Home      Administration




Memorable Moments, Big Numbers … And Now A Little Downtime
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/28/2011 3:25:52 PM

The Minnesota high school version of March Madness – which actually begins in February every year – has come to an end. It was a thrilling ride, wasn’t it? I tried to tell as many stories as possible here on John’s Journal, and there were some great tales.

The emotional journey of Zach Gabbard and the Perham boys basketball team was something we’ll always remember, and there are many other memories, too. On the MSHSL Facebook page, I have asked our nearly 3,000 Friends about their favorite memories from the winter tournaments. The Perham Yellowjackets seem to have made a real impact with people from all over, and not just in Minnesota.

Here’s one of the Facebook messages:

“This year was all about Perham!!! They did an awesome job and deserved winning ;-) It was an emotional moment for everyone having Zach supporting and walking out on the court!!!!! Great job Yellowjackets.... You have fans in Idaho!”

Here is another memory, posted on Facebook:

“The classy postgame after the 4A girls championship game between Eden Prairie and Hopkins, with both teams gathering in a huddle for encouraging words from the coaches and heartfelt good sportsmanship.”

And here’s a fun message:

“Hey- I'm maggie I'm the manager for the freeze.. It was our second straight tournament trip.. This year was great.. Even though we lost. That made the team become really close!! It was an amazing experience either way!! But my favorite memory was actually, on our way down to the cities! Our charter bus broke down 15 ft from the state pen for an hour and a half!!”

Thanks to Maggie the manager from Northern Freeze and everyone who participates on our Facebook page. We have more than 2,800 Facebook Friends and that number is growing all the time.

In fact, our Facebook page had more than 1.2 million views in the past month alone.

And here is another great big number: 6,235,071. That’s the number of page views on mshsl.org from Feb. 21 to March 27, which is essentially the winter tournament season. Yes, you read that number correctly … more than 6.235 million page views.

That is an all-time mshsl.org record, and it’s more than a million page views beyond what we saw during the same period in 2010.

I have posted a series of photos from the winter state tournaments on our Facebook page, just in case you want to look back at one of the best times of the prep season. It’s a mad dash through all the tournaments, involving long days and great competition. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

I’m going to duck out for the rest of this week and catch up on things like sleep and reading and walking the dog and changing the oil and getting a haircut and taking my wife out to a movie or two.

The ground is still a little damp as we wait for spring sports to get cranked up. But it won’t be long!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Two Hearts Connected: Perham’s Zach Gabbard and Brent Hanson
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/26/2011 6:36:33 PM

When the teenager from Perham collapsed while playing basketball, he could have died. But quick action saved his life and he’s become an inspiration to everyone who knows his story.

I’m not talking about Zach Gabbard, although the previous words certainly apply to the Perham eleventh-grader who inspired the Yellowjackets through Saturday’s 45-37 victory over Rochester Lourdes in the Class 2A state championship game. I’m referring to Brent Hanson, a Perham assistant coach who has lived 10 years now with an internal defibrillator.

Zach collapsed on Jan. 20 during a game in the gym at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. He was revived via CPR and an AED, transported to Fargo and later to the Twin Cities, where he remains. He has had multiple surgeries and some setbacks, but his appearances at Williams Arena and Target Center this week were magical.

Brent Hanson was 19 and playing pickup basketball with some buddies in the gym at the Perham Area Community Center when he went down. Paramedics were close by, arrived quickly and used an AED to shock his heart back into rhythm. An internal defibrillator was implanted in his chest and he is in great health. He plays basketball and has even run a marathon since his cardiac episode.

Brent stayed close to Zach and his parents in the days following Zach’s collapse.

“I’m not a heart doctor but I’ve gotten a heart education, that’s for sure,” he said. “As a parent, one of the things you’re concerned with is, ‘Is there something we could have done to prevent this?’ I have learned that it’s freak, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.

“With them seeing me lead a normal life and coach Zach, I think that gave them a little bit of hope, knowing that this isn’t going to end his athletic career, hopefully.”

When I asked Brent -- who works as an IT technician for Becker County – about the Yellowjackets’ storybook season, he said, “Somebody should get the Disney movie rights, because it’s unbelievable.”

--Zach and his parents were not at Target Center for Saturday’s championship game. After the game, this message was posted on Zach’s CaringBridge website …

“Zach's Friday was an extremely long day for him. Our 5 hour excursion to the Target Center turned out to be 7 hours. Zach was exhausted this morning and his blood pressure was low. We struggled with the decision of taking him to the game but didn't want to have a setback. And wouldn't you know it: his blood pressure was normal halfways into the first half. We watched the game on t.v. and the win was very emotional for all of us (tears of joy and sadness that Zach was not playing or even there.) Onward and upward from this day forward! Hard work so he can get home. :)”

Since Zach wasn't on hand to receive his championship medal when his name was called, teammate Jordan Bruhn accepted it on behalf of Zach. Bruhn held up three fingers (Zach wears jersey number 3) as he did so. When the team posed for photos with the championship trophy, they held up three fingers instead of the traditional index fingers.

A SPECIAL DAY FOR SOME SPECIAL STUDENTS

Basketball wasn’t the only event on the schedule Saturday. The MSHSL held the annual AAA (Academics, Arts & Athletics) Award luncheon, across the street from Target Center at the Graves 601 Hotel. The luncheon honored 32 high school seniors from all over Minnesota. Afterwards, the AAA award winners were introduced on the court during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

One honoree was unable to attend the luncheon, but he had a pretty good reason. When the luncheon began, Springfield senior Dillon Schultz was in the starting lineup and helping Springfield win the Class 1A state championship. The Tigers defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 70-58, with Schultz scoring 17 points.

Like all of the AAA Award recipients, Dillon (right) is busy. He’s on the basketball and golf teams, he participates in choir and is also a member of the speech program at Springfield. And he just doesn’t participate; he is highly successful.

He was the Class A golf state champion as a sophomore and finished in a second-place tie at state as a junior. He will take one more crack at a state golf title this spring. At the state speech meet two years ago, Dillon and Cody Henrickson finished 11th in Class A Duo Interpretation. Last spring they finished second in the same category.

“My family’s always there and they always motivate me to keep going and keep being the best I can be at everything I do,” he said. “And I try to do everything absolutely to my best. I don’t take things as given and I don’t ever slack off. There’s free time, but you’re never too busy.”

CLASS 3A: FAMILY TRADITION CONTINUES

When Bird Island-Lake Lillian won state basketball titles in 1980 and 1981, the coach was Jerry Wohler and the star player was his son, Barry. The family business added more gold Saturday night when Orono beat Columbia Heights 85-76 to win the 3A championship.Barry Wohler is now the coach of the Orono Spartans and the starting lineup includes his son Brady, a junior guard. Brady, who scored 23 points Saturday, has watched his dad’s state championship games on video and dreamed of winning a gold medal.

Asked about his son’s performance Saturday, Barry (pictured below) joked, “I’d like to think he gets that from his mother.”Grandpa and Grandma Wohler, who were in the stands Saturday, have one more family tie in the tournament: Osseo senior guard Ross Miller is also their grandson.

--In 4A, Hopkins won its third consecutive state title with a 64-52 win over Eden Prairie.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

Here’s an email I received Saturday. It is self-explanatory…

“Would you please help make corrections to comments made during Perham's state championship games concerning the fact that Perham has no "Band" because of budget cuts? The fact is that Perham's budget cuts caused the Band to not operate at the same capacity, but the PHS Band and Pep Band is alive and well. It is directed by Mr. Larry Wankel who puts his heart and soul into each students' musical success and they love him for it. It was very disheartening for Band members to not be able to play at State games but the Garage band won the luck of the draw. This correction would mean so much to the already "let-down" Perham Band members. Thank you so much!”

That's a wrap for the winter tournaments. Let's take some time off and wait patiently for the earth to dry. Spring sports are here!

We close with a drum roll (insert that sound effect here) and the final numbers...

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 20 for the tournament, 81 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



A Springfield Surprise in Class 1A Championship Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/26/2011 2:46:54 PM

The conventional wisdom turned out to be not so wise. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa was the only undefeated basketball team in Minnesota – boys or girls – going into Saturday’s Class 1A title game against Springfield, and many fans thought B-B-E was simply too talented to lose.

In stepped the Tigers of Springfield. Out they came with a 70-58 victory and the state championship. The Tigers closed the season with a 26-3 record; B-B-E is 32-1.

I’ll write more about Springfield later in the day, including a special story about a special member of the team ...

--Basketball wasn’t the only thing on Saturday’s MSHSL schedule. The MSHSL held its annual AAA (Academics, Arts & Athletics) Award luncheon, held across the street from Target Center at the Graves 601 Hotel. The luncheon honored 32 high school seniors from all over Minnesota. Afterwards, the AAA award winners were introduced on the court during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

Again, I’ll write more about the AAA Award later today.

ALL-TOURNAMENT AND CONSOLATION

Class 1A All-Tournament: Brady Boike, Seth Hinrichs, MACRAY; Aden Casey, Tyler Simonson, Chisholm; Jesse Kieper, Alex Fink, Cody Milbrath, Springfield; Kevin Kuefler, Connor Goodwin, Brady Koehler, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.

Class 1A Consolation: MACCRAY 72, Chisholm 53.

Class 2A Consolation: Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 67, Redwood Valley 64.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

Here’s an email I received Saturday. It is self-explanatory…

“Would you please help make corrections to comments made during Perham's state championship games concerning the fact that Perham has no "Band" because of budget cuts? The fact is that Perham's budget cuts caused the Band to not operate at the same capacity, but the PHS Band and Pep Band is alive and well. It is directed by Mr. Larry Wankel who puts his heart and soul into each students' musical success and they love him for it. It was very disheartening for Band members to not be able to play at State games but the Garage band won the luck of the draw. This correction would mean so much to the already "let-down" Perham Band members. Thank you so much!”

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 77 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Gearing Up For Championship Saturday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/26/2011 12:32:10 AM

Wow! After four games and seven overtimes on Friday at Target Center, who the heck knows what Saturday will hold.

Here’s the lineup of games …

Noon (Class 1A): Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (32-0) vs. Springfield (25-3)

2 p.m. (2A): Rochester Lourdes (24-7) vs. Perham (30-1)

6 p.m. (3A): Columbia Heights (25-6) vs. Orono (27-4)

8 p.m. (4A): Hopkins (30-1) vs. Eden Prairie (27-4)



56 Seasons, 968 Victories, Endless Class … And Stand-up Comedy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/25/2011 7:23:45 PM

Bob McDonald is remarkable in many ways. Longevity is the category that basketball fans are most aware of. After all, Bob is in his 56th year as a head coach and his 50th season with his hometown Chisholm Bluestreaks. He is the all-time winningest coach in Minnesota with a record of 968-385.

His players have short haircuts, no facial hair or tattoos and they wear the old-fashioned socks that cover the calves. The kids wear suits and ties to games and they respect their coach, the officials and the game.

Defeat No. 385 came in Friday’s Class 1A state quarterfinals at Target Center when Springfield beat the Bluestreaks 63-55 in overtime. Chisholm was hurt by fouls (two starters fouled out) and free throws (they made only 16 of 29).

After the game, Coach McDonald (right) was in his usual rare form. He is one of the nicest gentlemen you will ever run into, and it’s no secret that he has never smoked, tasted alcohol or received a technical foul. When the postgame interviews begin, McDonald becomes the greatest stand-up comedian in town.

As he walked out of the silent Bluestreaks locker room Friday, he saw me standing in the corridor. He smiled and said, “Humbug.”

With two northern Minnesota TV cameras rolling and a couple of guys scribbling in their notebooks, the old coach started firing off the one-liners, with a permanent twinkle in his eye.

He compared the loss – in which Chisholm led by two with four seconds left in regulation -- to hooking a big northern pike. “You’ve got an 18- or 20-pound northern on the line and then the line snaps,” he said.

He talked about how the competition gets bigger and better as the season progresses. He said his team “plays in the hazelbrush” on the Range, starts seeing Norway pines in section play and finally great big white pines at the state tournament.

He pointed to the locker room, where “young people think their world has ended. But millions and millions of Chinese don’t even know they played.”

He referred to the Bluestreaks as being “very blue right now,” even as he continued to smile.

His team doesn’t have great depth, and he joked, “I think the family planning clinic hurt us, because we don’t have the numbers.”

He said, “Somebody put salt in the cement and didn’t set very well.” He said, “You do the best you can with the tools in your toolbox, but somebody must haven taken the handle off the toolbox.”

He said he talked to his team about their free throw shooting, working in a reference to a former pope. “I told them, ‘Pope John Paul II needs one more miracle to become a saint. Would a few more free throws be a miracle?’ ”

He was the best-dressed man on the court, wearing a black jacket, grey slacks, light blue shirt and dark tie. As the postgame discussion went on, McDonald was not afraid to admit that he made at least one coaching mistake. Late in the game he had his boys run a delay offense, but they ended up being fouled and sent to the free throw line. And that didn’t work out well at all.

But the smile never wavered, the good humor never left the track. Yes, Bob McDonald has been coaching for 56 years and he has won more games than any coach in the state. But for reasons that extend far beyond the numbers, he is a treasure.

TRIBUTE TO THE LIFESAVERS

A special ceremony was held at halftime of Friday night’s 2A game between Rochester Lourdes and Redwood Valley. The people who were instrumental in saving the life of Perham’s Zach Gabbard were recognized. They included a nurse who was in the gym when Zach suffered cardiac arrest, first responders and people responsible for placing AEDs in the school at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

Here’s a great story about that night: Denise Cuchna, the nurse who performed CPR and used an AED to revive Zach, found a coin on the ground as she was walking into the gym that evening in January. In wasn’t until the next day that she realized that the coin wasn’t truly a coin … it had the imprint of an angel on it.

Perham coach Dave Cresap now is the owner of that coin. He drilled a hole in it and he wears it around his neck.

--To top all that off, Zach pulled off another big surprise. When he was introduced along with the rest of the Perham reserves before they faced Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in the final game of the day, he got out of his wheelchair and walked down the row of teammates, high-fiving everybody. More magic from Zach.

BROTHERS. FATHERS AND SONS

Springfield’s opponent today in the title game will be Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, which is the only undefeated team in the state. One reason for B-B-E’s success is a basketball family tree that includes three pairs of brothers and two coaches who have sons on the team.

Senior Kevin Kuefler, who had a game-high 27 points in the Jaguars’ 86-69 win over MACCRAY on Friday, counted them off: “We’ve got the Montbriands, me and my brother, Brian and Connor and then Brady and Brent.”

The Montbriands are Dave (head coach) and Kirby. Kevin’s brother is James. Brian and Connor Goodwin are the sons of Brad (assistant coach) and Brady and Brent Koehler are twins.

“We’ve played together a lot so we all know each other pretty well,” Kevin said.

Dave Montbriand said, “To be a good basketball team you need to be close-knit and I think it’s been a big advantage for us to have so many family connections. We’ve got the father-son links going on two ends and all those brothers out there. It gets a little confusing sometimes; you’re never sure of the first names. But I think that’s part of our cohesion.”

CLASS 2A UPDATE

Lovers of overtimes got their fill when Rochester Lourdes beat Redwood Valley 48-42 in four overtimes in Friday’s first 2A semifinal. The score was 37-37 at the end of regulation, 39-39 after one OT, 41-41 after two OTs and still 41-41 after the third overtime.

There was even more overtime in the second 2A semifinal game … two more overtimes, in fact. Perham pulled out a 45-41 win over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown that ended at 11 p.m. Perham will have 15 hours off before the championship game against Lourdes.

SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATE

Early in the Chisholm-Springfield game, a message was posted on the MSHSL Facebook page. The message was from somebody whose Facebook profile photo is the Chisholm Bluestreaks’ logo, and it referred to Channel 45 play-by-play man Dave Lee. It said…

“Dave Lee is reversing ADEN CASEY'S name! ADEN = first name! CASEY = last name!” (Aden is a junior guard for Chisholm.)

I saw the comment, unplugged my laptop, took about six steps to my right and showed the post to Dave. Correction made. The power of social media!

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 76 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,855

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



1A, 2A Schools Take Over Target Center … And A 4A Preview
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/25/2011 12:03:30 PM

Today’s boys state basketball tournament features the semifinal games in Class 1A and 2A, which is always a treat. Here’s the lineup…

Class 1A
Noon: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. MACCRAY
2 p.m.: Chisholm vs. Springfield

Class 2A
6 p.m.: Rochester Lourdes vs. Redwood Valley
8 p.m.: Perham vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown

I’ll have lots of good stuff from those games later in the day. But let’s start the day talking about Saturday’s Class 4A title game.

There will be no secrets when Hopkins and Eden Prairie take the floor Saturday night. The Lake Conference neighbors met twice this season, with Eden Prairie winning 75-71 on Feb. 1 and Hopkins winning 73-60 on 17 days later. Oddly, the visiting team won each game.

Hopkins is 30-1, Eden Prairie is 27-4; the Eagles also lost to Minneapolis Washburn, St. Paul Johnson and Chaska. After Eden Prairie beat Osseo in Thursday night’s semifinals, I asked coach David Flom what would be important in the title game. He said it’s all about the turnovers.

“I don’t know if it’s the magic number, but if we have fewer than 13 turnovers we win the game,” Flom said. “The way they play defense, they gamble a lot, they lunge; they’re willing to gamble because they’re so great athletically. And we just have to make sure we take care of the ball and take advantage of that without turning the ball over.”

Hopkins is famous for swiping turnovers, galloping down the court and scoring on the break. The Royals can score that way in a hurry, and the Eagles know it.

“They’re fantastic in transition,” Flom said. “Even a one-on-two isn’t really transition, but it is for them. So we have to play five-on-five defense. And to play five-on-five we have to get great shots. We’ve talked about always wanting good shots, and against them we need great shots.

“We are going into the game expecting to win. We really are, and that’s not just for the media or anything; we expect to win. And that’s the key: if we take care of the ball we should beat ‘em. They clearly have better individuals, but I believe we’re a better team.”

Hopkins is chasing its third consecutive title. The record is four in a row. Here is a list of the teams that have won the most consecutive championships:

4 - Southwest Minnesota Christian (Class A) 1999-2000-2001-2002
4 -- Minneapolis Patrick Henry (3A) 2000-2001-2002-2003
3 - Edina (single class) 1966-1967-1968
3 – Minneapolis Patrick Henry (Class 3A) 2001-2002-2003
3 – Braham (Class 2A) 2004-2005-2006
3 – Minneapolis North 1995 & 1996 (Sweet 16) 1997 (3A)

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 11 for the tournament, 72 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,855

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Memories Of Coach Gravon Live On For New Prague
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/24/2011 5:52:05 PM

The sign in the New Prague student section said everything: “Coach Gravon is Proud.”

Jeff Gravon died in January 2009, a cancer victim at age 45. He was the New Prague head boys basketball coach for seven years and an assistant for two years before that. His journey with cancer was well-documented.

Those memories were stirred again Thursday at Target Center, before the game as well as after. The Trojans had pulled off the state tournament’s biggest shocker Wednesday when they beat defending Class 3A champion and top-seeded St. Paul Johnson in the quarterfinals. Their title dreams ended Thursday with a 57-50 loss to Columbia Heights.

After pregame introductions, the Trojans gathered in a circle in tribute to Gravon. They have been doing that for more than two years now. When Gravon was no longer able to coach, Tim Dittberner moved into the role. Dittberner remains the coach today.

After Thursday’s game, Dittberner (pictured) was asked about Gravon’s legacy. Tears came to his eyes. He explained that Jeff died on Jan. 21, 2009, the birthday of Dittberner’s son Alex. Alex is now a senior and starting guard for the Trojans.

This is an emotional tournament for Dittberner for other reasons, too. Twenty-five years ago he coached an underdog team from LeSueur to the 1986 Class A state championship. He was 25 years old back then, so you can guess how old he is now. The members of that LeSueur team will hold a reunion in a couple weeks, and it will surely be a special time.

Dittberner knows this year’s seniors very well. He was their coach from fifth grade through eighth grade, so taking over for Gravon was an easy fit. With Alex graduating, Tim said he’s not sure if he’ll continue coaching.

For all those reasons, Thursday was emotional for the New Prague Trojans.

--One real treat Thursday was hearing a middle school choir from New Prague sing the national anthem. The kids were scheduled to do so before the Trojans’ game on Wednesday, but the snow and bad roads delayed their arrival until after the game had started.

OTHER GAMES

--Fourth-seeded Columbia Heights and Orono will meet in the 3A championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Target Center. The third-seeded Spartans advanced with a 50-48 victory over second-seeded Waconia on Thursday.

--In Thursday night’s 4A semifinals, Hopkins defeated Cretin-Derham Hall 75-56 and Eden Prairie topped Osseo 67-56. The 4A title game on Saturday will be a repeat of last week's girls championship game, won by Hopkins. The Eden Prairie and Hopkins boys teams split two Lake Conference games this season.

--Winners of the Class 1A quarterfinals Thursday were Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, MACCRAY, Chisholm and Springfield. At 31-0, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa is the only undefeated team in the state.

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

The small schools take over Target Center for their semifinals. In 1A, it will be Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. MACCRAY at noon and Chisholm vs. Springfield at 2 p.m.

In the evening’s Class 2A semifinals, the matchups will be Rochester Lourdes vs. Redwood Valley at 6 p.m. and Perham vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown at 8 p.m.

TWITTER REPORT

If you’re not a Twitter person this will mean nothing to you. But that won’t stop me from telling this tale ...

Near the end of the final game at Williams Arena on Wednesday, I topped off my day’s intake of five Diet Cokes with a bottle of water. I was sitting courtside when I received this incoming Twitter message:

“What's with the bottled water on press row? Do you need me to get you a DCoke or DMdew??”

My reply: “After 5 Diet Cokes I like to flush the system. I could use some nachos, though....”

His response: “Went to get you nachos. Here's the sad conclusion …” He had snapped a photo of the nearest concession stand, which had been shuttered for the day.

Little did I know that one of my buddies was watching me from somewhere in the arena. I never did see him in person …

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--If you live within earshot of Faribault’s KDHL AM (The Mighty 920), you have the opportunity to listen to some special broadcasts this week. KDHL has been doing play-by-play of boys state basketball tournament games for 63 years, and the station’s duo of broadcasters combine for 66 years of doing the tourney.

Mike Morrisey has been doing the tournament for 42 years and news/sports director Gordy Kosfeld has been at it for 24 years. During this winter season, Mike has called 70 sporting events and Gordy has been behind the microphone six nights most weeks.

It was my great honor to spend a few minutes on the air with Mike at halftime of Thursday’s Orono-Waconia game.

--Flash From the Past: If the name of the Orono coach sounds familiar, you have a good memory for Minnesota high school sports legends. Spartans coach Barry Wohler led Bird Island-Lake Lillian to Class A basketball championships in 1980 and 1981 and Class C football titles in 1979 and 1980. He was invited to play in three high school all-star games (basketball, football and baseball) and was a member of the Gophers’ 1982 Big Ten champion basketball team.

--Best Sign in the Stands: “My Mom Thinks I’m In School.” There’s a mom in New Prague who was being fooled Thursday.

--Best Name in the Tournament: Columbia Heights senior FayMis Freeman. Faymis, you’re famous.

--Best Uniforms of the Day: Osseo’s orange jerseys and shorts with black numbers and white accents are mighty sharp. Orioles senior Terez VanPelt gets extra credit for his orange socks and black/orange Adidas.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 71 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn




Perham’s Zach Gabbard Returns To The Gym
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2011 8:22:47 PM

Zach Gabbard can’t talk in more than a whisper, but his message was loud and clear before the Perham Yellowjackets opened play in the Class 2A boys state basketball tournament Wednesday.

In the locker room, coach Dave Cresap asked Zach if he had any advice before the Yellowjackets faced Virginia at Williams Arena. Zach told the boys, “Just win.”

Just win. That’s what Zach has been doing since Jan. 20, when he collapsed on the court during a game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Cardiac arrest changed him from a skinny high school junior who was full of life into a young man fighting for his life. Thanks to an AED, quick action from people at the game and first responders, along with multiple surgeries in Fargo and Minneapolis, Zach was able to be with his friends in the gym once more.

He’s weak, there’s no doubting it. He was recently moved from University Hospitals to Bethesda Rehabilation Hospital in St. Paul, where he is undergoing a daily treatment regimen. He’s in a wheelchair, but he was certainly able to shake hands and laugh with his teammates on Wednesday. And when Zach was wheeled out to the court during pregame warm-ups … oh my, it was one of the most memorable things I have ever witnessed.

You see, Zach’s appearance was a secret. Cresap knew and Zach’s parents, Steve and Meridee, knew. The MSHSL knew, as did a couple of media members. There was a very small media presence in the locker room when the team and Zach were reunited. The players had been told that a video link would allow them to see and talk with Zach before their game. So they gathered in their locker room, around a big-screen TV.

From behind them came a smiling Zach, pushed by his dad. The kids spent 15 minutes or so shaking hands and hugging Zach, joking about his short haircut and their missed free throws. And the smiles, oh the smiles, especially on the faces of Meridee and Steve (pictured). How hard has this been for them and their son? We can only imagine, but Wednesday was a very special day.

The next surprise came when Zach went to the court. As his wheelchair was lifted onto the famous elevated court, the crowd first buzzed, then stood … and cheered … and applauded like crazy. Tears? Oh yes, tears.

As the Virginia players were introduced, they ran to the other end of the court and shook hands with Zach or patted him on the back. Zach was introduced along with the rest of the Perham reserves, and the wave of applause and cheers returned. Zach and his parents sat behind the Yellowjackets bench during the game, back where a spot has been saved for Zach since that day in January. “One Clap for Zach” t-shirts filled the stands.

In the locker room, Cresap had told his team, “We love this guy to death and we need to be focused on what we need to do.”

The Yellowjackets found their focus and defeated Virginia 57-40. They will play in the state semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. The game will be played at Target Center and it will be televised by Channel 45. Will Zach be back again? I don’t know, but it’ll be worth watching.

In the postgame locker room, with Zach and the boys gathered once more, Cresap told them, “This is magical. You guys probably don’t even realize how special this is.”

He asked Zach if he had any advice before the state semifinals. “Win the next one,” he whispered.

Cheers. Tears. Relief. Emotion. Joy. One of Zach’s teammates summed up the events perfectly as the Yellowjackets left the locker room, where they had been reunited with their friend, to take the court for the school’s first-ever appearance in the boys state basketball tournament. He said simply, “I have goosebumps.”

Join the club.

--Another great story that may have been lost in the shuffle somewhat is St. Cloud Apollo senior guard Ibrahim Abukar. His 15-year-old sister Zamzam has leukemia, and Ibrahim was found to be a bone marrow match. His bone marrow was removed during a surgical procedure Tuesday in Minneapolis, and he was on the court for Apollo’s Class 3A quarterfinal game with Orono on Wednesday.

He played 30 minutes and scored 16 points with five assists. Orono defeated the Eagles 67-62 in overtime. In a word: Inspiring.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--During last week’s girls state basketball tournament I wrote about Red Wing coach Kraig Ulveling. He is a rarity, having brought both boys and girls teams to state during a 28-year coaching career. He took six boys teams to state, switched to the girls side and brought the Wingers to state this year.

Last week Red Wing lost to Hill-Murray in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. One of the seniors on the team was Ulveling’s daughter Jennifer. She will play college basketball at the College of St. Benedict.

Last week, Kraig hinted to me that it was time to resign from his coaching job. He made it official Wednesday morning and sent me this email: “It is official. Tough day but many good ones to follow. Not many coaches get to end their head coaching careers at Williams Arena with their daughter.”

--More than 1,100 students at Hopkins High School bought tickets for Wednesday’s 4A games. The Royals beat Owatonna 71-57 to move into the semifinals on Thursday night vs. Cretin-Derham Hall. The Raiders beat Duluth East 68-49. Also advancing in 4A were Eden Prairie and Osseo.

-- The tournament’s first upset came in the first game of the Class 3A quarterfinals. New Prague beat top-seeded and defending state champion St. Paul Johnson 83-77. The Trojans trailed by seven with 5 minutes, 12 second to play but went on a 21-4 run to take control. They will meet Columbia Heights in Thursday’s semifinals, with Waconia and Orono meeting in the other semifinal.

--High-Ranking Official: Mike Kolness, who is the superintendent/principal in Ada-Borup as well as a member of the MSHSL board of directors, was one of the officials for Wednesday’s Orono-St. Cloud Apollo 2A game.

--Musical Memories: I was met with a friendly handshake from Owatonna band director Pete Guenther at Target Center. The Huskies have a great band; one of the highlights of my winter was seeing them play at a hockey game in Owatonna. On the other end of the court, when the Hopkins band played “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” the low brass was something to behold.

--The Perham High School band is, uh, not your everyday pep band. This is a rock and roll band, plain and simple. Guitars, drum kit and singing. The band program was dropped due to budget reasons, and the result is something special, a real School of Rock look and sound. “Gimme Me Some Lovin’ ” … “Sweet Child O’ Mine” … “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!” Ada-Borup band, you have some competition for best Outside the Box Pep Band.

--Mascot Mania: Perham’s Yellowjacket (pictured) is hard to beat in this category.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 5 for the tournament, 66 for the winter tournaments.

For lots of photos and video of Zach Gabbard and the Yellowjackets, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,759

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Mid-Day State Tournament Update: Upsets And Goodbyes
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2011 12:15:20 PM

The boys state basketball tournament has barely begun and we already have some big headlines…

The first upset came in the first game of the Class 3A quarterfinals. New Prague beat top-seeded and defending state champion St. Paul Johnson 83-77. The Trojans trailed by seven with 5 minutes, 12 seconds to play but went on a 21-4 run to take control.

The second headline came off the court…

During last week’s girls state basketball tournament I wrote about Red Wing coach Kraig Ulveling. He is a rarity, having brought both boys and girls teams to state during a 28-year coaching career. He took six boys teams to state, switched to the girls side and brought the Wingers to state this year.

Last week Red Wing lost to Hill-Murray in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. One of the seniors on the team was Ulveling’s daughter Jennifer. She will play basketball at the College of St. Benedict.

Last week, Kraig hinted to me that it was time to resign from his coaching job. Wednesday morning, he sent me this email: “It is official. Tough day but many good ones to follow. Not many coaches get to end their head coaching careers at Williams Arena with their daughter.”

--St. Cloud Apollo’s fan buses were cancelled due to the storm. The Eagles play Orono in Class 3A at Williams Arena at 4 p.m.

--Musical Memories: I was met with a friendly handshake from Owatonna band director Pete Guenther at Target Center. The Huskies have a great band; one of the highlights of my winter was seeing them play at a hockey game in Owatonna. And speaking of great bands, when the Hopkins orchestra plays “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” the low brass is something to behold.

--A fellow asked me shortly before noon, “How many Diet Cokes have you had today?” Upon hearing the answer (see below), the reply was: “The day is young.”

