Lion boys collar Cougars quickly, clip 'Canes in overtime

LEFT: Payton Leahy advances while defended by Mabel-Canton’s Jack Arneson. The Spring Grove guard had nine steals and six assists in the season opener. RIGHT: John Koch eyes the basket after coming down with one of his 20 rebounds at Houston. The Lions won after their last-seconds rally forced overtime. Photos by S. Lee Epps
S. Lee Epps

Spring Grove trailed by five points with 48 seconds to play, but the Lions scored five points within eight seconds to force overtime and eventually win at Houston, 63-58. 

That dramatic 38th consecutive victory over the Hurricanes on Dec. 6 came after a much more comfortable 64-25 20th straight win against visiting Mabel-Canton on Dec. 2.

Caden Grinde scored 29 and 22 points in the two games while John Koch had 20 rebounds and came up with a game-saving steal at Houston. The Lions boys thus improved to 2-0 (2-0 SEC).

SG 64, Mabel-Canton 25

Payton Leahy, in his first varsity start, turned in a sparkling floor game, coming away with nine steals while passing out six assists with only one turnover.

In his first game in a Lion uniform Koch came off the bench for 11 points and 9 rebounds.

Grinde, on his way to a career-high 29 points, cashed in 10 of 13 free throws. But the rest of the Lions hit only 2 of 10. 

The Grove guys did not fare well beyond the 3-point arc where they hit only 2 of 18 trey attempts - a chilly 11%. 

Despite that frustration from afar, Grove still outshot the Cougars 41% to 29% from the field. The Lions feasted in the lane where they scored 55 of their 64 points.

With only seven turnovers (22 fewer than M-C) and a 19-to-6 advantage in offensive rebounds, Spring Grove put up 37 more shots than did the visitors.

Leahy plus sophomores Carson Gerard and Reid Bjerke each had more assists than turnovers as did the team overall (11 assists, 7 turnovers).

Mabel-Canton led 3-1 before the Lions took quick control with an 11-point run and logged 8 and 13-point runs to lead by 23 points at halftime (38-15).

The greatest spread of 45 points came before Mabel-Canton scored eight of the final 10 points. It was 59-17 when the running-clock rule kicked in.

The Spring Grove defense was dominant, lifting 21 steals. Meanwhile, the Cougars suffered through 29 turnovers while putting up only 32 shots (hitting 9, being fouled once).

All 18 Lions saw action; eight scored and nine rebounded, including Wyatt Murphy with 7 rebounds and Gerard with 5 boards and 7 points.

It was the first varsity start for Kyle Hagen, Caleb Nerstad, Murphy and Leahy. 

The B-team game was much more competitive with the Lions prevailing 39-35. Caleb Griffin hit 3 of 5 treys on the way to a game-high 14 points. Tysen Grinde had 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Grove won the eighth grade game, 35-21 and also the seventh grade game 26-6.

Varsity individuals: Griffin 2R; Leahy 4P, 1R, 6A, 9S; Nerstad 5P, 2R, 2A, 4S; Bjerke 2A, 1S; C. Grinde 29P, 3R, 4S; Koch 11P, 9R, 1S; Doering 2P, 1R; Gerard 7P, 5R, 1A; Hagen 2P, 4R; Murphy 4P, 7R.

SG 63, Houston 58 (OT)

The Lions led early 6-4 but never again until scoring the first seven points of overtime. 

After shooting a frigid 14% along with 11 turnovers in the first half, Spring Grove faced the greatest deficit of 11 points (27-16) at halftime. But the Lions would shoot 40% with only 7 turnovers in the second half to finish at 28% shooting overall.

Houston shot 34%, but the Grove boys would prevail by taking an official 81 shots - the most in two seasons - and 20 more attempts than the home team.

The teams traded second-half runs, staring with the Lions scoring seven straight points to pull even at 31-all. But the Hurricanes scored the next nine. Grove answered with a 12-to-3 run to tie again at 43 with 4:15 to play. 

It would be tied again at 46 and at 48 before Houston scored five straight to take a seemingly-safe 53-48 lead with only 48 seconds to go.

But Grinde nailed a 3-ball with 15 seconds on the clock (53-51). Koch then raced in to intercept a Houston inbounds pass and take it to the basket with seven seconds remaining (53-53). And it was on to overtime in front of a frenzied near-capacity crowd.

The Lions hit all four shots from the field in the extra period, but hit only 1 of 4 free throws (twice missed front end of a 1-and-1). 

After sinking four of their last seven shots in regulation, the Hurricanes (shooting mostly from 3-point land) hit only 2 of 10 shots in overtime.

Scoring was led by the two returning all-conference guards; Grinde tossed in 22 points and Houston's Alex Van Gundy put in 24. Grinde also had 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals.

