By Brady Ambrose
West Spier wasn’t about to let go.
The 6’2” Caledonia forward had his hands firmly wrapped around the plaque after he and his teammates put on a clinic in a 96-63 dismantling of Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the MSHSL Section 1AA East championship game Saturday night at the Mayo Civic Center. “I’m not letting go; it feels great,” Spier said. “Being a senior, it’s the biggest win. Now we just have to play one more game.”
That game will come this Thursday night when Caledonia will face the Byron Bears in the 1AA championship game at 8 p.m. with a trip to state waiting for the winner. “We knew our guys could do this,” coach Josh Diersen said. “We made free throws; they kept fouling us and we kept attacking. Austin Bauer had a great first half and Kyle did a huge job on the boards. We got sparks from different people at different times in the game.”
Much like Caledonia’s previous two tournament wins, this one over the Bulldogs, who handed the Warriors a 17 point, 74-57 loss Feb. 11, was a blowout as Caledonia scored over 90 points for the fourth straight game. Using their trademark, up-tempo game, the Warriors broke open a relatively close game in the early going with a 16-4 run that gave them a 25-12 lead with over seven minutes left in the first half. Leading 9-8 after a dunk by P-E-M’s Schuyler Thompson, Caledonia scored the next seven points and took a 16-8 lead on a pair of free throws from Owen King. Colton Lampert, who gave the Bulldogs fits most of the game, then scored on a drive to the basket that pushed the lead to 20-12, and the Warriors kept up the pace by scoring the next five straight points when Kyle Sorenson and Spier scored back to back baskets to give Caledonia a 25-12 lead.
Austin Bauer, who scored 15 points in the first half alone, and Sorenson, who scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as well as blocking seven shots, then each hit three-pointers with Bauer’s giving Caledonia a 34-16 lead that forced Bullldog coach Blake Karas to call a timeout to try and put out the fire. After the break, Josh Nord hit another trey and the Warriors built the lead to 39-23 before Nick Shanks sank a pair of free throws to get the Bulldogs within 14 at 39-25, but, like they did all night, the Warriors answered right back as Sorenson was fouled and sank two free throws to push the lead to 41-25 with less than five seconds left in the half.
“We really focused on rebounds – they really killed us at their place on rebounds,” Sorenson said. “We had to stop Nick Shanks, and we wanted to speed it up and force turnovers.” P-E-M then went into the locker room on a high-note when Alex McGuire drained a shot from behind half court at the buzzer to get the Bulldogs within 13 at 41-28 at the break.
But the spark for the Bulldogs was short-lived. Spier put down a big dunk less than two minutes into the second half to push the Warrior lead to 46-30. McGuire was then called for a technical foul when he and Spier got tangled up on the floor going after a loose ball and McGuire got a little too aggressive. Colton Lampert sank two free throws and Caledonia got the ball back on the foul with a 50-30 lead. Josh Nord then hit a 3-pointer, missed a second one but got his own rebound and scored again for a 5-0 spurt that pushed the lead to 55-32 with over 14 minutes left to play.
Lampert, who led all scorers with 24 points, then stole the ball, scored and was fouled by Zach Ziebell with 9:31 left. Lampert sank the free throw, one of an amazing 41 that the Warriors made on the night, to give Caledonia a 72-44 lead. Over the course of the next eight minutes, five P-E-M players would foul out of the game, along with Bauer and Spier for the Warrriors. Shanks, who will play basketball at Winona next season fouled out with over six minutes left in the game. McGuire, Hunter Rau and Logan Sexton all then fouled out for the Bulldogs as Caledonia sank free throw after free throw down the stretch. Caledonia reached the 80 point mark on two free throws from Owen King, and Nord’s dunk with 2:40 to play put the exclamation point on the 96-63 win for the Warriors. “We took great shots and just kept playing hard. We knew we could do it,” Diersen said.
Besides leading with 24 points, Lampert grabbed 11 rebounds in the game while Josh Nord added 12 and Owen King 11. Bauer finished with 17 points, 15 of them in the first half. “I can’t put it into words – I can’t explain it,” Spier said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Beat Lake City
The Warriors hammered Lake City 91-78 in their first game at Rochester Tuesday night, jumping out to a 19 point lead at halftime and cruising the rest of the game. Josh Nord hit three 3-point shots in the first half as Caledonia built a 20-9 lead when they hit seven treys in the first half alone. Owen King’s 3-pointer pushed the Warrior lead to 43-25, and Caledonia rolled into the break leading 46-27.
Lake City made a little run to start the second half, outscoring Caledonia 16-9 to get within 14 points at 57-43, but after a timeout the Warriors got back on track. Sorenson and Nord hit back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 71-54, and Caledonia took a 20 point lead at 81-61 on a free throw from Lampert and cruised to the win to improve to 25-2 on the season.
Thursday’s game against Byron marks the Warriors first trip to the 1AA title game under Diersen. The Warriors have lost the last three seasons to P-E-M in the East title game. The Bears (22-8) beat Cannon Falls 51-46 Saturday night to advance to the title game against the Warriors.
Caledonia 41 55 — 96
PEM 28 35 — 63
CALEDONIA (26-2): Josh Nord 12, Owen King 11, Colton Lampert 24, Henry Russert 1, Kyle Sorenson 21, Justin Burg 4, Austin Bauer 17, West Spier 6.
P-E-M (22-7): Alex Slawson 9, Schuyler Thompson 17, Logan Sexton 11, Zach Ziebell 2, Alex McGuire 4, Hunter Rau 8, Nick Shanks 12.
CALEDONIA 91, LAKE CITY 78
Caledonia 46 45 — 91
Lake City 27 51 — 78
CALEDONIA (25-2): Kyle Sorenson19, Josh Nord 18, Austin Bauer 15, Colton Lampert 12, West Spier 11, Owen King 8, Justin Berg 5, Seth Twite 2, Tanner Gran 1.
LAKE CITY (16-10): Reid Lundell 17, John Brown 3, Cory Dick 17, Brady Kuchinka 16, Luke Hartzell 1, Eli Custer 7, Jesse Oliver 17.