No matter the outcome, the celebration was going to the first of its kind for that school. Spring Grove jumped to an early double-digit lead on their way to the Section 1A championship 72-54 over Randolph for their first trip to the state boys basketball tournament. The arena at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester was packed with expectant fans from both communities.

The Lions hit nearly all of their shots early, three's, two's and free throws, during a 13-0 run in the opening minutes to build an 18-3. The Rockets struggled from trey-land early and lost the rebounding battle. Randolph was also plagued by turnovers early in the game, a key stat in their win over Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals Wednesday.

Randolph made several runs to keep the game close. They outscored Spring Grove 15-8 through the middle of the first half to pull within 26-18. The Lions gradually pulled away for a 39-25 halftime lead, fueled by accurate three-point shooting and perfect free throw shots.

Senior Alex Folz drilled three triples for Spring Grove in the first half and went five-for-five at the charity stripe. He ended the game with 33 points on six three-pointers, a regular field goal and 13-for-16 from the free throw line.

The Lions hit six three pointers in the first half and nine for the game. They shot 26-for-31 from the foul line. Senior Ethan Matzke had 15 points. Seniors Noah Elton and Kai Bjerke had big rebounding nights for the 23-4 Lions who extended their winning streak to nine games.

Spring Grove, who averaged over 60 points per game during the season, was limited to 45 in each of their first three playoff games.

Randolph, who had gone many years without getting this close to a state tournament bid according to coach Kent Otte, eventually found their shooting touch and forced numerous turnovers in the second half.

The Rockets scored the first six points of the second half to make the score 39-31. Shortly after that, Spring Grove went on a 13-2 run that included a couple of long three's by Folz for a 55-35 advantage.

Inspired by their enthusiastic crowd, the Rockets went on a 7-1 run with about four minutes still remaining to claw within 61-47, but Spring Grove was lights out on free throw shooting to keep Randolph at bay.

Senior Carsyn Gunderson led the Rockets with 19 points, 15 in the first half. Senior Joey Erickson added 12 and junior Nick Drinken scored 10. Randolph made 9-of-13 free throws and had seven three-pointers. Other seniors on the 26-3 Rockets' roster include Alex Wille, Andrew Wenstrom and Jack Bennerotte.

The Lions advance to the state tournament with their first game on March 21. Watch our website for the broadcast schedule for AM 920 KDHL, which will be presenting its 71st year of coverage of the state boys tournament.

Roy Koenig/Townsquare Media

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