These Spring Grove boys won the sixth grade state basketball championship last weekend in St. Joseph. In front from left are Kyle Hagen, Takoda Boyd, Caleb Nerstad and manager Reid Bjerke. In back are Corbin Moser, Kai Bjerke, Alex Folz, Noah Elton, Ethan Matzke and coach Chris Strinmoen.
These Spring Grove boys won the sixth grade state basketball championship last weekend in St. Joseph. In front from left are Kyle Hagen, Takoda Boyd, Caleb Nerstad and manager Reid Bjerke. In back are Corbin Moser, Kai Bjerke, Alex Folz, Noah Elton, Ethan Matzke and coach Chris Strinmoen.
Eight Spring Grove boys won the sixth grade basketball state championship at the Pacesetter Minnesota Tournament on Sunday, June 23 at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

These young Lions are now qualified for the Great Four-State Championship Tournament against the state champs and runners-up from Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota to be played on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Spring Grove competed against six other section champions but had the most trouble with Minneapolis Farview, the section runner-up they had previously defeated in the Section 2 title game. Farview was a stand-in for a section champ that was unable to attend.

SG never trailed during the three-game state tournament but claimed the crown with dramatic last-second strategy in the championship game after Farview had tied the score with 30 seconds to play.

SG coach Chris Strinmoen had the Lions employ their four-corner delay to run off 20 seconds before calling time out to set up a final shot.

Farview probably expected Alex Folz to handle the ball at the end and possibly take the final shot. "Farview defended it well," said Strinmoen, but the Lion point guard penetrated with the dribble down the left side of the lane, reverse pivoted back to the middle and fell away while banking in the winner.

Following the ensuing pandemonium, the Lions were informed that one second remained on the clock. SG center Ethan Matzke got a hand on Farview's desperation in-bounds pass, and it was over. The sixth-grade Lions were the kings of this Minnesota basketball jungle.

The day had begun with a 30-17 quarterfinal win over Esko. The semi-final foe was Russell-Tyler-Ruthton/Springfield, a team that had defeated SG by one point back in the Section 2 Tournament. But RTR/S was not eligible to win the Section 2 title having already qualified for state with another section crown.

The rematch at state would not be as close, but SG was hindered with Matzke sitting out much of the game in foul trouble. Fifth grader Kyle Hagen stepped in to fill that void.

The Lions led only 15-12 at halftime but would go on to win 36-23 behind the 19-point contribution of Folz.

That set up the rematch with Farview in the finals. SG led 17-10 at the break but could never put the game out of reach before winning 36-34 with the well-executed finish.

The Lion lineup consisted of sixth graders Matzke, Folz, Noah Elton, Kai Bjerke, Takoda Boyd and Corbin Moser. Adding depth were fifth graders Hagen and Caleb Nerstad. Joining Chris Strinmoen on the bench were veteran coach/advisor Gary Strinmoen and manager Reid Bjerke.