By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
ST. CLAIR — Last Friday, the St. Clair boys basketball team was scheduled to celebrate its annual Coaches vs. Cancer fund-raising event during a game against Medford, but the death of former Cyclones player Neal Lang, who had battled cancer for more than a year, forced a postponement until today.
It also made the event more real.
“This is the third year we’ve done this, and it has a little different feel to it this year,” St. Clair coach Charlie Freitag said. “It’s going to be tough, but maybe it will help us move on.”
Lang died on Friday morning, and his funeral was Monday. The Cyclones canceled games both nights and played Tuesday. Tonight, the opponent is Medford, but the focus is on raising money and awareness for cancer research.
“The first year, we raised about $900, and this year, we hope to top $15,000,” Freitag said. “The local businesses have really stepped up, and it’s really caught on at the school.”
Around school, people can buy $1 paper cutouts that have lined the gym walls for the last three weeks, and Freitag said that about 2,500 have been sold.
About 40 businesses have pledged $1, $2 or $3 per point scored in tonight’s game. Freitag said that last year, businesses combined to pledge $23 per point, but that total is up to $70 per point tonight, as businesses from Mankato, Madison Lake and Waterville have joined the St. Clair effort.
The Medford team has also joined the fund-raising effort, and both teams will wear pink shoelaces and wrist bands to show support.
According to American Cancer Society staff partner Rick Jeddeloh, the St. Clair fund-raiser will be the largest for any high school in southern Minnesota.
Key stretch for St. Peter
The St. Peter girls are 15-3, but coach Bob Southworth said that he’ll find out how good his team is during the next 10 days.
The Saints host Blue Earth Area (10-5) on Thursday and Jordan (15-2) on Tuesday before playing at Waseca (12-6) on Friday, Feb. 8. That’s an opponents’ combined record of 37-13.
“I’m excited for the next 10 days,” Southworth said. “It will be a good gauge for where we’re at. Some days, we play really well, and other days, we’re not as good.”
St. Peter is 7-1 in South Central games, while Waseca is 6-1. The Saints, who have won eight straight games, are averaging 60.9 points and allowing 43.4 points. Southworth said he’d like to see his team cut down on turnovers and play better on the defensive end.
“I’d like to see us play a consistent game for both halves,” Southworth said. “A lot of games, we’ll be up big at halftime, then not play so well in the second half. We need a more consistent effort on defense, and we have to take better care of the basketball.”
The Mankato Loyola girls (16-2, 10-1 in Valley) are the top seed for next week’s Valley Conference Showcase and will host No. 3 seed Alden-Conger in the opener Monday.
Martin County West is the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 4 seed on Monday to complete the upper, four-team pod. On Thursday, Feb. 7, Martin County West plays at Alden-Conger, and Loyola plays at the No. 4 seed.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain, St. Clair, Nicollet and Martin Luther will be seeded fourth through seventh, with the order determined after tonight’s game between GHEC and St. Clair.
The eighth seed is Cleveland, followed by Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial, Maple River, Truman and Madelia.
The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth seeds will also play a round-robin, as will the lower four seeds.
The Showcase continues with games Thursday, Feb. 7, and finish with six games Saturday, Feb. 9, at Cleveland, starting at 10 a.m. Loyola and Martin County West will play the final game, at approximately 7:30 p.m.
For the first time, all Showcase games will count in the conference standings.
Games to watch
On Friday, United South Central (10-7, 8-0) hosts Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (11-5), one of three Gopher Conference boys teams with two league losses.
The Mankato West boys travel to Winona on Saturday. The Scarlets (10-6, 7-3) are tied for third in the Big Nine, while Winona (8-9, 5-4) is in fifth place.