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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ROCHESTER – Marc Kjos is quiet in interviews, toeing the company line and deferring to his coach and teammates for success. But on the court, the Lake City junior has some swagger. On Thursday, Kjos put on a 36-minute display of why in a 55-51 victory over top-seeded and second-ranked Caledonia in the Section 1AA championship game at the Mayo Civic Center Arena.
ROCHESTER – A little more than a month ago, St. Charles came to Lake City and ran the Tigers ragged. On Saturday, Lake City drew on that experience, slowing the pace, and the Saints, for a 50-38 Section 1AA semifinal victory at Mayo Civic Auditorium. Tigers head coach Greg Berge wouldn't say he used the game as a teaching moment, but coupled with Lake City's loss to St. Charles in the 2016 playoffs, there was certainly an undertone of it.
ROCHESTER – Pine Island knew it needed to slow down the King brothers to have a chance against top-seeded Caledonia in the Section 1AA semifinals. The Panthers also needed to dictate the tempo by keeping the Warriors from getting up and down the court and playing at a high speed. For a while, it worked. But Caledonia, and the Kings, would go on a 18-8 run to close the first half before fighting off Pine Island with a 21-12 run to move onto the finals with a 70-57 victory.
ROCHESTER – Fillmore Central came out of the gate on Friday and put Goodhue to the same test that the Wildcats are used to giving to their opponents. Through the first nine minutes of the Section 1A championship game, the Falcons held an eight-point lead, and seemingly could not miss from behind the 3-point arc. But Goodhue knows the pressure of the moment, and the defending section and state champions finally broke through, closing the first half on a 16-6 run, then held Fillmore Central to 15 second-half points for a 65-42 victory and a berth in the state tournament.
ROCHESTER – After taking an 11-point lead with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game, Pine Island was looking like it would coast to a Section 1AA quarterfinal victory over Lourdes on Thursday. Moments later, Panther Broc Finstuen was fouled on a layup, and his reaction to making the basket through the contact drew a technical foul, and his fifth personal. After a different Pine Island player missed the foul shot, the Eagles hit the two technical shots, a 3-pointer and two more field goals to pull within four. The Panthers were reeling.
ROCHESTER – On the heels of an overtime game, Lake City and Zumbrota-Mazeppa battled for a spot in the Section 1AA semifinals on Monday. The Cougars battled back from a 12-point deficit to take a four-point lead with less than seven minutes to play. But the third-seeded Tigers executed down the stretch to win 64-59, setting up a showdown with second-seeded St. Charles on Saturday.
ROCHESTER – Goodhue knows the feeling of being the favorite. The Wildcats also know what it's like to be behind Lyle-Pacelli in a playoff game. Last year, Goodhue made one of the greatest comebacks those in attendance had likely ever seen. Saturday's Sub-section 1A West final wasn't quite as crazy, but it was just as chaotic. Goodhue would eventually overcome a lack of scoring to secure a spot in Friday's section championship game with a 52-43 win over the Athletics.
ROCHESTER – Zumbrota-Mazeppa landed the first big blow to the Section 1AA bracket by upsetting Dover-Eyota in the first round. Winona saw that 10 over 7-seed victory and raised the bar with a win over top-seeded Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the quarterfinals. And for a while, the eighth-seeded Ramblers had fourth-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo looking like another higher seed about to make an early exit. But the Knights found their offense in the second half, locking up a spot in the championship game with a 50-40 win over Cotter on Saturday.
ROCHESTER – Another 20-win season, the top seed in the Sub-section 1A West tournament and a No. 2 ranking in the Class 1A polls all have Goodhue as a favorite to return to the state tournament and, possibly, to win back-to-back championships. But to get there, the Wildcats need to get through the section. On Tuesday, Goodhue took the second step in that journey with an 82-36 evisceration of Bethlehem Academy at the Rochester Civic Center.
Preparing for the state tournament usually involves some kind of scouting or research. Maybe a quick glance at rankings or seeding or records against familiar opponents can help a coach come up with a tentative lineup. There will be none of that for Link Steffen and Matt Ryan. There are no secrets between Steffen’s Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars and Ryan’s Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights. The two schools are less than 20 miles apart, and there is a familiarity that makes that distance seem at once greater and like its just across the street.