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Fake Beards,Teamwork and Fun: FIRST Robotics Takes Over
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/30/2012 3:12:12 PM

My new favorite team is called “Brobotics +2.” This team wields power tools, math, ingenuity and other implements of which I am not very familiar. They also are well-versed in the concepts of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition.

Let me explain. Brobotics +2 is the FIRST Robotics team from Perham High School. They caught my eye because they were wearing knit beards. Yes, knit beards. They were originally called Brobotics, but as one of the students explained to me, “The plus 2 is because two girls joined late.”

I encountered Brobotics +2 (yes, that's them in the photo) Friday afternoon at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, where robotics teams had also taken over Mariucci Arena and the Sports Pavilion.

FIRST is short for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST Robotics competitions have been held for 21 years, and Minnesota is a new growth area. Six years ago there were two teams in our state; today there are 154. The MSHSL has partnered with FIRST.

The events at the University of Minnesota were the Minnesota North Star Regional and 10,000 Lakes Regional; one in each arena. The Lake Superior Regional was held in Duluth earlier in March and the MSHSL-sponsored Minnesota State Championships will be held at Williams Arena on May 19.

So what are Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition? Here are some explanations from the FIRST website (www.usfirst.org):

“Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”

“Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete. Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.”

Those concepts are evident at this weekend’s events. In the “pit” area, I heard a public-address announcement concerning a team that was looking to borrow a specific tool. I’m sure other teams teams came running to assist.

Each year a specific challenge is designed for all FIRST teams. This year’s theme is “Rebound Rumble.” Yes, that means basketball. Each team designs and builds a robot that shoots basketballs into hoops of varying heights. The teams are all given certain common elements – motors, controllers, radios and other structural parts – to provide a base level of performance. From that point, each team collaborates to make their robot the best possible robot.

Team members have a lot of fun. Some dress in knit beards, coveralls, surgical garb, lab coats, kilts, fake mustaches, funny hats, etc. The team names are highly entertaining, too: TigerBots, The Plaid Pillagers, How ‘bout dem apples, Chicken Bot Pie, Granite City Gear Heads. Some schools bring their mascots.

Admission is free this weekend. You can tour the pits and watch the team members work on their robots. It’s great theater and great fun. And a great example of what competition should be all about.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 489
*Miles John has driven: 7,029

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Turning Dreams Into Reality: A Day With The Timberwolves
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/29/2012 1:15:14 PM

(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended Sunday’s Timberwolves game through the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program.)

By Thomas Elness
Windom High School Student SID

“We didn’t scare you too much, did we?!,” Don Stoner asked our group of aspiring young journalists. Don, the sports information director at Augsburg College, was one of six knowledgeable craftsmen who shared words of advice with us.

Others on the panel were Jerry Zgoda, Timberwolves beat writer at the Star Tribune; Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press reporter; Dave Schwartz, KARE 11 sports reporter/anchor; Tom Hanneman, Timberwolves television play-by-play announcer; and Aaron Seehusen, public relations senior coordinator for the Timberwolves.

The intelligent and friendly group shared their time with our group. The amount of knowledge pouring out of the professionals was remarkable, and we quickly realized why they are some of the best in the business.

With all areas of the media covered, there was one common ground: hard work. The message was simple, hard work trumps everything. Connections are crucial, but without the time and effort to back it up, they will not last.

The opportunity to be with such great minds was incredible, and their real talk and undivided attention was something that is sometimes hard to come by.

The day, which started at 11 a.m. (for a 2:30 tip), was far from over after that initial meeting. Aaron Seehusen gave us a tour of Target Center, including the locker room, media areas and other often unseen parts of the energized building.

One of our favorite pitstops was the media dining room. Not only were we eating in the midst of some notable media personalities, but we also landed one of the best meals the Target Center staff makes: Pasta bar. “You guys came on the right day,” Aaron said with laugh. We certainly agreed and devoured our fair share of pasta and cookies. Our buddy John did not need any directions to the Diet Coke machine either … does he ever drink that?

We eventually found our media seats, four rows from courtside with one of the best views in the house. Our family members and other guests were seated were not behind a pole, their noses stayed free of blood and the binoculars stayed in the car. The Timberwolves posted them up in the lower level free of charge, and they were very excited about that.

Once the game started, it was easy to see why the Wolves have received so much attention this year. Despite three great players being out of the game, MVP-contender Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour put together a stellar first half, scoring 68 points as a team, a Wolves season record for points in a half.

Love and company held on to come away with the ‘W’ over Denver, 117-100. The game was over, but our real-world media experience was not.

We headed back to the media lounge and Aaron came around the corner to see if we wanted to interview Timberwolves player Anthony Tolliver. ‘We would love to!’ we thought in unison. The three-year pro was a class-act and a great interview. He was happy to answer our questions, even though we were rookies.

The experience put together by John Millea at the Minnesota State High School League and the folks with the Minnesota Timberwolves was one we will never forget and will be talking about for years to come. Not every day will chances like this come and the Student Sports Information Directors program helps turn some of these dreams into reality.


Game Story Written by Thomas Elness

In front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday, the Minnesota Timberwolves put on a show against the Denver Nuggets, snapping a two-game losing streak, winning 117-100. The Wolves were coming off of a double-overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a combined 289-point game.

Kevin Love kept the vibe of the 51-point, team-record game against the Thunder with another solid performance, putting up 30 points and grabbing 21 boards. Love’s dominating year has him in discussion for the MVP award. Despite countless technical difficulties with the scoreboard and shot clock, the Wolves played through the delays and got off to an early lead, 33-20.

“It was tough,” Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver mentioned after the game. “I think our guys responded really well.” Tolliver was just one of the players to add offense off the bench, playing just over 34 minutes, the third most on the team.

Sixty-eight Timberwolves points set a season high for points in a half. Rick Adelman, head coach of the Timberwolves, was working with a small arsenal, as J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio were all out of the game, but that did not slow down the high-powered Wolves offense.

Anthony Tolliver shared his hopes for the remainder of the season after the win. “Hopefully we can continue to work hard,” the Creighton grad said. “Maybe sneak into the playoffs. We just beat Denver, they’re right ahead of us and we’re hoping to jump a couple teams, and hopefully get back into playoff contention.”

Making the playoffs will be an uphill battle; however, it’s not entirely out of the realm of reasonable thought for Tolliver and his teammates. The Wolves are 2.5 games back from the eighth and last playoff spot, behind Houston, Denver and Phoenix. Minnesota has 16 regular-season games left on the schedule to yield a playoff ticket.

With the win the Wolves improved to 24-26.



Tournament Time Is Over But The Fun Continues
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/26/2012 1:37:46 PM

What a weekend! The MSHSL winter state tournament season came to a fantastic finish during Saturday’s boys state basketball championship games at Target Center. The evening games ended in buzzer-beating fashion, with Class 3A DeLaSalle defeating Minneapolis Washburn on a last-second shot in overtime and Class 4A Osseo edging Lakeville North on a last-second shot in regulation.

Saturday’s crowds for the afternoon 1A and 2A title games -- won by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Plainview-Elgin-Millville – as well as the evening session were big and boisterious.

I left Target Center at midnight Saturday. In most years I would have taken Sunday off and gotten some rest after the five-week flurry of tournaments. But I was back at Target Center at 10:45 Sunday morning in order to be on hand for another fantastic day of basketball.

The Timberwolves played the Denver Nuggets in a 2:30 p.m. game Sunday. Long ago, I began working with the Timberwolves staff on creating a special day for youth involved in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. And a grand day it was.

The Timberwolves staff went above and beyond. Public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen organized a memorable day for the students and several Twin Cities media professionals met with the kids.

The students involved were (pictured, left to right) Katie Halter of Red Rock Central, Nick Wagner of Ada-Borup, Thomas Elness of Windom and Turner Blaufuss of Breckenridge. John's Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper, a University of Minnesota journalism student, also joined us.

The group of media professionals held an hour-long roundtable discussion with the students long before the game began. The topics ranged from their job duties and hours, their career paths, their advice for the students and much more. Here’s a great big thank you to those folks: Augsburg College sports information director Don Stoner, Timberwolves TV play-by-play veteran Tom Hanneman, Timberwolves public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen, Star Tribune Timberwolves reporter Jerry Zgoda, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski and KARE-11 sports anchor/reporter Dave Schwartz.

The students also were given a backstage tour of Target Center, visited the Timberwolves locker room, had lunch in the media dining room, observed coach Rick Adelman's pregame media briefing, watched the game from media seats and had a private postgame interview with Timberwolves player Anthony Tolliver (who is a great guy!). They also met legendary Star Tribune columnist and WCCO radio personality Sid Hartman.