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 1 for the tournament, 62 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,75911



Snow, Slush, Ice … And The Boys State Basketball Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2011 10:58:03 AM

Good morning from Target Center, where I finally arrived this morning after the latest in a long series of Beyond Thunderdome commutes. But enough about the weather; it’s time for the boys’ state basketball tournament.

We’ve got quarterfinal games today at Target Center and Williams Arena in Class 4A, 3A and 2A. The 1A schools will open play on Thursday. As I write this, Hopkins has a 40-29 halftime lead over Owatonna in the first 4A quarterfinal. (Check the top of this page for live scoring updates.)

It’s going to be a great week, filled with wonderful stories that go far beyond the basketball court. I’ll stick my nose into every little corner I can and try to share some of the flavor of this great event with you.

Keep checking back …

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 0 for the tournament, 61 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,75911




Coaches vs. Cancer: A Minnesota Success Story
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/21/2011 12:11:01 PM

“Oh coach, you look so cute in pink!”

The compliment came from a smiling elementary student, and Ellsworth High School boys basketball coach Tyler Morris smiled right back. He was wearing a white shirt, pink tie and pink sweater vest on this special Saturday in January.

Pink, in fact, was the color of the day because it was Coaches vs. Cancer night in Ellsworth. The occasion was a boys basketball game; the Ellsworth Panthers have a reputation for excellence in the sport, winning Class 1A state titles in 2007 and 2008 and finishing second at state in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

One of the smallest schools in Minnesota with an enrollment of only 61 students in grades nine through 12, Ellsworth (Morris is pictured at right) also has become a champion at raising funds to fight cancer. In 2010, Ellworth’s Coaches vs. Cancer event brought in more than $1,500. This year, the total was more than $2,200. For such a small school in a rural southwestern Minnesota community of approximately 500 people, those are amazing numbers.

But that’s the story all over Minnesota, where the number of schools wrapping cancer awareness around athletic events has grown steadily. Whether it’s football, wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, hockey, basketball or activities that include Relay For Life events, pink has become a dominant color scheme all over the state.

During the 2009-10 school year, Coaches vs. Cancer events at Minnesota high schools raised a total of more than $78,000. The number for 2010-11 (as of last week) was $167,158. The money goes toward the fight against cancer, but the benefits extend far beyond donations and research.

“I think any time you can get people, and especially teenagers, to think outside themselves, it’s a good thing,” said Osseo High School activities director Ray Kirch, who also is a member of the Minnesota State High School League board of directors. Osseo has been very involved in Coaches vs. Cancer.

“For us to teach our kids about service and gratitude and giving back, whether it’s to their family or in this case to the community, those are all good things,” Kirch said. “And we should be about that as much as we should be about winning and losing.”

Coaches vs. Cancer began on the college level in the early 1990s. It evolved from a concept championed by Norm Stewart, then the men’s basketball coach at the University of Missouri. Stewart, a cancer survivor, began the program by challenging fans to pledge a dollar amount for every three-pointer made by his team during the season.

Today, more than 2,000 college coaches are involved in the program, as are hundreds, if not thousands, of high schools around the nation. Since its inception, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised nearly $50 million to support the American Cancer Society’s mission to eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease. University of Minnesota men’s basketball Tubby Smith is a member of the Coaches vs. Cancer Council.

The Minnesota branch of the American Cancer Society helps coordinate Coaches vs. Cancer events in the state. Michelle Stepka, who works with the American Cancer Society’s Youth Initiatives program, is heavily involved with schools around the Twin Cities.

“I definitely think these (Coaches vs. Cancer) experiences bring team cohesiveness to a new level,” Stepka said. “Cancer is an illness that most people have been touched by in some way, shape or form. It’s a big visual when these events happen, with Walls of Hope or T-shirts. And when teams get involved, it really shows their community that these students know there’s more to life than just wins and losses.”

In Ellsworth, people are used to working together for a greater cause. Last summer, more than $27,000 was raised to replace the basketball court in the school gym. The old court had been there since the 1950s, and the new court is a source of pride in town ... as are the annual Coaches vs. Cancer events.

“It speaks for all the people willing to help and chip in,” said Ellsworth’s Morris, who is the driving force behind the Coaches vs. Center efforts in Ellsworth. He takes no credit, but he works year-round to plan the event and gather donations for raffles, a silent auction and basketball bingo.

The hallway outside the Ellsworth gym was filled with tables that carried all kinds of prizes: T-shirts, banners, backpacks, fruit, candy, CDs, hats, power tools, Timberwolves and Twins tickets and autographed items from the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom, the Twins’ Tony Oliva, the 1954 Milan, Indiana, basketball team (which inspired the movie “Hoosiers”) and former University of Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster (donated while Brewster was still with the Gophers). There also were coupons for free subs, free golf, beef jerky from Ellsworth Locker and a one-year family membership at the nearby Luverne pool and fitness center (a $499 value).

People bought tickets for the raffle items, they filled out silent auction forms and everybody played basketball bingo. That entailed buying a bingo card that instead of numbers contained events that happen during basketball games. It was interesting to see something happen on the court – a traveling call, an over-and-back, a ball bouncing off the rim and behind the glass, etc. – and then seeing a couple people scurry out of the gym with their now-filled card to select a prize.(In the photo at left, White Bear Lake coaches dressed for a Coaches vs. Cancer game.)

“We’re trying to raise awareness and have fun,” Morris said. “It’s easy to pass a bucket in the stands and get donations, but it’s a lot more fun to get people involved.”

The Westbrook-Walnut Grove players wore pink Coaches vs. Cancer t-shirts during warm-ups, coaches from both teams dressed in pink shirts and/or ties, the Ellsworth players wore pink socks, the Ellsworth cheerleaders wore pink sashes around their waists and a majority of the fans wore pink shirts, hats, headbands, socks, etc. Most of all, everyone had fun and lots of money was raised for the fight against cancer.

“A lot of times we’re finding that a teacher or a player or a coach’s mother or another family member has been affected by cancer, and they may dedicate the game to them,” Stepka said. “Also, many of the youth are involved in some kind of charity of work outside the season, such as Relay for Life.

“The more you can show them volunteering at a young age, the more likely they will continue to do that type of service work through high school, college and on into careers and their own families.”



A Late Night, An Injury And Lots Of Emotion
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/19/2011 6:21:30 PM

I have this theory about the state basketball tournaments, both girls and boys. To me, the toughest spot to be in is exactly where the girls team from Braham High School found itself this weekend.

The Bombers played in the final game of the day on Friday night at Target Center, and their 59-50 victory over Providence Academy didn’t end until around 10 p.m. That victory put them in Saturday’s title game against Minnehaha Academy, with tipoff scheduled for shortly after 2 p.m.

For teams that normally play two games -- maybe three -- in a week’s time, this short turnaround is a real challenge. The Bombers didn’t leave the arena until almost 11 p.m. Friday. My question to coach Tim Malone: What happened then?

“We got a little bit of a snack in them last night, filled up a whole bunch of bath tubs with ice and they just laid in that ice bath for a while, resting some of those legs. And then we got them to bed as quickly as we could.”

The Bombers met for breakfast at their hotel at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, had a team meeting at 11 and left for the arena at 11:30. There wasn’t need for much scouting, since they had met Minnehaha Academy in last year’s title game.

Minnehaha won the 2010 contest 64-46, and Braham turned the tables Saturday with a 68-61 victory.

“I had last year’s tape with us, in my back pocket, and we knew what to expect,” Malone said. “They have a great, great program over there. We knew it was going to take everything we had and then some.”

The key moment in the game came with 10 minutes left in the first half when Minnehaha senior guard Jana Halstensgard suffered a serious knee injury. She left the arena in an ambulance.

(Later Saturday, during the 4A game, I received this note from Minnehaha coach Josh Thurow via the MSHSL Facebook page: “John - Jana's knee was too swollen for an MRI today, we appreciate all the warm wishes we have received. She's at home and medicated right now. Thanks, Coach T.”)

Something to remember: Last year Halstensgard defended Braham’s dangerous Rebekah Dahlman,who scored just seven points in the title game. This time, Dahlman (now a sophomore) scored 23.

“The exact difference to me was last year Jana Halstensgard held Dahlman to seven points and kept her off the free throw line,” said Thurow. “But credit her, she used her body well and to get refs to call fouls for you, you’ve got to do things the right way. She’s a heady player.”

Hannah Dahlman, Rebekah’s senior sister, scored six points and ended her career with a gold medal. You surely recall the oldest Dahlmans, Isaiah and Noah, helping the Bombers boys win state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“We don’t take it as a (family) competition, we take it as a challenge to be the next one to do it,” Hannah said. “This experience is unbelievable. It’s what we’ve wanted since second grade. We’re on top of the world right now.”

Asked about winning a championship with her sister, Hannah said, “I have all these sisters; there’s not just one, there’s about 20. This is so emotional.”

HOPKINS WINS THIRD 4A CHAMPIONSHIP

Hopkins claimed its third state championship since 2004 with a 67-45 victory over Eden Prairie in the third meeting between the teams this season. During the Lake Conference season Eden Prairie beat Hopkins 71-65 and Hopkins won the rematch 49-44. Both won on their home courts.

The Royals also won titles in 2004 and 2006, finishing second in the state in 2005. Hopkins and Eden were the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams in the girls tournament, and their boys teams will fill those same roles next week.

DeLaSALLE WINS CLASS 3A TITLE

DeLaSalle claimed its first girls basketball state title with a 63-43 victory previously unbeaten Hill-Murray in the 3A final. DeLaSalle was the state runner-up in 2007 and 2008; that’s also where Hill-Murray finished last year.

BEHIND THE SCENES

All kinds of interesting, entertaining and enlightening things happen behind the scenes at Target Center. After Maranatha Christian Academy defeated Nicollet 59-52 in the Class 1A title game Saturday, I witnessed two very memorable scenes …

After leaving the court carrying the championship trophy and wearing gold medals around their necks, the Mustangs waited in the corridor while someone found the key to their locker room.

They grinned, they laughed, they hugged each other. And then they decided to do their favorite chant: “We Are ... Mus-Tangs! We Are … Mus-Tangs!”

Assistant coach John Carpentier leaned into the middle of the scrum and whispered something. Then, following the same cadence, the Mustangs inaugurated a brand new chant: “We Are … State Champs!”

A few steps down the hall, Mankato Free Press reporter Shane Frederick was interviewing Nicollet senior Kasslin Swenson,who had scored 15 points in the Raiders’ loss.

Here’s what Kasslin said about the experience: “To play in the state finals, no matter the outcome we all had fun.”

That right there is what it’s all about.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS/CONSOLATION GAMES

1A All-Tournament : Ashlynn Muhl, Minneota; Kendra Schmidgall, Hancock; Charlotte Overbye, Dakota Winans, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Kayla Wenner, Anna Skrien, Kasslin Swenson, Nicollet; Onye Osemenam, Alexis Long, Madison Lee, Maranatha Christian.

1A Consolation: Mountain Iron-Buhl 61, Hancock 45.

2A All-Tournament: AnnMarie Healy, Leah Szabla, Providence Academy; Kali Peschel, Macy Weller, Sauk Centre; Sarina Baker, Katelyn Adams, Gabbi Stienstra, Minnehaha Academy; Rebekah Dahlman, Kelsey Sorenson-Giffrow, Hannah Dahlman, Braham.

2A Consolation: Sauk Centre 58, Providence Academy 57.

3A All-Tournament: Lauren Trumm, Sam Trumm, Alexandria; Khadijah Shumpert, Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Tyseanna Johnson, Mariah Adanene, Allina Starr, DeLaSalle; Claire Van Dyk, Corrine McCallum, Bethany Doolittle, Hill-Murray.

3A Consolation: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 54, Alexandria 51

4A All-Tournament: Rachel Banham, Apiew Ojulu, Lakeville North; Alexis Foley, White Bear Lake; Shayne Mullaney, Morgan VanRiper-Rose, Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie; Ebony Livingston, Gracia Hutson, Brianna Williams, Hopkins.

4A Consolation: Lakeville North 68, White Bear Lake 50

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Best-Dressed Coach: Hopkins’ Brian Cosgriff is always nicely dressed on the sidelines, but he stepped it up a few notches Saturday. Coach Cos had on a very sharp double-breasted brownish suit, blue shirt and a tie that, uh, tied everything together. (No, I am not a fashion writer…)

--Pep Band Honors: There have been some dynamite musical performances during the tournament. Hill-Murray’s band grabbed the early frontrunner status, highlighted by “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hopkins brought its usual energetic, solid wall of sound, with “I’ve Gotta Feeling” setting the bar high. But the nod for this tournament goes to Hancock from Class 1A, the little band with the big sound. My favorite tune performed by the Owls band was The Offspring classic “Pretty Fly.” For a high school with only 74 students, this band is sensational.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 17 for the tournament, 61 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,711



It’s Championship Saturday In Girls Basketball; Boys Fields Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/19/2011 11:40:53 AM

Hello again from courtside at Target Center, where we will decide four state championships in girls basketball before the day is out. Here’s the lineup …

1A at noon: Maranatha Christian 59, Nicollet 52
2A at 2 p.m.: Minnehaha Academy vs. Braham
3A at 6 p.m.: DeLaSalle vs. Hill-Murray
4A at 8 p.m.: Hopkins vs. Eden Prairie

All the games are televised by Channel 45 and webcast at prep45.kstc45.com.

We’ll finish the run of winter tournaments next week with boys basketball, and the pairings are set. Four teams are seeded by the coaches in Class 4A and 3A, with their quarterfinal opponents drawn at random. There are no seedings in 2A and 1A; their brackets are done on a rotating basis between section champions.

Class 4A (with seeds)
Owatonna (24-4) vs. #1 Hopkins (28-1)
Duluth East (22-6) vs. #4 Cretin-Derham Hall (22-7)
Lakeville South (21-8) vs. #2 Eden Prairie (25-4)
Maple Grove (18-10) vs. #3 Osseo (27-2)

Class 3A (with seeds)
New Prague (23-6) vs. #1 St. Paul Johnson (25-3)
Marshall (21-8) vs. #4 Columbia Heights (23-6)
Grand Rapids (19-9) vs. #2 Waconia (21-7)
St. Cloud Apollo (25-4) vs. #3 Orono (25-4)

Class 2A
Rochester Lourdes (22-7) vs. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (25-4)
Redwood Valley (21-7) vs. Minnehaha Academy (17-13)
Virginia (25-4) or Moose Lake-Willow River (27-2) vs. Perham (28-1)
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (28-2) vs. Zimmerman (22-8)
(Virginia and Moose Lake-Willow River play Saturday night to decide who goes to state.)

Class 1A
Goodhue (24-7) vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (30-0)
MACCRAY (26-3) vs. Maranatha Christian (26-2)
Chisholm (27-3) vs. Fosston (21-6)
Springfield (23-3) vs. Upsala (25-3)

--About the photo: Yes, those M&Ms have Tessa Cichy’s name written on them.

--After Friday’s games ended with Braham defeating Providence Academy in the 2A girls semifinals, I was finishing my work at courtside when I heard a voice behind me ask, “Hey John, what’s the Diet Coke count today? And did that cat ever call you back?” It was Braham coach Tim Malone, who apparently had enough time in his busy day to click on this site. The cat has not called again, and …

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 57 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,711

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



The Hancock Owls Know How To Get The Message Across
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2011 5:43:10 PM

Hancock coach Jodi Holleman is the first to admit that her voice doesn’t have much volume when it comes to being heard over the roar of the crowd. So the Owls have developed a visual system that helps relay strategy.

Holleman holds up different colored plastic pucks, and sometimes a few fingers, to let the Owls know which play to run. It is especially helpful for senior guard Illissa Koehl, who has some hearing loss, but all the players rely on the system.

