Caledonia boys basketball, the defending 1AA champion, again vied to play for the 1AA title. They posted a quarterfinal win, but fell in the semifinals. Versus Chatfield (6-seed, 17-10), Caledonia (3-seed, 15-12) used some tactical defense, particularly in the second half, to get revenge for a late season TRC loss. The first half saw the young Warriors blister from deep. Sophomore Mason King (4-5-threes) helped Cal hit 7 of 10 from long-range (70%). Brad King’s group had a stretch where they made 9 of 11 field goals including six in a row. It put Caledonia in the lead, 31-25, but only momentarily. Chatfield shot a strong 56% in the half (14 of 25), going 11 of 18 (61%) from two-point range. The Gophers had six offensive rebounds and nine second-chance-points to help their cause. By halftime, the score was knotted at 34-apiece. But the second half was a different story. The Warriors defense went tactical, sagging way-off Gopher non-shooters, putting long 6’4” leaper Ethan Stendel as a rim protector. The Gopher offense bogged down. Chatfield’s only five points over a 16-possession span mid second-half were scored by senior Luke Carrier (a wrestler up until this year). Chatfield’s defense kept it a single-digit game, but Caledonia got a three-point play from Lewis Doyle at the 4:57 mark to stoke their lead to 55-46. Down the stretch, the Warriors more than hit their free throws. They were 23 of 27 in the second half (85%), including 16 of 20 in the final 2:20. Doyle was 7 of 9 in the stanza. Warrior players made two at the free throw line in the stanza nine times. Chatfield could not catch up. The sophomore-heavy Warriors moved on to the 1AA semis by a 71-59 final. King (20 pts, 5-6 threes) and Doyle (18 pts, 8-10 FTs, 7 asts) led the cause. Reid Klug (13 pts, 5-6 FTs, 6 rebs), Garrett Konz (10 pts, 4-4 FTs), and Stendel (6 pts, 10 rebs, 3 blks) helped, though the latter fouled out. Chatfield was led by senior three-year starter Drew Schindler (22 pts, 3-4 threes, 5-6 FTs). Fellow seniors Cole Johnson (12 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asts) and Sam Backer (8 pts, 7 rebs, 3 stls) helped. Caledonia won from deep 9 of 15 (60%) to Chatfield’s 5 of 19 (26%) and big time at the line, 24 of 28 (86%) to Chatfield’s 8 of 12 (68%). After shooting 56% in the first half, Chatfield was 9 of 33 after intermission (27%). Chatfield’s season ended at 17-11. They had a six-game winning streak snapped. All seven Gophers to score are seniors: Schindler, Johnson, Backer, Carrier, Eli Hopp, Isaac Stevens, and Drew O’Connor. The latter, a key starter, played, but was limited by a sprained ankle.
The Warriors (3-seed, 16-12) moved on to a re-match with #11 PEM (2-seed, 24-4) in a 1AA semifinal. The last two times the teams met, it went to triple overtime. Caledonia out-lasted the Bulldogs by a 72-61 final in last year’s section final while the Bulldogs beat the Warriors 93-88 in three overtimes in this season’s TRC battle back in early January. Regulation held this game. And 6’7” Bulldogs senior F/C Aeron Stevens was the main reason. Stevens, who will play college ball at Southwest State, was a big factor both offensively and defensively for PEM. But things started all in Caledonia’s favor. Brad King’s group hit four early threes and helped facilitate seven early PEM turnovers. The result was a 16-2 start for the Warriors. But the first stanza was a tale of two halves for PEM. After their 1 of 7 shooting with seven turnovers and two total points start, they finished 11 of 16 shooting with three turnovers and scored 30 points. By halftime, they had come all the way back and led the Warriors 32-29. The game itself was about ebbs and flows. PEM then continued hits momentum to start the second half, holding the Warriors to 1 of 8 shooting. A 9-2 PEM scoring spree had the high-seed up 41-31. But Caledonia would hit five straight baskets on five straight possessions, going on a 10-0 run to tie the game 43-43 (7:05). All told, the Warriors run was 14-3, as they took a 47-46 lead (5:26). Enter Stevens. The senior scored 10 of the Bulldogs’ last 13 points. With PEM up 55-50, his length impacted back-to-back Warrior missed interior shots. He then hit two free throws with 0:43.1 left to make it 57-50. The Warriors missed their last four shots and did not score in the final 2:00. PEM moved back to its second straight 1A final courtesy of a 58-50 victory. The Warriors were led by Garrett Konz (15 pts) and Reid Klug (10 pts, 5 rebs). Brett Schultz added 9 points off the bench. Stevens (25 pts, 3-5 threes, 6-8 FTs, 6 rebs, 4 asts, 4 blks) was the difference-maker for the Bulldogs. He had 41 points in the earlier TRC match-up. Kaiden Peters (10 pts, 6 rebs, 4 asts) and Nick Wozney (10 pts, 8 rebs, 4 asts) also hit double figures. Peters drew the defensive match-up on Lewis Doyle, helping hold him to 7 points. Doyle had 26 points the first time around. PEM won on the boards 32 to 21. They had 15 offensive-rebounds for 18 second-chance-points, while Caledonia had seven o-boards for eight second-chance-points. PEM won at the free throw line 9 of 18 (50%) to Cal’s 4 of 4 (10%). The Warriors shot well from deep, 6 of 12 (50%), but did not make the 10 threes they made in the regular season. But Cal went just 1 of 4 from distance in the second half after going 5 of 8 in the first. PEM was 7 of 19 from distance for the game (37%). Caledonia’s “transition” season ends one win away from the 1AA title game with a 16-13 record. Schultz was the only heavily-relied upon senior. Caleb Conniff and Payton Konz were the only other two seniors on their roster. Next year’s Warriors will return five starters. Had the Warrior boys made the section title game, it would have marked the fifth Caledonia team to do so this year. Volleyball and football did in the fall, and then wrestling and girls basketball this winter.