Osakis boys in “dire need” of a win

The Osakis boys’ basketball team had an opportunity awaiting them with a 1-5 Bertha-Hewitt team coming to town on Thursday night.

The Silverstreaks were trying to get first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher the first win of his career and end a five-game losing streak in the process. Instead, the same problems that have hurt this team during that stretch showed up again as the Bears pulled away in the second half on their way to a 57-45 win.

Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher (middle) talks to his team during a timeout in the first half on Thursday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I think we got a little tentative,” Hoelscher said of watching a halftime lead disappear. “That’s kind of been our thing this year. When things are close, we’re kind of in a game, we just find a way to turn the ball over, not get back defensively, just doing uncharacteristic things right now that are kind of hurting us.”

The prospects of a win looked good through 18 minutes as Osakis took a 25-22 lead into the break. Senior Doug Zimmel and junior Drew Fearing both hit two threes during that stretch as Osakis’ offense started to click after a slow start. Zimmel already had 10 points by the half. The problem is, he finished with 12.

Zimmel spent much of the second half on the bench after picking up his fourth foul early. The Silverstreaks had a hard time finding any scoring without one of their seniors leaders on the court. Bertha-Hewitt went on a 13-2 run after halftime that made it a 35-27 game with 9:55 left. The Bears never trailed again after that.

“We get in a lull when Doug’s out of the game,” Hoelscher said. “Just about every game this year, he’s had some foul issues where he has to come out. When he’s off the floor, we’re not as good of a basketball team. Obviously, he’s one of our go-to guys, and we look for him to be a scorer. When he’s not there, our offense does take a little stagnant lull.”

Fellow senior Kilar Zimmel tried to get his team back into it with five straight points late in the second half. The Bears were able to put the game away, though, behind the strong play of senior Michael Grewe and sophomore Preston Riewer. Grewe finished with a game-high 19 points and Riewer added 13, 11 of which came in the second half.

“Riewer is tough,” Hoelscher said. “He doesn’t lose the basketball very much. He attacks the rim. He sees the floor very well.”

Osakis finished with three players in double figures on a night when the Silverstreaks shot 40 percent from the field (17-of-42). Kilar Zimmel finished with 11, while Fearing added 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. That wasn’t enough as Osakis was left searching to find a way to put an entire 36 minutes together.

“We’re in dire need of a win,” Hoelscher said. “It’s never easy going [0-6]. We have quotes every day and one of them recently was, ‘It’s easy to steer the ship when the sea is calm.’ When everything is going great, you’re winning, you can have turnovers here and there, but when you’re losing, turning the ball over as much as we are, we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”

Things won’t get any easier for Osakis after the Christmas break. The Silverstreaks will play a 5-2 Battle Lake team on December 29 and a 4-0 Upsala team on January 3. They also welcome in the defending Class A state champions in Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on January 14.

“For the most part, they’re pretty positive,” Hoelscher said. “We just got to build off that. It’s a long season. We’ve got a lot more games to go and we have to forget about this one and move on.”



Osakis’ Zimmel shows little rust returning from an ACL tear

Osakis’ Kilar Zimmel was walking on crutches and forced to miss a week’s worth of school after coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee a little more than seven months ago.

That’s hard to believe after watching him fly all over the football field last Friday night. Zimmel could be spotted almost everywhere during his team’s 35-14 win over New York Mills. He returned punts, played free safety on defense and lined up on the outside as this team’s go-to receiver on offense. So much for easing his way back into things.

Zimmel went up over the defense in his attempt to bring down a pass near the goal line during the Silverstreaks’ win over New York Mills last Friday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Going from being completely injured, sitting on my bed and out from school for a week and coming back and being this physical, it’s nice. I feel great. My legs still get a little bit tired…but I came back hard, and I’m happy with how I came back.”

It was a much longer process than he ever imagined at first. Osakis was playing a basketball game at Upsala on January 3 when Zimmel went up to try and block a shot on a fastbreak. He hyper-extended his left knee when he landed.

“We thought it was just a minor knee strain,” he said. “So I was at practice every day at basketball, shooting around, being with the team thinking I was going to be coming back in a little while. Then the MRI showed it was an actual ACL tear.”

Zimmel went in for surgery on February 3. Two days later he went to his first day of rehab. Instead of a few weeks as originally thought, it would take more than six months to regain the strength and balance that he had lost in the knee. Every workout he did was done with the goal of returning for the start of his senior year of football in mind.

“As soon as it happened last winter, he talked to me and the first thing he said was, ‘They said I’ll be ready for football,’ ” Osakis head coach Bill Infanger said. “He’s taking care of himself by wearing the knee brace now at practice and doing all the right things to get himself ready to go.”

Zimmel said the knee brace has slowed him down a little bit, but other than that, he feels the same way he did before the injury. He showed he still has plenty of athleticism when he went up over a New York Mills’ defender to haul in a 31-yard pass near the goal line last Friday. That set up a touchdown run that made it 21-0 in the first half. Zimmel also had one of four interceptions for the Silverstreaks that night.

“He’s doing great,” Infanger said. “The thing he’s got left to bring back is maybe a little bit of speed that he had last year that we’re not seeing yet, but his athleticism hasn’t changed at all. We’ve always felt he’s one of the best guys at going up and getting the ball that we’ve had in this program in a long time. We want to give him a lot of opportunities to make plays like he did tonight.”

That’s exactly what Zimmel wanted to hear coming into this season. Most ACL tears take 6-9 months to recover from. He pushed through his rehab to make sure he returned on the shorter end of that timetable.

“As soon as I knew it was an ACL tear, I knew it was at least six months,” Zimmel said. “That put me through baseball, so I needed to get ready for football, get bigger, stronger, faster. I rehabbed and then  worked in the weight room this summer with all the guys.”

All that work paid off when he took the field on August 30 for the season opener. Zimmel never let fear of missing his senior year enter his mind during the recovery process. Now that he’s back, he takes the field with the same approach.

“I’m not thinking about it,” he said. “The first game, I worried about it the night before. Game day came, I didn’t even think about it. It doesn’t bother me.”