“In playoffs it’s really hard to hear and I don’t have a loud voice,” Holleman said after the Owls lost a 60-57 double-overtime thriller to Maranatha Christian Academy on Friday in the Class 1A semifinals at Target Center. “It’s good for all the players to hold up the pucks and numbers. We have 50-some quick-hit plays and we use the colored pucks.”

The Owls’ last trip to state was in 2007, and back then the coaches help up color-coded signs to relay the plays.

“The pucks are easier to hold on to,” Holleman said. During Friday’s game she set the collection of pucks on the Target Center scorer’s table, and they were within easy reach. It was a little more difficult to manage the pucks during Thursday’s quarterfinals at Williams Arena, where most coaches stand on the elevated court.

“It didn’t work so well at Williams Arena yesterday,” Holleman said. “We had them tied together and it was kind of tough, and there was really no place to put them.”

31 YEARS LATER, NICOLLET IS BACK

Nicollet’s last trip to state was way back in 1980. Kevin Christenson, who has been the coach there for 15 years, knows very well that it’s been 31 years since the last appearance.

“We’ve had pretty good success over the years, but it takes a little luck, it takes whatever; you’ve got to win a few games at crunch time and this team’s been able to do that,” he said after the Raiders beat Mountain Iron-Buhl 53-22 in Friday’s Class 1A semifinals.

“We’ve had years when we were the No. 1 seed in the subsection and we got upset in the finals. That’s happened a couple times. And we had a couple groups that probably weren’t picked to get to the section finals, but got that far and lost at that level. We’ve been close a few times.”

The Raiders will take a record of 18-8 into Saturday’s title game against Maranatha Christian. Before the season began, the Nicollet coaching staff figured they would have a good unit, but getting to the state championship game was not on the radar.

“We looked at it and said, ‘We’re as good as anybody in the section.’ ” Christenson said. “We weren’t a dominant team but we thought we could match up with anybody. We said, ‘If we keep working at it, let’s see where we get to.’ And I thought maybe we could win the subsection, and then you’re looking at those one-game-at-a -time things if you get hot at the right time. But no way were expecting to get to the state finals. No way

--In the 2A semifinals Friday night, Minnehaha Academy and Braham advanced to today’s title game, and it will be a gold-medal rematch from one year ago. In the 2010 championship game, Minnehaha defeated Braham 64-46.

Minnehaha overcame an eight-point deficit to defeat Sauk Centre 50-43 and Braham held off Providence Academy 59-50.

EMAIL OF THE DAY

Hello Mr. Millea: This is Tessa Cichy’s mom. We read a quick blurb on your blog Thursday night about the Hill-Murray vs. Alexandria game where you said Tessa Cichy was eyeing your stash of M&Ms. We wanted to share it with some people and can’t seem to find it today. Do you archive your blogs or can you help us find it? By the way, Tessa said you were completely right about her coveting your candy (smiley face).
Thank you! We enjoy your writings!
Lisa Cichy

My reply: Hi Lisa. You are too nice. I had that item on my blog earlier in the day yesterday, but replaced it with something else later because the post was getting waaaay too long. I wrestled with that decision, and hated to take it down. And now I know I shouldn't have … And tell Tessa (that's her with the ball in the photo) I'll try to have some fresh M&Ms sitting here tomorrow night. She is more than welcome to grab a few!

Here’s that blurb, which I am absolutely more than happy to resurrect …

--She Was Tempted: Basketballs occasionally roll underneath the courtside media tables at Target Center. While a referee was reaching under the table to retrieve a ball Thursday and Hill-Murray’s Tessa Cichy was standing ready to throw the inbounds pass, Tessa glanced at a small pile of Peanut M&Ms on the table. I had brought them out (from the MSHSL’s back-room secret stash…shhh) to share with Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno. I think Tessa would have liked to grab a couple.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Strength of schedule is one reason for the success of the team from Maranatha Christian Academy. The Mustangs (22-9) faced three 4A opponents and four from 3A during the regular season. Among that group is Hopkins (4A) and DeLaSalle (3A), which will also play for state titles Saturday. Maranatha also also played Providence Academy, which met Braham in Friday night’s 2A semifinals.

Reunion, Day Three: Kelly Roysland … Megan Nipe …and Joe Schwei. Joe, who is the ticket sales manager for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, waved me down in a Target Center corridor Friday. I met Joe several years ago; he was and is the owner and president of the Mankato Moondogs baseball team in the Northwoods League. While writing about the Northwoods League in – I want to say it was 2004 – I spent some time at Moondogs games and Joe was a great host. So the reunion string continued for a third day. What will Saturday hold?

--Hancock’s Illissa Koehl is the youngest of nine kids, whose first names are alphabetical: Annette, Brenda, Connie, Dawn, Emily, Fonda, Gwen, Harlan (the only boy) and Illissa. After I posted this fact on the MSHSL Facebook page Friday, it was followed by this comment: “That poor boy. Wonder if he gets to use the bathroom?”

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 57 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,661

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Lost Keys, A Phone Call From A Cat, And A Special Request
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2011 12:40:08 PM

Good morning from Target Center, where the small schools have taken over the girls state basketball tournament. Hancock and Maranatha Christian Academy just finished a double-overtime game, with Maranatha winning 60-57 in the first Class 1A semifinal. Mountain Iron-Buhl and Nicollet are getting ready to tee it up in the second 1A semifinal. In Class 2A, it will be Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy at 6 p.m. and Braham vs. Providence Academy at 8 p.m.

But first, a quick note about the everyday life of a media specialist. On my way out of the Target Center last night, I couldn’t find my car keys. Not in my jacket pocket, not in my camera bag, not in my briefcase. I figured I must have locked them in my car, so I called AAA to send a guy over and pick the lock on my car.

They said it might be an hour before help arrived. In the meantime, I retraced my steps … and found my keys. They had fallen out of my jacket pocket and were under a courtside table in the arena. Crisis averted.

On my way back to the arena this morning, I received a phone call from a cat. That is no joke. My cell phone rang and it said the call was from, and I quote, “Home.” I said “Hello” about seven times and got no response. My wife was at work and the only person in the house was our daughter, who is home from college on spring break. I hung up and phoned home.

Daughter answered. Obvious question: “Did you just call me?” She said no, and then she started to laugh. She said, “I think the cat was walking on the phone.”

Darn thing could at least have left a message. That’s just rude.

BY SPECIAL REQUEST...

This next item was posted on Thursday and it's back by popular demand. I'll explain in a post later today ... this is a great story.

--She Was Tempted: Basketballs occasionally roll underneath the courtside media tables at Target Center. While a referee was reaching under the table to retrieve a ball Thursday and Hill-Murray’s Tessa Cichy was standing ready to throw the inbounds pass, Tessa glanced at a small pile of Peanut M&Ms on the table. I had brought them out (from the MSHSL’s back-room secret stash…shhh) to share with Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno. I think Tessa would have liked to grab a couple.

OK, back to today's action … and great pep bands. Hancock is the smallest school in the tournament with only 74 students, but a whole bunch of those kids are in the band. Their first tune of the day was the Offspring classic “Pretty Fly.” You can see video of the band on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 54 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,661

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



A Dozen Trips To State Later, DeLaSalle’s Patterson Knows The Territory
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/17/2011 6:13:17 PM

Few girls basketball coaches have more state tournament experience than Faith Johnson Patterson of DeLaSalle. This year is her 12th appearance at state, ranking third all-time behind Myron Glass of Rochester Lourdes (15) and Mike Dreier of New London-Spicer (14).

Patterson had a record of 302-78 in 14 years at Minneapolis North and took 10 teams to state; the Lady Polars won five state championships and finished second four times. She took over at DeLaSalle last season and – no surprise – brought the Islanders to state right out of the chute. They finished third in Class 3A a year ago, losing to Hill-Murray in the semifinals.

The third-seeded Islanders defeated defending state champion and second-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret’s 55-46 in Thursday’s Class 3A semifinals at Target Center. They will meet top-seeded Hill-Murray, the only undefeated team in Minnesota, in Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game. The Pioneers beat Alexandria 68-41 Thursday.

Patterson is never afraid to let her emotions show, and after Thursday’s victory she was her usual ebullient self. After leaving the Target Center court, she stood in a corridor outside the Islanders locker room and high-fived every cheerleader and school band member she could reach as they passed by.

My line of postgame questioning was of an historical bent. I asked Faith what all her state tournament experience means when she brings another team to the big show. She said she tries to make sure her players know how difficult the road can be at state.

“It really is a fight,” she said. “With these teams here, it’s very competitive when you get to this point and it’s really a battle. The officials kind of let people play and you just kind of have to go for it, give it your all, because it could be your last game.

“With my experience, I’ve won, I’ve lost, but the bottom line for me is that I’m so happy every year because you get a new group of kids and they’re so ecstatic. It’s so more rewarding to see them get here than it is for myself. I am so thrilled for them.”

Every season means some new varsity players, and preparing a team for state is much different than getting ready for the regular season, Patterson said.

“You have to spend a whole lot of time educating, because they don’t know what it’s like. You’ve got to just prepare them to just play basketball and not to worry. Obviously you can’t replace experience with knowledge or someone telling somebody something, so the only thing I can do as a coach is do my best to prepare them for this.”

I asked Faith what she remembers from her very first trip to state with Minneapolis North in 1997.

“I wasn’t prepared,” she said simply. “I just had kids who played hard and I knew the teams would be competitive. Looking back at that first experience, number one, I was proud to get them there. And as a coach I was fortunate because I knew at that point what I needed to do to get better, and each year I try to get better myself so I can lead these guys.”

CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS ARE SET

The 4A championship game should be a good one, based on the semifinals. Top-seeded Hopkins defeated White Bear Lake 52-34 in Thursday’s first 4A game at Target Center, and Eden Prairie knocked off defending state champ Lakeville North 49-32 in the nightcap.

Lakeville North led 22-19 at halftime but Eden Prairie outscored the Panthers 30-10 in the second half.

Hopkins and Eden Prairie, which split two games during the Lake Conference season, will decide the state title Saturday night at 8 o’clock.

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE
The Class 1A and 2A teams take over Target Center on Friday for their semifinal games. Here’s the lineup …

Class 1A
Noon: Hancock vs. Maranatha Christian Academy
2 p.m. Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Nicollet

Class 2A
6 p.m.: Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy
8 p.m.: Braham vs. Providence Academy

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Reunion, Day Two: Wednesday’s Williams Arena chat with Kelly Roysland (noted in previous post) was followed by another meeting with a former prep star on Thursday at Target Center. This time it was Megan Nipe, an all-stater who helped lead Centennial to a 4A runner-up finish in 2009 and now is a sophomore basketball player at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Megan has had two knee surgeries and redshirted this past season. She’s majoring in journalism, is home for spring break and was spending some time visiting my old haunt, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Assistant sports editor Dennis Brackin and Megan spent some time sitting courtside at Target Center on Thursday.

--Smiling Amid the Action: During the first TV timeout of the 3A semifinal between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and DeLaSalle, Benilde ninth-grade guard Grace Coughlin was in position to defend an inbounds pass near midcour t. There were a few seconds of dead time as the officials waited for the go-ahead to resume the game. Grace relaxed ever so briefly, looked up into the crowd and saw some familiar faces cheering for her. She couldn’t help but smile. It was one of the great unseen moments of the tournament.

--Best Irish Names on the Court During St. Patrick’s Day: Tie between Erin O’Toole and Shannon O’Toole, both from O’Hopkins. Honorable Mention: Kristen O’Brien and Shayne Mullaney, both from O’Eden O’Prairie.

--Sharpest Uniforms Seen So Far: DeLaSalle’s black with gold trim are outstanding. Islanders sophomore Tyseanna Johnson gets extra points for her black and gold shoes.

--Best Vertical: When the net became tangled after a basket, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 6-foot junior Khadijah Shumpert rose to the occasion, leaping up and performing the untangling. The crowd cheered.

--Wow Factor: As the team from Alexandria was escorted to their locker room at Target Center, the players noticed that they were across the corridor from the Timberwolves locker room. One of the Cardinals asked me, “Is that their actual locker room?” Upon confirmation, another player said, “This is so sweet!” Another asked me, “Is KLove here?” Sorry, no sightings; the Timberwolves will play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night.

--Day’s First Photo: At 10:15 a.m., with the Target Center lights not yet at full steam and the Hill-Murray team not yet in uniform, the Pioneers posed for a team photo.

--Cool Tunes: The Hill-Murray band’s version of “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Hopkins knocking out a splendid version of “I’ve Gotta Feeling.”

--Only Coach Wearing Open-Toed Shoes: Alexandria’s Wendy Kohler.

--Uh-Oh: I received this troubling email notification Thursday evening: Weight Loss (@WeightLoss70) is now following your tweets (@MSHSLjohn) on Twitter.

--After one of Friday’s games, a coach asked me what has become an everyday question: “What’s the count today?” I explained that throughout the girls hockey, wrestling and boys hockey state tournaments, the count was four every day with two exceptions; once it was three, but the next day it was five. So the daily average is a very solid four. Which takes us to…

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 9 for the tournament, 53 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,636

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Coaching Boys Or Girls, Ulveling Gets Red Wing To State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2011 6:19:31 PM

One of the most interesting storylines in the girls state basketball tournament came to an early end Wednesday, when Red Wing lost to top-seeded Hill-Murray 72-52 in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. The outcome was not much of a surprise, considering that the Pioneers are the only undefeated team in any class and Red Wing came in with a record of 18-9.

The storyline is Red Wing coach Kraig Ulveling. Those of us who have written about high school athletics for a while remember him as the coach of the Red Wings boys basketball team. During a 28-year coaching career, he built the Wingers into a powerhouse, qualifying for state tournaments in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. In 2002 and 2004 Red Wing was the state runner-up. Before going to Red Wing, he won a state championship in South Dakota.

Ulveling, the father of daughters, switched over to the girls side in the 2004-05 season and brought the Wingers to state that season. They made a return trip Wednesday.

Red Wing gave Hill-Murray a test, leading by nine points early in the second half before the Pioneers charged back to win. Hill-Murray coach Erin Herman had nothing but great things to say about the Wingers, and Ulveling (pictured at right) felt the same way about the Pioneers.

“They stepped up when they needed to,” he said. “They’re well-coached and Erin does a great job. They’re a championship team. They were down nine and they answered.”

After the game the Wingers were slow in leaving the locker room, as if usually the case when the season ends. But the moment was especially difficult for Ulveling, who coached his daughter Jennifer, a senior, for the final time. “That’s tough,” he said.

Hill-Murray had a distinct size advantage on the Wingers, as well as experience returning from last year’s state runner-up finish. The Red Wing roster, as Ulveling put it, “is a bunch of golfers and tennis players, and we put them together in the winter.”

ANOKA MEETS THE DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS

The Cinderella story of the Anoka Tornadoes – as documented here earlier in the week – came to an end Wednesday when defending state champ Lakeville North beat Anoka 64-40 in Class 4A. The Tornadoes, who were 2-24 in the regular season, saw their four-game postseason winning streak end.

“We knew it was a steep mountain to climb and we wanted them to enjoy it,” Anoka coach James Fassett said. “We tried to play loose and enjoy the experience.”

He said he told his players, "Hold your heads up, because this is something you will remember for the rest of your lives. You are the first girls basketball team from Anoka to get to the state tournament.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The seedings in 4A and 3A held true to form with one exception. Unseeded White Bear Lake beat number four seed Maple Grove 43-40 in a 4A game. The remaining seeds all won: Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Lakeville North in 4A, and Hill-Murray, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, DeLaSalle and Alexandria in 3A.

