The Spring Grove sixth grade basketball team with Pacesetter region championship medals are from left Alex Folz, Takoda Boyd, Ethan Matzke, Kyle Hagen, Kai Bjerke, Caleb Nerstad, Corbin Moser, Noah Elton and coach Chris Strinmoen. <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Photo courtesy of Kristy Folz
The Spring Grove sixth grade basketball team with Pacesetter region championship medals are from left Alex Folz, Takoda Boyd, Ethan Matzke, Kyle Hagen, Kai Bjerke, Caleb Nerstad, Corbin Moser, Noah Elton and coach Chris Strinmoen.

Photo courtesy of Kristy Folz
A half dozen sixth-grade boys and a pair fifth graders from Spring Grove earned a trip to the Pacesetter state basketball tournament after winning the Region 2 championship at Mankato on April 21.

These young Lions thus qualify for this summer's Minnesota Youth Basketball State Championships.

The Lion lineup was comprised of sixth graders: Noah Elton, Ethan Matzke, Alex Folz, Kai Bjerke, Takoda Boyd and Corbin Moser along with fifth graders: Caleb Nerstad and Kyle Hagen. The team is coached by former Lion standout and current SG teacher/coach Chris Strinmoen.

R-T-R/S 31, SG 29

A team is permitted to play in more than one region tournament. This same Spring Grove team had finished third in the Region 1 Tourney and opened Region 2 play against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton/ Springfield (R-T-R/S).

R-T-R/S had already won another region championship and was ineligible to win a second title, so the team was playing for experience.

Therefore, the Lions advanced into the winners' bracket despite falling 31-29 to R-T-R/S. The Grove guys were ahead 12-10 after a low-scoring first half and led during most of the second half until R-T-R/S full-court pressure forced a few late turnovers to edge ahead near the finish line.

SG 43, Minneapolis 33

Competition remained strong as defending state champion Minneapolis awaited in the quarterfinals.

But the Lions avenged a 2012 tourney loss by ousting the big city boys 43-33. SG tossed in four 3-point baskets while taking control in the first half. The Lions sealed the win by a steady performance at the free throw line down the stretch. They netted 9 of 10 foul shots in the second half.

SG 38, Stewartville 27

The Tigers were coming off a second-place finish in the Region 1 Tournament, but would not fare as well while running into SG in this semi-final contest at Mankato.

The teams played on relatively even terms after the Lions had raced out to a 12-2 lead and were never caught.

SG 46, Farview 33

In the championship game, it was another exhilarating start for SG against yet another team from Minneapolis. The Lions held a comfortable 26-12 advantage at halftime, but Farview clawed back within seven points before SG stepped on the accelerator again.

The eight region champions will convene in St. Cloud on June 23 for the Minnesota sixth-grade crown.

SG has already faced two of those other seven squads, having fallen to R-T-R/S in the Region 2 opener and having dropped another close encounter to Faribault Bethlehem Academy in the Region 1 semi-finals.

Over 700 Minnesota youth teams participate in this developmental program for boys and girls each year, which is an eight-region playoff system coordinated by Pacesetter Sports since 1993.

The champion and runner-up from the Minnesota state tournament will be invited to play in the Pacesetter Great Four-State Championship at the Target Center in Minneapolis against the top teams from Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.