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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Exploiting matchups is a given in any sport, and sometimes it's the difference between a win and a loss. Red Wing saw that on Friday in a 69-54 defeat to Big Nine Conference foe Mankato West.
It was a game that had played out before, a handful of times. The visitors had an overwhelming advantage in offensive-zone play, while the home team struggled to mount much of an attack.
ZUMBROTA – Tuesday's Hiawatha Valley League matchup between visiting Lake City and host Zumbrota-Mazeppa got off to a slow start. A really slow start. The Cougars hit a free throw 30 seconds into the game, and the Tigers answered with a field goal a little less than a minute-and-a-half later. That shot, which gave Lake City a 2-1 lead, came with 16:47 on the clock. The next basket, an and-one from Z-M's Makayla Arendt, came at 13:03. That sparked a 10-0 run for the Cougars, which lasted until Julia Anderson's 3-pointer broke the Tigers' nearly eight-minute drought.
ROCHESTER – School enrollment is how the Minnesota High School League separates its sports. In basketball, there are four classes, and Lake City sits in 2A. Rosemount, the Tigers' opponent in the Rotary U.S. Bank Holiday Classic on Thursday, is in 4A. The student populations are even more stark in comparison with Lake City's MSHSL count at 350, and the Irish at a tidy 1,953.
LAKE CITY – In what may go down as the most unlikely comeback of the 2016-17 season, Lake City put Lewiston-Altura back on the bus Thursday with a 52-point second half that erased a 16-point deficit at halftime. The Tigers, missing star captain Daynalyn Jostock for most of the game, finished off the 76-56 victory by clearing the end of the bench after it looked like the Cardinals would be the ones to run away with the game.
Just seconds after the opening tip-off, Duoth Gach soared into the air and, with one hand, slammed an alley-oop pass through the basket. The Packer fans in attendance exploded. The Red Wing fans sat silent, possibly stunned. It was a brilliant display of athleticism, and it could have been the signature moment of the game were it not for the Wingers' comeback that began with 8 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game. But Red Wing could not even the score, and Austin left Tuesday's Big Nine Conference matchup with a 65-62 victory.
PINE ISLAND -- Thirteen ranked individuals, and two ranked teams, took over the Pine Island High School gymnasium on Thursday. The host Panthers welcomed No. 1 Kenyon-Wanamingo and No. 5 Zumbrota-Mazeppa for a Class 1A, Hiawatha Valley League triangular that would test all three teams early in the 2015-16 season.
GOODHUE – The new Class 1A rankings were released on Friday, and defending state champion Kenyon-Wanamingo held on to its top spot. Goodhue just missed the top 12, coming in first in the Lean and Mean portion of The Guillotine list.
The first five minutes of Tuesday's game belonged to Rochester Mayo. The Spartans spent plenty of time in Red Wing's defensive zone and had little problem separating the Wingers from the puck with stick work and by taking the body at every available opportunity. But Red Wing responded, even matching Mayo's physicality. And when the Spartans got a little too loose with the rules, the Wingers took advantage of the power plays on their way to 5-1 Big Nine Conference victory.
LAKE CITY – Lake City has had two home games to open the season, including a 57-44 victory over Stewartville on Tuesday. Including a win over Plainview-Elgin-Millville last week, the program is off to a great start even though its replacing two handfuls of players from last year's team. And filling some of those holes are a some freshmen with immense talent, but little in the way of varsity experience. The future is now for the Tigers, and head coach Greg Berge is not tamping down expectations.