Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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The Class 1A girls state basketball tournament begins on Thursday, and despite having the top two ranked teams in the field, the bracket seems as wide open as it ever has. Goodhue, the No. 1 seed and the top-ranked team, is seen as the favorite, and by virtue of a victory over No. 2 seed, and second-ranked, Mountain Iron-Buhl earlier this season, it seems as though the Wildcats are in prime position to capturing that first championship.
ROCHESTER – It's been a couple of years, but Goodhue and Rushford-Peterson got back together on Friday night. And just like last time, the Wildcats and Trojans met at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester to battle for the Section 1A championship. The last time the two teams played was in 2014, in the same section title game. Goodhue had no trouble with R-P in that game, winning 75-38 en route to a third-place finish in the Class 1A state tournament.
MINNEAPOLIS – Defense wins championships. It's a cliché, but that's because it tends to be true. Goodhue has employed a stout defense all season, and, really, in the three near-complete seasons that Matt Halverson has been head coach. A few days before Thursday's Class 1A quarterfinal against Lake Park-Audubon, Halverson said that the Wildcats, molded after Halverson's Rushford-Peterson Trojans, were to the point that the team could implement individual game plans, having already mastered the basics of the coach's pressure defense.
When Goodhue opens the Class 1A state tournament at 5 p.m. Thursday at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena, the Wildcats will have put in a week’s worth of work preparing for Lake Park-Audubon. Much of that preparation will be fine-tuning what Goodhue has done all season. The Wildcats, back in the tournament for the first time since 2011, won’t change much for the Raiders.
Marshall and Waseca captivated the state, maybe briefly the nation. That epic, four-overtime game decided the Section 2AAA championship and included three buzzer-beaters, including the game-winning shot that sent the Bluejays to state. Locally, Mankato East came to Sonju Gymnasium and upset Red Wing, unbeaten and top-ranked at the time, with a half-court shot that landed after the horn.
ROCHESTER – It was the same question from everyone. “What just happened?” A big crowd at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester witnessed it. The fans, the players, the coaches, the media, the guys who sweep the floor, every saw what Goodhue did, and what Lyle-Pacelli didn't. Thousands of eyes saw the Athletics eschew wide-open layups for another 15 seconds of time. Passing up points as free as possible, L-P all but quit playing basketball, opting to watch the clock take down the Wildcats instead of taking a kill shot itself.
ROCHESTER – Of Goodhue's four losses this season, only one could really be described as bad. On Feb. 4, the Wildcats, the top-ranked team in Class 1A, fell by 21 points, at home, to Hayfield. Unlike losses to Kasson-Mantorville, twice, and Lakeville North, two larger schools and both ranked in their respective classes, Goodhue was not good against the Vikings. At this point in the season, it appears that the only team that could beat the Wildcats is themselves.
On the first possession of the game, Grand Meadow missed a field goal. Goodhue tried to rebound, but could not control the ball. A few seconds of scrambling saw the Superlarks come up with possession, and Michael Stejskal wound up with a wide open look underneath the basket. That was one of just three leads that Grand Meadow would hold on Saturday, and after the 13-minute, 41-second mark of the first half, the Superlarks would not even manage a tie as the Wildcats came up with seemingly every loose ball on their way to a 66-46 victory in the Sub-section 1A West title game.
ROCHESTER – It took about four minutes. Two-hundred and forty seconds. That was when Red Wing, the top seed in the Section 1AAA playoffs, found its footing. Thirty-two minutes later, the Wingers had earned a spot in the section championship game for the fourth-straight season after a 66-40 dismantling of fourth-seeded Winona in the semifinals.
ROCHESTER – Section 1AA is among the best in the state, maybe the best. Teams ranked second, third and fourth take up the top-three seeds in the bracket, and two of the three met in Saturday's semifinals.