A similar day with the Twins is in the planning stages, and we hope to expand the program to the Wild, Vikings and University of Minnesota athletic teams. (To see more photos from Sunday, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

The students who were involved Sunday will be writing about their experiences, and I will use their essays and photographs I shot to put together a package that administrators and students around the state will see. It will be a fabulous tool to publicize our program and continue its growth.

So with the winter tournaments and Sunday’s outing complete, things are a little quieter on the activities scene ... for now. But spring sports practices are already in full swing – with some favorable weather lending a helping hand – and the fun continues!

--Two major John’s Journal milestones were reached during the winter tournaments: A new Diet Coke record was established and my travels for the school year topped 7,000 miles…

--Diet Coke Count: *85 for the winter tournaments. (*All-time record. Previous record: 81 during 2011 winter tournaments.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 7,004

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



DeLaSalle, Osseo Capture State Championships
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/24/2012 10:18:47 PM

Click here to read about the 4A and 3A championship games



A Remarkable Championship Game … And Divine Guidance?
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/24/2012 6:21:03 PM

If you got a close look at the DeLaSalle basketball uniforms during the girls and boys state tournaments, you may have noticed a small patch worn by the Islanders. The patch carried the initials “BMC” in honor of Brother Michael Collins.

Collins, the DeLaSalle president, was 74 when he died Jan. 8 from complications related to lung cancer. The DeLaSalle coaches wore lapel pins that also carried Brother Michael’s initials. No one is saying that the late school president was responsible for the Islanders winning both girls and boys state titles … well, maybe somebody is. But we’ll get to that.

Saturday night at Target Center, the DeLaSalle boys defeated Minneapolis Washburn 57-56 in overtime. The winning points were scored by Ross Barker (right), who hit a long jump shot as time expired. Barker had scored only two points in the game before that shot.

Much of the game was racehorse basketball, and every player was exhausted at the end. Actually, they were pretty much spent long before the end.

“I thought the defensive intensity of both teams was phenomenal,” said DeLaSalle coach Dave Thorson. “At the 10-minute mark of the second half both teams were gassed. And it was all because of the defensive pressure. Defensive wins championships. Offense sells the tickets but defense wins the championships.”

A few days after Collins died, I talked with Thorson. He and Brother Michael were extremely close and his friend’s death was difficult for everyone at DeLaSalle. After Saturday’s game we talked again about Collins.

“I said I didn’t want (winning) to be about him,” Thorson said. “But I can tell you personally, for me, he was my best friend. He was the godfather to my daughter, he taught my daughter how to pray. And these kids got me through it.

“These kids got me through it because they gave me something to keep my mind off it. The day that he died, I had really the last conversation with him at about 6 in the morning. I said, ‘I’m going to go to practice’ and he rolled his eyes at me, like he always would. I told the kids after practice that day, ‘I don’t know how much longer Brother’s gonna make it.’ He ended up dying that night.

“They were really in some ways some relief for me. It’s special that way. I didn’t want to make this about him; he wouldn’t have wanted that. But in the back of my mind I’m wondering if there wasn’t some divine guidance on that ball.”

UPS AND DOWNS OF THE TOURNAMENT

There are two elevators in Edgerton, Minnesota. Two grain elevators. But the basketball team from Southwest Minnesota Christian had some interesting encounters with people-moving elevators during its time in Minneapolis at the state tournament.

On Thursday, a few hours before the Eagles played Fosston in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena, the entire team – players, coaches and athletic director Darrel Ulferts, 18 people in all – were stuck in an elevator at a YMCA.

“The question is, why were we in there all at the same time?,” Ulferts said. “Because nobody was thinking about getting stuck.”

And on Friday, after defeating Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals at Target Center, seven players found themselves stuck again, this time in an elevator at the downtown Marriott.

The Eagles needed some help from the fire department to escape from the YMCA elevator, where it grew so warm that one of the players took off everything except his pants.

After being rescued, the team took photos with the firefighters.

“Yeah, it was quite the experience,” senior Zach Huisken told the Worthington Daily Globe. “We had the fire trucks come out and we took pictures with them and we had a little fun. We were stuck in there for about 20 minutes. With 18 guys in there it started getting kind of hot, but they luckily got us out pretty quick.”

The Eagles’ stay in the Marriott elevator was shorter, 10 minutes or so.

The team was defeated by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 54-45 in Saturday’s state championship game, but they went home with lots of memories.

CONFERENCE PRIDE

A previous installment of John’s Journal mentioned the Red Rock Conference pride shared by Southwest Minnesota Christian and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (which finished fourth in 1A). Another conference – the Three Rivers – has a similar claim to fame this week.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Rushford-Peterson played in different classes at the state tournament. Rushford-Peterson finished third in Class 1A and Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the 2A title with a 55-39 victory over Litchfield.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the Three Rivers title this season and Rushford-Peterson was second. Plainview-Elgin-Millville coach Kirk Thompson was a student-teacher at Rushford-Peterson, as was P-E-M athletic director Scott Flattum. P-E-M assistant coach Andy Bernard is a Rushford-Peterson graduate and his mother is the official scorekeeper for the Rushford-Peterson basketball team.

--Here’s an amazing statistics: Before Litchfield’s loss to Plainvew-Elgin-Millville, the Dragons' record at state tournaments under coach John Carlson was 11-0. They won state titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003 under Carlson. Litchfield’s only other state appearance came in 1918.

HONORING TRIPLE A AWARD WINNERS

The annual MSHSL Triple A Awards banquet was held Saturday at the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis. The event honors high school seniors who excel in academics, arts and athletics. Thirty-two winners – a male and female from Class A and AA schools in each of the state’s eight sections – were honored at the banquet and brought onto the court at Target Center during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

Four of the 32 Triple A winners received an even higher honor, receiving $4,000 college scholarships. Those four are Katie Ellingworth of Redwood Valley and D.J. Cline of Battle Lake in Class A and Savannah Wunderlich of Owatonna and Kirk Busche of Rochester Century in Class AA.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Carter Kirk, Beau Herrig, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin; Nick Thompson, Trent Vix, Rushford-Peterson; Connor Goodwin, Brian Goodwin, Kirby Montbriand, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Andrew Top, Klint Knutson, Zach Huisken, Southwest Minnesota Christian.

2A/ Tyler Vaughan, Cameron Braund, Braham; Jordan Bruhn, Jordan Cresap, Perham; Mitch Wollin, Jon Terning, Zach Kinny, Litchfield; Cory Speer, Sam Ruth, Beau Nelson, Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

3A/ Austin Pohlen, Alex Illikainen, Grand Rapids; Marcus Marshall, Quashingm Smith-Pugh, St. Paul Johnson; Jarvis Johnson, Luke Scott, Reid Travis, DeLaSalle; Nick Anderson, Jerry Pratt, Joseph Doby, Washburn.

4A/ Sander Mohn, Grant Shaeffer, Eden Prairie; Siyani Chambers, Demitrius Martin, Hopkins; Ryan Saarela, Tyler Flack, Grant Erickson, Lakeville North; Ian Theisen, Bridge Tusler, DJ Hebert, Osseo.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 19 for the tournament,*85 for the winter tournaments. (*new all-time record)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,978

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Litchfield, Plainview Advance To 2A Title Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2012 9:15:33 PM

Click here to read about the 2A state semifinals



The Red Rock Conference Rules The World
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2012 7:07:15 PM

All the basketball action is taking place in Minneapolis this week, but down in southwestern Minnesota, 12 basketball teams and their fans from 12 small schools are cheering for two of their own.

Southwest Minnesota Christian will play in Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin will meet Rushford-Peterson in the third-place game. Southwest and Mountain Lake are very familiar with each other, because they are both members of the Red Rock Conference.

Southwest Minnesota Christian won the conference championship with a 17-0 record this season and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin shared second place with Fulda at 13-4.

“We have a great relationship,” said Southwest Minnesota Christian Coach Jamie Pap after the Eagles beat Rushford-Peterson 46-44 in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center. “Our whole Red Rock Conference, all the coaches and all the players get along really well. We always rally around each other, whoever makes it up to the state tournament. If a team out of our conference gets up here, we’re going to rally around each other and cheer other on.”

That’s exactly what took place outside the Southwest locker room after their game Friday. The Mountain Lake team, which had lost to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa earlier, was leaving the building and the Eagles came out to wish them well. Players and coaches from both teams exchanged high fives and pats on the back.

“We wished them luck in the third-place game and they wished us luck in the championship,” Pap said. “We have a chance here to have two teams from the same conference end the year with wins. That says a lot about our conference.”

A GREAT WEEK FOR MUSIC

With one day remaining in the tournament, I am ready to declare these last two weeks the best gathering of pep band talent I have ever witnessed. We saw everything from traditional pep band to garage bands to guitar bands to singing and dancing. My favorites…

--Hopkins: I have watched the Lean Mean Performance Machine play often over the years, at home games and at state. They have always been solid, but things were ramped even higher this year. This is a traditional basketball pep band: dominated by fabulous brass. As I tweeted during the girls basketball tournament: “I love this band. This is what a lot of D1 colleges wish they had.”