--Wednesday’s winners in the Class 2A tournament – which is not seeded – were Sauk Centre, Minnehaha Academy, Braham and Providence Academy. Class 2A teams take Thursday off and play their semifinals on Friday night at Target Center.

--Back For More: As a sophomore last year, Hill-Murray’s Tessa Cichy impressed everyone with her talents and demeanor as the Pioneers finished second in 3A. There has been no drop-off this season: Cichy took the ball off the opening tip against Red Wing, dribbled between her legs and scored the first points in the Pioneers’ win. Cichy (18) and 6-foot-4 center Bethany Doolittle (24) combined for 42 points.

--Best-Dressed: Hill-Murray wore their green uniforms and shoes, a day ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.

--Epic Pep Band Moment: The orchestras from Hill-Murray and Red Wing were seated with one empty section separating them at Williams Arena. But band directors Dan Maars of Red Wing and Traci Youngs of Hill-Murray, being friends, decided to bring the bands together. So the Hill-Murray kids moved over one section, snuggled up next to the Wingers, and the two bands combined to play an outstanding version of “Hey Baby” at halftime.

--Instant Communication: I learned via email as well as Twitter that the live stats feed from Williams Arena (with game updates posted on mshsl.org) was having issues Wednesday. I alerted the proper authorities, who have much larger brains than I.

--Favorite Moment of Day One: In the final 40 seconds of the game, as the Hill-Murray and Red Wing coaches were emptying the benches, Wingers freshman Kelsey Reding ran downcourt at Williams Arena wearing one of the biggest smiles around.

--Annual Reunion: State tournaments always offer opportunities to see old friends. Wednesday’s favorite for me was Kelly Roysland. I first saw Kelly at Williams Arena when she was helping Fosston High School win state championhips in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Our chats continued when she was playing for the Gophers, and now she’s a Gophers assistant coach. Before being hired by Gophers coach Pam Borton, Kelly was an assistant at North Dakota State for two years. As I told her Wednesday, the Gophers (and all of us in Minnesota) are lucky to have her back.

Thursday's Class 1A quarterfinals, all at Williams Arena...
11 a.m.: Goodhue vs. Hancock
1 p.m.: Minneota vs. Maranatha Christian
3 p.m.: Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Northern Freeze
5 p.m.: Nicollet vs. Sebeka

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 48 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,564

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



A Busy Day As Girls State Basketball Begins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2011 9:51:01 AM

Good morning and welcome to the girls state basketball tournament. I have parked my carcass courtside at Williams Arena, where the 3A quarterfinals and two 2A quarterfinals will be held today. Target Center is the site today of the 4A quarterfinals and the other 2A games. The 1A teams will kick off their games Thursday here at Williams.

The first 3A game here today features the only undefeated team in the tournament: top-seeded Hill Murray. The Pioneers are taking on Red Wing. I’m planning to split my day between the two sites, with lots of updates and photos being posted on Twitter and Facebook.

And speaking of girls hoops, here are the finalists for Miss Minnesota Basketball 2011:

Rachel Banham, Lakeville North
Bethany Doolittle, Hill Murray
Kayla Hirt, Bemidji
Jessica Newman, Barnum
Sattoria Rule, Minneapolis South
Brianna Williams, Hopkins
Michelle Young, Woodbury

The Miss Minnesota Basketball banquet will be held in conjunction with the All-Star Series banquet at the Depot Hotel in Minneapolis on April 16th.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 47 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,564

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Anoka Tornadoes: From 17-157 To The State Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2011 10:21:14 AM

When the Anoka Tornadoes play in the girls state basketball tournament this week, it will be the school’s first such appearance in history. But that’s not The Story.

Before this season, Anoka had not won a postseason girls basketball game since 1999. But that’s not The Story, either.

I was talking with Anoka senior Emily Anderson and ninth-grader Kyrah Fredenburg before practice Monday. Emily knows what The Story is, but even she was a little surprised when I glanced at my notes and read this fact: Over the last seven regular seasons, Anoka’s record is 17 wins and 157 losses.

Emily laughed and said, “Kyrah doesn’t understand that because she hasn’t been around, but that sounds about right.”

This is truly a remarkable story. A team with absolutely no winning history – the best record in recent years was 5-20 in 2005-06 – and a first-year head coach finishes the regular season with a 2-24 record (with the two leading scorers in ninth grade), finishes last in the conference and is seeded ninth in a nine-team section but wins four section tournament games and is now one of the last eight teams standing in Class 4A.

“It’s been fun,” said Anoka athletic director John Baufield. “All we can do is giggle.”

The Tornadoes will face defending state champion Lakeville North in the state quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Target Center. The Panthers are 27-2, but the 6-24 Tornadoes are feeling no pressure. Just getting to the state tournament was surprising enough; if Anoka should knock off Lakeville North … well, who would be surprised, after all the Tornadoes have already accomplished?

James Fassett, 42, whose only experience as a high school head coach came with the football team at St. Bernard’s in St. Paul in the 1990s, was hoping to build the program when he was hired to coach the Anoka girls this season.

“The appeal for me was, number one, that it’s a big school, one of the largest schools in the state,” he said. “With that, there should be a talent pool to choose from, there should be enough kids to develop a decent traveling program. And the other appeal of it was the section we were in. It’s not like we were in a section with Hopkins and the western suburbs.

“Looking at it that way, thinking if I could eventually get the program where it needed to be, we could possibly make a run at the state tournament. I was definitely not thinking year one, that’s for sure.”

Fassett (left) was an assistant coach at Anoka-Ramsey Community College the past two seasons, and that’s where the Tornadoes practiced on Monday. Before hitting the gym, they watched video of Lakeville North and went over the details for their trip to state.

Tuesday night’s pre-tournament banquet for teams was on the schedule, and Fassett told the girls, “The banquet is dress-up, it’s formal.” Like everything else associated with the state tournament, these are new experiences. The team will spend Tuesday night in a hotel, and “If … if we lose, we’re checking out,” the coach said, emphasizing the “if.”

Freshmen Claire Lundberg and Fredenburg are the top scorers for the team that beat the postseason odds. Anoka beat ninth-seeded Duluth Central, top-seeded Duluth East, fourth-seeded Andover and third-seeded Cambridge-Isanti in the Section 7 tournament. During the regular season the Tornadoes had lost to East by 19 points, to Andover by 14 and 22 in Northwest Suburban Conference games and to Cambridge-Isanti by 26 points.

“It’s really surprising,” Anderson said.” I’ve been on the JV/varsity for three years now and the most I’ve ever won was like three games. It’s been just a crazy ride.”

Fassett said one reason for the sudden turnaround was that the players began to believe in themselves.

“There were some disappointing times this season, that’s for sure,” he said. “There were definitely a couple points when I thought this was tougher than it was going to be and we really have to scale back and start at square one and really build up.

“A lot of the stuff is working on skills, but those motivational messages of ‘believe in yourself,’ ‘believe in the team’ and hammer home the team concept was what we tried to do all season long.”

Wednesday’s challenge is a tough one. Lakeville North is a dominant program, led by Gophers signee Rachel Banham and Marquette signee Apiew Ojulu, along with Hall of Fame coach Andy Berkvam.

“I told the girls before the section championship game, ‘We’ve worked hard, we deserve to be here. We’re no longer an underdog, we need to come out and be the better team,’ ” Fassett said. “Now we’re back to square one again, with nothing to lose. Lakeville North is the defending state champion, a Gophers recruit, another Division I recruit. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got nothing to lose.’ ”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,542

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Boys State Hockey Tournament: 112,474 People Can’t Be Wrong
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2011 11:29:51 PM

One hundred twelve thousand four hundred seventy four. Let me rephrase that: 112,474.

That was the total attendance for the four-day boys state hockey tournament. That averages out to 28,118 fans per day and 14,059 fans per session. Those are astonishing numbers for a high school event. (In case you missed the earlier post comparing the hockey tournament with Texas football and Indiana basketball, scroll down and take a look, because it’s pretty good stuff.)

We know that Minnesotans are absolutely nutty about the state hockey tournament, but the love affair has some national and even international flavor. Thirty high school lacrosse players from Georgia were in town this week, and they were sitting in the stands among the 112,474. A group of fans from Sweden flies to the Twin Cities every year for the tournament. They were in a suite, also among the 112,474.

And the tournament culminated in a terrific manner, with both state title games going to overtime. St. Thomas Academy defeated Hermantown 5-4 in the Class 1A championship game (for 1A details, scroll down to another earlier post.) And in the 2A finale, one of the great games in history, Eden Prairie defeated Duluth East 3-2 in triple overtime.

The moment that many TV viewers will remember from the 2A final is the Eagles’ Kyle Rau (wearing the C in the photo) diving and stretching with every fiber to reach a loose puck as it hit the crease. He swatted it with his stick and the puck banged off the goalpost, hit the skate of an East player and went in for the winning goal. It was truly a memorable play by one of the state’s top players, but my memories will center much more on the postgame scene.

On one side were the winning Eagles, as joyous as any teenagers you will ever see. On the other side, the East Greyhounds were absolutely crushed. Some of them had their heads down, buried in the boards. Most of them sat on the ice, stunned. The scene was a display of the difference made by one goal, by one player diving to tap a chunk of rubber.

One of the thousands of MSHSL Facebook followers posted this comment after the game: “Hopefully video footage of that winning goal will be captured on YouTube and posted. It shows just how narrow the margin between celebration and heartbreak can be.”

It was the first triple-overtime championship game in tournament history. The tournament also tied a record with six overtime games, and Duluth East and White Bear Lake both tied a record by playing three overtimes games in the tournament.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--2A all-tournament team: Brandon Wahlin, White Bear Lake; Charlie Lindgren, Lakeville North; Nick Kuchera, Will Merchant, Eagan; Dom Toninato, Nate Repensky, Jake Randolph, Hunter Bergerson, Duluth East; Kyle Rau, Nick Seeler, Dan Molenaar, Andrew Ford, Eden Prairie.

--2A Herb Brooks Award winner: Garen David, White Bear Lake.

--2A consolation bracket: Eagan beat Edina 5-3 in the third-place game and Lakeville North finished fifth by defeating White Bear Lake 4-3 in three overtimes. The Bears got plenty of ice time in the tourney, playing seven overtimes in three games.

--1A all-tournament team: Rory Vessel, Rochester Lourdes; Austin Rudnick, Breck; Adam Johnson, Nick DeCenzo, Hibbing/Chisholm; Matt Audette,Thief River Falls; AJ Reid, Zach Schroeder, David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy; Garrett Skrbich, Jared Kolquist, Connor Lucas, Jared Thomas, Hermantown.

--1A Herb Brooks Award winner: AJ Reid, St. Thomas Academy.

--1A Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--The number one sound in hockey: When a long slapshot sails just wide of the goal and everyone in the building says “OH!”

--Dept. of Patience: The members of the 2A all-tournament team had to be ready to be introduced at the end of regulation, so they were lined up in the tunnel behind the Eden Prairie bench. And that’s where they stood … through one overtime, and a second overtime, and into the third overtime.

--Chant of the Day: The East student fans during the second overtime, repeating “All You’ve Got! All You've Got!”

--I don’t think the Duluth East student section was chanting “Let’s Go Eat!” There was probably an S in there … made me hungry regardless.

--Next big event: On Monday, the MSHSL will announce the class and section assignments for 2011-12 and 2012-13. They will be posted on www.mshsl.org.

--I’m gonna go and ahead and take Sunday off, if that’s OK with everybody. Next week is the girls state basketball tournament, when the you-know-what will resume. Speaking of which …

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 44 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



State Hockey: Cadets, Hawks and Even Some Background on the Prowlers
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2011 4:59:45 PM

Hermantown junior Jared Thomas did everything he could do in Saturday’s Class A boys hockey state championship game. He scored two goals, got one assist and played his heart out, as did everybody on both teams. After St. Thomas Academy rallied to beat the Hawks 5-4 in overtime, a glum Thomas sat in front of the media with teammate Garrett Skrbich and coach Bruce Plante.

It was the second one-goal loss in the state title game for the Hawks in two years. Last season they fell to Breck 2-1; that winning goal came with 1:40 to play in regulation.

Jared summed up the feelings of all the Hermantown fans when, asked about next season, he said, “We’re hoping we can get back here and get a lucky bounce for once.”

The top-seeded Cadets won Saturday afternoon’s game at Xcel Energy Center when Taylor Fleming sailed the puck on a lengthy journey, past two sprawling defenders, through a scrum in front of the goal and in at 6:34 of the eight-minute overtime.

Hermantown coach Bruce Plante was asked if he was stunned by the goal.

“I could come up with some better words,” he said.

Andrew Commers had two goals and one assist for the Cadets and Andrew Mattson finished with two goals and an assist for the Hawks.

Hermantown scored the game’s first three goals and led 3-1 after one period. The Cadets got within 3-2, the Hawks expanded the lead to 4-2 and St. Thomas Academy shortened the leash once more and trailed 4-3 going into the third period.

If there was any hint about what might come, it was the shots-on-goal number after two periods: Cadets 34, Hawks 17. Commers put an exclamation on that point when he scored early in the third to tie the score 4-4. It stayed that way through the end of regulation and on into overtime.

NICKNAME GAME

I wrote this week that the Prowlers of Thief River Falls have one of my favorite nicknames. That sparked an email from 1997 TRF grad and current TRF faculty member Reid Froiland. He wrote about the history of the nickname, which is very interesting. Some excerpts …

“The adult amateur teams in baseball and such back then (early 1900s) called
themselves the 'Thieves,' deriving their nickname from the name of the city. When it came time for the high school to have cocurricular activities, the school leaders did not want to call their team the 'Thieves' as well, as the students were younger than the adults -- and so they bestowed upon the students the nickname ‘Prowlers’ to signify their status as ‘young thieves.’

“However, school leaders did not want their children to be known as children who prowl after people to rob them of their money and objects – so they chose the black ‘prowler cat’ as the mascot. And thus the Prowler tradition was born -- a play on the name of the city and the age of the students! … the Prowler name has been around since the early 1900s.

“Thanks for the positive words about the “Prowler” name and for your
coverage of all that makes high school activities great!”

Reid also told me of the travels this week of the Thief River Falls pep band. The band came to St. Paul (more than 300 miles) for Wednesday's quarterfinal hockey game, and arrived back in TRF at 5 a.m. Thursday. They played for the TRF boys basketball subsection quarterfinal game in town at 7 Thursday night, then headed back to St. Paul at 5:30 a.m. Friday for that day’s semifinal game against STA. They played at the third-place game this (Saturday) morning and were scheduled to leave the cities for TRF to play at tonight’s boys basketball subsection semifinal game ... “until they were ordered to stay in the cities another night because of treacherous road conditions up north here. Five games in four days until
weather intervened ... how's that for dedication?!?”

Thanks Reid. That’s another reason why we love the bands.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--1A all-tournament team: Rory Vesel, Rochester Lourdes; Austin Rudnick, Breck; Adam Johnson, Nick DeCenzo, Hibbing/Chisholm; Matt Audette,Thief River Falls; AJ Reid, Zach Schroeder, David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy; Garrett Skrbich, Jared Kolquist, Connor Lucas, Jared Thomas, Hermantown.

--Herb Brooks Award winner: AJ Reid, St. Thomas Academy.

--Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--The number one sound in hockey: When a long slapshot sails just wide of the goal and everyone in the building says “OH!”

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 41 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Great Debate: Indiana Basketball, Texas Football or Minnesota Hockey?
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2011 1:12:26 PM

We Minnesotans believe that the boys state hockey tournament is the number one high school event in the nation. Of course, we Minnesotans are a little biased. But during this week’s tournament we have been able to get an interesting perspective from a wider point of view.

