay out our style and make adjustments as the game goes on," Wingers head coach Scott Haley said.
ROCHESTER - In a perfect match, Cannon Falls/Randolph head wrestling coach Dudley Flodeen thinks his team could win seven matches against Kasson-Mantorville in the Section 1AA finals. But up against the top Class 2A team in Minnesota, and the 19th-ranked team nationally, things go far from perfect. The Bombers only got three wins in a 50-12 loss in the section finals at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on Saturday as the KoMets won the section title for the fourth straight year. "Our goal was to get to the finals of the section tournament and we did," Flodeen said.