Ethan Matzke, shown here going to the basket during B-team summer league play, played for the Spring Grove state championship eighth grade team at last weekend’s Pacesetter Great Four-State Basketball Tournament at the Target Center in Minneapolis. PHOTO: S. Lee Epps
Ethan Matzke, shown here going to the basket during B-team summer league play, played for the Spring Grove state championship eighth grade team at last weekend’s Pacesetter Great Four-State Basketball Tournament at the Target Center in Minneapolis. PHOTO: S. Lee Epps
The Spring Grove seventh grade boys placed fourth at the Pacesetter Great Four-State Basketball Tournament last Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. As the Minnesota state champions, these Lions were among a high-powered eight-team bracket featuring the state champions and runners-up from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. These accomplished young Lions had also finished fourth in 2013 as sixth graders.

The Lion lineup featured Noah Elton, Alex Folz, Corbin Moser, Takoda Boyd, Ethan Matzke, Kai Bjerke and Drew Wyffels along with sixth graders Caleb Nerstad and Kyle Hagen. The squad was coached by Chris Strinmoen assisted by Blaine Storlie.

QUARTERFINAL

SG 36, JAMESTOWN, ND 27

The North Dakota state runner-up was no match for the Lions who led by as many as 20 points during the second half.

SG was up only 20-15 at halftime, but going to a zone defense helped the Lions take control in the second half.

SEMI-FINAL

ANKENY, IA 42, SG 37

The Lions came up short in a back-and-forth semi-final showdown with Iowa state champion Ankeny.

Down 22-12 at halftime, SG came back to go ahead by four points. But the lead would change hands several times. A late 3-point basket by Folz cut a six-point SG deficit in half. With the Lions forced to foul, the Iowans hit enough late free throws to hold on.

The Grove guys did not fare well with their own free throws sinking only 3 of 12. Ankeny went 6 for 11.

Ankeny went on to win the tournament championship.

THIRD PLACE GAME

PERHAM 37, SG 32

For the second straight year, the Lions fell in the third place game to a team they had recently defeated. The previous weekend, the Lions had edged out Perham in the Minnesota State championship game.

In the rematch, SG played catch-up all game. The Yellowjackets went in front early by double-digits. The Lions rallied to get back within six points at halftime (19-13) but ultimately could not complete the comeback.

In this third game of the day, the Lions showed signs of fatigue, which hindered defensive intensity and also slowed the fast break attack.

The Lion defense had difficulty containing a Perham guard who had more points at halftime than the SG team. He scored 16 of the Yellowjackets' 19 first half points and finished with 22.