Ryan Clark has been a sports reporter at the Fargo Forum for about six months. Ryan and I had some phone conversations earlier this winter and we met in person at the state wrestling tournament. Ryan covered the boys hockey tourney, as well, and he does a great job. He may have been the hardest-working person in the press box this week; writing game stories and blog posts, keeping Twitter updates flowing and having as much fun as possible.

Ryan went to college in Maine, and his reporting career has seen him cover high school basketball in Indiana and high school football in Texas. He wrote a blog entry (go to slightlychilled.areavoices.com) comparing those two to Minnesota hockey.

He discounts Indiana hoops because that state went to a multi-class system several years ago, removing much of the “Hoosiers” flavor from the state tournament. Texas vs. Minnesota is another question, however. Ryan wrote …

“It is hard because the state hockey tournament this week has been amazing and I’ve seen stuff here I never saw in Texas. Here, there are people scalping for tickets for a tournament. Never saw that in Texas. Just got back from the Let’s Play Hockey expo where it’s like a rave/concert that features hockey equipment. Don’t have that in Texas.

“Then there’s Minnesota hockey. People here are freaking nuts when it comes to hockey. It might not have the pageantry of Texas high school football, but it damn sure has the fans. There is a reason that this most watched high school championships in America. If this is even a stat of note, know this. I went up 55 Twitter followers in two days because of this tournament. Not all of them are from Minnesota either. Hockey fans, including the guys at places like The Hockey News, want to know what’s going on.

“Some of those football coaches in Texas were even like, “Wow” when I told them I was moving up here to cover hockey.

“Having covered championships in both states, I can say this. A Texas HS football championship is impressive. Two years in a row, I covered this small town that had its fans show up to every game. They lost the state title games both years yet it was still a good time. Keep this mind, not all title games in Texas, at least when I was there, were televised.

“Here, however, they are and in Texas, I never heard about families scheduling vacations around the state title game(s) like they do here in Minnesota.

“Finally, there’s the talent. Football is a rough game. Hockey is rougher. The talent in Texas I got a chance to see was impressive. The talent I’ve seen with hockey has been more impressive. You don’t see the kind of scouts at a Texas championship like you would at a Minnesota state hockey tournament.

“That being said, I give the nod to Minnesota High School hockey.

“Indiana, yes, has the tradition. Texas, yes, has the grandiose presentation and tradition. But know this, Minnesota is the only place where it has the tradition, presentation and a feel that makes it intimate that everyone truly feels they have a stake in how things go.”

Thanks Ryan. And keep up the great work.


TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--As I write this, Hermantown leads St. Thomas Academy 3-1 in the first intermission of the Class 1A hockey title game. Tonight’s 2A championship will go to either Duluth East or Eden Prairie.

--Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 40 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls State Basketball Pairings Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2011 11:48:13 AM

We interrupt the boys state hockey tournament for this important announcement:

There are a handful of section finals being played Saturday in Class 1A and 2A, but the pairings for next week's girls state basketball tournament are nearly complete.

In 3A and 4A four teams are seeded by a vote of the tournament coaches and their quarterfinal opponents are decided by random draw. There is no seeding in 1A or 2A.

The tournament begins Wednesday at Williams Arena and Target Center. All semifinals and championship games are played at Target Center.

Here are the pairings...

Class 4A
#1 Hopkins (27-2) vs. Buffalo (25-3)
#4 Maple Grove (24-5) vs. White Bear Lake (26-3)
#2 Eden Prairie (23-4) vs. Rochester Mayo (21-6)
#3 Lakeville North (27-2) vs. Anoka (6-24)

Class 3A
#1 Hill-Murray (28-0) vs. Red Wing (18-9)
#4 Alexandria (24-3) vs. Grand Rapids (20-8)
#2 Benilde St. Margaret's (24-5) vs. Marshall (20-6)
#3 DeLasalle (24-4) vs. Rogers (15-14)

Class 2A
Caledonia (26-3) vs. Sauk Centre (29-1)
Jackson County Central (26-2) vs. Minnehaha Academy (21-6)
Braham (28-2) vs. Pequot Lakes (27-1) or East Grand Forks (24-5)
St. Peter (24-3) vs. Providence Academy (25-4)

Class 1A
Goodhue (26-4) vs. Ada-Borup (25-2) or Hancock (25-2)
Minneota (25-1) vs. Maranatha Christian (20-9)
Mountain Iron-Buhl (26-3) vs. Red Lake County Central (24-4) or Northern Freeze (27-1)
Nicollet (16-8) vs. Sebeka (23-6)



Boys State Hockey Tournament: Semifinals, Paper Hats and Great Quotes
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/11/2011 5:22:03 PM

When the day’s theme centers on the semifinals of a state tournament – any state tournament – you know special things will take place. That was the situation Friday at Xcel Energy Center during the boys state hockey tournament. We heard one of the most quotable coaches come through once more, we saw paper hats tossed onto the ice, and we saw more big crowds and more great hockey.

The coach with the quotes is Hermantown’s Bruce Plante. He is one of those old-school coaches who doesn’t try to talk in code or sugarcoat things. The media always enjoys talking with Plante, because everyone always comes away smiling. (That's Plante in the photo, with Garrett Skrbich.)

After Hermantown defeated Hibbing/Chisholm 6-4 in Friday’s first Class 1A semifinal, Plante was asked about the possibility of playing St. Thomas Academy for the state title. This was a few minutes before St. Thomas Academy faced Thief River Falls (STA won 6-0).

Plante smiled and said, “I can’t tell you the truth so I’ll tell you something else.” He heaped praise on the Cadets, including this statement: “Their fourth-line center could play first line for us.”

Another of Plante’s quotes ties in with the paper hats. When Hibbing/Chisholm sophomore Adam Johnson scored his third goal, paper hockey helmets came raining down on the ice from the Hibbing/Chisholm student section. Bauer, which is one of the tournament sponsors, has a table in the Xcel lobby where the famous paper helmets are distributed to whoever wants one.

The Bluejackets fans had a bunch of them, and they were tossed in celebration of Johnson’s hat trick, which tied the score 4-4 in the third period. The officials scooped up the hats and deposited them into a trash can that was brought onto the ice. For old-time sake, a couple of baseball caps were also tossed on the ice.

Plante spoke in glowing terms of Johnson, saying, “He should be playing at UMD,” a reference to Minnesota-Duluth.

The best quote from a player Friday came from Hermantown’s Skrbich,who scored twice. He was sitting in the penalty box – next to a penalty box supervisor -- when an empty-net goal by Jared Kolquist rolled into the net a split second before the speeding Johnson could stop it.

“As soon as it went in, I had to give the guy in the penalty box a hug,” Skrbich said with a grin.

--The 2A semifinals were played in the evening session. In the first game, Duluth East defeated defending state champion Edina 2-1 in overtime. The winning goal was scored by Alex Toscano on a rocket of a wrist shot from the left circle. I’m pretty sure Edina coach Curt Giles wasn’t referring to Toscano’s shot when he opened the postgame questioning by saying, "Let ‘er rip.”
Eden Prairie beat Eagan 5-1 in the final game of the day, setting up Saturday's 2A state championship game between Duluth East and Eden Prairie.

--Basketball story of the year: The Anoka girls basketball team won one game last season and finished the 2010-11 regular season with two wins. Yep, you guessed it: The Tornadoes have been on a postseason tear, and their overtime victory over Cambridge-Isanti on Friday puts them into next week’s Class 4A state tournament.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--There was a group of high school lacrosse players from Georgia at the tournament on Friday. The MSHSL received a call asking about tickets, and 30 young Georgians – in town for some sort of lacrosse event, it is presumed – were taken to the Xcel Center by their Minnesota hosts.

--How big is the hockey tournament? The MSHSL website had 25 percent more traffic on Wednesday than the highest previous recorded peak.The site, in fact, had to be taken down for a time because of all the clicking. The Channel 45 television ratings on Thursday set more records. And even before Friday night's games, total tournament attendance was 51,314, This is monster stuff.

--I had some help in performing my tournament chores on Friday. Eric Peterson, a sophomore at Cloquet High School and a member of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program, spent much of the day with me in a job-shadowing kind of deal. We both had a great time.

--Chant of the Day: The Thief River Falls fans chanted “Prowler Nation!” This just reinforces my belief that "Prowlers" is one of the best nicknames around.

--Celebrity Sighting: Bestselling author Vince Flynn was in the arena Friday. He is a graduate of St. Thomas Academy.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day (steady as she goes), 12 for the tournament, 40 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Boys State Hockey Tournament: This Is For You, Rachel
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2011 7:05:21 PM

Rachel, can you hear them? Can you hear your friends back home in Minnesota cheering for you? Can you hear them chanting your name?

We know Rachel Sandell saw the signs. On her computer way out in Reno, Nevada, she was watching her friends from Duluth East High School – on the ice and in the stands – during Thursday’s Class 2A boys state hockey quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

They held up signs in the stands that said, “The Love is on for Rachel!” They chanted, “Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!” They chanted, “We love Rachel! We love Rachel!”

Rachel – watching a webcast of the Channel 45 game telecast -- saw the signs and texted friends who were at the game. She sent one text that said, “I saw the signs! That’s awesome!”

Awesome indeed. While Rachel and her mom are in Reno -- where Rachel is being treated for liver cancer – her Duluth East schoolmates are pulling for her. Cheering for her in the midst of the biggest hockey game of the season. The Duluth East Greyhounds beat White Bear Lake 4-3 in double overtime Thursday, with the winning goal scored by Zac Schendel.

“She’s a friend of mine,” Zac said. “Our team’s talked about her a few times. We want her to stay strong and hopefully she can pull through this.”

When the East team was honored at a pep assembly on Tuesday, the event was dedicated to Rachel. She’s a senior and she’s special; she’s on the dance team, she’s an officer in the Key Club, she’s the editor-in-chief of the yearbook.

“She’s totally involved and everyone knows her,” said fellow senior Jessa Kohlhaas during Thursday’s game. “Everyone misses her. Everyone loves her. We all just want to let her know that.”

Jessa told me that Rachel has been fighting liver cancer since early last summer. “She’s been doing great but recently she took kind of a little bit of a turn,” Jessa said. “She’s out in Reno with her mom to pursue some more aggressive treatment.”

Rachel and her mom are keeping the folks back home updated via a Caring Bridge website (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rachelsandell).

“Basically, as a community at East and around Duluth we’re trying to show her and her family support,” Jessa said. “Financially, emotionally, whatever they need we’re just trying to show that we love them, we care about them, and we’re behind them 100 percent.”

East goaltender JoJo Jeanetta, who made 22 saves against White Bear Lake, is also one of Rachel’s many friends.

“It was a really sad story when she was diagnosed, but it’s amazing to see how well she’s dealing with it and to see our whole school get behind her,” JoJo said. “We’re playing for each other and for her.”

As someone wrote on Rachel’s Caring Bridge site after Thursday’s game: “Hope you had a chance to see the East hockey game today and all the beautiful blue “The Love is on for Rachel” signs that the students had! I'm betting all those positive thoughts directed your way helped the team a little bit, too!”

Keep watching and listening, Rachel. We’re all pulling for you.

OTHER GAMES

--Edina defeated Blaine 3-2 in the day’s first game. Blaine led 2-1 after the first period but the defending state champion Hornets scored twice in the second period to take charge. In the evening session, Eden Prairie beat Lakeville North 5-0 and Eagan beat Moorhead 3-0.

--The attendance for Thursday’s first session was 17, 625. The evening session crowd was 15,240. Amazing.

--The Friday lineup is filled with semifinal games. In Class 1A, it will be Hermantown vs. Hibbing/Chisholm at 11 a.m. and St. Thomas Academy vs. Thief River Falls at 1 p.m. The 2A games are Edina vs. Duluth East at 6 p.m. and Eden Prairie vs. Eagan at 8 p.m.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Question of the day, received via Facebook: “Here's today’s question for you, John (after you had your first Diet Coke). Wonder if there is another state tournament in the country that has two head coaches in it who played at the top professional level of their sport? Both Curt Giles (Edina) and Tim Bergland (Thief River Falls) played in the NHL.”

--Ticket Tussle: As I drove to the arena I saw a trio of ticket scalpers arguing on a street corner. I rolled down the window to try to get some quotes. I didn’t understand much, but it appeared to be a territorial squabble.

--Mascot Sightings: Blaine brought its Bengal and Duluth East’s skating Greyhound was out on the ice, too.

--Restroom Rescue: My greatest contribution to the tournament came when the men’s room in the press box ran out of paper towels. With wet hands, I flagged down a security person, who got on her walkie-talkie. Crisis averted. I also found a credit card on the floor of the press box. I thought long and hard about going absolutely nuts at the mini-donut stand … but we found the card’s owner.

--Not Your Average Joe: JoJo Jeanetta’s actual name is Joseph Frank Jeanetta IV, named after his great-grandpa, grandpa and father. Grandpa is Joseph and dad is known as Joe. Thus, he’s JoJo .

--If you didn’t see the Blaine-Edina pregame introductions on TV, you missed a whole bunch of bleach-blond Bengals.

--Chant of the Day: Edina students in the lower bowl yelling “Marco!” and Hornets in the upper deck responding with “Polo!!”

--Band Land: Before the first skate hit the ice, the Blaine symphony orchestra played an outstanding rendition of “Cleveland Rocks.” As the Blaine and Edina teams began warm-ups, both bands broke into their respective school songs from their seats in opposite ends of the area. Both were loud and proud, even if the nuances of the songs may have been lost in the collective din of two school songs being played at one.

--If you bet the Diet Coke “under” on Wednesday, you won. Through the girls state hockey tournament and last week’s wrestling tournament, I had sipped four Diet Cokes every day. My total Wednesday was three. As I was told several times Thursday, I must drink five before day’s end in order to return the earth to its proper axis. Which brings us to …

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 8 for the tournament, 36 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,461

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Boys State Hockey Tournament: Time For The 2A Quarterfinals
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2011 11:24:34 AM

Welcome back to the Big Ice Dance in downtown St. Paul. The first game of the day has just begun, with Edina and Blaine meeting in the first of four Class 2A quarterfinals on this Thursday.

It’ll be a busy, fun-filled day. The arena is already getting crowded and I’m sure we’ll have a big attendance number by the end of the day. Here are few tidbits to get things rolling …

--Question of the day, received via Facebook: “Here's today’s question for you, John (after you had your first Diet Coke). Wonder if there is another state tournament in the country that has two head coaches in it who played at the top professional level of their sport? Both Curt Giles (Edina) and Tim Bergland (TRF) played in the NHL.”

--Ticket Tussle: As I drove to the arena I saw a trio of ticket scalpers arguing on a street corner. I rolled down the window to try to get some quotes. I didn’t understand much, but it appeared to be a territorial squabble.

--Mascot Sightings: Blaine brought its Bengal.

--If you didn’t see the Blaine-Edina pregame introductions on TV, you missed a whole bunch of bleach-blond Bengals.

--Band Land: Before the first skate hit the ice, the Blaine symphony orchestra played an outstanding rendition of “Cleveland Rocks.” As the Blaine and Edina teams began warm-ups, both bands broke into their respective school songs from their seats in opposite ends of the area. Both were loud and proud, even if the nuances of the songs may have been lost in the collective din of two school songs being played at once.