--Ada-Borup: They are a state tournament tradition. Director Richard Tuttle – in black t-shirt and shaved head -- is famous for dancing and swaying as the kids play. The whole band sings, there are keyboards and strings and it’s always tremendous. Their run was short this year, with one performance at Williams Arena during the girls tournament. But I was there to see it, and it was well worth it.

--Perham: The best show of the tournaments took place before – yes, before – the Class 2A state semifinals Friday night. The Perham Garage Band (pictured) performed at full strength long before their team and Litchfield took the court, and the fans applauded after every song. This is the real deal for new-wave pep bands. They are the Stanford marching band but with better musicianship (one of my kids went to Stanford; I’ve seen that band in person). The Garage Band members wear marching band uniforms in a very non-conformist style, two guys dress as the Blues Brothers (and might be better singers), two young ladies wear black dresses and sing like pros. A guy asked me Friday night, “John, where do we get their albums?” Go to YouTube and search “Perham Garage Band.” You're welcome.

THE SOUNDS OF BASKETBALL HISTORY

This is the 100th state boys basketball tournament, and few media outlets have covered more action over these 100 years than KDHL AM in Faribault, “The Mighty 920.”

This is the 64th consecutive year that KDHL is broadcasting the tournament, and the station’s veteran combo of play-by-play pros combine for 68 years of state tournament coverage.

Mike Morrisey has been calling the tournament for 43 years and news/sports director Gordy Kosfeld has been behind the microphone at state for 25 years. (In this photo: Mike on left, Gordy on right.) They are not only outstanding broadcasters … they are great guys, too.

SOME HOPKINS PERSPECTIVE

When Osseo defeated Hopkins in three overtimes during Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals, the result went beyond simply ending the Royals’ quest to win their fourth consecutive state title.

Any loss for Hopkins is a rarity, but how rare? Here are some facts: The Royals’ record over the last eight seasons is 235-12 and they have never lost more than two games in any of those seasons. They take a 29-2 record into Saturday’s third-place game against Eden Prairie.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--One year ago tonight, we all watched in awe as Perham’s Zach Gabbard got up from his wheelchair and walked across the court during pregame introductions. Friday evening, he was back at Target Center … in uniform, back with his teammates. It’s one of the all-time great stories.

--Best National Anthem: We have heard some excellent performances during the tournaments, but Perham students Emily Peterson and Joe Alfs topped them all with a wonderful duet before Friday night’s games. They mixed in a bit of “America the Beautiful” with the anthem, and then got high fives from Perham coach Dave Cresap as they exited the court.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 81 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,952

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Osseo Ends Hopkins’ Reign; Lakeville North Also Wins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/22/2012 10:35:50 PM

Click here to read about the Class 4A state semifinals



Seventy Years Later, A State Champion Remembers
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/22/2012 8:09:19 PM

When George Smilanich celebrates his 90th birthday in June, the day will be filled with memories. There will be childhood stories of growing up on the Iron Range during the Depression, thoughts of friendships forged and friends lost during World War II and memories of a lengthy career as a teacher and coach.

And if anybody happens to mention the Minnesota state high school basketball tournaments of 70 years ago, George will be happy to chat about that, too.

“I remember playing in the Minneapolis Auditorium in ’41 and we opened up the fieldhouse here in 1942,” George told me Thursday. “This is what they call Williams Arena now.”

I sat with George and one of his closest friends, Chisholm basketball coach Bob McDonald, in the tournament headquarters at Williams Arena (Bob's on the left in this photo). In 1941 and 1942, George was a starting guard for Buhl teams that won state titles.

“I played guard, one of those standing guards,” he said with a smile. “The other guys scored more points in one game than I did all year. “

The 1942 tournament was the 30th state tournament, and this year’s version is the 100th. Between 1941 and 2012, George (whose nickname is “Pecky”) has missed only three state tournaments. Those were the years he spent in Europe during World War II.

Less than a year after graduating from high school in Buhl in 1942, Smilanich was driving tanks in North Africa. He served under General George Patton in the Army’s 2nd Armored Division, he was on Omaha Beach, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Bronze Star. After the war, he served in an honor guard at the Potsdam Conference.

Returning home, he went to St. Cloud State and played basketball for one year, helping the team finish second in the NAIA national tournament. Then came his marriage to Mary Jane in 1946, three children and a career as an educator. George coached first in Erie, Illinois, for four years, was hired in Buhl in 1954 and moved to Hibbing High School in 1967. He retired in 1984.

“We go a long ways back,” said McDonald, a 1951 Chisholm graduate. “He was at Buhl when I first started at Chisholm (in 1961 after coaching in McGregor and Barnum). Ever since I came back we’ve been close. We’ve been friends forever. It’s been a long haul, but he’s always been around. He’s my guru and advisor.”

Smilanich never coached a team in the state tournament. “I wasn’t as good as Bob,” he said. “Chisholm gave us the most problems in basketball.”

“We had great rivalries,” said McDonald, whose has been coaching since 1956 and is the winningest coach in Minnesota basketball history. “Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl; typical Range stuff.”

And wonderful memories.

THE BEST DEFENSE …

When the pairings for the Class 1A state basketball tournament were announced, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa coach Dave Montbriand knew what to expect from the unbeaten Jaguars’ quarterfinal opponent, Lakeview Christian Academy from Duluth.

Montbriand had seen Lakeview Christian play one game in person this season. It was on Feb. 25, when Lakeview’s Anders Broman scored 71 points in a 114-110 loss at Melrose.

Broman, a 6-2 junior, averaged 44 points per game this season for the Lions, who led the state with a scoring average of 93 points.

“I saw Anders score 71 and I was impressed,” Montbriand said. “I know if he’s got a little daylight he can do some fantastic things.”

The Jaguars defense kept Broman in the dark during most of Thursday’s game at Williams Arena and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa won 85-76. Broman made five of 19 field-goal attempts and scored 18 points.

“We switched defenses on him,” Montbriand said. “Whatever defense we were in, we had an extra guy or two keeping an eye on him.”

CLASSY MOVE

Southwest Minnesota Christian was in control of its 1A game against Fosston on Thursday, holding the lead and the ball with about 15 seconds to play. Fosston coach Ben Hemberger was trying to get his players to commit a foul, so the game would be stopped and he could get some of his seniors into a state tournament game.

The Fosston players, however, couldn’t hear their coach over the din of the crowd. But Southwest Minnesota Christian coach Jamie Pap saw what was happening and called a time out so the Fosston reserves could get in the game. Well done.

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BAND

A unique postgame celebration took place Wednesday evening at Target Center.

While the Perham Yellowjackets – who had just defeated Worthington in Class 2A – were getting their things together in the locker room, Perham activities director Fred Sailer stuck his head in the room and hollered, “Hey! Everybody out in the hallway! Let’s hear it for the band!”

The band was streaming single-file through the corridor, carrying and rolling their instruments and equipment to the bus. And the sight was spectacular: Players and coaches high-fiving the band members and band directors as they filed past.

SING IT LOUD, SING IT PROUD

Before the Perham team left town for the state tournament, they made several stops. Their itinerary included elementary schools and a local nursing home. One of the highlights of the nursing home visit was a duet by senior Mark Schumacher and Dan Cavanagh; they sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“We’re in choir, and our athletic director asked us to sing, because we did it last year,” Schumacher said. “Me and Dan were flipping through this church songbook and we were like, ‘Hey! We both know this song!” The old-timers love it and we love making the community happy.

“Community is one of the biggest things we’ve stressed over the years. Last year we had twenty-five-hundred people coming down here, and that’s almost the whole population. We love to entertain them and keep them on our side.”

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--Best National Anthem: The “Belgrade Acoustics.” Flawless.

--Best Pep Band Teamwork: The Osseo band playing “Hey Baby” and the Hopkins band members singing along.

--Best Pep Band Performance of a Lady Gaga Song: The Browerville kids performing “Edge of Glory.”

--Mascot of the Day: The Browerville Tiger.

--Delivery of the Day: I was sitting courtside at Williams Arena when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a security guard. He said, “Are you John?” He handed me a Diet Coke, pointed and said, “It’s from that guy down there.” Security kept a member of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin faithful away from media row, but his sugar-free gift made it to me.

--Diet Coke Count: 6 for the day, 11 for the tournament, 77 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,927

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



After 51 Years, Rocori’s Bob Brink Is A Coach To The End
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/21/2012 5:03:20 PM

Before the first game of the boys state basketball tournament tipped off at Williams Arena on Wednesday morning, a veteran hoops observer surveyed the court and made a declarative statement: “Rocori always plays hard.”

