Jason’s Blog: It’s High School Playoff Time
There's nothing quite like high school winter sports playoffs.
Think about it. In the spring, they get jammed in over the course of about 10 days and most of the kids are more interested in what else is going on in their lives (namely, summer) than the events themselves.
In the fall, you can get some pretty cool atmospheres at the Xcel Energy Center for volleyball, and the state football playoffs are fun, but very few area schools are involved. We've been spoiled with Blooming Prairie, Triton and Owatonna football through the years, as well as Owatonna volleyball, but these events get overshadowed by the almighty power of NFL football and college football.
There's a special spotlight that shines on high school athletes during winter playoffs.
Owatonna's girls hockey team kicked things off in style two weeks ago when they started a great run to the Section 1A championship game against Northfield. Tim Hunst's team ultimately fell short of advancing to state, something that was once a regular tradition for OHS girls hockey, but the excitement of a 1-goal game at Four Seasons Centre in the third period of a title game brought back some good memories for that program.
Last Saturday the Huskies wrestlers did not fare as well in an upset loss to rival Faribault in the Section 1AAA wrestling semifinals. Man, you have to go back a long, long way to find the last time Owatonna lost to Faribault in wrestling. Owatonna will have a chance to redeem themselves as the individuals will battle this week for a trip to the X next week for one of the great Minnesota high school tournament spectacles, the state wrestling tourney. Let's hope some of the guys in blue who lost last weekend can get some redemption this week.
This week we have area boys basketball starting up as well, with No. 6 Blooming Prairie hosting No. 11 Christian Life Academy in Section 1A West. The winner will be at No. 3 Southland on Thursday. Next week, No. 3 NRHEG will host No. 6 Blue Earth Area in Section 2AA South on Feb. 23.
Boys hockey playoffs start on Thursday with the No. 5 Owatonna Huskies traveling to No. 4 Rochester John Marshall in Section 1AA. The Rockets won the Big Nine championship this season.
Owatonna boys basketball playoffs begin next week when the Huskies will likely be on the road Feb. 24 for a Section 1AAAA quarterfinal game. The section is loaded, with both Lakeville schools ranked in the top 14 in the QRF and JM is No. 18. The best Owatonna can hope for is a five-seed, which would have them playing at New Prague.
Then in a couple of weeks we'll be ready to discuss girls basketball playoffs, and we do have three local teams that have a chance to make a nice run. Blooming Prairie will begin its playoffs in Section 1A West on Feb. 25, and they are very likely going to be the No. 3 seed and will host a playoff game. Goodhue and Lyle/Pacelli would figure to be the top two seeds, respectively.
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva will start its playoffs on March 1 and will likely be the No. 2 seed in Section 2AA South. The Panthers will most likely have to beat Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, a team that swept NRHEG in the regular season, in order to advance to the section championship.
Finally, the Owatonna girls basketball team has five regular season games remaining before it opens the playoffs in Section 1AAAA on March 2. It will be tough for the Huskies to earn a home playoff game as they, like their boys counterparts, find themselves in a section that is loaded with very good teams.
Add it all up and I would be satisfied if one of these area teams would make it to state this winter -- and by that I mean one additional area team -- congratulations to the Owatonna girls gymnastics team for making state for the first time in program history. Gymnastics is probably the most impressive sport we have in terms of pure athleticism and talent, and it often goes largely unrecognized. A lot of hard work goes into this accomplishment so let's not forget to cheer them on at state this week!
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50PM. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.