--If you bet the Diet Coke “under” on Wednesday, you won. Through the girls state hockey tournament and last week’s wrestling tournament, I had sipped four Diet Cokes every day. My total Wednesday was three. As I’ve been told a couple of times today, I must drink five before day’s end in order to return the earth to its proper axis.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 31 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,461

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Boys State Hockey Tournament: Be Careful What You Wish For
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2011 4:43:26 PM

The key moment of the opening day of the boys state hockey tournament may have come exactly five seconds into the second period of the first game. It was the initial goal of the tournament, and it changed everything.

Second-seeded Hermantown and unseeded Alexandria had played a scoreless first period in Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. On the second-period faceoff, the puck slid to Alexandria’s Jodan Domine on the blue line. He gave it a slap and it sailed past Hawks goaltender Connor Lucas to put the Cardinals in front 1-0.

That, as it turns out, may have been a mistake.

“Quite honestly,” said Alexandria coach Scott Woods, “we kind of woke the sleeping giant at that point.”

Indeed. Hermantown responded with five second-period goals – including one by Garrett Skrbich 34 seconds after Domine’s – and rolled into Friday’s semifinals with a 5-1 victory.

Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said, “When they scored, that really kind of percolated the guys a bit. … Giving up that goal get the competitive juices going. It puts a little fear into you.”

Hermantown was a clear favorite in the game, coming in with the second seed and a record of 23-3-2. Alexandria will take a 12-16-1 record into the consolation bracket.

The Hawks and their fans had reason to be nervous early, because they were unable to put anything past Alexandria goaltender Ben Allen despite a 15-6 edge in first-period shots. The final shot total was 56-14 in favor of the Hawks, who outshot the Cardinals 22-3 in the second period.

In the game’s final minutes, the Hermantown student section was signaling the next stop for the Cardinals by chanting “Mariucci!”

OTHER GAMES
--Unseeded Hibbing/Chisholm pulled off the first upset of the tournament, beating No. 3 seed Rochester Lourdes 4-0 in the second game. In the evening session, No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy defeated New Ulm 13-2 and No. 4 seed Breck lost to Thief River Falls 7-5 in the best game of the day.

--Favorite Decoration: On the back of Breck goaltender Jack Kenney’s helmet is a photo of the team huddled around him, shot from above. Under the photo are words “PLAY AS ONE.” Very cool.

--Dress Code: Hermantown’s students came in full white-out regalia. The Rochester Lourdes students chose black-out mode. The Cadets of St. Thomas Academy, as usual, wore their dress military uniforms.

--Mascot Sightings: The Alexandria Cardinal, wearing a headband.

--Fashion Statement: The vertical stripes on the socks worn by the Rochester Lourdes players.

--Twitter note/ This Tweet appeared Tuesday: “I get to be in the Press Boxes of the Xcel on Thursday for Boys Hockey Tourney. Will my dream of meeting @MSHSLjohn come true!!!???!!! :)” My reply went something like this: Aming a little low, aren’t you?

--Band Report: The Alexandria pep band kicked off the week by playing “Crazy Train.” Splendid start.

Best Save: During the third game of the day, the power cord for my laptop stopped working. To the rescue rode MSHSL media steward Jil Fiemeyer of Wadena. She loaned me the cord to her laptop (which she wasn't using), and I survived the night without having to resort to a manual typewriter. Hats off to Jil!.

--I was in the elevator to the press box Wednesday morning when the first DC question was asked: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes are you gonna drink this week?” A few minutes later came this query: “How many Diet Cokes so far today?” During the final game of the day, someone in the press box showed me a question they had been asked via text message: “What’s the website where I can follow the Diet Coke Count?” I have definitely created a monster.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 31 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,420

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



A Basketball Milestone And A Hockey Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2011 10:36:18 AM

I’m back in the press box at Xcel Energy Center on this Thursday morning, awaiting the start of the boys state hockey tournament. But we interrupt this hockey coverage for an important boys basketball note …

Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix reached a milestone this week, recording his 500th career victory. Tom isn’t the kind of guy to brag, but Rushford-Peterson activities director Luke Lutterman sent me an email to help spread the word about Tom’s accomplishment.

Tom is a native of Houston, Minnesota, and a 1978 Houston High graduate. He went to Luther College in Iowa and has been coaching for 27 years.

His career record is 501-198, making him the 29th boys basketball coach in Minnesota to reach 500 wins. Tom has led Rushford and Rushford-Peterson to 11 state tournament appearances, two state titles, one second-place finish and consecutive state tournament appearances from 1997 to 2001.

Luke, who is new to R-P this school year, also wrote this: “On a personal note, I have only known Tom for the past seven months, but in that time he has proven to be a very humble, hard-working person who gives all the credit to his assistant coaches and players. Tom was reluctant to receive any recognition after his 500th win. Most importantly, he does a fine job of teaching our student-athletes what it takes to be successful in life through basketball. Whether they know it or not, our student-athletes who are coached by Tom are being prepared to be successful in life after basketball. Tom insists on doing things the “right” way and does so with a calm demeanor. The schools and communities of Rushford and Peterson are very lucky to have Tom as a teacher and coach.”

Congratulations Coach Vix!

ON TODAY’S HOCKEY slate are the Class 1A quarterfinals. Hermantown and Alexandria will kick things off in a few minutes.

--I was in the elevator to the press box this morning when the first DC question was asked: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes are you gonna drink this week?” A few minutes later came this query: “How many Diet Cokes so far today?” I haven’t had even one yet, but it’s early and I’ll be here all day.

--Twitter note/ This Tweet appeared yesterday: “I get to be in the Press Boxes of the Xcel on Thursday for Boys Hockey Tourney. Will my dream of meeting @MSHSLjohn come true!!!???!!! :)” My reply went something like this: Aming a little low, aren’t you?

--The Alexandria peb band just kicked off the week by playing “Crazy Train.” Splendid start.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 28 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,420

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



'If You Can’t Get Excited This Time Of Year, You Don’t Have A Pulse'
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/8/2011 10:46:59 AM

As noted in the previous post, we are in the midst of winter state tournaments. This is obviously an exciting time for all high school sports fans and participants, and it’s not hard to see why.

Postseason games, whether in section or state play, are where all the hard work, commitment and preparation pay dividends. Section championships -- whether in basketball, hockey, wrestling or any other sport – are almost always tense affairs, with one team exploding in celebration upon qualifying for state and one team seeing its season come to an end.

The boys state hockey tournament begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, and in preparation for the big week I attended a section final doubleheader last week at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. After Edina, the defending champion in Class 2A, defeated Burnsville in a narrow finish, I asked Edina coach Curt Giles and senior Jake Sampson (right) about the experience.

Giles said, “This time of the year is unbelievable in high school hockey. If you can’t get excited this time of year, you don’t have a pulse. It’s so much fun and the kids are so excited and there’s nothing better than playing hockey when the sun’s coming out and it’s starting to warm up a little bit. It’s springtime hockey and I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament. There’s nothing like it.”

Sampson, who scored the winning goal with 71 seconds to play in the section final, talked about growing up amidst Edina’s high school hockey tradition and history.

“You don’t want to let the city down,” he said. “We’ve been to the state tournament the last five years, we’ve got 10 state championship titles, we want to make it another one.”

The Hornets’ state championship banners hang in their home rink, Braemar Arena, and “Every practice, every day you look at them,” Sampson said. “And you want to be part of it. Last year was great and we just want to do it again.”

Asked about being a senior playing high school hockey for the final time, Jake said, “I’ve played with these guys for 12 years and you don’t want it to be your last game. You love them to death and you’d do anything for them. You just want to keep playing with them.”

Very well said.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/8/2011 10:39:13 AM

As noted in the previous post, we are in the midst of winter state tournaments. This is obviously an exciting time for all high school sports fans and participants, and it’s not hard to see why.

Postseason games, whether in section or state play, are where all the hard work, commitment and preparation pay dividends. Section championships -- whether in basketball, hockey, wrestling or any other sport – are almost always tense affairs, with one team exploding in celebration upon qualifying for state and one team seeing its season come to an end.

The boys state hockey tournament begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, and in preparation for the big week I attended a section final doubleheader last week at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. After Edina, the defending champion in Class 2A, defeated Burnsville in a narrow finish, I asked Edina coach Curt Giles and senior Jake Sampson about the experience.

Giles said, “This time of the year is unbelievable in high school hockey. If you can’t get excited this time of year, you don’t have a pulse. It’s so much fun and the kids are so excited and there’s nothing better than playing hockey when the sun’s coming out and it’s starting to warm up a little bit. It’s springtime hockey and I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament. There’s nothing like it.”

Sampson, who scored the winning goal with 71 seconds to play in the section final, talked about growing up amidst Edina’s high school hockey tradition and history.

“You don’t want to let the city down,” he said. “We’ve been to the state tournament the last five years, we’ve got 10 state championship titles, we want to make it another one.”

The Hornets’ state championship banners hang in their home rink, Braemar Arena, and “Every practice, every day you look at them,” Sampson said. “And you want to be part of it. Last year was great and we just want to do it again.”

Asked about being a senior playing high school hockey for the final time, Jake said, “I’ve played with these guys for 12 years and you don’t want it to be your last game. You love them to death and you’d do anything for them. You just want to keep playing with them.”

Very well said.


BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Taking Some Monday Down Time … But It Won’t Last Long
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/7/2011 12:33:49 PM

Happy Monday to one and all from MSHSL World Headquarters. It’s pretty peaceful in the office today, although a few ears are still ringing from the enthusiastic crowds on hand Saturday at the state wrestling and boys swimming and diving championships.

As the five-week run of winter state tournaments continues, this is boys hockey week. The action will kick off at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday with the Class 1A quarterfinals and the 2A schools will hit the ice on Thursday. All semifinals will be played Friday and the state champs will be crowned on Saturday.

If you want to put in a vote for your favorite team, you can do so on the MSHSL Facebook page. Just for fun, we have posted polls where you can vote for the teams you think will win the 1A and 2A hockey titles.

The basketball postseason is also heating up this week with section tournaments. Following this week’s hockey tournament, we will exit the Xcel Energy Center (home of girls hockey, wrestling and boys hockey) and shift over to Williams Arena and Target Center for the state basketball tourneys. The girls tournament will be held March 16-19 and the boys tourney will be March 23-26.

Have a great week!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



What A Saturday: A Whirlwind of Wrestling, Swimming And Hockey
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2011 10:39:54 PM

Saturday was one of those days that people like me know are coming. When things slow down a bit -- usually during the midst of the regular season in whatever season it happens to be – you think ahead to the madness that will soon arrive.

On Saturday, the madness struck with full force. And oh, what a great day it was.

While wrestlers were battling their way through the consolation brackets in the state tournament on Saturday morning at Xcel Energy Center, conference calls were held with the coaches who will bring their boys hockey teams to the X for the upcoming state tourney. Seedings were announced, the pairings were drawn and the hockey tournament brackets were revealed to the world.

By noon Saturday the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center was a beehive of activity. That’s where the boys swimming and diving season culminated with the state meet. And the wrestling season came to its usual fun-filled finish with individual state champs being crowned.

Three sports, championship Saturday for two of them and setting up a great tournament for the third one. Busy, busy, busy. Befitting the times, I received this message via the famed worldwide web on Saturday evening: “John-Does your family get to see you any time in the next month?”

I replied: “They can see me whenever it's convenient. Except for days, nights, weekends and holidays.”

--Apple Valley crowned seven individual wrestling champs, and four of them own a combined 14 state titles. Destin McCauley (152 pounds, pictured at left) became the fourth wrestler in history to win five titles, and Dakota Trom (125), Matt Kelliher (135) and Brandon Kingsley (140) each won for the third time. Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud Apollo also captured a third gold medal.

Over at the state swim meet, Fergus Falls won the Class A team title with a one-point advantage over St. Thomas Academy. The final standings looked like this: 1. Fergus Falls 205. 2. St. Thomas Academy 204. 3. Breck/Blake 201. 4. Monticello 168. 5. Richfield 162.

In Class AA, Minnetonka claimed the team championship. Those team standings: 1. Minnetonka 253.5. 2. Eden Prairie 248. 3. Edina 232.5. 4. Rochester Century 154. 5. Mounds View 137.

--I had some darn good company Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. One of the best things about my job with the MSHSL is spending time with aspiring journalists from high schools all over Minnesota. A Breckenridge High School junior named Turner Blaufuss hung out with me during the wrestling tournament, and we chatted about sports, journalism and lots of other fun stuff. Turner was actually in town to cheer for Breckenridge junior 160-pounder Stephen Erlandson (who took home a second-place medal in Class 1A), and he drank Cokes while I kept up my usual pace of consuming Diet Cokes.

--One of the best things about state tournaments is running into people you haven’t seen in a long time. That’s exactly what happened Saturday when I bumped into Wild goalie coach Bob Mason at the Xcel Center. Mason had the same job at the University of Minnesota during my days as a college hockey writer. We had a nice chat and promised to meet up again during the boys state hockey tournament … which is just a few days away.

Will the madness ever end? I sure hope not.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 28 for the winter tournaments.

To see photo galleries from the state wrestling and swimming championships, click on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Class 2A Boys State Hockey Seedings and Pairings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2011 10:24:58 AM

Class 2A boys state hockey pairings …

Thursday’s quarterfinals:

11 a.m./ #2 seed Edina (18-7-1) vs. Blaine (20-4-4)

1 p.m./ #3 seed Duluth East (22-5) vs. White Bear Lake (21-5-2)

6 p.m./ #1 seed Eden Prairie (21-5-2) vs. Lakeville North (13-14-1)

8 p.m./ #4 seed Eagan (20-6-2) vs. Moorhead (18-7-2)



Class 1A Boys State Hockey Seedings and Pairings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2011 9:21:37 AM

Class 1A boys state hockey pairings …

Wednesday’s quarterfinals:

11 a.m./ #2 seed Hermantown (23-3-2) vs. Alexandria (12-15-1)

1 p.m./ #3 seed Rochester Lourdes (24-3-1) vs. Hibbing (17-9-2)

6 p.m./ #1 seed St. Thomas Academy (22-6) vs. New Ulm (21-4-2)

8 p.m./ #4 seed Breck (20-8) vs. Thief River Falls (19-8-1)



Setting Up Championship Saturday at State Wrestling Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/4/2011 11:05:16 PM

Friday’s long day of wrestling has come to a close at Xcel Energy Center, and the stage is set for Saturday’s individual semifinals and championship matches. Semifinals are scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. and the title rounds are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

There were few surprises during Friday’s opening- and quarterfinal-round matches. Three of 21 past state champions lost Friday, as did four of 16 wrestlers who came to state with undefeated records.

In Class 3A at 119 pounds Friday, two state champions met in the quarterfinals. Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud, a two-time champion, defeated Sam Brancala of Eden Prairie 1-0. Bengston won at 112 last year and Brancale was the champ at 103 pounds.

Elissa Reinsma, the senior from Fulda/Murray County Central, was knocked out of the tournament Friday night with a 9-2 loss to Luke Betchwars of Scott West in the consolation bracket.

Apple Valley brought 13 wrestlers to state and 11 of them will wrestle in the semifinals. The Eagles’ Destin McCauley will attempt to become the fourth wrestler in history to win five state titles. Already in that exclusive club are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003) and Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-2007).

If not for a loss in the state finals when he was a sophomore, McCauley would be trying to become the state’s first six-time champion.

--On the boys hockey front, the section champions have been decided and the state tournament seedings and brackets will be completed Saturday morning. I’ll post the brackets as soon as they are completed.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 26 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,297

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Elissa Reinsma Loses a Match And Gains More Fans
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/4/2011 2:34:30 PM

The Big Story in the opening round of the state wrestling tournament Friday was Elissa Reinsma, who has become a well-known name in the sport. Two years ago as a sophomore at Fulda/Murray County Central, Elissa became the first female to qualify for the state tournament. She wrestled twice and lost both matches in 2009.

