Shooting, defense derails Rockets in SEC showdown

LEFT: Alex Folz drives past Rocket defenders for two of his 18 points in showdown between two SEC division leaders. CENTER: Ethan Matzke reels in pass into the post between Randolph defenders. RIGHT: Noah Elton (at left) and Caden Grinde set up trap of Randolph’s Carsyn Gunderson. Photos by S. Lee Epps
By : 
Lee Epps

The Spring Grove boys combined their best defensive effort to date with their hottest shooting game of the season to dominate previously undefeated Randolph 66-45 on Dec. 27 at Spring Grove.

The Lions just shot too well from the field (59%) and the free throw line (20 for 29, 69%) to be caught after taking an early lead, ignited by a scoring outburst from sophomore Caden Grinde.

It was a high profile matchup between last year's two division champions and current league leaders. Randolph (6-1, 4-1 SEC), rated No. 9 in the QRF computer rankings, came in off a three-point victory over Grand Meadow, the other major contender in the SEC West Division.

The Rockets scored the game's first seven points, but Spring Grove scored the next 20 while sinking 8 of 9 shots  - half of them 3-pointers.

Grinde exploded for the first nine Lion points and drilled a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer, sending Spring Grove into the break with a stunning 36-20 lead. Randolph would come no closer than 12 points in the second half 

Grinde hit 4 of 5 beyond the 3-point arc while scoring 16 of his 18 points in the decisive first half. Alex Folz netted three treys while adding another 18 points. Noah Elton scored 11 of his 13 points while the Lions maintained double digit leads throughout the second half. He also passed out 6 assists with only 2 turnovers. Kai Bjerke scored 9 points.

No Rockets scored more than 10 points. Randolph had won their previous five games by an average score of 68-47 but would fall by the same 21-point margin at Spring Grove.

"We're beginning to jell," said Lion coach Wade Grinde while especially praising the team's defensive improvement, which held the Rockets 23 points below their scoring average.

Each team had 20 turnovers with Randolph holding a slim 24-to-23 edge in rebounds. 

Besides outshooting the Rockets 59% to 34% from the field, the Lions committed far fewer fouls (13 to 24) and made considerably more free throws (20 for 29) than Randolph attempted (8 for 12) 

The Lions (5-1, 5-0 SEC) defeated Randolph for the sixth time in seven meetings. Look for complete statistics in the online article.

The B-team game was a physical mismatch with the taller Rockets handing the Lions (4-1) their first loss, 51-30. Payton Leahy led Spring Grove scoring with 21 points.

This week and next

The Lions next travel to Lyle on Friday, Jan. 4 to face Lyle/Pacelli, fewer than 24 hours before a 4:30 p.m. tip off Saturday at Class AA Cannon Falls in the first game of a boys-girls double header.

It will be three road games in five days when they play at Class AA La Crescent-Hokah on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The boys return home on Thursday, Jan. 10 against Lanesboro.

Southeast Conference Boys(updated since print edition through Dec. 29 scores)


Spring Grove 5-0 SEC (5-1 season)

Kingsland 3-2 (5-4)

Mabel-Canton 1-2 (3-5)

Houston 1-4 (3-5)

Lanesboro 0-4 (2-8)


Randolph 4-1 SEC (7-1 season)

Grand Meadow 4-1 (9-2)

LeRoy-Ostrander 3-2 (6-3)

Lyle/Pacelli 3-3 (3-6)

Schaeffer Academy 2-3 (5-6)

Glenville-Emmons 0-4 (0-6)


Spring Grove Boys Basketball 

5-1 (5-0 SEC) approximately 7:15 unless noted -* SEC games  

W vs. Glenville-Emmons* 69-35

W vs. Houston* 53-37

L vs. Charles City 56-58

W at at Kingsland*62-59

W at Mabel-Canton*51-38

W vs. Randolph*66-45

01-04 at Lyle/Pacelli* (Lyle)

01-05 at Cannon Falls 4:30 p.m.

01-08 at La Crescent-Hokah

01-10 Lanesboro*

01-14 Decorah

01-15 Kingsland*

01-24 at Houston*

01-26 vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 1 p.m. (at Target Center, Minneapolis)

01-28 Waukon

01-29 at Grand Meadow*

02-01 Mabel-Canton*


02-08at Mayer Lutheran 7:30 p.m.

02-09at Christ’s Household of Faith (St. Paul 1 p.m.)

02-12Schaeffer Academy

02-14at Fillmore Central (Preston) 7:30

02-19Grand Meadow (non-conf.)

02-22at Lanesboro*


B-team Boys 4-1

W vs. Glenville-Emmons    47-10

W vs. Houston               67-21

W at Kingsland               43-40

W at Mabel-Canton         49-20

L vs. Randolph               30-51       

8th Grade Boys 3-0

W vs. Caledonia            62-22

W vs. Houston               65 - 4

W at Kingsland               50 – 9

7th Grade Boys 3-0

W vs. Caledonia             49-30

W at Kingsland               50 - 9

W at Kingsland               44 - 8