For 42 years, that phrase has been uttered about teams coached by Bob Brink at the school in Cold Spring. Bob is 74 years old and ready to travel with his wife Judy to visit his brothers, who live in South Dakota and Wyoming, and see the countryside. He announced earlier in the season that this would be his last, and the end came Wednesday with a 52-49 loss to top-seeded Minneapolis Washburn in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.

Here’s another declarative statement: There has been a boys state basketball tournament in Minnesota for 100 years, and Bob Brink has been coaching boys basketball for 51 years, spending nine seasons in his native South Dakota before coming to Rocori.

“Great season, great kids,” Bob said after the end had finally arrived. “Reflecting back, if anybody had told me I was going to coach 51 years and be at Rocori for 40-some years…” His voice trailed off. He was still thinking about the game that the Spartans almost won … what might have been done differently … if only the kids had made a couple more layups … if some crucial turnovers had not occurred late in the game … he was still in coaching mode.

“Down the stretch we had the lead and that’s usually our game,” he said. “We just didn’t execute in the last two or three minutes, and that’s unusual for my teams. We normally do it. It’s a little different playing in the state tournament against one of the top teams in 3A. They beat a lot of 4A teams.”

Brink had taken 12 previous teams to state, including a 26-0 season in 1988 that included a Class 2A championship.

As a player, Brink led his high school team in Plankinton, S.D., to the 1956 state tournament. His first teaching and coaching job was at the State Training School in Plankinton, a place for kids who had come from troubled home lives or had been in hot water with the law.

“When I first started coaching I taught in a school with kids that really needed some help in their lifestyle,” he said. “You tried to pick out their priorities for them, what they needed to do outside of just sports. I think that’s one of the main things that I tried to leave with (players over the years), the things that are taught on the court, believing in people and keeping your nose clean.

“We take a knee sometimes and we believe in that; between their family and their religion and stressing some of those things a little bit without overdoing it. And academics next and extracurricular activities. That’s probably the most compliments (I’ve received) from my ex-players, and I’m proud of that.”

Brink ranks second in all-time career boys basketball coaching victories in Minnesota behind Chisholm’s still-active Bob McDonald. The No. 3 coach on the list, Zig Kauls of Mounds View, also retired this season. Brink is a member of the Minnesota basketball coaches association hall of fame, the MSHSL hall of fame and the Rocori athletic hall of fame.

A person learns some things over 51 years, and Brink knows that you win some and you lose some.

“It was a good game, great atmosphere and someone had to lose,” he said. “And we happened to be on the wrong end of it.”

Before meeting with the media, Brink spent time in the locker room with the last team he will ever coach. As he exited, he said softly, “That was hard.”

During the postgame interview – in fact, in what turned out to be the final question of the postgame interview – I asked Bob if he thought his players had felt pressure in knowing that if they lost it would be the end of their coach’s career.

“I think they did,” he said. And then, something happened that has rarely happened during the coach’s long and successful career. He became emotional. Tears welled up in his eyes as he thought about his players. His team. His boys.

“They wanted to win it for…” He was unable to say the word “me” because it’s never been about him. “But usually the most pressure is to get here …” His tears were stronger now and the small cluster of reporters all said the same thing.

“Thanks coach.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The state tournament had not yet begun when I saw a student from Minneapolis Washburn checking his face paint in a restroom mirror. I told him he looked great.

--Giant posters of all the Timberwolves players line a corridor at Target Center, and some Eden Prairie cheerleaders took photos of each other posing with Ricky Rubio’s picture. This was followed by a giggle and the words, “I’m going to make that my profile pic!”

--The enthusiasm meter was nearly broken by the fans from Austin, who took over Williams Arena to watch their team play at state for the first time in 30 years. My cheer of the day? “Here we go Packers! Here we go!”

--Tingles Up The Spine Department: Whenever one of the public-address announcers said, “Welcome to the 100th boys state basketball tournament!”

--Best Fashion Statement: The Detroit Lakes Lakers wearing red and white Zubaz as warmup pants.

--How Time Flies: In 2009, Royce White was named a Class 4A all-tournament player after helping Hopkins win a state title. On Wednesday, the Iowa State player announced he was turning pro.

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 431
*Miles John has driven: 6,902

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Kicking Off The 100th Boys State Basketball Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/20/2012 6:46:24 PM

History is in the air as we kick off the 100th boys state high school basketball tournament. Quarterfinal games will begin Wednesday at Williams Arena and Target Center and the tourney will continue through the week, culminating with the crowning of four state championship teams on Saturday at Target Center.

I’m planning to be at Williams Arena on Wednesday morning for the 10 a.m. game Class 3A game between Rocori and Minneapolis Washburn. Rocori coach Bob Brink, 74, has announced his retirement and will finish his 51-year coaching career this week. Brink has taken 12 previous teams to state, including a 26-0 season in 1988 that included a Class 2A championship.

In the second 3A game at Williams Arena, the Austin Packers will play at state for the first time in 30 years, meeting St. Paul Johnson at noon. There is even more history in the 2 p.m. 3A game between Detroit Lakes and DeLaSalle. Detroit Lakes is making its first state appearance since 1918.

At some point Wednesday I will travel from Williams Arena to Target Center. In Class 2A, defending champion Perham will face Worthington in the 6 p.m. game at Target Center, followed by Litchfield vs. Watertown-Mayer at 8 p.m.

It’s going to be a great week of basketball, with history – old and new -- everywhere you look.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 0 for the tournament, 66 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,877

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



State Tourney Trip Is A Long Time Coming
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2012 6:01:22 PM

By Kurt Hildebrandt

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then forgive the players, coaches and fans of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin boys basketball team if they look a little love struck Thursday as they make their way to the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

At 1 p.m. that day, the Wolverines will take the floor at Williams Arena against Browerville in the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A boys state basketball tournament. That game will mark the end of a rather lengthy dry spell for state appearances by either of the schools which make up the MLBO pairing.

Until this year, the Wolverines had never made a trip to state in boys basketball in the 25 years the two schools have shared athletic programs. Butterfield-Odin made its one and only appearance in 1978 and while Mountain Lake has made 13 state appearances in its illustrious past, its last one came way back in 1952.

The Wolverines earned their 2012 trip to state courtesy of a 72-56 win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s in the Section 2 championship game Friday night at Minnesota State University-Mankato. Making the state trip even more noteworthy is that it comes in the last year of the MLBO sports pairing, as the schools will dissolve the arrangement after the 2011-12 school year.

Butterfield-Odin, with a combined population of around 900 at the time, made its one and only state tournament appearance in 1978. If not for the efforts of one particular state tourney legend -- Lake City’s Randy Breuer -- that school might be remembered fondly among the likes of Edgerton, Sherburn and some of the other small towns that experienced state tourney glory. As it was, Breuer scored 36 points in the semifinal round against B-O to force the Indians to settle for a third-place finish that year.

(In this photo: MLBO coach Shawn Naas, co-captains Beau Herrig and Kaleb Grev along with Willie Krahn, a member of the last Mountain Lake High School team that went to state in 1952, pose with Mt. Lake's 1939 state championship trophy in the balcony area of the school's "old gym" where the Lakers rose to prominence from 1922 to 1958.)

Mountain Lake’s state tournament history is a rather prominent one, although all of it took place during the early years of the event.

The Lakers, as they were known when the school was by itself, qualified for the state tournament on average about once every three years during the first 40 years of the event (1913-1952). The small town (population was around 1,800 at the time) not only “went to state” but the teams competed toe-to-toe many times against much bigger schools and more than held their own.

The Lakers won the state title in 1939, finished second in 1913, 1915 and 1917 and placed third in 1946 and 1947. In five appearances over a seven-year span (1946 to 1952) Mountain Lake was knocked out of the first or second round at state by the eventual state champion, with three of those losses coming by just a single point.

One could forgive some of this year’s players if they weren’t too up to date on the past successes their schools have had on the hardwood, given it has been such a long time since anyone from the boys basketball program has made the state trip other than as spectators.

However, these boys are more than aware of it.

“Oh, definitely. Our coaches, especially Mr. Metcalf (assistant coach Paul Metcalf), have made sure we don’t forget it,” MLBO senior co-captain Beau Herrig said when asked if he and his teammates know about the program’s illustrious past. “It’s great knowing we now get to be a part of that.”

“I know it has been long time since we’ve gotten this far, and it’s exciting for us,” said MLBO’s other senior co-captain, Kaleb Grev. “What makes it even better is all the people that have been coming to our games during the tournaments. To look up and see so many people cheering for you is such a great feeling and something we’ll always remember.”

During the 19 years that MLBO coach Shawn Naas has been at the helm of the Wolverine program, his teams have maintained a connection with the past just prior to each home game. As part of the team’s pregame ritual for home games, the varsity team will make its way from its locker room down a long hallway to what locals affectionately call the “old gym.” There the Wolverine players gather up in the balcony area of the cracker box gym that served as the home to the Lakers during their heyday – from around 1922 to 1958.