She was sidelined with a knee injury late last season, but she made it back to state this week. She drew a tough opening-round opponent in Foley sophomore Tristan Manderfeld, who is ranked second at 103 pounds in Class 2A and came to state with a season record of 41-1.

Elissa, who is not ranked, lost a 7-0 decision to Tristan on Friday morning. (Tristan is on the left and Elissa on the right in this photo.) That put her record at 32-6 and put her in waiting mode; if Tristan advances through Friday evening’s quarterfinals, Elissa will remain alive in the tournament’s wrestleback bracket and have a chance to go home with a medal on Saturday.

There are two sides to many wrestlers, including Elissa. One side is the competitive side, where they work harder than most people can imagine and leave everything on the mat. The other side is the smiling, friendly side; it’s almost as if they turn a switch when the competition ends.

That was Elissa on Friday morning. She wrestled hard and lost to a talented wrestler. After the match, she was distraught. She knew she didn’t wrestle her best match, and her coach, Dan Blankenship, spent a lot of time with her in an Xcel Energy Center corridor. He told her she needed to realize that she probably would wrestle again later in the day, and that she could learn from the day’s first match.

A few minutes later Elissa met with a group of waiting reporters, shook hands with everybody and even managed to smile. The switch had been turned, at least temporarily.

“After getting down right away it got into my head,” Elissa said. “I hope I get a wrestleback. I don’t want to be one and out, and I don’t want to be two and out. If he goes on and wins it, I can say I lost to the champ.”

Blankenship said, “She’s just ticked off because she lost. That’s just like any other wrestler; they’re going to be mad when they lose. She gets frustrated, just like any wrestler does.”

After Fulda/Murray County Central’s Austin Kluis (125 pounds) and Jordan Anderson (171) competed in the opening round, the coaches and wrestlers returned to their hotel for some down time. They would be back at the Xcel Center in the evening, ready for the wrestlebacks if they qualified.

When I asked Elissa about her goals for the tournament, it was clear they had changed with the opening-round loss.

“Just to place,” she said.” Obviously a goal would be to win it, but placing now.”

Soon after talking to Elissa, I posted several photos from her match on the MSHSL Facebook page. One reader posted a comment that did a nice job of summing things up. The comment: “Great pictures. She looks great. Just like a wrestler ... nothing more. Glad I was able to see this to understand that she is just a wrestler.”

That is indeed correct. She is just another wrestler. One who loves to compete and hates to lose.

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 6 for the tournament, 24 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,297

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Wrestling Team Champions Are Crowned
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2011 9:48:04 PM

The first day of the three-class state wrestling tournament came to an end with four state champions. Yes, that’s right, four state champions.

Apple Valley in 3A and Simley in 2A repeated as champions, and Jackson County Central and Frazee tied 28-28 in the 1A championship match. There is no tiebreaker in championship matches, so the Hornets and Huskies are co-champs.

Apple Valley completed a dominating run through 3A with a 61-6 win over St. Michael-Albertville and Simley beat Scott West 39-16 in the 2A final.

The individual competition begins at 9 a.m. Friday. One of the most intriguing wrestlers in the field is Fulda/Murray County Central senior Elissa Reinsma, who two years ago became the first female to qualify for state. She will open the tournament around 11 a.m. against sophomore Tristan Manderfeld of Foley.

--Thursday’s attendance was 13,003.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 22 for the winter tournaments.

To see photo galleries from the tournament, including the championship teams, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,256

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Wrestling Team Finals Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2011 4:00:17 PM

The top seeds have all advanced to the championship round at the state wrestling, as have one No. 2 seed and two No. 3 seeds. The title matches will begin at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

In Class 1A, top-seeded and defending champion Jackson County Central will meet No. 3 seed Frazee in the finals. Jackson beat Pierz 59-16 and Minneota 35-20 earlier today, while Frazee defeated Border West 39-18 and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 27-25.

In 2A, it will be top-seeded and three-time defending champion Simley taking on No. 3 seed Scott West for the title. Simley beat Grand Rapids 56-7 and Foley 52-3, while Scott West defeated Monticello 46-22 and Kasson-Mantorville 36-19.

In 3A, top-seeded and five-time defending champ Apple Valley will meet second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville. Apple Valley beat White Bear Lake 66-12 and Prior Lake 70-0, while the Knights defeated Centennial 59-3 and Albert Lea 36-13.

Third-place and fifth-place matches will begin at 5 p.m., with championship matches set for 7 p.m.



Wrestling, Hockey, Swimming … It’s All Happening
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2011 1:24:40 PM

I’m back at Xcel Energy Center for the first day of the state wrestling tournament. We are clearly in the “whirlwind” phase of the winter tournament season, because in the 14-day period that ends Saturday I will have been at state or section tournament events on nine of those days.

Wednesday night’s venue was Mariucci Arena for a boys hockey section final doubleheader. Edina beat Burnsville 3-2 on a goal in the final 70 seconds of regulation and Eden Prairie defeated Wayzata in double overtime.

Interesting note from the hockey doubleheader: Retired Edina athletic director Steve Dove lives in Burnsville and has a son who is a senior at Burnsville High School. So he dressed carefully; wearing neither Edina green nor Burnsville gold. Very diplomatic.

So far today at Xcel, the team quarterfinals in all three wrestling classes have been completed and the semifinals will begin soon. For ongoing results from wrestling throughout the tournament, check me out on Twitter as well as the MSHSL page on Facebook. We’re throwing a few photos on the Facebook page, too.

The boys state swimming and diving also is under way today with the diving competition at the U of M. So as you can tell, there’s plenty going on.

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the tournament, 18 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,256

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



State Championship Wrestling Dreams Begin In Rochester
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/2/2011 8:07:47 AM

The state tournament is the goal for every high school wrestler in Minnesota. Getting to Xcel Energy Center, however, often entails a couple of trips to southeastern Minnesota, which isn’t always perceived by some around the state as a hotbed of the sport.

Rochester, though, is where championship wrestlers are forged, where two regular-season tournaments attract top-caliber competition from Minnesota and around the nation, where dreams of state titles move closer to reality.

Forest Lake High School coach Billy Pierce, a former Big Ten champion and three-time All-American at the University of Minnesota, summed up what Rochester means to the sport when he called it “Minnesota’s wrestling mecca.”

The mecca is the Regional Sports Center at Rochester Community and Technical College (pictured). With room for eight wrestling mats surrounded by spectator seating, the Regional Sports Center hosts the Minnesota Christmas tournament every December and The Clash national duals tournament in late December or early January. The Christmas tournament attracts 36 teams from Minnesota and the upper Midwest, while the 32-team Clash has more of a national allure with some of the top teams in the nation coming to Rochester.

“When I walk in here, it kind of has the feel of the Big Ten tournament and events like that,” Pierce said during the 2011 Clash.

The people behind the scenes are from the Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition, a non-profit organization that was created to promote and support wrestling in that part of the state. Some of the founders of the coalition also were in on the ground floor of The Clash, which will mark its 10th anniversary on Dec. 30-31, 2011.

Steve Patton, Clash chairman and president of the Southeastern Minnesota Wresting Coalition, said, “The Clash started with a bunch of guys sitting around saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get teams together from three or four states and see how we’d do?’ We started originally thinking Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

But The Clash grew quickly as teams from around the country expressed interest in competing. At the first Clash in 2003, teams from California, Utah, Oklahoma and Nebraska joined teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. In the years since, teams have come from as far away as Hawaii, Florida and Rhode Island to compete in Rochester.

“We had 20 teams the first year, and then there was so much interest that we settled on a 32-team format,” Patton said. “It’s quite an event.”

Amateur Wrestling News ranks The Clash as the number one high school dual wrestling tournament in the nation. The 2011 Clash featured 11 teams ranked among the top 38 in the country.

The Minnesota Christmas tournament is different from The Clash in two ways: The Christmas tournament attracts more of a regional field and it is an individual competition instead of team duals. Wrestlers from 34 teams competed in the 2011 Christmas tournament, which was the 24th year of the event.

Unlike the state tourney, wrestlers at the Christmas tournament are not split into classes. That means the best individuals from schools large and small go head to head in proving who the best wrestlers are in each weight class. It’s often said that the Christmas tournament is the toughest individual tourney in Minnesota, including the state tournament.

“We get in these tournaments because it’s about the best competition you can get,” Albert Lea coach Larry Goodnature said. “And my philosophy in coaching is I want our kids to wrestle with the best competition I can possibly find, which makes them better in the long run. These two tournaments are better than the state tournament, so when my kids wrestle in these two tournaments and then they get to the state tournament, they’ve already experienced tougher tournaments and maybe it’s not such a big deal to go to state as far as being scared or intimidated.”

The Clash and the Christmas tournament are both invitation-only events, and teams are often knocking on the door.

Forest Lake made its first trip to The Clash this season, and Pierce (right) said, “One of my goals at Forest Lake was to get into this tournament. They do a great job of recruiting and they get the top teams nationally. We feel very fortunate and privileged to be here.”

For some teams outside southeastern Minnesota, competing in Rochester has become as big a part of their schedule as wrestling in their own gym.

“We call it our home away from home because we wrestle more matches in this building than anywhere else,” said Simley coach Will Short. “Our kids will wrestle 13 matches for sure (in Rochester) and we probably wrestle 10 in our own gym. So this is our home away from home.”

Because of restrictions on out-of-state travel by Minnesota teams, the opportunity to drive to Rochester and wrestle against some of the top teams and individuals from around the nation makes The Clash and Christmas tournament even more important.

“Absolutely,” Short said. “The only way to get national exposure for our teams is to have people come to us. It’s worked out for us to be part of the Christmas tournament and The Clash for years, and we keep coming back because it’s great competition and it prepares our kids for the end of the year.”

In addition to helping with The Clash and the Christmas tournament, the Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition supports wrestling in all areas of southeastern Minnesota, otherwise known as Section 1. The coalition has a representative from every high school or wrestling community in southeastern Minnesota.

“We ask their input on what we should do, how to invest our resources, what can we do better,” Patton said.
The Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition helps purchase wrestling mats and other equipment for schools and wrestling organizations, sponsors a Section 1 senior recognition dinner and Hall of Fame dinner, and contributes to college scholarship funds for wrestlers.

“The list of things we have our fingers on is pretty neat,” Patton said.

One of the philosophies for both tournaments in Rochester is simple: the organizers want everybody to say “Wow!” when the events conclude.

“We try to make it a great event for wrestlers, coaches, parents and fans,” Patton said. “And we get a lot of positive feedback. We get probably 100 emails after every tournament, from people saying they can’t believe it, what a great experience. Everybody knows it’s something we do well here in Rochester. It’s kind of our niche.”



Ticket Info for Boys Hockey Doubleheader at Mariucci Arena
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2011 1:32:46 PM

Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota will be the site of two Class 2A boys hockey section finals on Wednesday, and here are the details on game times and tickets…

SCHEDULE
6 p.m./ 2AA Edina vs. Burnsville
8 p.m./ 6AA Eden Prairie vs. Wayzata

TICKETS
Adults $10, students $6 (no senior rate). All tickets are General Admission. Pre-sale is occurring at all school sites for participating school communities until noon on Wednesday. Ticket sales for the general public will be available starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Mariucci Arena Box Office. Gates will open for seating at 4:45 p.m.



The People Have Spoken on the Great Soft Drink Question
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2011 12:25:22 PM

First things first: I am going to make an attempt to cut down on the Diet Cokes. One of my fellow media members has issued a challenge, with the two of us battling to see who can refrain from sipping the longest. Stay tuned for updates on that front as the tournaments roll on.

Now, about the feedback to my essay about drinking Diet Coke. This was sparked by an email warning me of the dangers of doing so. I opened the question to you, and you came through with some varying opinions.

Some of you agreed with the original email I received. Here is an example …

“Yes! Give up Diet Coke! Aspertane, nutrasweet, all pure chemicals, and pure poison! That goes for your bottled "diet" green tea you're drinking, too. Here is a thought. I'm sure they can give you hot water.......carry some tea bags with you. They don't take up much room, and your body will be much happier with you in the long run.”

Some of you told me to keep on throwing down the Diet Cokes, such as this email …

“Can the thousands of fans attending the hockey and wrestling tournaments at the Xcel this season buy Diet Coke, regular Coke, Mello Yello and similar products, OR are the concession stands and traveling vendors allowed only to sell green tea, milk and bottled water among their beverages? The reprimand against you seems kind of asinine.”

In a face-to-face conversation – yes, they still take place despite electronic communication – someone told me about her father, who began drinking Diet Rite in the 1960s, made the switch to Diet Coke, still drinks one or two of them every day and is in his 90s.

And finally, this message arrived via Twitter: “Pretty sure that if you stop pounding Diet Cokes, the state tournaments will cease to exist.”

I’m not sure that would happen, and I don’t plan to go cold turkey on the Diet Cokes. As stated above, I will try some experimenting with cutting back. We have four weeks of winter state tournaments to go. I consumed 16 cans of Diet Coke during last week’s tournaments, so the bar has been set.

Wish me luck…

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



View Posts by Month:  
March, 2017 (27)  
February, 2017 (38)  
January, 2017 (47)  
December, 2016 (26)  
November, 2016 (42)  
October, 2016 (49)  
September, 2016 (25)  
August, 2016 (11)  
July, 2016 (6)  
June, 2016 (15)  
May, 2016 (11)  
April, 2016 (9)  
March, 2016 (14)  
February, 2016 (18)  
January, 2016 (5)  
December, 2015 (7)  
November, 2015 (18)  
October, 2015 (11)  
September, 2015 (12)  
August, 2015 (11)  
July, 2015 (3)  
June, 2015 (12)  
May, 2015 (10)  
April, 2015 (8)  
March, 2015 (14)  
February, 2015 (16)  
January, 2015 (8)  
December, 2014 (4)  
November, 2014 (14)  
October, 2014 (8)  
September, 2014 (11)  
August, 2014 (8)  
July, 2014 (5)  
June, 2014 (12)  
May, 2014 (9)  
April, 2014 (10)  
March, 2014 (17)  
February, 2014 (15)  
January, 2014 (11)  
December, 2013 (8)  
November, 2013 (27)  
October, 2013 (24)  
September, 2013 (16)  
August, 2013 (14)  
July, 2013 (5)  
June, 2013 (13)  
May, 2013 (12)  
April, 2013 (14)  
March, 2013 (25)  
February, 2013 (20)  
January, 2013 (13)  
December, 2012 (15)  
November, 2012 (31)  
October, 2012 (26)  
September, 2012 (25)  
August, 2012 (12)  
July, 2012 (3)  
June, 2012 (20)  
May, 2012 (10)  
April, 2012 (11)  
March, 2012 (39)  
February, 2012 (19)  
January, 2012 (11)  
December, 2011 (13)  
November, 2011 (29)  
October, 2011 (29)  
September, 2011 (28)  
August, 2011 (15)  
July, 2011 (3)  
June, 2011 (22)  
May, 2011 (16)  
April, 2011 (15)  
March, 2011 (42)  
February, 2011 (20)  
January, 2011 (16)  
December, 2010 (14)  
November, 2010 (47)  
October, 2010 (39)  
September, 2010 (30)  
August, 2010 (26)  
July, 2010 (8)  
June, 2010 (45)  
May, 2010 (28)  
April, 2010 (29)  
March, 2010 (88)  
 


Copyright 1994-2017 Minnesota State High School League
2100 Freeway Boulevard Brooklyn Center, MN 55430-1735    |    (763) 560-2262     |     FAX (763) 569-0499