Spring Grove survives Mankato Loyola rally for one-point victory in Class A state quarterfinals

No. 3 seed Spring Grove held off Mankato Loyola 39-38 to advance to the Class A state semifinals in boys basketball at 2 p.m. Friday at Target Center.

Caleb Griffin of Spring Grove.jpg
Senior Caleb Griffin (3) of Spring Grove plays defense on Mankato Loyola senior Lawson Godfrey (11) during Class A boys basketball state quarterfinal play on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Spring Grove held on for a 39-38 victory to advance to the state semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday at Target Center.
Guy N. Limbeck / Post Bulletin

MINNEAPOLIS — It got a bit close for comfort, but the Spring Grove boys basketball team is advancing to the Class A state semifinals.

The No. 3 seed Lions (30-1) built a 10-point lead in the second half before holding on for a 39-38 victory over unseeded Mankato Loyola (22-9) in the opening round of state play at Williams Arena on Wednesday.

"Survive and advance," Spring Grove coach Wade Grinde said. "It's a cliche, but at this point and time in the locker room that's all we care about, that's all we talked about."

Even though Loyola rallied in the closing minutes, Spring Grove's faith and determination to win never wavered.

“We’ve been in this spot before in the section championship,” Lions 6-foot-5 junior Jaxon Strinmoen said. “They (the Goodhue Wildcats) had a 19-0 run on us. All it takes is one shot to get us going and we’re back to calm and normal.”


Tysen Grinde said the Lions had read the book "Toughness" by Jay Bilas and the team used that to focus on the positive and having a short memory if something goes bad.

“No matter what happens, if we make a turnover or have a bad shot or whatever, our teammates help us keep our head up and just move on,” Grinde said.

Spring Grove used a stellar defensive game to open a 36-26 lead with 6:35 to play. And Caleb Griffin's big 3-pointer with 2:18 left gave the Lions a 39-31 lead.

“I thought Caleb Griffin’s shot from the corner was huge for us,” coach Grinde said. “It gave us a little breathing room and we were able to hang on after that. So gutsy shot by the senior.”

Griffin's basket would be the final points the Lions would score.

Loyola received 3-pointers from Carter Zimmerman and Quinn Kelly, with 39 seconds left, to pull within 39-37.

Loyola had a chance to tie the game or go ahead when it forced a turnover with 27 seconds left. Lawson Godfrey was fouled with 9.1 seconds to play, but he was only able to convert the second free throw to cut Spring Grove's lead to 39-38.

The Crusaders had several fouls to give and finally put Spring Grove in the bonus with 3.8 seconds left. Grinde missed the 1-and-1 attempt, but Loyola's half-court shot at the buzzer was well off the mark as the Lions escaped with the victory, its second of the season over Loyola.


“These guys feed off their defense,” coach Grinde said. “They always know if they can get their defense geared set, and if they keep that lead then they’re in great shape. I don’t think we ever really relented there.”

Spring Grove was held to a season-low point total, but its strong defensive play proved to be the key. The Lions have used their length and athleticism as a defensive strength all season and that style of play was on display again in the state quarterfinals.

“That’s been us all year,” Strinmoen said. “We’ve run that defense and we play a really good defense on the top.”

The Crusaders (22-9) had trouble getting to the basket against Spring Grove's tough zone. Loyola's 38 points was a season low.

“When you don’t let them set up that zone, it’s easier for you because they’re just so good at it,” Loyola coach Sam Carlson said. “We haven’t faced a zone even close to that all year. It’s impressive what they do.”

Junior Elijah Solum led the Lions with 16 points while Griffin added nine. Solum scored Spring Grove's first seven points. Both teams had to shake out the jitters in the first half and Spring Grove led 17-14 at the break.

Solum, a 6-1 junior guard, was able to get inside to score four buckets in the second half.

“We’ve got shooters all around the perimeter so when I see a gap I just go in there and the defense usually stays out there because we have such good shooters,” Solum said.


Spring Grove, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A, will face No. 2 seed New Life Academy in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at Target Center. The Lions have now won 28 straight games.

“I think the natural process that going into the next game we’re going to feel a little bit more free, a little bit more loose,” coach Grinde said. “I think we learned a lesson tonight that offensively we have to look to be aggressive but we can’t force it so early.”

Spring Grove 39, Mankato Loyola 38
Caleb Griffin 9 P, 1 3-PT; Tysen Grinde 4 P, 5 R; Ethan Couch 3 P, 1 3-PT; Jacob Olerud 2 P, 4 R; Jaxon Strinmoen 5 P, 8 R, 1 3-PT; Elijah Solum 16 P, 1 3-PT.
Josh Kann 4 R; Simon Morgan 8 P, 5 R; Lawson Godfrey 9 P, 2 3-PT; Jake Sizer 9 P, 5 R; Carter Zimmerman 6 P, 7 R, 2 3-PT; Quinn Kelly 6 P, 2 3-PT.
Halftime: SG 17, ML 14.
Free throws: SG 5-7, ML 4-7.
Three-point goals: SG 4-9, ML 6-19. Field goals: SG 15-33, ML 14-36.
Rebounds: SG 22, ML 22. Turnovers: SG 11, ML 13.

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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