MANKATO — Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s doesn’t run an offense with a lot of tricks or frills.

In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of movement in it.

But one thing is clear after the Knights’ state quarterfinal win over Central Minnesota Christian: It’s effective.

Led by 31 points from junior guard Trent Steffensmeier, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s advanced to the Class A semifinals with a 86-73 victory on Wednesday from Mankato East High School.

Central Minnesota Christian sophomore Ethan Bulthuis (1) knocks the ball away from Sleepy Eye St. Mary's Carson Domeier during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian sophomore Ethan Bulthuis (1) knocks the ball away from Sleepy Eye St. Mary's Carson Domeier during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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SESM’s output was the most points the Bluejays have given up this season.

“They were just better than us tonight,” Bluejays head coach Ted Taatjes said. “They were tough on the glass and obviously, they made more shots.”

The Knights were the third seed in the South end of the bracket while the Bluejays were the second seed. SESM plays Hancock at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The Owls, the fourth seed in North, defeated top-seed Nevis 57-50.

Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s led wire to wire, but gained its separation with a 9-0 run to close out the first half.

Central Minnesota Christian senior Blake Greenwaldt looks on as his 3-point shot goes through the hoop in front of the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's student section during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian senior Blake Greenwaldt looks on as his 3-point shot goes through the hoop in front of the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's student section during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Steffensmeier started the surge with one of his many strong drives to the basket. Then, after Carson Domeier scored down low following a quick spin move, Kaleb Wait extended the Knights’ cushion to a 38-26 advantage with a layup.

Wait and Domeier each finished with 16 points.

“They just take really good quality shots,” CMCS senior guard Blake Greenwaldt said. “They’re a very disciplined team and I think it was hard to stop when 80 percent of their possessions they score on.”

Central Minnesota Christian junior Ben Van Eps lines up a jumper in the lane during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian junior Ben Van Eps lines up a jumper in the lane during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

SESM operated primarily off of high screens. Occasionally, the player setting the pick would receive a pass on a roll to the basket. Other times, the screen led to a back door on the weak side of the floor.

However, most of the time, the screen at the top of the key either resulted in isolation play where the ball-handler either took it himself or kicked it out to a teammate. Steffensmeier, Wait and Domeier waited for their defender to be slightly out of position before attacking.

“It was difficult with the fact that they were patient enough until you weren’t prepared and then they would penetrate,” Taatjes said. “We watched a lot of film on it and that’s what it was. The hard part is when you get down six or eight points to start a game, that style of offense becomes harder to guard.”

Central Minnesota Christian senior Mason Groen puts up a layup attempt during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian senior Mason Groen puts up a layup attempt during the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Following a Bluejays turnover, Steffensmeier drew a shooting foul and a pair of foul shots.

His first free throw resulted in his 1,000th career point. His second put SESM up 40-26 entering the half.

On the Bluejays’ final possession before halftime, Case Mulder re-aggravated a right ankle injury on a drive. The junior guard originally hurt the ankle earlier in the month. He limped his way to the locker room and was the last player to exit the locker room when the team returned to the floor.

Despite being less than 100%, he helped keep CMCS in it by scoring 17 of his 30 points in the second half.

Central Minnesota Christian junior Case Mulder goes up for a layup in the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian junior Case Mulder goes up for a layup in the first half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“I give the kid a lot of credit,” Taatjes said. “He was out there on one leg basically, just gutting it out. ... I’m proud of the way he came back and kept battling.”

CMCS quickly got its deficit down to single digits by scoring on seven of its next eight possessions.. A cut and basket inside from Caleb Vander Beek made it 51-43.

Steffensmeier delivered on the other end to start a Knights stretch of scores on six straight possessions.

The Bluejays made one final push late.

Following a jump shot from Vander Beek, and a Ben Van Eps steal on the ensuing inbounds, Mulder converted a three-point play to make it 73-65 with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left. That’s as close as they would get.

Central Minnesota Christian junior Case Mulder puts up a runner in the second half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian junior Case Mulder puts up a runner in the second half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Class A

SESM 86,

CMCS 73

SESM (19-3) 40 46 — 86
CMCS (18-4) 26 47 — 73
SESM - Scoring: Kaleb Wait 16, Trent Steffensmeier 31, Braden Hansen 2, Jacob Lux 9, Carson Domeier 16, Kyle Goblirsch 12 … 3-point shots: Wait 1, Steffensmeier 3, Lux 1, Domeier 1 … Rebound leader: N/A… Assist leader: N/A … Steal leader: N/A ... Block leader: N/A
CMCS - Scoring: Case Mulder 30, Mason Groen 2, Blake Greenwaldt 9, Ben Van Eps 18, Caleb Vander Beek 14 … 3-point shots: Mulder 4-8, Greenwaldt 3-6 … Rebound leader: Vander Beek 4 … Assist leaders: Mulder 5, Van Eps 4, Vander Beek 3 … Steal leaders: Ethan Bulthuis 4, Van Eps 4 ... Block leader: Vander Beek 1

Central Minnesota Christian head boys basketball coach Ted Taatjes talks to his players during a timeout in the second half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Central Minnesota Christian head boys basketball coach Ted Taatjes talks to his players during a timeout in the second half of the Class A state quarterfinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at Mankato. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Class AA

Waseca 83,

Morris/CA 58

Morris/Chokio-Alberta saw its first state tournament berth since 2004 end with a loss to Waseca at Chanhassen.

Waseca (21-1) outscored the Tigers 48-30 in the second half to win going away.

Junior center Jackson Loge had 25 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists for Morris/CA.

Waseca is the South’s top seed. Morris/CA is the fourth seed in the South. The winner plays Fergus Falls at 5 p.m. next Wednesday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Fergus Falls, the North’s third seed, beat No. 2 Annandale 47-44 on Tuesday in Alexandria.

Morris/CA (19-3) 28 30 — 58
Waseca (21-1) 33 48 — 81
MORRIS/CA - Scoring: Durgin Decker 6, Andrew Olson 6, Brandon Jergenson 8, Thomas Tiernan 3, Riley Reimers 4, Jackson Loge 25, Sam Kleinwolterink 6 … 3-point shots: Olson 2-2, Jergenson 2-4, Tiernan 1-3, Loge 2-6 … Rebound leader: Loge 8 … Assist leaders: Tiernan 3, Loge 3 … Steal leader: Jergenson 2 ... Block leader: Loge 5
WASECA - Stats not available.



State Boys Basketball

Tournament

Class A

Quarterfinals Wednesday

Hancock 57, Nevis 50

Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 86, Central Minnesota Christian 73

Hayfield 62, Legacy Christian Academy 43

Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 58, Deer River 52

Semifinals Wednesday, April 7

(at Target Center, Minneapolis)

N4-Hancock (18-5) vs. S3-Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (20-3), 10 a.m.

S4-Hayfield (19-4) vs. N3-Badger/GB-MR (20-3), noon

Final Saturday, April 10

(at Target Center, Minneapolis)

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.



Class AA

Quarterfinals Tuesday

Fergus Falls 47, Annandale 42

Quarterfinals Wednesday

Minneapolis North 71, Moose Lake/Willow River 40

Caledonia 81, St. Croix Academy 52

Waseca 81, Morris/Chokio-Alberta 58

Semifinals Wednesday, April 7

(at Target Center, Minneapolis)

N1-Minneapolis North (15-1) vs. S-2Caledonia (22-1), 2 p.m.

N3-Fergus Falls (16-7) vs. S1-Waseca (21-1), 5 p.m.

Final Saturday, April 10

(at Target Center, Minneapolis)

Semifinal winners, 3 p.m. at Target Center.