The road to redemption for the St. Edmond boys basketball team begins tonight.
The seventh-ranked Gaels (17-3 overall) host Eagle Grove (0-21) in a Class 2A district quarterfinal here Monday inside the SEHS gym. Tip time is set for 7 p.m.
Head coach Adolph Kochendorfer's squad just completed another successful regular season, as St. Edmond posted at least 16 victories for the ninth consecutive campaign. These Gaels have a different motivation than their predecessors, though, after being bounced in the opening round of the district tournament by Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer a year ago - a loss that ended the program's streak of eight straight appearances in the district finals.
''I suppose this group feels like they have a little more to prove; they might play with more of a chip on their shoulder, knowing how frustrated they were after (the early loss last February),'' Kochendorfer said. ''You've got kids like Neil (Flattery) and Anthony (Flattery) who have been around and seen what the guys in their family have done in the past, and you have Nick (Clark), who missed (the game against the Indians) with an injury and is very excited for his first postseason game.
''This team wants to make its own mark. They're very focused right now, which is what you need to be once tournament time rolls around. Everyone's starting over now, and you're going to get every (opponent's) best shot.''
The Gaels swept the Eagles in NCC competition. Kochendorfer, however, isn't taking much away from the two lopsided victories.
''We're not looking at it like we've played them twice or already beaten them twice,'' Kochendorfer said. ''That doesn't mean anything now. Yes we know them well, but they know us as well. You take it play by play at this point and go hard from start to finish. If you don't, you'll go home sooner than you expect.''
Clark had a regular season worthy of all-state recognition. The junior guard is currently averaging 19.4 points, 6.9 assists and 4.4 steals per contest.
Junior Neil Flattery (11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds), senior Anthony Flattery (9.0 points, 8.8 rebounds), sophomore David Flattery (8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds) and senior Bo Ivankovic (7.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) round out the starting five.
Eagle Grove counters with sophomore Brandon Johnson (9.3 points), senior Andy Bell (7.9 points, 4.2 rebounds) and junior Cody Helmick (7.0 points).
St. Edmond has reached the state tournament four times since 2004.
''We just don't want to take any steps backward now,'' Kochendorfer said. ''Just like early in the year, you want to make sure you get better with each game if you're lucky enough to keep going.''
The winner here tonight faces either Prairie Valley (7-12) or Clarion-Goldfield (5-14) on Thursday in a district semifinal. Ogden (17-5), Gilbert (7-14), Roland Story (14-7) and South Hamilton (9-12) are on the other side of the bracket.
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org