Houston senior Caiden Danielson scored 19 points while the Lions' Nerstad and Leahy tallied 15 and 12, respectively.

Koch's 20 rebounds were the most in 13 years (since Kevin Lochner pulled down 20 in 2006-07.) He was not the only beast on the backboard with Hagen (3 assists, 3 steals) rebounding a career-high 11 times - all on the offensive end.

That led to Grove's huge 16-rebound margin on the offensive glass. The Lions held a 16-to-11-point advantage in second chance points.

But again, Spring Grove was inconsistent at the foul line, hitting only 7 of 15 free throws, while Houston went 9 for 14.

Including last season's playoff nail-biter, the Lions have now won 56 of the last 57 games versus Houston. Since 1949, Spring Grove leads the series 98-53.

The undercard was all Lions, who dominated the B-team game 67-12 behind 14 points from Griffin along with 10 points and 7 rebounds from Ty Cleven.

In junior high, SG won the eighth grade game 27-17 and the seventh grade game 37-18.

Varsity individuals: Leahy 12P, 4R, 2A, 1S; Nerstad 15P, 6R, 3A, 1S, 1B; C. Grinde 22P, 5R, 6A, 6S, 1B; Koch 6P, 20R, 1A, 1S, 1B; Gerard 1R; Hagen 4P, 11R, 3A, 3S; Murphy 4P, 7R, 2A, 1B.

This week and next

The boys are back home on Friday the 13th against Lanesboro, which crushed Mabel-Canton 65-33 and then Postville (Iowa) 61-38 in last weekend's Iowa-Minnesota Border Battle.

After battling the Burros on Friday night, the Lions play in the second Saturday of the Border Battle with a noon tipoff versus Crestwood (Cresco) at Decorah High School.

(The Lion girls play Crestwood at 9:30 a.m. in the Luther College gym.)

Next week begins with a Tuesday, Dec. 17, trip to Rochester versus Schaeffer Academy. It is then back to Rochester on Saturday, Dec. 21, where the boys face Randolph at 4 p.m. in the Southeast Conference Showcase at the Mayo Civic Center. (The girls play the Rockets at 2 p.m.)


SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE Boys Basketball 2020 (as of Monday, Dec. 9)


Spring Grove………..2-0 (2-0 season)

Schaeffer Academy…1-0 (3-1 season)

Lanesboro……………...1-1 (2-1 season)

Houston…………………1-1 (1-2 season)

Mabel-Canton…………0-3 (0-4 season)


Grand Meadow……….2-0 (2-0 season)

Randolph……………….2-0 (3-1 season)

Kingsland…………….…1-1 (1-1 season)

LeRoy-Ostrander.…...0-1 (1-1 season)

Glenville-Emmons….0-1 (1-2 season)

Lyle/Pacelli……………0-2 (0-3 season)


Spring Grove Boys Basketball 2020

2-0 (2-0 SEC)

*conference games --home games bold; approximately 7:15 p.m. unless noted

W vs. Mabel-Canton* 64-25.

W at Houston*63-58 (OT)

Fri. 12-13  Lanesboro*                                  

Sat 12-14 # vs. Crestwood at Decorah 12 P.M. (Iowa/Minnesota Border Battle at Decorah)

Tues. 12-17 at Schaeffer Academy*

Sat. 12-21 # vs. Randolph* at Rochester 4 P.M.

Fri. 12-27 vs. Dover-Eyota at Rushford 5 P.M.

Sat. 12-28 vs. Nevisat Rushford 1 P.M.

Fri. 01-03 at Lyle/Pacelli* (at Austin)

Tues. 01-07 at Decorah 7:30 P.M.

Thur. 01-09 at Rushford-Peterson 7:30 P.M.

Fri. 01-10 Glenville-Emmons*

Tues 01-14 Houston*

Fri. 01-17 at Grand Meadow*

Mon. 01-20 at Waukon 7:30 P.M

Tues. 01-21 at Mabel-Canton*

Fri. 01-24 LeRoy-Ostrander*

Mon. 01-27 Lansing Kee

Fri. 01-31 Schaeffer Academy*                    

Sat. 02-01 vs. Stratford 10 A.M. *(Wisconsin/Minnesota Border Battle at La Crosse)

Mon. 02-03 Fillmore Central

Tues. 02-04 at Lanesboro*

Fri. 02-07 at Kingsland*

Sat. 02-15 #Cannon Falls 6 P.M.

Mon. 02-17 La Crescent-Hokah


B-team Boys

W vs. Mabel- Canton 39-35

W at Houston 67-12


8th Grade Boys 2-0

W vs. Mabel-Canton 35-21

W at Houston 27-17


7th Grade Boys 2-0

W vs. Mabel-Canton 26-6

W at Houston 37-18