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Plainview is hot but not looking past Kingsland

Also:Goodhue, R-P go at it again

By Pat Ruff

pruff@postbulletin.com

If Plainview is looking for a reason to worry, even in the face of a 40-point win, it's got one.

Sure, the Gophers will be the favorite at 8 p.m. Thursday when they play Kingsland in the Section One, Class AA boys basketball championship at Mayo Civic Arena. After all, towering and athletic Plainview (22-5) has won its last 11 and battered Kingsland (20-10) 76-57 in the teams' only meeting this season.

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But here's the reason for pause: Kingsland is not scared. Not after what it pulled off on March 9, dumping Section 1AA tournament favorite Byron in the subsection semifinals.

Just like Plainview, Byron was not only heralded (ranked No. 5 in the final state Class AA poll), but also had talented big people. Then the primary focus was 6-foot-6, 220-pound all-state candidate Matt Storlie. Now it's a Plainview front line of 6-8 center Matt Ihrke, 6-3 deluxe forward Michael Kasten (13 ppg., 10 rpg., but questionable with a sprained ankle) and 6-5 high leaping Jason McHone that Kingsland has to deal with.

Well, it's ready to deal.

"We are still going to try to score down low," Kingsland coach C.J. Boerger said. "What we want to do is go right at them. With Ihrke especially, we want to attack him just as much as he is attacking us. He really affected us the first time we played against them. Hopefully we've learned from that."

Plainview is hoping it's learned, too. Not so much from its last meeting with Kingsland, but from what it's been able to accomplish these last three weeks. The 11 straight wins, each one seemingly more impressive than the one before it, has happened as the Gophers have increasingly turned up the heat in practices, then transferred that same commitment to ferocity in games.

Still, as well as Plainview played in Saturday's 75-35 win over St. Charles, Thompson knows his team can't start taking things for granted.

"We played a great basketball game, but every game is different," said Thompson, who like Kingsland coach C.J. Boerger is trying to get his school into the state tournament for the first time. "We're trying to take it one game at a time. Now we have to focus on the section title game."

One of Plainview's main objectives is slowing down Kingsland shooting guard Chris Erichsen. One of the quickest players in the area, Erichsen is also one of its best scorers, averaging 19 points per game. Plainview will also have to deal with continuous full-court pressure from the Knights, led by the super-quick backcourt combination of Erichsen and Thomas Lentz.

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Wildcats, Trojans in Section 1A title game

Goodhue, ranked No. 1 in state Class A, has lost just twice all season. Powerful Byron beat the Wildcats in their season-opener, and Rushford-Peterson snuck past Goodhue in triple overtime on Jan. 31 in Rushford.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mayo Civic Arena, 27-2 Goodhue has the opportunity to avenge one of those losses. That's when it takes on large and physical Rushford-Peterson (21-7) in the Section One, Class A championship game.

But the heck with revenge. Goodhue coach Tony Poncelet said the only thing on his team's mind is accomplishing for the first time in school history something that R-P has made a habit of. It wants to get to the state tournament, a place R-P has ended its season five of the past seven years.

Whoever wins Thursday's game is statebound.

"We're not thinking about revenge, but we are pretty excited," said Poncelet, whose team was also the favorite last year in Section 1A, but was upset by Trinity River Ridge, a team it beat Friday in the West subsection championship.

"We've got an opportunity to do something we've never done before," Poncelet said. "I think we'll be OK, because our guys have performed in front of big crowds before (many of them members of Goodhue's state championship football team this fall)."

In its favor, R-P has not only been to plenty of state tournaments under coach Tom Vix, most recently in 2001, but also it is just one of two teams to have had success against Goodhue.

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The Trojans did it the last time by sticking with Goodhue on the boards -- something most teams find impossible -- and also by attacking the Wildcats offensively.

In other words, by beating quick, strong and persistent Goodhue at its own game. It took three overtimes to do it, but it happened.

Vix concedes that his team will need a monstrous effort to pull it off again.

"I don't know if we really beat Goodhue the last time, but we hung in there with them," Vix said. "They just have so many weapons and do so many things well. Plus, they have a complete player in (6-3, 190-pound) guard Corey Ryan. He is a legitimate (star) who can take over a game."

Ryan has done that in consecutive games. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter in a subsection semifinal comeback win over Bethany, then had 16 points in the finals against River Ridge.

However, while Ryan is the team's best player, this is a balanced bunch. Five players average between 15 and seven points, and Ryan, Tyler Lodermeier and Ben O'Connor all average around 7.5 rebounds per game.

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