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 – Anyone who thinks a third-place game at state doesn’t matter didn’t tell Red Wing or Monticello. Down 23 in the second half, the Magic pressed and trapped the Wingers on the way to cutting the deficit to double digits. But, Red Wing managed to keep Monticello at arm’s length on the way to a 75-59 victory in the Class 3A third-place game at the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University-St. Paul.
MINNEAPOLIS – The Target Center crowd was stunned at halftime of the Class 1A state championship. Minneapolis North looked unstoppable for the first four minutes of the title game with Goodhue, using a flurry of fast break points, layups and a dunk to take a 15-2 lead. But halves last 18 minutes, and over the last 14 minutes, the third-seeded Wildcats clawed their way back into contention, grabbing an improbable 26-25 lead at intermission against the top-ranked and top-seeded Polars.
MINNEAPOLIS – Early in the season, Goodhue wasn't quite ready to grind out a victory. Of the Wildcats' nine losses in the regular season, six came by single digits, including four by two points or fewer. “Early on in the year, we probably lost more of those grinders than we won,” said Goodhue head boys' basketball coach Matt Halverson. But as he answered questions from the media on Friday afternoon after advancing to the Class 1A championship game with a 41-38 victory against Central Minnesota Christian at the Target Center, he got to add one caveat to that statement.
MINNEAPOLIS – In the land of giants, Fergus Falls may not be as tall in the paint. But the Otters certainly stand tall against any opposition thrown their way. “Most games we have some trepidation about our size against others,” said Fergus Falls head coach Matt Johnson. “Collectively, we haven't had many games where we've been beaten by bigs.”
MINNEAPOLIS – Red Wing had an inside advantage, and Simley appeared to have an answer with a 2-3 zone defense that flummoxed the Wingers in the early going. But, the Spartans could never find an solution to the perimeter shooting of Ben Munson and Carson Bryan. “They were really packing it in, so we needed someone,” Munson said. “Me and Carson, for most of the first half and most of the game, were able to step up, hit an outside shot, get the ball rolling and spread them out.”
MINNEAPOLIS – Under normal circumstances, Carson Bryan is a defender and a facilitator for the Red Wing boys' basketball team. On Wednesday, the Wingers were more than happy to let Bryan take on a new role: deadly outside shooter. “I was really just feeling it tonight,” Bryan said. “With all this energy in this beautiful venue (at Williams Arena), it brings out a lot of energy and boosted my confidence, for sure.”
Even with his final days as Red Wing’s head boys’ basketball coach looming, Doug Toivonen won’t make anything about himself. He already had his moments in the spotlight as a player at Minnewaska High School (formerly Starbuck, class of 1985) and at Concordia College-Moorhead (class of 1989), where he is a Hall of Famer at both schools. He has the Wingers at state for the first time in his 12-year stint as head coach, and he hopes to lead the team to its first state championship since the Great Depression (1933).
The Class 3A tournament is there for the taking. DeLaSalle is the top-ranked and top-seeded team in the state field as the Islanders will try to win their fifth straight state title. Red Wing is ranked No. 2 and seeded No. 2 as the Wingers return to state after a 12-year hiatus. After that, there are no ranked teams in the field, and there are two .500 teams in Simley and Fridley. So, things, on paper, appear to be wide open.
MINNEAPOLIS – Hunter Connelly was ready for a good nap after becoming a state champion once again. Looking to defend his 100-yard backstroke title in the Class 1A boys' swimming championship meet Saturday, Connelly was second after prelims to Orono junior Will Brenton by .05 seconds.
ROCHESTER – There was no more sulking on the court. No bitter taste of defeat. No disappointment. Instead, the Red Wing boys' basketball team was jovial. They were able to walk on the hardwood with their heads held high. Because after three straight years of heartbreaking losses at the Mayo Civic Center, the Wingers were finally walking away as Section 1AAA champions on Friday.