Spring Grove's quest for state title falls short in Class A semifinals

No. 3 seed Spring Grove suffered a 51-35 loss to No. 2 New Life Academy in Class A state semifinal boys basketball action on Friday. The Lions will play for third place in Class A on Saturday.

Spring Grove huddles during a timeout.jpg
The Spring Grove boys basketball team huddles during a timeout while facing New Life Academy in a Class A state semifinal game on Friday, March 24, 2023, at Target Center in Minneapolis. Spring Grove suffered a 51-35 setback and will play for third place in the state on Saturday.
Guy N. Limbeck / Post Bulletin

MINNEAPOLIS — There will be no state championship, but the Spring Grove boys basketball team built a lifetime of memories during the 2022-23 season.

The third-seeded Lions came up short in their effort to reach the Class A state championship game as they suffered a 51-35 loss to No. 2 New Life Academy (26-5) on Friday at Target Center.

Spring Grove (30-2) led 21-18 early in the second half before New Life Academy went on a 14-0 run to take control of the game.

Spring Grove coach Wade Grinde said this group of players has been special for him because he has coached and taught them all the way through school. Also his youngest of three sons, Tysen, is a member of the team.

“Whether we won today or not doesn’t matter,” the coach said. "We’re going to have memories for a lifetime together.”


“We’re all three-sport athletes basically so we’re never away from each other,” Spring Grove junior Jaxon Strinmoen added. “We’re always practicing, in the gym, going to games, team suppers, everything. We’re a really tight group.”

Spring Grove finished second in the state in Class Nine-Man in football in the fall. A couple of days later the same group of players were preparing for the basketball season.

“Instead of cleats we were in basketball shoes, getting up and down in the basketball gym,” Lions junior Ethan Couch said. “I feel like us group of guys, you couldn’t get any closer than what we have right now. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to tear that apart.”

The Lions' stellar championship run ended against a standout New Life Academy team. Spring Grove was able to control the pace of play in the first half, which was tied 18-18 at the break.

“I felt in the first half we were right where we needed to be,” Grinde said. “Defensively we were causing problems. We were taking them out of what they wanted to do, we were stopping their transition for the most part.”

The second half was much different, however. New Life likes to play an uptempo brand of ball and it was able to dictate that style much better in the second half, when it outscored the Lions 33-17.

Spring Grove forced New Life into 24 turnovers, while committing 16, but the Lions were never able to find their shooting touch against the taller Eagles. New Life had starters that went 6-foot-8, 6-7, 6-4 and 6-3.

New Life held a 41-21 advantage on the boards. And Spring Grove ended up shooting just 28.1% from the floor (16-for-57) while scoring a season-low 35 points.


In the second half, Spring Grove had trouble keeping pace with the Eagles, which Grinde said led to his team’s fatigue. The Lions were also hampered by a cold-shooting game, including a number of open looks on the inside.

“I think maybe we might have gotten a little worn down in the second half,” Grinde said. “And I think it affected our mental approach to what we were trying to do.”

Austin Woolf, a 6-3 senior, led New Life with 13 points and he had seven rebounds while 6-8 senior Erick Reader had 11 points and 15 rebounds.

The Lions shot just 8-for-29 in the second half. They also were 3-for-19 from 3-point range in the contest. Strinmoen led the Lions with 15 points and eight rebounds, but Spring Grove's top two scorers, Elijah Solum and Tysen Grinde, combined for just 10 points.

“As the game started going on and we were missing shots, I think our confidence just dipped and we weren’t playing at a high level like we usually do,” Couch said.

Spring Grove, which had its winning streak snapped at 28 games, will face Cherry in the third-place game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul.

New Life Academy will face No. 1 Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the state championship game at 11 a .m. Saturday at Target Center.

New Life Academy 51, Spring Grove 35
Caleb Griffin 7 P, 1 3-PT; Tysen Grinde 5 P, 3 R, 5 A, 1 3-PT; Ethan Couch 2 P; Jacob Olerud 2 P; Jaxon Strinmoen 15 P, 8 R, 4 A, 5 S, 1 3-PT; Elijah Solum 4 P, 6 R.
Colter Stone 2 P; Maxwell Ross 4 P, 5 R, 6 S; Austin Woolf 13 P, 7 R, 2 3-PT; Colton Hendricks 7 P, 7 R; Erick Reader 11 P, 15 R, 1 3-PT; John Kirschling 10 P, 2 3-PT; Tyler Huebsch 4 P.
Halftime: SG 18, NLA 18.
Free throws: SG 0-1, NLA 12-19.
Three-point goals: SG 3-19, NLA 5-16. Field goals: SG 16-57, NLA 17-42.
Rebounds: SG 21, NLA 41. Turnovers: SG 16, NLA 24.

Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or
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