End of season leaves unanswered questions for Lightning

Eastview forward Steven Crowl moves in to try to block a shot by Apple Valley's Noah Friedt during the Class 4A, Section 3 boys basketball semifinals. With the section championship game against Lakeville North being canceled, Eastview finished 22-4.

No. 2-ranked boys basketball team wasn’t ready to be done

The abrupt end to the high school boys basketball season hit especially hard for a large group of Eastview seniors who expected their careers to last at least one more game and possibly as many as four.

Instead, they gathered at the high school last Friday to hear their coaches and school officials confirm what they already heard on social media – the COVID-19 virus outbreak had canceled their season. Eastview was to play Lakeville North in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game Friday at Farmington High School, with the winner advancing to the state tournament this week at the Target Center.

“This is something you could never prepare for,” Eastview coach Paul Goetz said. “It might have been easier to talk to the kids if it was our last game because we lost. But this is a really odd way for the season to end because there’s no closure.”

Eastview principal Bruce Miller and assistant principal for curriculum and athletics Matt Percival also spoke, emphasizing that there was nothing the players could have done to change the outcome.

“Like Mr. Miller said, we have to live in the now,” Goetz said. “There are still so many questions we can’t answer yet.”

One question that likely will never be answered is if this Eastview team could have been the school’s first state boys basketball champion. The Lightning (22-4) were second in the final state Class 4A rankings released by Minnesota Basketball News, trailing only undefeated Eden Prairie. Their opponent in the Section 3 final, Lakeville North, would have been seeking a ninth consecutive trip to the state tournament after winning the last eight Section 1 championships. Eastview defeated North twice during the South Suburban Conference schedule.

Eastview was seeking its second consecutive trip to state and fifth overall. The Lightning’s best state tourney finish was second in 2005, when they lost to Hopkins in double overtime in the Class 4A championship game.

Four teams already had won their way into the state Class 4A tournament before the season was called off – Cretin-Derham Hall (Section 4), Hopkins (Section 6), Cambridge-Isanti (Section 7) and Maple Grove (Section 8). In addition to Eastview and Lakeville North, South Suburban Conference teams still alive in the section playoffs were Lakeville South, which was to face Rochester Mayo in the Section 1 final, and Shakopee, which reached the Section 2 title game against Eden Prairie.

Ending the season early proved difficult for an Eastview team that had formed a close bond.

“This group worked hard on the game individually, but they also supported each other and played for each other,” Goetz said. “It was emotional when we got together (Friday) because these kids wanted to finish it out.”

Eastview’s team banquet was scheduled for the first week of April but will be postponed indefinitely. Goetz said the team wants to reschedule.

Several Lightning players will go on to play in college, led by senior forward Steven Crowl, who has signed with the University of Wisconsin. Crowl was one of the final 10 candidates for the Mr. Basketball award, whose winner was to be announced Wednesday night. He averaged 26.1 points a game this season, with a high of 42 in a Feb. 14 victory over Apple Valley.

Ryan Thissen, a senior guard/forward, was named to the Minnesota High School All-Star Basketball Series, but that event now appears unlikely to be held. Thissen, who averaged 14.4 points as a senior, is planning to play in college at St. John’s.

Senior guard Caden Scales is headed to Augsburg and senior guard Jaylen James will play at Briar Cliff. Goetz said senior forward Tate Machacek is considering playing college basketball but hasn’t decided.

Seniors Evan Schroeder, Bennett Scheuring, Payton Kosiorek and Noah Mattson also have completed their basketball careers at Eastview.

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