Lions hold off Houston, 45-42, face Hayfield in postponed semi-final

LEFT: Kai Bjerke gets off a shot over outstretched arm of Mikkel Schutte. The Spring Grove senior helped seal the section win with two late two free throws. RIGHT: Caden Grinde gets to the hoop past Houston's James Hongerholt. Photos by S. Lee Epps
By : 
Lee Epps

Kai Bjerke stepped to the free throw line for the first time in two games. With a 1-and-1 opportunity, the Spring Grove senior did not touch the rim with either pressure-packed foul shot while extending the Lion lead from two points to four with 19.6 seconds to play. 

Alex Folz would add another two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining, and No. 1 seed Spring Grove would go on to turn away No. 8 seed Houston, 45-42,in a low-scoring Section 1A quarterfinal at Rochester on March 5.

It was, in common postseason tournament terminology, "survive and advance" for both the Lions and their next opponent, Hayfield. And another adage was also appropriate for both survivors - about it being difficult to beat a team three times during the same season. 

No. 4 seed Hayfield, which had regular season wins over No. 5 seed Blooming Prairie by 18 and 5-point margins, survived only 50-48 against the Awesome Blossoms when Patrick Towey banked in a game-winning shot with 3.3 seconds remaining. That capped a second half rally that overcame a nine-point deficit. 

The Lions had handled the Hurricanes by a fairly competitive 16-points and later by a whopping 27 points before the three-point playoff escape. That 37th straight win versus Houston did not follow a script that most expected.

Those two close encounters for Spring Grove and Hayfield came one night after two massacres on the same court in the other two quarterfinals. No. 2 Randolph ripped No. 7 Kingsland, 78-40. And No. 3 Rushford-Peterson grilled Grand Meadow, 71-45.

Semi-finals delayed

Instead of the final four teams playing again on March 9, those two Saturday semi-final showdowns were postponed by a winter storm to tonight (Wednesday. March 13). Back at Rochester, SG faces Hayfield at 5:30 p.m. with Randolph and R-P to tip at 8 p.m.

The section championship game was moved back a day until Friday, March 15, at 6 p.m. 

SG 45, Houston 42

Until Houston (13-15) hit a 3-point field goal at the buzzer, neither team had a basket for nearly seven minutes. Folz had converted a defensive rebound into a long backcourt-to-frontcourt assist pass to Takoda Boyd for a layup that broke the fifth and final tie score for a 41-39 Lion lead.

That fast break proved to be especially critical, because the score did not change again for six minutes and 27 seconds until Houston was forced to foul. Bjerke's free throws made it a four-point lead (43-39) with 19.6 seconds on the clock.

The Hurricanes missed a 3-point shot and then put Folz at the foul line for another 1-and-1. No rim, all net again, SG led 45-39 with 5.8 seconds remaining. Mikkel Schutte hit a rushed trey at the buzzer to account for the final three-point margin. 

After a James Hongerholt drive had given Houston a 39-37 lead with 7:52 to play, the Hurricanes did not score again (3 turnovers, 7 missed shots) until that last-second 3-ball.

In between Boyd's tie-breaker and the four late free throws, the Lion coaches opted to change from the man-to-man defense they had employed all game to a zone. The 'Canes were not able to penetrate, came up empty with perimeter shots and did not secure an offensive rebound.

On the other end, a deliberate Spring Grove offense also went scoreless with a couple of turnovers and a missed shot before sealing the win at the free throw line.

"It's always tough to beat a team three times in one year," said SG coach Wade Grinde. "Houston's coming in with nothing to lose. We got out to a run early, and we let up a little bit. Momentum swung their way, and in a tournament game, you never know what can happen. Fortunately, we were able to spin the momentum right at the very end and get the win. Hey, survive and advance."

The Lions scored the first six points of the game and led 17-9 before the 'Canes rallied to tie the score at 19-all and take a 23-22 lead before going into halftime tied at 27-27.

There would be three more tie scores and four lead changes before the final verdict. Fortunately for the Lions, they held a slim lead in the final half-minute and came through at the foul line when forced to protect it. Spring Grove secured a three-point win with a four-point advantage at the free throw line.

Folz scored a game-high 16 points while Caden Grinde added 8. Noah Elton contributed 7 points as did Ethan Matzke despite sitting most of the first half in foul trouble.

Houston junior Alex Van Gundy pulled down a game-high 8 rebounds and scored all of his 12 points in the first half, limited to only two shots after intermission. Hongerholt added another dozen points and 5 rebounds for the 'Canes.

Outrebounded in both previous games against SG, Houston held a 25-to-21 advantage on the glass in this third game.

The Lions, having shot with 44% accuracy while scoring 74 points at Houston in late January, were outshot by the 'Canes 36% to 43% in the Rochester rematch. 

Folz credited the Houston defense for forcing Spring Grove to take difficult shots, but he also said the Lions are capable of playing better on both offense and defense.

For the 18th time in 25 games, Spring Grove handled the ball with more assists (10) than turnovers (9). Houston committed 16 turnovers, four fewer than their 20 miscues in both previous losses to the Lions.

Despite being a defensive game at Rochester, neither team fouled much until fouling on purpose at the very end. Until the final 20 seconds, there had been only seven free throws attempted (SG 3 for 4, Houston 3 for 3). That trio of Hurricane free throws were the fewest the Lions had given up in 25 games this season.

Going 4 for 4 at the foul line in the final 20 seconds was enough to withstand a Houston buzzer beater and send the Lions on to the semi-finals. 

It will be only the second meeting between Spring Grove and Hayfield. But it is also the second meeting in two seasons after the Lions lacerated the Vikings 69-29 in last year's section quarterfinals.

