Luke Rogers elevates over Blaine Storlie in the Burros’ sub-section semi-final win against Spring Grove.
Luke Rogers elevates over Blaine Storlie in the Burros’ sub-section semi-final win against Spring Grove.
Lanesboro advanced to the Section 1A East finals by defeating Spring Grove 80-59 on March 4. Five days later, the Burros bowed out of the tournament with a 65-76 loss to Rushford-Peterson.

Subsection semifinals: Lanesboro versus Spring Grove

A strong Lanesboro half-court defense limited Spring Grove to a 33 percent shooting performance from the field, while LHS surpassed its season shooting averages across the board.

Noted for their three-point attack, the Burros only launched 15 tries from beyond the arc, while the Lions shot 35 trey attempts. Spring Grove hit 9 threes while the Burros hit 8 shots from three point land. Most importantly, Lanesboro scored when they needed to, sinking 5 triples while taking control with a 22-5 run that wiped out a 15-10 Lion lead.

Spring Grove would never seriously challenge for the lead again, trailing 38-28 at halftime. LHS never let go of its stranglehold, opening the second half with a 16-2 run and a 54-30 lead. During that decisive stretch, the Burros hit 6 of 7 shots while SG went 1 for 8.

"It was a much closer game than the score showed," Burro coach John Smith later told KFIL radio. He added that his team's motto this year has been to work hard and take care of the ball.

Most of Lanesboro's offense came from three athletic shot creators with extraordinary accuracy from afar and enough quickness to dribble inside and score. Lanesboro shot a splendid 54 percent overall, finishing 11 points higher than their season average. It was the third best shooting performance of any Spring Grove opponent this season. At the foul line, the Burros were on target 71 percent of the time after shooting 59 percent for the season.

The 21-point win was Lanesboro's greatest margin of victory versus the Lions in nine years. The Burros' 80-point total was also the most any opponent has scored against Spring Grove in 28 games this season.

While the Lions scored 59 points as a team, Burro sharpshooters Kole Ruud and Erik Peterson combined for 57.

Ruud, the KFIL Burro Player of the Game, hit 36 points including 5 of 6 three-point shots and 11 of 12 free throws. Peterson, the KFIL Game Ball winner, scored 21 points. He sank over half of his shots from the field and 7 of 10 free throws. The senior guard also had 4 assists and was responsible for inbounding the ball against the Lions' aggressive full-court press. He was the primary ball handler while getting the ball down the floor against relentless pressure. The third Burro in double figures, junior guard Luke Rogers scored 10 points while putting up only nine shots.

Burro ball handling managed to keep control despite a tenacious swarming defense from the Lions. LHS did not have a turnover during its final 23 possessions of the first half. Half of Lanesboro's 18 turnovers came late when Spring Grove was desperately double-teaming and triple-teaming Burro ball handlers.

The all-out Spring Grove defensive pressure resulted in 13 late fouls as the Lions clawed to get back into the contest. During the last eight minutes, LHS attempted only one shot from the field while hitting 16 of 22 free throws. Overall, the Burros sank 22 of 31 foul shots. Spring Grove finished 8 for 15 at the line. During the Lions' late defensive desperation, two players fouled out. Storlie sat out the last seven minutes of his high school career while Engelhardt left exactly four minutes later.

LHS finished with 35 rebounds to 24 for SG. Securing 7 boards each were Rogers and Isaac Freese, while Peterson had 8. Ruud rebounded 6 times. Freese persevered while visibly suffering from back pain. The 6-foot, 2-inch senior center went 3 for 3 from the field for 6 points. Garrett Boggs was back in action for the first time in 13 days, missing two games and every practice since injuring his back. The injury was noticeable late in the game. The junior guard hit his only shot from the field and with 3 free throws, scored 5 points and passed out 4 assists. Smith noted that turnovers had increased during his absence. Senior guard Daulton Gartner, who missed the previous game against SG with an injury, added 2 points.

Josh Olerud led the Lions with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. He was the KFIL radio Player of the Game for SG in his final high school appearance. Freshman Alex Engelhardt added 12 points; freshman Brady Schuttemeier grabbed 9 rebounds in addition to 4 points.

1A East Finals: Lanesboro versus Rushford-Peterson

On Saturday, March 9, the No. 2 seeded Burros took on No. 1 Rushford-Peterson (ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A) for all the marbles in the 1A East subsection.

Defense made the difference. The Burros worked hard, but the Trojan full court press trapped, got into passing lanes and forced a slew of turnovers early. With six minutes left in the first half R-P held a 26-17 lead. At that point Lanesboro already had as many turnovers as points.

The game started out as a 3-point shooting duel. A portent of things to come appeared when Trojan Seth Thompson aired the first shot of the afternoon (a trey) and scored. He finished as the KFIL Player of the Game for R-P, totaling 29 points while snagging 7 rebounds. Thompson also grabbed 3 steals, passed for 3 assists, and blocked a shot. It was a record-breaking game for the junior forward, who came in averaging 7 points per game.

"We play a very fast-paced game at both ends," R-P coach Tom Vix told KFIL before the game. The Trojans made good on that promise.

As the teams headed for the halftime locker room Rushford-Peterson already had 30 points from beyond the three point arc and led 40-24. Lanesboro only had 5 three-balls in the first half. Besides those 10 treys, the Trojans already had a different sort of double-double with 10 first half steals.

Both teams suffered a series of giveaways early in the second period, but R-P would up winning the turnover tussle, giving the Trojans more scoring opportunities. The Burros didn't shoot badly; they just didn't get to shoot as much. In the first half alone, R-P took 14 more shots from the field. The Trojan lead ballooned to 22 early in the second half, and thereafter hovered around 20 for most of the period.

Lanesboro finished on a 20-9 run, but even hitting 3 of 4 late treys couldn't get the margin below double digits.

For the Burros, senior Peterson finished his high school career by winning the KFIL LHS Player of the Game award. He tallied 25 points, and added 8 rebounds. Ruud scored 18 points and grabbed 5 steals. He had 5 rebounds. Rogers and Freese finished with 6 points each. Rogers had 4 assists and 5 rebounds. Freese also grabbed 5 rebounds. Gartner had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Matthew Luck and Zach Voeltz scored 3 points each.

In addition to Thomas' heroics, R-P junior guard Austin O'Hare scored 21 points, hitting 5 of 5 free throws and dishing for 4 assists. He won the KFIL Game Ball award.

It was the second meeting between the Trojans and Burros in less than a month. R-P won the first game by 28 points in February. They will meet Blooming Prairie in the Section 1A finals on March 14.

"Our boys played very hard and gave it everything they had but turn-overs were too costly," Smith said later. "We shot the ball OK, but just didn't get enough possessions. I'm very proud of the whole team on how they finished the season out and how they played in their final game."

"Both myself and the team would like to thank the parents, fans, and community for their great support during the season."