Lions fend off Falcons, eliminated by Trojans
By Craig Moorhead
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 5:51 AM
After winning two post-season games, the Lions ended their 2012 campaign on March 10, versus the top sub-section seed Rushford-Peterson. Both teams came in ranked in state polling. The Trojans were No. 8 statewide, while the Lions were No. 9.
Jake Kraus, shown heading to the hoop ahead of Fillmore Central’s Andy Todd, broke open a close game with a rapid trio of three-point baskets in sub-section semifinals.
#2 SG vs. #3 Fillmore Central
The Lions had to battle all the way through their first game of the week, unlike a 19-point win at Fillmore Central last month.
Spring Grove hoopsters came through when the chips were down, winning 73-61.
The Falcons enjoyed a halftime lead, 34-28, but a switch in momentum occurred in the second period. With Fillmore Central struggling with 12 turnovers during their first 14 possessions of the second half, the Lions outscored the Falcons 17-2.
After having trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, Spring Grove finally took a lead after 22 minutes of play and appeared to be in complete control with a 45-36 advantage.
However, the Falcons started taking care of the ball (14 possessions without a turnover) and began passing the ball into the post to score on nine straight possessions, sparking a 17-5 run.
They retook the lead at 53-50 with about seven minutes to play. The final response came from Spring Grove, which closed the game on a 22-8 run.
After the Lions had made only one of 16 three-point shots, senior captain Jake Kraus hit three in a row within two and half minutes.
The first triple gave his team the lead for good (57-55). The last two treys created a little breathing room, advancing the margin to 65-57.
Kraus, who has been nicknamed "Red Rocket", scored 19 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to spearhead two Spring Grove rallies.
The Lions passing was snappy and accurate with five players notching positive assist-to-turnover ratios: Sam Ellingson (3-to-0), Aric Elton (2-to-0), Josh Olerud (1-to-0) Blaine Storlie (3-to-1) and Kraus (3-to-2).
Two of the Lions' seven turnovers came with fouls instead of ball-handling miscues.
For the Falcons, their 26 turnovers neutralized a 50 percent to 39 percent edge in shooting accuracy. With 19 fewer turnovers, Spring Grove attempted 25 more shots.
Even so, Lion shooting was severely hampered by about one of every six or seven shots (12 of 80) being blocked and others altered by a much taller Falcon presence near the basket.
Spring Grove scored 22 points with dribble drives into the lane and caused serious foul problems for Falcon post players.
Reserve center 6-foot-3 Ryan Mayer (9 points, 7 rebounds, 8 blocks) fouled out. The three other FC post players also missed playing time before finishing with 4 fouls each - specifically 6-foot-3 Dan Gatzke (10 points, 9 rebounds), 6-foot-4 Isaac Sveen (2 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks) and 6-foot-1 Andy Todd (4 points, 7 rebounds).
That foursome helped the Falcons score 20 points with post passes and 11 points with rebounds.
With that decided height advantage, Fillmore Central attempted to make it a half-court game, but Spring Grove steals helped the Lions outscore the Falcons 17-2 with fast breaks. The quick-handed Lions led 10-0 in thefts.
Although out-rebounded 37 to 32, Spring Grove received strong backboard numbers with 6 rebounds each from Brandon Schuttemeier, Ellingson and Elton as well as five boards apiece from Olerud and Kraus.
Four Lions scored in double figures. In addition to Kraus' 21 points, Eli Gleason netted 13, as did Elton. Olerud scored 10, while Storlie and Brandon Schuttemeier each added 6 points and Ellingson scored 4.
Elton was named KFIL-Radio Lion player of the game. Kraus received the Game Ball Award.
While the Falcons were strong inside, Tyler Eickhoff led FC with a game-high 22 points, mostly from the perimeter. Gatzke and Zach Olstad each scored 10.
There had already been plenty of first-half drama on the court before word spread at halftime that Wendy Storlie, mother of point-guard Blaine Storlie, had left the Civic Center Auditorium for the hospital birth of Blaine's youngest brother.
#2 SG vs. #1 Rushford-Peterson
Tuesday's win set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed contest. The Lions scored first but trailed most of the Sub-section 1A East championship game. In fact, Spring Grove never led after losing a 21-20 edge four minutes before halftime. The final margin was 71-66, in overtime.
The never-say-die Lions did not pull even until Kraus buried a three-point basket with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, as the Spring Grove boys wiped out their greatest deficit of the game and forced overtime with an amazing 12-2 run in the final three and a half minutes of regulation.
However, Rushford-Peterson scored first in the extra period and secured the win at the free throw line for the Trojans' 13th sub-section championship in the last 16 years.
Two steals by Elton and a backcourt violation had frustrated Trojan slowdown efforts to put the game away. Meanwhile on the other end of the floor, an Elton driving score and 2-for-2 free throws from both Storlie and Gleason were followed by a Gleason three-ball that put Spring Grove within three points with 44 seconds to go.
The Lions got the ball back 13 seconds later with the possession arrow after Storlie forced a held ball near the half line. Elton then recorded his second assist within 20 seconds when he passed to Kraus for the three-point equalizer.
It was reminiscent of the team's previous meeting in December when the Lions had tied the score with back-to-back treys in the final minute. Then the Trojans had avoided overtime with Nick Thompson burying a buzzer beating, game-winning three-pointer.
But in the postseason rematch, Thompson mishandled a pass and chased the ball to the half line as regulation time expired, and the large Lion crowd roared.
In the extra period, Spring Grove missed its first three shots while Trojan sophomore Jorli Hauge scored half of his eight points and R-P went ahead 66-61.
The Lions would hit two of their final four shots but were forced to foul; the Trojans hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 20 seconds to salt away their third straight sub-section title.
Elton, the KFIL-Radio Lion Player of the Game, and Storlie each scored 20 points for Spring Grove while Thompson poured in 33 points for R-P. Elton also had a game-high 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
Gleason had 8 points and 7 steals, and at 5-foot-9, came down with a career-high 8 rebounds
Kraus added 11 points plus 6 rebounds and with 4 assists joined Gleason and Elton with more assists than turnovers.
Olerud scored 5 points and secured 6 rebounds; Ellingson put in 2 points.
Thompson hit 12 of 18 shots from the field and 6 of 9 from the foul line. At 6-foot-4, he is a defender's nightmare - able to score anywhere, inside from the post either going toward the basket or shooting turn-around jump shots from the baseline or going outside to hit 3 of 6 three-pointers.
Trent Vix directed the Trojan attack with a game-high 9 assists in addition to 11 points. Hauge and Austin O'Hare, both sophomores, did not miss a shot, each going 4 for 4 from the field for 8 points apiece.
The Lion season ends at an outstanding 25-3 with two of those losses coming versus the Trojans. Rushford-Peterson (23-5) advances to a March 15 Section 1A title tilt versus Bethlehem Academy.
Sub-section 1A East Boys Basketball 2012
#8 Schaeffer 63, #9 Hope Luth. 61
#7 Grand Meadow 68, #10 L-O 52
#1 R-P 94, Schaeffer 69
#5 Houston 71, #4 Lanesboro 61
#2 SG 81, Grand Meadow 38
#3 Fillmore Central 75, #6 M-C 62
Rushford-Peterson 73, Houston 56
Spring Grove 73, Fillmore Central 61
R-P 71, S. Grove 66 (OT)
Section Championship March 15
East champ vs. West champ
R-P vs. Bethlehem Academy