Basketball, spring sports share attention this week

By : 
S. Lee Epps
News Leader

The high school sports spotlight is on the state basketball tournament for girls and the Section One basketball tourneys for boys. But many area athletes are already picking up gloves, batons and bats during the first week of spring sports preparation permitted by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). Next week should see the swinging of golf clubs.

With more than a foot of snow on the ground and temperatures struggling to reach normal, Minnesota spring athletes (as in most years) begin working indoors in anticipation of competition outdoors.

Girls basketball

The state tournament (March 13-16) is underway with Section One represented by Caledonia in the Class AA tourney and by Goodhue in the A bracket.

Goodhue closed the regular season with a number-three state ranking and eliminated the defending state champion Lyle/Pacelli, 42-33, in the section title game.  It was the Wildcats' fourth section crown in the last six seasons.

In its eighth trip to state, Goodhue (24-6) received the number-two seed at state for today's (March 14) quarterfinal against Mountain Iron-Buhl. The top seed is Minneota (27-1).

Teams from Section One have claimed the last three Class A state titles. Lyle/Pacelli was the champ in 2018 after Goodhue won it all in both 2017 and 2016.

The Warriors, state-ranked at number nine, prevailed in overtime against state-ranked number 15 Cotter/Hope Lutheran in the section finals and are back at state for the first time since 2011.

The Caledonia girls (24-4) are at state for the seventh time with one state crown in 2009. With the number-four seed, Caledonia faced number-five Proctor last night. The top seed is Roseau (28-2).

Boys basketball

This week's section slate has been altered after all games last Saturday were postponed due to weather.

It was truly "survive and advance" for two of last night's Class A semi-finalists. Both top seed Spring Grove and number-four Hayfield eked out low-scoring quarterfinal wins against teams they had defeated twice during the regular season.

Coming back from a nine-point second-half deficit, Hayfield defeated number-five Blooming Prairie, 50-48, with the winning two-point basket coming just three seconds before the final buzzer. The Vikings had defeated the Awesome Blossoms by 18 and five-point margins during the regular season.

That nail-biter came immediately after number-one Spring Grove sank four free throws in the final 20 seconds to hold off number-eight Houston, 45-42. The Lions had previous 16 and 27-point wins over the Hurricanes.

In sharp contrast, the other two semi-finalists had qualified the night before with resounding routs. Number-three Rushford-Peterson grilled number-six Grand Meadow, 71-45, while number-two Randolph ripped number-seven Kingsland, 78-40.

The Spring Grove versus Hayfield winner will take on the R-P vs. Randolph winner in the section championship game on Friday, March 15, at 6 p.m.

Following that title tilt will be the 8 p.m. Class AA championship contest. The winner of Wednesday's semi-final between number-one Lake City and number-nine Zumbrota-Mazeppa will take on the winner of number-two Caledonia versus number-six St. Charles.

Softball

Practices could have begun on Monday of this week with games permitted to start on March 21. Teams may schedule up to 20 games during the regular season.

The Mabel-Canton girls open at home on April 2 versus Houston.

Fillmore Central/Lanesboro opens with road games at Cotter/Hope Lutheran on April 8 and at La Crescent-Hokah on April 11. The home opener at Preston follows on April 12 versus Lewiston-Altura.

Baseball

Conditioning work was permitted as early as Monday of this week with formal practices to begin next week. Teams are allowed to play 20 games, beginning on March 28.

Mabel-Canton has the baseball opener scheduled at home on April 2 against Houston.

Fillmore Central/Lanesboro opens with two home games at Preston versus Cotter/Hope Lutheran on April 8 and La Crescent-Hokah on April 11.

Track and field

Workouts for girls and boys were allowed to start this week in preparation for a maximum of 14 meets.

First competition for Lanesboro/Fillmore Central/Mabel-Canton athletes is scheduled in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota on Saturday, March 23.

They will be closer to home on March 25 at St. Mary's (Winona) and March 26 at Rushford.

Golf

Boys and girls golf teams may begin work on Monday, March 18. The Fillmore Central boys and girls both open at Wabasha-Kellogg on April 8 before hosting Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson on April 12.

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