“It’s been a tradition, ever since around the time I became head coach, for the guys to go to the old gym at about the nine-minute mark of the B-squad game,” Naas said. “It’s great for them to be able to step away from the noise of the crowd and go to some place quiet to talk among themselves and think about the game a little bit before taking the floor.

A Mountain Lake legend has it that should any type of storm or natural disaster ever be predicted for the small town, people should head to the high school immediately and hang out by the 1939 state championship trophy. The reasoning: not even Mother Nature herself would bring harm to that piece of revered hardware.

One of MLBO’s current assistant coaches, Larry Hempeck, was a post player for Butterfield-Odin during that magical 1978 season and his son Andrew is a sophomore at Mountain Lake High School and starts at guard for the Wolverines this year. The two co-captains, Herrig and Grev, each has a parent who graduated from BOHS.

(In this photo: MLBO sophomore Andrew Hempeck and his father and current assistant coach Larry Hempeck hold up the state third-place trophy that Butterfield-Odin won in 1978. Larry was a starting player on that team.)

“I still remember our trip to state very well, and it’s exciting to know these guys will be able to experience that feeling we had back then,” the elder Hempeck said. “We’re just telling the guys to enjoy it as much as you can because it is so hard to get there.”

“My dad has shared stories with me about going to state in the past and it will be great now being able to play there myself,” Andrew said.

To know just how important it was for MLBO to end their state tournament drought for many, all one had to do was scan the stands Friday night to see the scores of former Mt. Lake, Butterfield-Odin and MLBO players who made the trek to Mankato on Friday. Their goal? To hopefully see that dry spell come to an end once and for all and to share in the excitement of something that had eluded most of them all those years in the past.

Willie Krahn, a member of the Lakers’ 1952 state tournament team that won the consolation title, was one of those former players attending Friday’s game. Krahn has worked the scoreboard at MLBO boys home games for several years and has run the school’s winter open gym program since the late 1970s.

“It’s been fun watching these kids progress and come together as a team,” Krahn said. “I’ve already talked to at least one of my former teammates (Pete Franz) who said he’ll meet me at the game on Thursday. It will be fun for us because Williams Arena is where we played our state games in 1952.”

Win or lose come Thursday afternoon, what this year’s Wolverine team has done has hopefully helped write a happy ending on the final chapter on the MLBO program and begin a new chapter for future successes.

--Kurt Hildebrandt is a 1984 Mountain Lake High School alum who earned two varsity letters in basketball for the Lakers playing sitting guard (sitting on the bench & guarding the water bottles). He returned to his hometown in 1996 and served as sports editor for the Mountain Lake Observer/Butterfield Advocate until 2004. He currently resides in St. Peter with his wife, Teresa, and his family, where he works as news editor for the St. Peter Herald.



Coming Back After “A Real Depressing, Tragic Deal”
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/17/2012 4:42:53 PM

To watch Kali Peschel playing in this year’s girls state basketball tournament was a testament to healing, to recovery, to hard work and gratitude. The Sauk Centre senior’s story is filled with ups and down, good times and bad, and to see her smile was one of the great tales of tournament week.

A little background: Kali is a 6-foot-1 guard who ranks among the top players in Minnesota. A year ago this week, while the Mainstreeters were finishing third at the Class 2A state tourney, she announced that she would play at the University of Iowa. But last June, everything went kablooey when Kali suffered a torn ACL in her left knee during a summer league game.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” said her father Don, who is an assistant coach at Sauk Centre. “It’s just a real depressing, tragic deal.”

First there was the injury, then the medical procedures, then crutches and rehab and healing. All in all, Kali was on the shelf for six and a half months. She is also a tremendous volleyball player, but she wore a knee brace and street clothes on the Mainstreeters bench at the state tournament, where the team finished fifth.

But what about her senior basketball season? What about her college career? Those were big, big questions during those six and a half months. The good news finally came in mid-February when Kali was cleared to return to basketball. She returned with four games left in the regular season.

“She’s struggled at times with her stamina,” Don said. “She’s not 100 percent yet but it’s coming.”

The thought of never returning to high school basketball and preparing for college crossed Kali’s mind, but not for long.

“I could save myself and just keep getting ready for the next level,” she said. “But I have no regrets about coming back. I’m thankful to be back and I’m really happy to be back and playing.”

Don said, “It was almost like trying to hold back a wild animal. But she wanted to try and get back. The coaches at Iowa gave her the blessing; they said, ‘You’re a senior. Go play.’ That was a big boost for us.”

Kali led the Mainstreeters with 14 points and six assists in a 65-51 quarterfinal win over Worthington, then had 18 points and 18 rebounds as Sauk Centre beat New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 56-39 in the semifinals. Sauk Centre lost to Providence Academy 46-40 in Saturday’s championship game; Peschel had 12 points and Macy Weller led the Mainstreeters with 14.

“To be back is amazing and it’s a great team to be playing with; they were very accepting to having me back and adapting me into the game,” she said. “I’m very excited, very blessed to be back and humbled by everything that’s happening in this tournament.

“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been watching the state tournaments and dreamed of it. This year, honestly I was just happy to get back. I was hoping we could get to the state tournament, and that happened. And I hoped we’d win our first game so I’d get two more, and that happened. And now this is just a dream. I never thought it would happen but I’m happy it did.”

THE LEARNING CURVE

A year ago Mountain-Iron Buhl came to the state tournament for the first time since 1994 and finished third. On Saturday, the Rangers took one step further, losing to Maranatha Christian 49-37 in the Class 1A championship game.

The Rangers were one of the youngest teams in any class, with Dakotah Winans (who had 12 points and 14 rebounds Saturday) the only senior among the starters and first three players off the bench.

“They play hard and they play with heart, and we did that for 36 minutes today,” coach Jeff Buffetta said. “They gave it their all, they laid it all out on the floor and I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.

“I just know that we gave it our full effort. And if we make a few plays here and there in the second half, maybe the result’s reversed. But it’s hard to feel down when you know that everybody gave it their all.”

OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

3A/ DeLaSalle repeated as champion with a 65-45 victory over Richfield. Allina Starr led the Islanders with 24 points and Tyseanna Johnson had 16. Bryann Guyton led Richfield with 15 points.

4A/ Hopkins 77, Osseo 55. The Royals won their second consecutive state title as Nia Coffey (15), Sydney Coffey (15) and TT Starks (10) combined to score 40 points. Olivia Antilla led Osseo with 15 points.

THE RECORD BREAKER

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva sophomore Carlie Wagner set two tournament scoring records.

Wagner, who came four points from tying the state tournament single-game scoring record on Wednesday, broke that record on Saturday. She had 43 points in the quarterfinals vs. Braham and poured in 48 in Saturday’s third-place game, in which NRHEG beat Pequot Lakes 73-59. The previous record of 47 was held by Brittany Chambers of Jordan (vs. Crookston in 2008) and Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South (vs. Centennial in 2009).

Wagner’s three-game tournament total of 112 points topped the previous record of 106, set by Hill in 2009.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Ada-Borup 70, Spring Grove 59: Taylor Kujava made four of five three-point attempts and scored 25 points to lead the Cougars. Richell Mehus had 23 points for Spring Grove.

2A/ Wagner’s tournament-record boosted NHREG past Pequot Lakes. Mattie Lueck had 32 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Patriots.

3A/ Fergus Falls 65, Hutchinson 54: Mariah Monke (13), Anna Monke (12) and Sydney Schultz (12) provided a balanced scoring attack for the Otters. Kayle Kucera led Hutchinson with 19 points.

4A/ Edina 52, Eastview 43/ The Hornets used 60-percent shooting and 21 points from Katybeth Biewen to defeat the Lightning. Madison Guebert led Eastview with 13 points.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Taylor Elton, Richell Mehus, Spring Grove; Taylor Kujava, Megan Kolness, Ada-Borup; Kathy Ostman, Dakotah Winans, Sarah Overbye, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Madison Lee, Alexis Long, Onye Osemenam, Maranatha Christian.

2A/ Rebekah Dahlman, Braham; Mattie Lueck, Pequot Lakes; Anna Schlaak, Carlie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva; Taylor Finley, AnnMarie Healy, Nathalie Ratliff, Providence Academy; Kali Peschel, Macy Weller, Ashley Gruber, Sauk Centre.

3A/ Nichole Wittman, Hutchinson; Brianna Rasmusson, Mariah Monke, Fergus Falls; Jessica January, Sierra Ford Washington, Bryann Guyton, Richfield; Tyseanna Johnson, Mariah Adanene, Allina Starr, Mia Loyd, DeLaSalle.

