Knights advance to state tournament
ARLINGTON — One night after the girls’ basketball program qualified for the state tournament, the Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s boys’ basketball team accomplished the same feat 24 hours later as St. Mary’s defeated St. Clair 80-67 in the Section 2A boys’ basketball championship at Sibley East High School.
It’s the first time since 2006 that the Knights have qualified for the state tournament in boys’ basketball.
The Knights had four players in double figures, led by Carson Domeier’s 20 points. Trent Steffensmeier scored 18, Kaleb Wait scored 15 and Kyle Goblirsch finished with 13 for the Knights, who improved to 19-3 overall.
Down 5-0 and 10-4 early on against the Cylcones, St. Mary’s took over and eventually grabbed a 17-16 lead on a basket from Braden Hansen. The Knights built that lead to 26-19, only to see the Cyclones go ahead 31-30 on a 3-pointer from Devin Embacher with 3:34 left in the first half.
However, the Knights closed the half with a 7-2 run to take a 37-33 lead into the break.
“Our conference prepared us well, we were battle-tested like this where we got down early and in the playoffs, we had a couple of games where some we got out big and some we had to battle,” St. Mary’s coach Judd Walter said. “These guys showed great resiliance and we just kind of stuck with the game plan.”
The Cyclones, who had a good combination of height and athleticism, were unable to get a run together in the second half.
The Knighs led 42-35 after a free throw from Goblirsch and they went ahead 50-41 on another basket from Hansen, but the Cyclones hit a 3-pointer to make it 50-44. The teams traded 3s later to give the Knights a 57-47 advantage and they held on to that double-digit lead for most of the rest of the way.
Connor Andree St. Clair with 30 points and Tom Loeffler finished with 9. Jacob Lux finished with 8 points and Hansen scored 6 for the Knights.
For the Knights, the Section 2A championship is quite an accomplishment after the team went through a youth movement a few years ago, going 9-18 in 2018-19 and 15-13 last year. They will be seeded for the state tournament on Saturday morning and they will find out who they play and where they play for their first game on Wednesday.
“We just used that as motivation, the past few years we haven’t been doing anything and this year we stepped it up and we had a good group of guys, we were just ready this year,” Trent Steffensmeier said.