March 22, 2023 at 3:23 p.m.
Streeters boys hoops end campaign 21-8
All season long, the Sauk Centre Streeters boys basketball team proved they could muster everything they had against the top teams in the state.
An astounding 21 wins and a West Central Conference championship were not achieved without being able to handle what teams threw at them, and against the No. 1-seeded, top-10-ranked Albany Huskies, Sauk Centre provided a formidable challenge, jumping out to a six-point lead less than four minutes into the Section 6AA semifinals March 15.
However, the Huskies used a resilient defense and a 22-point, 12-rebound showing from senior center Ethan Borgerding to down the Streeters 63-49, ending a spectacular season in a sudden manner at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
“That’s why they’re (Albany) 29-1,” said Kevin Kuefler, head coach. “We knew going into the game it was going to be a battle. We didn’t give up. They were just a better team than we were.”
Both teams presented excellent man-to-man defense, leading to top scorers Jay Neubert of Sauk Centre and Tysen Gerads of Albany struggling to assert their usual control over the game. Neubert managed 22 points, including the 2,000th of his high school career, but was held to 8 of 21 shooting and fouled out. Gerads, meanwhile, scored 15 points, 11 coming from the free-throw line on a 2-for-10 shooting day. Part of this success was Sauk Centre’s willingness to play aggressive and intense.
“We didn’t want to play scared,” Kuefler said. “We were going to try and play toe-to-toe with them from the start. Early in the game, I was happy we went at them.”
Despite failing to establish momentum early, the dominant Huskies rounded back into form by relying on matchup advantages. Against Sauk Centre’s relatively-small lineup, Borgerding feasted, bullying his way into strong positions in the paint to draw fouls and score at will.
“We were unwilling to double because they have plenty of shooters that would hurt us,” Kuefler said. “We had to live with the fact they had a size advantage. Ultimately, they were extremely disciplined at going inside and playing through their advantage.”
A low-scoring, defensive-minded first half ended with Albany up 27-19. While it was far from the six-point advantage it once possessed, Kuefler and the Streeters still were satisfied with the team’s overall execution, particularly on defense.
“They’re scoring 76 points a game, so keeping them to the 50s would be dramatically less than what they usually do,” Kuefler said. “All in all, we played pretty well on defense.”
Unfortunately for Sauk Centre, their previous formula of transitioning clean defense into smooth offense did not transfer over to its final game of the season. The Streeters shot just 8-for-28 from beyond the arc and 18-for-53 from the field while only attempting five free throws to Albany’s 27.
“We weren’t able to finish strong inside,” Kuefler said. “It was physical and tough for us to get baskets.”
The Huskies used their authority down low to grab a significant cushion, leading by as many as 18 points in the second half. But, like it has all season, the Streeters built a scary comeback effort, cutting the deficit back down to single digits in the final minutes.
Albany managed to stave off a hungry Sauk Centre team and advance to the Section 6AA finals for the second year in a row. The Streeters, meanwhile, end a momentous season chalk full of unbelievable twists and turns, ending the winter as one of the top four teams of a highly-competitive section.
“I’m happy with the year,” Kuefler said. “We’re always hungry for more, but we’re proud of our overall effort and the season we had.”
Seniors Matthew Warring, Corey McCoy, Carter Ziemer and Hunter Novak bid farewell to basketball after making individualistic, well-recognized contributions to Sauk Centre’s growth as a roster.
“It has meant a lot to me,” Warring said. “To see the progress we have made from the beginning of the summer to the end was really a cool thing.”
Without many wistful thoughts despite coming up short of state, Sauk Centre focuses on the future, as along with Neubert, key pieces Andrew Drevlow, Ethan Riley, Damian Ahrens and more have at least one year of high school basketball remaining. Like their stubbornness to slip further into deficits during the 2022-23 season, the Streeters are far from done.
“We’re right there, and we proved that,” Kuefler said.
SC 19 30 49
ALB 27 36 63
Neubert 22 points (10R), Drevlow 9 (4R), Riley 8 (4R), Ahrens 6, Warring 2 (6R, 4A) and McCoy 2.