4A/ Madison Guebert, Eastview; Katybeth Biewen, MC McGrory, Edina; Mikayla Bailey, Phillis Webb, Olivia Antilla, Osseo; Taylor Anderson, Nia Coffey, TT Starks, Sydney Coffey, Hopkins.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING

Best Irish Names on the Court During St. Patrick’s Day: Tie between Erin O’Toole and Molly O’Toole, both from O’Hopkins. (Last year’s contest was a tie between Erin O’Toole and Shannon O’Toole, also from O’Hopkins.) Honorable Mention: Madi Malone from O’sseo.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 66 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,877

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



A Look Ahead: Boys State Tourney Preview
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2012 10:05:50 PM

Here’s the field for next week’s Class 1A boys state basketball tournament: Rushford-Peterson, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, Southwest Minnesota Christian, Prairie Seeds, Browerville, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Lakeview Christian and Fosston.

--2A teams: Plainview-Elgin-Millville, St. Peter, Worthington, St. Croix Lutheran, Watertown-Mayer, Litchfield, Perham, Braham or Esko (they play Saturday)

--3A teams: Austin, Mankato East, DeLaSalle, St. Paul Johnson, Rocori, Minneapolis Washburn, Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes.

--4A teams: Lakeville North, Eden Prairie, Eastview, Woodbury, Osseo, Hopkins, Duluth East and Moorhead.



For Spring Grove, A Date With School History
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2012 5:17:53 PM

When Spring Grove advanced to the girls state basketball tournament, the Lions accomplished two big things. No. 1: They made it to state as the smallest school in the tourney … the high school enrollment is only 86. No. 2: They made school history by becoming the first girls basketball team to reach state.

Spring Grove has come close before, playing in the Section 1 championship two of the previous three years. The Lions’ record over the last three seasons is 80-11, and getting to state this year out of a very strong section was huge.

“It was a great accomplishment,” coach Russell Larson said after the Lions lost to defending Class 1A champion Maranatha Christian 65-61 in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center.

“To get so close and not get there (before this year); this group of girls has worked so hard and they’ve been on these teams that have come so close. To actually get over the hump was very gratifying. We’ve had two great games up here and our girls are gritty, they play with a lot of heart and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’re a great bunch to be around.”

The Lions will graduate four seniors, but the returning players will make another run at state next season.

“You never want it to end,” Larson said.

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY IS SET

Here is the schedule for Saturday's girls basketball state championship games...

Class 1A/ Mountain Iron-Buhl (31-1) vs. Maranatha Christian (27-5), noon

Class 2A/ Sauk Centre (27-4) vs. Providence Academy (27-4), 2 p.m.

Class 3A/ Richfield (27-4) vs. DeLaSalle (27-3), 6 p.m.

Class 4A/ Hopkins (29-1) vs. Osseo (26-5), 8 p.m.

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

THE SEEDING DISCUSSION

The seeding systems for the girls and boys state basketball tournaments differ this year. The boys will seed the top four teams in each class for next week’s tournament, and their quarterfinal opponents will be determined by a blind draw.

The girls do the same thing for Class 3A and 4A, but 1A and 2A use a random, rotating system to match up section champions in the first round at state. The boys have seeded in 3A and 4A for years, and the boys coaches association pushed for seeding 1A and 2A beginning this season. The girls coaches association has not formally asked to do that.

Thursday’s 1A quarterfinal matchup between Ada-Borup (26-2) and Minneota (29-1) seemed like an opportune spot to ask the coaches about seeding.

“In Class A it’s so dang tough,” said Ada-Borup coach David Smart. “I’ve got a friend that coaches in Isle and I’ve got a friend that coaches at Mountain Iron-Buhl, but I didn’t know anything about Minneota other than from people I talked to. It’s tough. Obviously it would be nice if you were in the top four, then I’d be all for it.

“If the boys can do it, there’s no reason we can’t.”

Minneota coach Chad Johnston said, “I kind of go different ways on that. Both have their benefits and I know the whole purpose of seeding is hopefully you don’t get what you think will be two very good teams matched up right away. And Ada was a very tough team for us to match up against. That’s a good program, a very traditional program.

“We’ve got teams all over the place, so how seeding would work, there isn’t a whole lot of common denominators. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve stayed away from it. We can look at a team like Mountain Iron-Buhl and say, ‘What a great record.’ But we have no idea what type of competition they see, and they’ll probably say the same thing about us.

“Obviously it would be nice to come up here and not have to face one of the toughest teams in the tournament right away. But you’ve got to beat them all to win it, anyway. That’s kind of my mentality.”

YOUNG AND TALENTED

One of the great things about small-school basketball is seeing very young players on the court. And Mountain Iron-Buhl starting guard Mya Buffetta is as young as they come.

The Rangers will play in Saturday’s 1A state championship game, and the little seventh-grader will be in the starting lineup. She had seven points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in Thursday’s quarterfinal when MIB beat Sleepy Eye 50-31. In Friday’s 49-45 semifinal win over Ada-Borup, Buffetta (pictured) finished with six points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Mya’s dad, Brian, is an assistant coach and her uncle, Jeff Buffetta, is the head coach. The Rangers’ starting lineup consists of one senior, one junior, two sophomores and Mya.

“She never makes me nervous,” Jeff Buffetta said. “I know that she’s ready to play. She’s been gearing up for this her whole life. I don’t think anybody expected it to be this early, but she doesn’t make me nervous. We have full faith in her.”

Mya said, “I just like playing with the older girls. It’s exciting and it’s fun.”

I asked Mya’s dad if she is really 5-foot-3. His reply: “On a good day.”

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The Ada-Borup band was not at Target Center for the Cougars’ game because they were playing at Concordia College in Moorhead, where the Ada-Borup boys team met Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the Section 6A title. But that didn’t stop the Ada-Borup fans, who sang a fine a cappella version of the school song before tipoff.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--There’s a new twist on this category today. A Maranatha Christian student named Zachary Goldschmidt apparently wanted to attract some new Twitter followers while his school’s team was playing Spring Grove in the 1A semifinals. So young Zachary brought a very nice sign: one side read “Follow Me On Twitter” and the other side had his Twitter address: @zgoldy32. Zachary indeed picked up some new followers … some who saw his sign from inside the arena and others who saw him on TV.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--Maranatha Christian set a state tournament record by making 12 three-point field goals in its victory over Spring Grove. The previous record was 11, set by Parkers Prairie vs. Northern Freeze in 2010. Maranatha’s Madison Lee made six three-point shots, one short of the record of seven set by Esko’s Angela Grussendorf vs. Kenyon in 1988.

--Hutchinson lost to Richfield in the 3A semifinals on Thursday, but Hutchinson coach Bill Carlson made some history in that game. He is one of the rare coaches whose teams have played in both girls and boys state semifinals. In 1996 Carlson’s Minnehaha Academy boys team also got to the semifinals.

--Seven schools made their first appearances in the girls state basketball tournament this week, and their record in the opening round was 2-5. In Class 3A, Richfield won while Monticello and Chisago Lakes lost; in 2A, Zumbrota-Mazeppa lost; and in 1A, Spring Grove won while Sleepy Eye and Isle lost.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 11 for the tournament, 61 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,851

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Hopkins, Osseo Advance to 4A State Title Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2012 9:01:13 PM

Click here to read about the victories by Hopkins and Osseo



A Toothy Smile And Love For Her Teammates
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2012 6:30:14 PM

Fergus Falls senior Haylie Zenner was emotional after the Otters lost to DeLaSalle in Thursday’s Class 3A state basketball semifinals at Target Center, but she still managed to flash a smile … despite a missing front tooth.

The tooth was knocked out in the second game of the season, when a player from Providence Academy swung an elbow that landed on Haylie’s face.

“I know, right?,” Hayle said with a smile as we chatted outside the locker room. “It fits my personality, to be honest.”

She’s right about that. I have interviewed Haylie several times, usually during the track season, and she is a real treat. She also is one of the top runners in Minnesota history, winning state championships in the 800 meters as an eighth-grader, ninth-grader and junior (she was the state runner-up as a sophomore).

She has one more track season left before she begins her collegiate running career at the University of Minnesota. But first, she will play her final basketball game against Hutchinson on Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul. The winning team will take home a third-place trophy.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Haylie (she is No. 30 in this photo). “We’re going to bring some heart, play for the lord, give it all we’ve got. If we play together and win together, it’s going to be so much more than just a third-place title. It’s going to be super fun.”

Track is an individual sport and basketball is a team sport, so I asked Haylie about the differences.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “First my girls; I might cry because I’m so proud of them. We are a team and we’re all friends off and on the court. We get along so well, track included. But basketball’s so different. Basketball has something special that I’ve been blessed to be a part of. And these girls are all amazing athletes.

