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Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa junior center Connor Goodwin feels the impact of the Jaguars' first loss of the season after fouling out late in the Class A championship game against Springfield Saturday at Target Center in Minneapolis. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Springfield tops BBE in Class A final

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MINNEAPOLIS - A magic carpet ride for the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team ended Saturday afternoon -- one day short of perfection.

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The Jaguars met their match in the Class A championship game at Target Center.

The No. 8-ranked Springfield Tigers, largely overlooked in this tournament field, sprang past the Jaguars in the second half to win the first-place trophy, 70-58.

BBE came in 32-0, but the No. 1-ranked team didn't shoot like it.

The shot chart told the story: 2-of-27 from behind the three-point arc, 27-of-80 overall and 2-of-11 from the free-throw line.

"We just couldn't make our shots," said senior forward Brady Koehler outside the Jaguars' locker room. "They packed it down low where they are big and physical, and we just never made our shots. Everyone is pretty heartbroken."

All season, the Jaguars took pride in their defense, but Springfield had the answer.

Jesse Kieper, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, was able to dribble through the BBE traps. Those traps had helped produce 15 turnovers in the first half alone in the semifinal victory over MACCRAY on Friday.

Springfield gave up the ball only 11 times in two halves, only once by Kieper, who delivered 9-of-10 free throws, while posting a game-high 25 points.

"We didn't get the turnovers and we just kept missing shots, though we had looks," said BBE coach David Montbriand. "We've got some good finishers inside, but they took that away from us. They played tough interior defense."

Springfield brought 6-foot-8 Kyle Marz, a University of Wisconsin I football recruit, off the bench to plug up the middle.

BBE forward Kevin Kuefler foraged for 14 points in the first half, which ended with Springfield up 27-26. The 1,000-point scorer got fewer chances in the second half, but still finished his prep career with 20 points and 20 rebounds.

"Springfield played a great game," said Kuefler. "They were trying to deny me the ball, but when so much is on the line, you feel you can do a little bit more."

It was a splendid first half. A jump shot by Kuefler put BBE up 22-21 at 4:27 of the first half. The Tigers shot back in front 27-22, but BBE center Connor Goodwin hit two short jumpers from the side in the last minute, off consecutive feeds by twin brothers Brady and Brent Koehler.

Springfield went up 33-26 in the first two minutes of the second half. BBE answered with a 10-0 run for a 36-33 lead at 12:56. Kirby Montbriand and Goodwin each had two baskets in the spurt.

The Tigers replied with a seven-point run to regain the lead for good, 41-36, at 10:45. Kuefler's layup at 5:33 cut the Springfield lead to 47-46, but a three-point basket by Kieper made it 50-46. Montbriand missed a trey at the other end and the Tigers would extend their lead to 59-51 before Brian Goodwin's three-pointer made it 59-54 with two minutes left. That was as close as the Jaguars would get down the stretch.

"We felt our strength of schedule helped us out," said Ryan Beyer, a starting senior forward for the Tigers, who won the Tomahawk Conference. "We used a 1-1-3 match-up zone and crowded their big guys down low. We put a hand in the face of their outside shooters."

After Kuefler's 20 points came Connor Goodwin with 13 points, Brady Koehler 10 and Kirby Montbriand with eight. Goodwin also got 13 rebounds.

BBE outboarded the Tigers 56-47, but had four less three-pointers and made 18 fewer free throws. Dillon Schultz added 15 points, while the brawny Marz furnished 12 rebounds and seven points.

BBE was playing in its first state tournament in boys basketball and it is the consolidation's first time in a championship game. The Belgrade football team finished runner-up at the first Prep Bowl in 1982 and the Belgrade/Brooten track and field team won the girls Class A championship in 1986.

"We all wanted the storybook ending," said coach Montbriand. "And it looked like the way we were playing this might be the year. The boys are taking it pretty hard; there are a lot of tears."

The Springfield team also had its sights on getting the school's first state title in basketball, boys or girls.

"We've been playing together since second grade and we were here last year," said junior guard Alex Fink. "We kind of felt we were a team of destiny."

No doubt, both BBE and Springfield were deserving of the small-school center stage on Saturday. BBE's program is 81-10 the last three seasons and Springfield is 51-5 the past two years.

Brady Koehler said in the post-game dressing room that coach Montbriand told the players that today's heartbreak would ease with time.

"He wrote on the blackboard: 'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.' "

And consider that it has been quite a ride, winning 32 straight, a section championship and the second-place trophy at state.

Kevin Kuefler, Connor Goodwin and Brady Koehler were selected to the 10-player Class A all-tournament team.

Springfield 70, BBE 58

BBE (32-1) 26 32 -- 58

Springfield (26-3) 27 43 -- 70

BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA - 27-80 FG (2-27 3-pt); 2-11 FT; 56 rebounds; 22 fouls ... Scoring: Brian Goodwin 5, Kevin Kuefler 20, Brent Koehler 3, Brady Koehler 10, Connor Goodwin 12, Kirby Montbriand 8 ... 3-point shots: Brian Goodwin 1, Brent Koehler 1 ... Rebound leaders: K. Kuefler 20, Brady Koehler 7, C. Goodwin 13, Montbriand 5 ... Assist leaders: K. Kuefler 4, Brady Koehler 4 ... Steal leaders: Brady Koehler 1, James Kuefler 1 ... Blocked shots: Brady Koehler 2, C. Goodwin 3, K. Kuefler 2

SPRINGFIELD - 22-59 FG (6-18 3-pt); 20-29 FT; 47 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Jesse Kieper 25, Alex Fink 13, Dillon Schultz 17, Cody Milbrath 6, Ryan Beyer 2, Tyler Marz 7 ... 3-point shots: Kieper 2, Fink 1, Schultz 3 ... Rebound leaders: Marz 12, Fink 8, Milbrath 6 ... Assist leaders: Schultz 3 ... Steal leaders: Schultz 4 ... Blocked shots: Milbrath 5

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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