Goodhue fell behind by 19 points with just over 6 minutes to go in the game. Led by senior Will Opsahl, the Wildcats went on a massive run to get within two points. That was as close as they would get as Spring Grove finally was able to hit some shots of their own to hold off the No. 1-seeded Wildcats, 57-48, in the Section 1A final Thursday night at Mayo Civic Center.
Seemingly dead with little answer for the patient possession and outside-shooting offense of the second-seeded Lions, the Wildcats went on a 17-0 run in a little over 3 minutes. That run included some gutsy overall play from Opsahl who was somewhat carrying the offense.
“We weren't going to quit fighting. I wasn't going to quit fighting,” said Opsahl. “Senior season, I just wanted to go out with a fight. Us seniors and the entire team, we put up a fight in the second half and I respect that. Obviously, we came up short. I'm just proud of the team and everything we accomplished this season. We can learn from this and continue on with the rest of our lives.”
Head coach Matt Halverson said the team brought in a press defense when trailing 46-27 with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the game. It clearly worked as the Lions had all sorts of trouble simply getting the ball in play.
“We had to try something different,” Halverson said. “You do that, but you also have to understand that they are wasting energy. I don't know if it was something we could do throughout the game. When we did it, it looked good. We forced turnovers. I really thought we were going to keep it going.”
On an inbound pass after a Wildcat basket, Opsahl snatched the ball away and quickly got a layup and drew a foul. After making the free throw, the Wildcats forced another turnover, getting the ball to Adam Poncelet for a 3-pointer. The Lions then got their offense set up, but Opsahl again came away with a steal. Luke Roschen picked it up and rushing up the court, bounced a pass to Poncelet for the layup. It was then that Goodhue trailed by two points.
Spring Grove’s Tysen Grinde got a layup to fall, ending their scoreless drought. Roschen made one of two at the free throws to make it 49-45 with 1:39 left.
The Lions made a few more shots at the free throw line to ensure the win and survive what would have been an epic comeback by the Wildcats.
Even so, the fight to nearly take the lead was downright gutsy. The Wildcats used whatever they had left to make it happen.
The Wildcats played much of the second half with the same five players on the court. Carson Roschen appeared to tweak his injured knee at the buzzer in the first half. Gavin Schafer was still not at full strength.
“Losing Carson (midway through the season), it just showed what kind of players we had,” Opsahl said. “They were able to step up. I was able to step up. Adam was able to step up. Coach puts us in great positions to be great.”
Much of the difficulty in finding any space to shoot was breaking the lengthy, agile Spring Grove defense.
“They come in waves. It's length, it's athleticism, it's quickness, it's tenacity. We knew going in we'd have to play a really good game,” Halverson said. “They are going to be a tough out in the state tournament. We just wish it was us.”
Goodhue ended the season 26-4 overall.
“We weren't able to get it done again,” Opsahl said. “We wanted to go to state so badly. We had such high goals. I'm proud of us.”
SPRING GROVE 57, GOODHUE 48
SG 24 33 — 57
G 17 — 48
Elijah Solum 21, 2 3-pt; Tysen Grinde 14, 2 3-pt; Jameson Strinmoen 12, 2 3-pt; Caleb Griffen 7, 1 3-pt;
Will Opsahl 28, 2 3-pt; Adam Poncelet 9, 1 3-pt; Justin Buck 7; Luke Roschen 3; Gavin Schafer 1.
Free throws: SG 15-20, G 7-16.
Three-point goals: SG 7, G 3.
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