“In basketball it’s a whole different level of, like, love and team spirit and togetherness; in school, after school, sleepovers, all that jazz. It’s definitely really fun. I absolutely love this.”

BACK FOR MORE

When Ada-Borup meets Mountain Iron-Buhl Friday in the Class 1A semifinals, a familiar coach will be on the Ada-Borup sideline. David Smart coached the Cougars to state appearances in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 (including state titles in 2008 and 2009) before resigning as coach in order to watch his two daughters play college basketball. He intended to remain a non-coach, but he only stayed away for one year.

When he stepped down, his daughter Kelli was playing at Mayville (N.D.) State and Nicole was at North Dakota. Kelli has now finished her college career and Nicole is a junior.

“I chased Nicole and Kelli around for a year and had every intention to stay out,” David Smart said. But school officials wanted him back.

“They said, ‘What would it take to get you back?’ I said I didn’t want to miss my kids’ games. And they said, ‘How about if we let you go to your kids’ games whenever you want to go?’ That intrigued me and conversations went back and forth.”

Smart has been able to watch most of his daughters’ games, but he was too busy with the state tournament Thursday and unable to get to Seattle, where North Dakota played at Seattle University in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

HURRAH FOR OUR PRINCIPAL!

Richfield coach LeeAnn Wise is not just a basketball coach, she’s also the principal at Centennial Elementary in Richfield. When the Spartans defeated Red Wing in the Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday at Williams Arena, the place was packed with kids from the high school, the coach’s school and tons of other fans. In fact, 40 buses were needed to transport Spartans fans.

The outing was treated like a field trip. Students from each classroom wore matching t-shirts, so teachers and staff could keep track of them. They cheered wildly for the Spartans and for Mrs. Wise.

Two field trips in two days was a stretch, so the Centennial students were unable to go to Target Center on Friday for Richfield’s semifinal game against Hutchinson. But the students still had a fun day: A big-screen television was placed in the school gym, a popcorn popper was brought in for the occasion, and the kids cheered for the Spartans just like they were at the game. And the Spartans won 45-28 to advance to Saturday’s 6 p.m. state championship game against DeLaSalle.

YOUNG JOURNALIST ON THE RISE

Nick Wagner, a student at Ada-Borup, is a member of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. When I joined the MSHSL staff, I started the program as a way to give students opportunities to gain journalism experience.

Nick is one of many outstanding students who are involved in the program. He is skilled and learning more every day. He is the go-to media person for coverage of activities at Ada-Borup and his horizons are expanding. He also is making some money as a journalist; the Fargo Forum hired him as a freelancer to shoot photos and write about Ada-Borup’s state tournament appearance.

Once the winter state tournaments have been completed, Nick and several other members of the Student SID program will join me for a trip to a Timberwolves game. The students will receive media credentials, sit in media seats at Target Center, chat with media professionals and have a great experience.

PLAYER OF THE DAY

--Ada-Borup junior Megan Kolness was absolutely perfect in the Cougars’ 67-63 victory over Minneota in the 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. Kolness was 7-for-7 from the floor, including 4-for-4 from three-point range, and she made all seven of her free throws for a team-high 25 points.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“Could I get the password for the (wireless network) please?” That Tweet came to me from a media member who was trying to get online at Target Center. I was happy to provide him with the password … from my courtside seat at Williams Arena.

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The first pep band songs of the day were “Crazy Train” by the Sleepy Eye Symphony Orchestra, followed by the Mountain Iron-Buhl band knocking out “Smoke on the Water.” Mighty fine.

--The Ada-Borup band, which has a unique sound that is unlike any other, put on a great show at Williams Arena. Years ago at a state tournament, I handed band director Richard Tuttle one of my business cards. I had written on it “Best band ever.” I have since visited the band room in Ada and I always look forward to seeing the students perform. Tuttle told me Thursday that he still has that old business card.

--During the evening session at Williams Arena, the Hopkins Orchestra played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” about as well as it can be played.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--Every so often a friendly person will hand me a Diet Coke. Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch sports writer Josh Doughty did just that Thursday morning at Williams Arena, starting my day out right.

--Thursday marked my second anniversary as an employee of the MSHSL. Very cool deal.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 6 for the tournament, 56 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,826

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn




Welcome To The Big Stage, Carlie Wagner and NRHEG
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/14/2012 3:13:13 PM

Since late January, I have been telling people to get ready to see the next wave of big-time talent strike Minnesota high school girls basketball. My eyes were opened on Jan. 28 when I ventured to Carleton College in Northfield to watch a game between teams ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and No. 2 in Class 1A.

The 2A team was New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, also known as NRHEG. That day in Northfield, the Panthers beat 1A No. 2 Goodhue 76-67 with a blonde, 5-foot-10 sophomore named Carlie Wagner (pictured here) scoring a career-high and school-record 39 points.

Which brings us to Wednesday’s 2A state tournament quarterfinal game at Target Center between NRHEG and Braham. Much of the pregame hype was centered on Braham junior Rebekah Dahlman, and rightfully so. She came into the game needing only 23 points to set a new girls basketball career scoring record. That mark of 3,888 points was set in 2009 by Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South.

And Dahlman indeed broke the record, scoring 29 points to push her career total to 3,895. Rebekah has another season to go at Braham, so that record will be into the stratosphere a year from now.

But the biggest story from the game was twofold: NRHEG knocked off the defending state champs from Braham 75-45 and Wagner scored 43 points. The state tournament single-game scoring record is 47, and Wagner came awfully close before coach John Schultz put in reserves and Carlie went to the bench with 90 seconds to play.

Late in the game, the score was NRHEG 64, Braham 39 … and Wagner had 39 points.

As the media waited outside the NRHEG locker room, the players began filing out and Carlie was trying to sneak past the reporters. But pretty quickly people began saying, “Carlie! Carlie!” She smiled, turned around and said, “Oh crap.”

Get used to it, young lady. University of Minnesota coach Pam Borton – who would love to have Dahlman and Wagner on her team -- watched the game from a floor-level seat just off one corner of the court. Borton, in fact, was in the NRHEG gym to watch the team’s first practice this season.

The state quarterfinal games are not televised or webcast. But the semifinals and finals are. The Panthers will meet Sauk Centre in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday. It would be worth tuning in.

THE FIRST FAMILY...

If there is a first family of winter sports in Minnesota, it might be the Thorns of St. Michael-Albertville. When senior Christine Thorn scored a game-high 19 points in the Knights’55-41 loss to Eastview in Wednesday’s Class 4A girls state basketball semifinals at Target Center, it marked the 29th state tournament appearance for the Thorn kids.

If you follow wrestling, you already know the name. Christine’s brothers Michael, David and Tommy (the first two have graduated and Tommy is a sophomore) all have won state wrestling championships. Christine (pictured here) has now played in two state basketball tournaments and has also participated in the state cross-country and track meets.

Here’s the rundown on the Thorn family’s trips to state…

--Michael four individual state wrestling appearances (three championships) and four team appearances (three championships).

--David: four individual state wrestling appearances (four championships) and five team appearances (three championships).

--Christine: One individual state appearances in cross-country, one in track, three trips to state basketball tournament (one state championship) and two appearances in state cross country.

--Tommy: two individual state wrestling appearances (two championships) and three team appearances.

I asked Christine, the only girl among the children, if she had ever wrestled. She smiled and said, “I asked my dad when I was in kindergarten and he said no.”

Conversely, her brothers have played basketball only on the driveway.

Christine, who played on the Knights’ 2009 3A state championship basketball team, was downcast after Wednesday’s loss but grateful for the experience.

“I’ve grown up with all these girls, and over the season we came to be such a close family,” she said. “Honestly, there’s nobody else I’d rather be sharing these experiences with. As much as this hurts, this last game, there’s nobody else I’d want to be here with.””

TOURNEY TIME TRAVEL: NEW VIKING JOHN CARLSON

The big news for Vikings fans Wednesday came when free-agent tight end John Carlson, a 2003 graduate of Litchfield High School, signed with the team.

Reading that news while sitting at the state basketball tournament brought back memories of when Carlson was a high school basketball star. He played football at Notre Dame and spent the last three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Here is an item I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune on March 23, 2003…

The most poignant moment after Litchfield's victory over DeLaSalle in Saturday's Class 2A title game came when John Carlson and John Carlson - coach and player, father and son - shared a teary-eyed embrace. The 51-33 victory was Litchfield's third state title in four years, and young John Carlson was a part of them all. He is headed to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, so Saturday's game was the final time he was coached by his dad.

"That was the toughest part, being done," the son said. "It's been unbelievable, the last four years. I can't describe how much fun it's been."

Coach Carlson said his son - one of five senior starters for the Dragons - has accomplished everything a high school athlete could, and it's time for him to move on.

