The 2023 Spring Grove girls, with the fewest turnovers in 11 years, won a dozen basketball games, their most in six years. Under first-year head coach and former Lion standout Taylor Elton, the Lions continued to hold their own against similar Class A competition. At 12-15 overall, the girls were 12-12 versus other Minnesota Class A squads and Iowa small-school Lansing Kee, whereas going 0-3 against a pair of Minnesota Class AA teams (St. Charles and 17-win Annandale) plus Waukon, (Iowa) with about four times the enrollment at Spring Grove. The young Lion B-team finished with a 9-11 record.
Since all small Minnesota schools in the area are in the Southeast Conference, non-conference games usually involve scheduling larger Class AA clubs. However, with the SEC expanding the league schedule from 13 games to 18 games, there were five fewer non-conference games in 2023.
Results from close games can greatly affect a team’s win-loss record. Despite Spring Grove averaging 47 points per game and the opponents 49, most of the games were not close, including 11 decided by winning margins of 20 points or more (SG won 4, lost 7). Out of 27 games, only five were decided by single-digit margins (SG won 2, lost 3). The Lions defeated Schaeffer Academy 58-54 and Southland 54-47. All three close losses came against the two East Division frontrunners. They fell to 22-win Lanesboro 36-31 and Houston twice, 58-49 and 49-48. A couple of more points versus Houston in the regular-season finale would have made a 13-13 regular-season record instead of entering the playoffs at 12-14. That one-point decision was the closest encounter with an upset.
Despite the most wins in six years, it was still the sixth straight season with more losses than wins. However, it was the second straight campaign with a winning conference record with the Lions going 10-8 in league play after the previous year’s 7-6. Solidly, in the middle of the SEC East Division, Spring Grove again placed third behind Lanesboro (14-4) and Houston (13-5) and well ahead of Mabel-Canton (5-13) and Schaeffer Academy (4-14). Lanesboro has captured the last two titles after finishing runner-up to Houston the previous two seasons. The Lions last claimed the championship in 2016, the last of a seven-season string of East Division titles.
The Lions received the 12th seed among 19 teams in Section 1A. The season then ended with a valiant effort but loss to No. 5 seed Kingsland, the third setback of the season against the Knights, who have won the last 10 games in the series.
The girls swept both games against Mabel-Canton and evened the series at 56 wins for both programs. The Lions extended their winning streak versus Schaeffer to nine games, versus Lyle/Pacelli to four and also to four versus Southland. A fourth straight victory over LeRoy-Ostrander was the 40th win in the last 41 games against the Cardinals.
The Lions have dropped the last 13 games versus Houston, the last 12 against Grand Meadow, the last five versus Waukon, the last four against Rushford-Peterson and the five out of the last six versus Lanesboro.
The 2023 Lions displayed the most improvement in ball-handling, averaging about six and half fewer turnovers than the previous season and about two and a half turnovers better than the 2023 opponents. Averaging 16.3 turnovers per game was the best result in 11 years, since the state-tournament team of 2012.
Similar to the competitive 12-15 record, the opponents had slightly better team statistics, except for turnovers. The Lions’ scored 46.7 points per game, their best in five years. But the opposition was slightly better averaging 48.8. The season high was the 73-point production at home versus Lyle/Pacelli. The season low came with 20 points against eventual section runner-up, 27-win Grand Meadow. The Lions averaged 32.2 rebounds per game, their best in five years. However, the opponents averaged one rebound more.
Spring Grove shot 32% from the field, the opponents 34%. Three-point attempts were up to 17 per game for both the Lions and the other girls, but the opponents shot a weak 24% and SG 23%. A season-high 10 treys contributed to a 60-22 road rout at Mabel-Canton.
The opposition averaged one more free throw attempt per game and outshot the Lions from the line, 56% to 50%. In an early-season visit to Kingsland, six different Lions combined to hit 25 of 29 free throws (86%). Unfortunately, except for that extraordinary night, there were a few more free throws missed than made.
Despite valuable leadership from two seniors, Addyson McHugh and Lydia Solum, Spring Grove was a young team. There were no juniors on the roster. The primary eight-player rotation included two sophomores, three freshmen and an eighth grader. That experience and years of eligibility remaining provide the potential for Spring Grove to once again compete for a conference crown.
This article concerns team achievement, whereas individual accomplishments will be featured in upcoming postseason awards coverage.
Lions the Last 7 Seasons – SG girls Basketball
2023 12-15 (10-8 SEC, 3rd place East Division)
2022 10-17 (7-6 SEC, 3rd place East Division)
2021 ..3-13 (3-11 SEC, 5th place East Division)
2020 ..6-21 (4-9 SEC, 4th place East Division)
2019 10-12 (6-7 SEC, 3rd place East Division)
2018 10-14 (6-7 SEC, 2nd place tie East Division)
2017 15-11 (11-3 SEC, 2nd place East Division)
total 66-103 (47-51 SEC)
conference championships (11): 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2005, 2003, 1996, 1980
sub-section/district championships (6): 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 1997, 1995
section championships (1): 2012
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