Looking for a close game? Find out where the Shakopee boys' basketball team is playing -- doesn't matter, home or away -- and head in that direction.
Through its first 20 games, Shakopee has had more than half of them decided by single digits. Early in the season, that wasn't a good thing for the Missota Conference squad. It has since taken a turn for the better.
"The ability to win the close ones usually makes the difference in a good record and an average record, and we are no exception to that rule," Sabres coach Bruce Kugath said.
Shakopee was 2-5 to start the season. The Sabres have since won 10 of their past 13 games.
"I think there are three main factors in the turnaround," Kugath said.
1. "Winning always gives a player and a team more confidence,'' he said. "We have played together for two years and knew we were better than we had played."
2. "Our injured-ill players were becoming healthy. We were without starting guard Nolan Fischer for the first five games and lost Jake Maiers due to illness for two games. We are still not 100 percent healthy, but are getting close."
3. "We inserted ninth-grader Steffon Mitchell into the lineup because of those injuries and illnesses. Steffon has been amazing. He has been our third-leading scorer and rebounder during the last 13 games. He has made a difference."
The Sabres are led by senior center John Burlager and junior forward Tyler Weiss. Burlager is averaging 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Weiss is scoring at 12.7 point-per game clip.
"Burlager and Weiss are proven scorers with a good supporting cast," Kugath said. "If we continue to improve, we should finish much stronger than we started."
The leading scorer for the Burnsville boys' hockey team, junior forward Tyler Sheehy, recently announced on Twitter that he has made a verbal commitment to play collegiately at Ohio State.
Sheehy's tweet described him as "proud, honored, and excited." He has 13 goals and 23 assists for 36 points on the season.
The Blaze are 13-9-1 with two games remaining in the regular season. They are ranked 12th in Class 2A.
• Prior Lake junior guard Jon Sobaski scored a school-record 45 points as the Lakers outlasted Bloomington Kennedy 80-76 in a recent South Suburban Conference boys' basketball matchup. The previous record of 41 points was held by 1984 graduate Tim Hanson, who was also the Mr. Basketball winner his senior year and went on to play at the University of Minnesota.
• Two South Suburban Conference boys' hockey goalies -- Prior Lake senior Jordan Moran and Rosemount junior Tom Fraune --turned in stellar performances on Feb. 5. Moran turned aside all 40 shots he faced in shutting out Burnsville 4-0. Fraune made 42 saves, including 21 in the third period, as the Irish edged Lakeville North 2-1.
Ron Haggstrom • 612-673-4498