Spring Grove, which has won the past two Nine-Man football championships, is making its first appearance in a boys' basketball state tournament.
The unseeded Lions looked like tournament veterans Thursday at Williams Arena as they defeated top-seeded Springfield 78-67 in the Class 1A quarterfinals.
"Our kids have a lot of character," Spring Grove coach Wade Grinde said. "They were focused. They played with grit and determination."
The Lions also displayed their shooting ability. The Lions (24-4) shot 59.5 percent from the field and 65 percent from three-point range. After making eight of 15 three-point field-goal attempts in the first half, the Lions made all five of their second-half three-point attempts.
Springfield (27-3) opened an early 18-11 lead but the Lions outscored the Tigers 15-7 over the final seven minutes to open a 41-34 halftime lead. The Lions started the second half with a 13-4 run to build a 54-38 lead. The closest the Tigers got in the final 11 minutes was five.
Noah Elton paced the Lions with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Folz scored 21 and Ethan Matzke contributed 19 points.
Isaac Fink scored 30 to lead the Tigers. Decker Scheffler scored 16 and Mitchell Buerkle added 10.
Henning 63, Christ's Household of Faith 56: Henning senior guard Sam Fisher was a key exception in a game of missed free throws by both teams. He made seven of his eight free-throw attempts in the final 2 minutes, 10 seconds to secure the victory.
"There was a lot of pressure," said Fisher, who finished with a game-high 20 points. "I had to calm myself down, make it like nobody was watching."
He made four consecutive free throws two seconds apart to turn a 56-54 lead to a six-point cushion with 24 seconds left. His teammates went through a 4-for-9 stretch from the free-throw line in the previous four minutes.
"Sam is our best free-throw shooter, and we're confident he's going to make them," Henning coach Randy Misegades said. "That's what won the game."
The Lions (23-6) trailed 55-53 when senior forward McCaleb Alleman stepped to the free-throw line with 30 seconds left. He made the first free throw and missed the second. Then things came unraveled.
Alleman, who paced four players in double figures with 16 points, was called for a foul after the rebound by Henning. He slammed the ball to the floor and it ricocheted off his foot into the stands, resulting in a technical foul.
"I thought it was misconstrued, and looked worse than it was," Lions coach James Scheeler said. "That was tough to take with a win on the line. It's a learning moment."
So was the Lions' free-throw shooting. They were 6-for-13 in the second half and missed the front end of one 1-and-1.
"We had an opportunity to win the game at the free-throw line, and didn't take advantage of it," Scheeler said.
The Hornets (29-1) are making their first state tournament appearance since 1966.
Ada-Borup 49, Cromwell-Wright 39: "Big fella'' Mason Miller, a junior center, provided the needed spark for the Cougars, scoring nine straight points and igniting a 22-3 second-half run as the Cougars overcame a six-point deficit in the final 13 minutes.
"Once Mason got going, we started playing with more energy," Cougars coach Trevor Stewart said. "Everything started going our way."
The 6-8 Miller owned the paint against the much smaller Cardinals (25-4). He finished with a dominating double-double (19 points and 17 rebounds).
"The big fella is capable of doing that," Stewart said. "He's a very talented kid on both ends of the floor."
Miller's spurt turned a 31-25 deficit into a 34-31 lead for the No. 8-rated Cougars (29-1). He also had four rebounds and blocked one of his four shots during the run.
"We locked up on defense, and that led to our offense," Miller said. "I was just trying to do a little extra."
Senior forwards Cameron Cahoon and Jaden Gronner each had 10 points for the Cardinals.
North Woods 56, Westbrook-Walnut Grove 39: State tournament experience came to the forefront at the start of the second half, when the No. 6-ranked Grizzlies used a 16-7 run to propel them to victory
North Woods, located in Cook, is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the state tournament.
"We needed to show them that we've been here before," said North Woods junior forward Trevor Morrison, who had a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds) and scored six of the Grizzles' first eight points of the second half. "We didn't start very well (a 22-19 lead at halftime), but we survived and advanced."
Freshman guard TJ Chiabotti added 11 points while senior guard Cade Goggleye had 10 points and five assists for the Grizzlies (28-2).
"We had to keep attacking on offense," North Woods coach Will Kleppe said. "It was a matter of our guards staying aggressive. The boys did a good job of finding Trevor, who gets such good position."
Senior center Parker Freeburg scored 16 points to lead the Chargers (23-8), making their first state tournament appearance since 1994.