Averaging 66 points per game during this regular season, Hayfield (24-4) surpassed that average in a 73-55 section win versus Lyle/Pacelli before the low-scoring 50-48 escape against Blooming Prairie.

Spring Grove (21-4), averaging 63 points per game, has managed only 45 points in each of its two tournament wins.   


SG 45, Houston 42

>>SG   27+18=45

>>Hou 27+15=42


all FG: SG 36%, Hou 43%

2-pt FG: SG 38%, Hou 46%

3-pt FG: SG 31% (4-13), Hou 36% (5-14)

Free throws: SG 88% (7-8), Hou 100% (3-3)

Rebounds: SG 21, Hou 25

Turnovers: SG 9, Hou 16

2nd Chance pts.: SG 8, Hou 3

Fast break pts.: SG 8, Hou 6

Perimeter pts.: SG 14, Hou 21

Pts. in paint: SG 27, Hou 21

Fouls: SG 8, Hou 10


INDIVIDUALS: P-points, R-rebounds, A-assists, S-steals, B-blocked shots. * starter

Listed in order of jersey number. 

Boyd 5P, 1R

*Grinde 8P, 3R, 5A, 3S

*Matzke 7P, 5R, 1A, 3S, 1B

*Folz 16P, 6R, 2A, 1S, 1B

*Bjerke, K. 2P, 1R, 1A

*Elton 7P, 5R, 1A, 4S

also playing – Hagen


Section 1A Tournament - BOYS BASKETBALL

Play-In Games 

#14 Southland 77, #19 Glenville-Emmons 55 

#15 Lanesboro 49, #18 Fillmore Central 37 

#16 Wabasha-Kellogg 51,  #17 Mabel-Canton 37


First Round 

#1 S Grove 45, #16 Wabasha-Kellogg 24

#8 Houston 55, #9 Bethlehem Academy 54 

#4 Hayfield 73, #13 Lyle/Pacelli 55 

#5 Blooming Prairie 69, #12 Goodhue 53

#2 Randolph 71, #15 Lanesboro 58 

##7 Kingsland 55, #10 Schaeffer Academy 48

#3 Rush-Pete 66, #14 Southland 52

#6 Gr. Meadow 70, #11 LeRoy-Ostrander 58



#2 Randolph 78, #7 Kingsland 40

#3 Rush-Pete71, #6 Grand Meadow  45 

#1 Spring Grove 45, #8 Houston 42

#4 Hayfield 50, #5 Blooming Prairie 48


Wednesday, March 13 - Semi-finalsat Rochester

5:30 p.m. #1 Spring Grove vs. #4 Hayfield

8 p.m. #2 Randolph vs. #3 Rushford-Peterson             


Friday, March 15 Finalsat Rochester, Mayo Civic Arena, 6 p.m.



Spring Grove Boys Basketball 

21-4 (14-0 SEC) -* SEC games        

W vs. Glenville-Emmons* 69-35

W vs. Houston* 53-37

L vs. Charles City 56-58

W at Kingsland*62-59

W at Mabel-Canton*51-38

W vs. Randolph*66-45

W at Lyle/Pacelli* 65-40

W at Cannon Falls 67-42

W at La Crescent-Hokah 56-51

W vs. Lanesboro* 72-51

W vs. Decorah 74-62

W vs. Kingsland*60-57

W at Houston* 74-47

W vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 69-45

01-28 Waukon - canceled

01-29 at Grand Meadow* postponed to Feb. 11

W vs. Mabel-Canton*63-31

L vs. Rushford-Peterson 65-69 

L at Mayer Lutheran 53-65

L at Christ’s Household of Faith 52-58

W at Grand Meadow*52-35

W at Fillmore Central 69-33

W vs. Schaeffer Academy 75-45

W vs. Grand Meadow (non-conf.) 50-48

W at Lanesboro* 74-39

Section 1A Tournament, #1 seed

W vs. #16 Wabasha-Kellogg 45-24

W vs. #8 Houston 45-42

March 13 vs. #4 Hayfield


B-team Boys 10-10

W vs. Glenville-Emmons    47-10

W vs. Houston               67-21

W at Kingsland               43-40

W at Mabel-Canton         49-20

L vs. Randolph               30-51

L at Lyle/Pacelli              41-51

L at La Crescent-Hokah  35-43

W vs. Lanesboro             43-38

L vs. Decorah                 29-50

W vs. Kingsland             48-29

W at Houston                 52-20

W vs. Mabel-Canton       63-24

L vs. Rushford-Peterson  33-40

L at Mayer Lutheran        38-45

W at CHOF                    38-37

L at Grand Meadow         40-47

L at Fillmore Central        27-44

W vs. Schaeffer Academy           42-39

L vs. Grand Meadow       34-46

L at Lanesboro               37-40


8th Grade Boys 14-1

W vs. Caledonia            62-22

W vs. Lanesboro             39-26

W vs. Houston               65 - 4

W at Kingsland               40-17    

W at Mabel-Canton         50 – 9

W at La Crescent-Hokah35-30

W vs. Lanesboro             29-18

W vs. Kingsland             51-5

W at Houston                 54-0

W vs. Mabel-Canton       61-20

L vs. Rushford-Peterson  38-39

W at Caledonia

W at Grand Meadow        40-37

W at Fillmore Central       30-26

W vs. Grand Meadow      39-18


7th Grade Boys 5-6

W vs. Caledonia             49-30

L vs. Lanesboro              28-33

W at Kingsland               49-21

W at Mabel-Canton         44 – 8

L at La Crescent-Hokah  23-42

L vs. Lanesboro              19-40    

W vs. Kingsland             38-23

W vs. Mabel-Canton       36-10

L vs. Rushford-Peterson  12-37

L at Caledonia

L at Fillmore Central        38-47