2019-20 RECORD: 25-3, 12-2 Gopher (2nd)
FINAL GAME: 59-51 win over Hayfield in Section 1A championship
Blooming Prairie secured its first trip to the state tournament in 54 years last season but it never got to make the trip when the Minnesota State High School League canceled the state tournament due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Awesome Blossoms went 25-3 and defeated Hayfield 59-51 in the Section 1A championship game to earn their first section title since 1966. But after the graduation of nine seniors, including four starters, Blooming Prairie will attempt to reach the section summit with a nearly entirely new lineup.
Leading scorer and rebounder Gabe Hagen graduated in the spring after scoring 15.3 points per game and pulling down 7.8 rebounds a game. Kaden Thomas scored 13.3 points a game and averaged 4 rebounds a game in his final season with the Blossoms while 10 points per game scorer Karson Vigeland and Zach Archer, who averaged 6.8 points a game have also moved on.
So who’s returning for Blooming Prairie?
Junior Drew Kittelson is the lone returning starter after he averaged 6.8 points a game. Blossoms head coach Nate Piller expects Kittelson to shoulder more of the scoring load while other players will have to take on specific roles with the team.
“This is a group that’s a little different than last year’s group,” Piller said. “This group is a little more skill-specific. I really think you have to tailor things to what you have.”
While Piller will tweak things to cater to the strengths of the personnel on the team, he also likes to mold multi-faceted players who can play several positions.
What should help Piller and Blooming Prairie is the basketball team includes a handful of players from the football team as well. The confidence the football players have can transfer to the hardcourt.
“They know what goes into being successful,” Piller said. “They’ve seen it, they know it’s possible.”
Colin Jordison, Alex Miller, Alex Piller, Mitchell Fiebiger, Cole Christianson, Boone Carlson, Jacob and Chris Naatz and others will likely contribute for the Blossoms.
Piller anticipates several teams to compete for the Gopher Conference title. Blooming Prairie finished second to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which captured its second straight league crown. But the Buccaneers and third-place finisher Hayfield both graduated six seniors from last season. Maple River played a sophomore-heavy lineup last season and the Eagles could take a step forward this season.