Lake City's upset of Goodhue on Friday wasn't just a ultra-competitive game with a dramatic finish. It was a matchup of two teams that featured just two seniors and at one point had four freshman on the court. Appropriately, the leading scorers for each were underclassmen and the game-deciding points were scored by a freshman.
Lake City (13-4, 8-1 HVL) has no seniors and Goodhue (14-3, 6-1 HVL) has just two seniors (Lexie Lodermeier and Kate Opsahl). Despite that, both teams are two of the best in the Hiawatha Valley League and are doing so with younger players.
"We have a lot of leaders on the team," said Lake City head coach Clay Olstad after Friday's game. "Couple ninth-graders and 10th-graders, but I don't really view them as that. I've told them that they've played a little varsity last year. 'You guys aren't rookies anymore.'"
Goodhue head coach Josh Wieme feels the same way about his squad.
"They've all played here on varsity already, so we're building off that experience," Wieme said on Jan. 9. "They've seen what they can do, now they're trying to perfect it."
Wieme said the Wildcats don't have a "superstar" on the team this year. There isn't a girl who puts up 20 or more points every game. Instead, the Wildcats have a core of seven well-rounded players.
"Our kids work very hard and we have some very athletic players," Wieme said. "Torrie Rehder is phenomenal when it comes to being a high school athlete. Hannah Gadient is an incredible athlete. Joslyn Carlson is a very unique athlete. Kate Opsahl has the quickness. I've named five players and haven't mentioned Lexie yet, who is 6-foot-3."
Seemingly every game, the Wildcats are led offensively by a different player. It's on defense where the Wildcats have excelled. Wieme has praised Rehder, a sophomore, and Carlson, a freshman, all season when it comes to their defensive efforts.
The results have followed. This season Goodhue has allowed the fewest points per game in the HVL (42.8). The Wildcats' defense has lead the team to success and Wieme said the team shows up ready to play unselfish basketball.
"I always feel confident that someone will step up and hit the shots," Wieme said. "I feel confident that someone will provide the points. Our kids feel they don't need to force it to anyone person. They don't have to get the ball to someone in a particular spot, we can just move the ball and find the good shot rather than the person who should take it. It's fun that way."
Lake City, a team without a senior, has done its damage on offense. The Tigers currently lead the HVL with 69.2 points per game. Olstad said after Friday's win freshman Natalie Bremer, among others, plays an active game and has done so all year.
Bremer, sophomore Grace Bany, and freshmen Lilly Meincke and Mya Shones all play an important part in the Tigers' offense, and did so on Friday.
Olstad said he's seen growth throughout the season and thinks Friday's game will help gain experience for the younger players.
"We talk a lot about read and react," Olstad said. "Ball movement and finding the open girl. Hopefully they use this as experience. There's always learning points. It's hard to simulate games like this in practice, especially the end and finishing a game. I thought (tonight) had good learning points and they're going to keep getting better."
With Goodhue and Lake City looking for an extended playoff run, it's an opportunity for the core of each team to grow together. Luckily for both teams, that core of six to seven players will return next year and lead their respective teams to further success.