On Feb. 21 the Spring Grove girls stormed through the sub-section quarterfinals overwhelming visiting no. 7 seed Fillmore Central, 69-30. Since Minnesota expanded basketball from two classes to four, the Lions have won 14 of their 16 play-off openers.
Just as the Herald was going to press, the no. 2 seeded Lions improved to 22-6 eliminating no. 3 Grand Meadow 63-41 in Rochester, setting up the 5 p.m., Saturday, March 2, sub-section championship game rematch with top seed Rushford-Peterson (15-12) a 65-33 semi-final winner over no. 4 LeRoy-Ostrander.
The Trojans were crushed by the Lions in last year's sub-section title game, but earlier this season, defeated SG 52-41. The winner will on March 7 battle the 1A West Sub-section champ for a ticket to the state tournament.
SG versus Fillmore Central
The 39-point pounding of FC was significantly more severe than the Lions' road win over the Falcons three weeks earlier.
After winning that game by 15 points, Spring Grove had a 16-point halftime lead in the rematch. The Lions then utilized a 24-2 second-half run to put the game out of reach.
After 10 turnovers in the first period, the Lion regulars lost possession only once after halftime with two late turnovers coming in the final moments with the B-teams on the floor. FC finished with 27 turnovers.
SG point production was similar to their previous 65-50 win, but the Lions limited the Falcons to only 30 points in the rematch. FC was shut out in transition after scoring 12 fast-break points back in January. The Falcons scored only 7 points with perimeter shots after tallying 14 points from outside in the first meeting.
Sophomore guard Morgan Malley, who had led FC with points and rebounds in January, was held to 7 points and 8 boards in the playoffs.
SG senior Nikki Hansen was greatly responsible for successfully defending the Falcons' primary offensive weapon.
All of the Lion regulars had significant contributions. Samantha Bratland scored 17 points and Julianna Sand matched a career-high with 15 points.
Both came off the bench to lead Lion scoring. Sand was a perfect 3 for 3 from three-point land and passed out 2 assists with no turnovers. Bratland defended with 4 steals, and with 7 rebounds, was also a major factor in the Lions' 44-29 glass-cleaning advantage.
Nicki Ellingson, despite sitting out nine and half minutes in early foul trouble, was still best on the boards with 12 rebounds along with 9 points and 3 assists with no turnovers.
Randi Mehus exhibited all-around excellence with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 5 assists with only one turnover.
Addison Cross was the fourth Lion scoring in double figures with 11 points in addition to 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 5 assists with only 2 turnovers.
Aly Folz and Hansen each grabbed 4 rebounds. Folz had 6 points, all but one of the team's points as SG raced out to a 7-1 start.
SG out-shot FC 37% to 22% from the field including 6 three-pointers (6 for 17). The Falcons hit only 1-for-14 beyond the arc.
Spring Grove allowed the Falcons 12 free throws in the first half, but did not send FC to the foul line at all after intermission. The Lions' 81% free throw success was their second best of the season, making more foul shots (13 for 16) than the Falcons attempted (7 for 12, 58%).
The Falcons, after opening the playoffs with an 82-72 win over #10 seed Houston, saw their season end with a 7-20 record. SG moved on at 21-6.
The Lions lead the series 19 to 10 after winning the last nine against the Falcons. SG has won the last five playoff contests versus FC including the 2011 sub-section championship game.