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SUMMER SPORTS: Young Lions shine at Target Center
By S. Lee Epps
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 6:46 AM
In front at the Target Center are Ethan Marzke, Alex Folz, Kai Bjerke, and Corbin Moser. In Second row are coach Chris Strinmoen, manager Reid Bjerke, Kyle Hagen, Takoda Boyd, Caleb Nerstad, Noah Elton and manger Jaxon Strinmoen.
The Spring Grove sixth-grade boys took their hard court talent to the Target Center in Minneapolis, where as the reigning state basketball champions, they took fourth place at the Great Four-State Basketball Championships.
The Aug. 3 eight-team tournament featured the state champion and state runner-up teams from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
SG 36, Jamestown (ND) 29
In the opening round, the Lions led all the way against the runner-up squad from North Dakota. With balanced team scoring, SG was up 22-16 at halftime and led by as many as 11 points in the second half before Jamestown closed within seven at the end. Jamestown dropped into the consolation bracket while the Lions advanced into the championship semi-finals.
Linn-Mar (IA) 33, SG 31
This semi-final match-up found two state champions battling until the end. The Iowans broke away from a 15-all halftime tie to lead by as many 10 points before the Lions clawed their way back.
SG never took a late lead but tied the score a couple of times. SG could not break a tie in the final minute, and Linn-Mar delayed for about a half-minute to set up a final shot. That driving field goal in the lane accounted for the final score with about six seconds to play.
Lion coach Chris Strinmoen said Linn-Mar was a fundamentally sound team that handled the ball well and played solid defense.
While Linn-Mar advanced to the championship game, SG dropped into the third place game against a familiar foe.
Mnpls Farview 37, SG 35
Another close loss was compounded by the opponent being a team SG had defeated twice previously including the Minnesota state championship game.
The Lions led for most of the game including a 21-14 halftime count. But Minneapolis Farview fought back to make it an exciting hard-fought final four minutes.
Down by two points in the final minute, SG was forced to foul. Farview sank both free throws to lead 36-32.
Alex Folz buried a 3-point basket to make it 36-35 with about 12 seconds remaining. Unable to come up with a quick steal, the Lions had to send Farview to the foul line again with about 4 seconds to play. Farview sank one of two free throws leaving SG with a last-second desperation shot.
The Lions finished fourth with one win and a pair of tight two-point losses. Outscoring the opposition by three points overall, the SG boys proved they could compete favorably with the best in the four-state area.
Playing for SG were Kai Bjerke, Ethan Matzke, Noah Elton, Alex Folz, Takoda Boyd, Corbin Moser, Caleb Nerstad and Kyle Hagen.
Coach Chris Strinmoen was assisted by his father and highly respected long-time grade school mentor Gary Strinmoen.
Play began for SG at 8:40 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Target Center. The night before on the same floor, the team watched the WNBA Minnesota Lynx remain undefeated at home with a win over San Antonio.
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