"I'm just excited for him, because he's really done everything he can here," he said. "When he was a freshman and we won the state in 2000, he was our big guy and he was a good big guy. He continued to be our big guy for four years. You're hoping seniors at about this time of the year are ready to move on to college, and he's ready. And so are his teammates."

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The Eastview band was outstanding. My favorites were the Mighty Mighty Bosstones song “The Impression That I Get” (the Osseo band played the same tune very well later in the day) and the Kansas classic “Carry on My Wayward Son.”

--The Edina band performed a very fine rendition of “Hot Stuff,” which was made famous by Donna Summer in 1979.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“Fergus Falls pep band is the best around, and it’s not close!” That didn’t come from a fan in the stands at Williams Arena, but from one of the coaches. Minnehaha Academy coach Josh Thurow sent me that Tweet while watching Fergus Falls play Chisago Lakes in 3A and waiting for his team to meet Providence Academy in 2A.

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the tournament, 51 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 417
*Miles John has driven: 6,801

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Minneapolis Is Home To Hoops And History This Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/14/2012 11:22:12 AM

Hello from downtown Minneapolis. We have shifted to the west this week, moving from the boys state hockey tournament in St. Paul to the girls state basketball tournament in Minneapolis.

This is a very busy Wednesday, with six games played at Target Center and six others at Williams Arena. I am stationed courtside at Target Center today, but tomorrow I will be hopscotching a little between the two sites.

Today’s games at Target Center are the four Class 4A quarterfinals, followed by two Class 2A quarterfinals. At Williams Arena, the focus is on four 3A quarterfinals and the other two 2A games. The Class 1A quarterfinals will be played Thursday at Williams Arena, with the 3A and 4A semifinals at Target Center.

Friday will see the 1A and 2A semifinals at Target Center, and Championship Saturday will feature all four state title games here at Target Center.

This is the 100th year for boys state basketball tournaments in Minnesota, and we are celebrating both boys and girls tourney history. If you’re coming to Target Center, be sure to visit the Skyway level of the arena, where a large display of historical items can be seen. It’s very cool stuff.

And away we go!

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 0 for the tournament, 49 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 417
*Miles John has driven: 6,801

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn




Sportsmanship, Friendship Trump Winning And Losing
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2012 2:24:27 PM

Basketball player Mackenzie Gerber of Worthington High School is pictured here assisting Tara Roelofs of Lake Crystal-Welcomme Memorial after Tara was injured during Friday's Section 3AA championship game in Marshall.

Mackenzie's mother, Julie Gerber, provided the photo and sent along this note…

"My daughter Mackenzie played AAU two years ago with Tara Roelofs. Tara tore her ACL about a month ago during a regular-season game. She was able to play the section playoff games wearing a brace. During the section final game she injured her knee again, she went down and tried to get up but could not so she was helped off of the court. My daughter Mackenzie rushed over to her and assisted her coach in getting her off of the court. I posted this picture on Facebook stating 'My daughter's character never ceases to amaze me.' I have had so many people comment and like this picture and several post on how impressed they were by this."

That is sportsmanship at its finest! Well done!

Mackenzie and her Worthington teammates will meet Sauk Centre in the Class 2A state tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Target Center.

The girls state tourney will begin Wednesday with games at Target Center and Williams Arena. One of the most anticipated quarterfinal games is in Class 2A, with Braham (29-1) and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0) meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Target Center.

Braham is led by junior Rebekah Dahlmann (who averages 35 points per game) and NRHEG’s star is sophomore Carlie Wagner (28).

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule for all four classes…

Class 1A
Thursday at Williams Arena
Mountain Iron-Buhl (29-1) vs. Sleepy Eye (19-10), 11 a.m.
Ada-Borup (26-2) vs. Minneota (29-1), 1 p.m.
Isle (25-5) vs. Maranatha Christian (25-5), 3 p.m.
Warren-Alvarado-Olso (26-4) vs. Spring Grove (27-3), 5 p.m.

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
Braham (29-1) vs. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0), 6 p.m.
Sauk Centre (25-4) vs. Worthington (20-7), 8 p.m.
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Providence Academy (24-4) vs. Minnehaha Academy (20-8), 6 p.m.
Pequot Lakes (19-11) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (17-11), 8 p.m.

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
#1 seed Richfield (25-4) vs. Red Wing (19-10), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Hill-Murray (22-7) vs. Hutchinson (25-3), noon
#2 seed Fergus Falls (28-1) vs. Chisago Lakes (24-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed DeLaSalle (25-3) vs. Monticello (17-12), 4 p.m.

Class 4A Pairings
Wednesday at Target Center
#1 seed Hopkins (28-1) vs. Lakeville North (21-8), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Eastview (24-5) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (22-7), noon
#2 seed Edina (25-4) vs. Duluth East (22-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed White Bear Lake (23-6) vs. Osseo (24-5), 4 p.m.



Besse’s Five Goals Lead Benilde-St. Margaret’s To Title
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2012 11:17:17 PM

Read about the Class 2A boys hockey title game by clicking here



St. Thomas Academy Defeats Hermantown To Repeat As 1A Champion
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2012 4:46:16 PM

Read about the Class 1A boys hockey title game by clicking here



“Hey Jabbers, I’ve Got Somethin' For You!”
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2012 4:36:16 PM

Two Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey players were not on the ice for the postgame celebration Saturday night after the Red Knights won the Class 2A state championship with a 5-0 victory over Hill-Murray.

One of them was Jake Horton, who had been given a five-minute major penalty for spearing and an additional 10 minutes for gross misconduct; that meant he was off the ice for the game’s final 7 minutes, 47 seconds. And under MSHSL rules, any player ejected from a game cannot participate in postgame awards ceremonies.

The other missing player was a sophomore who played in only seven varsity games this season, a youngster who scored no goals, had two assists, took five shots, was a plus-2 and was not called for a penalty.

That player is Jack Jablonski, who watched the game in his wheelchair from a suite at Xcel Energy Center. Jack, who suffered a severe spinal injury in late December, did not come on the ice afterwards because he was waiting in the locker room, waiting for a more private celebration.

By the time all the photos had been snapped and the Red Knights had whooped it up on the ice, the whooping continued down the tunnel and into the locker room. Horton was the first guy to walk to the locker room, and he was carrying two pretty special things: the state championship trophy and armfuls of love for his friend Jack.

As soon as he saw Jack, Horton yelled, “Hey Jabbers, I’ve got somethin' for you!”

There were hugs and tears as the players saw Jack. The last man to come off the ice was coach Ken Pauly, who yelled, “Jabby! Jabby baby! How ya doin’ 13?!”

On the ice, the headline was Benilde junior Grant Besse scoring all five of his team’s goals – three of them shorthanded -- in an astounding performance that will go down in history. But behind the scenes, the headline was the hugs and the tears and the special moments shared by the Red Knights.

“I think what’s gotten lost in all this is that this a very talented hockey team,” Pauly said in the interview room. “I didn’t imagine that (the season) would end here in this fashion, after everything that’s taken place.

“It’s been emotional, it’s been psychological, it’s been spiritual, it’s been life-changing. And those are things you can’t always say about a season.”

It was a remarkable night. Forget sports, forget winning and losing. Strip away all that and know this: Every soul who watched that game in person or on television will remember it for the rest of their lives.

1A: HERMANTOWN RUNNER-UP FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

The Hermantown Hawks didn’t want to stop playing hockey together. After 30 games this season, all they wanted to do was keep going until finally, finally, they took home a state championship.

It was not to be.

The Hawks finished as the Class 1A state runner-up for the third consecutive year Saturday afternoon, falling to St. Thomas Academy 5-1 in the title game at Xcel Energy Center. Their three season-ending losses have come against Breck in 2010 and St. Thomas Academy these last two years. Saturday’s defeat was their first loss of the season.

The postgame awards ceremony was well underway and most of the Hawks still had their helmets strapped on, their hands were still wearing their gloves and they were still holding their sticks. They just didn’t want it to end ... especially like this. Again.

It always hurts when family members know their time together is ending.

“We’ve been playing with each other all the way up,” senior Jared Kolquist said afterwards. “It’s kind of like our family, and this being the last game with our family, it kind of hurts. We wanted to go out as champions.”

Classmate Jared Thomas took some solace in knowing what the Hawks have accomplished.

“The last three years we’ve been the public school state champions,” he said.

St. Thomas Academy (26-5) now owns back-to-back state championships and four titles since 2006. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said after the semifinals that the Hawks would have to play their best game to have a chance against the Cadets, and on Friday and Saturday he spoke about the challenge for a non-metro school to compete with a team as strong as St. Thomas Academy.

“Your typical Class A team will have a hard time with them,” Plante said, “no matter what town you come from.”

RECORDS WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN

Two attendance records were set Friday at the state hockey tournament ...

--The crowd of 12,227 for the Class 1A semifinals was the largest in history for the 1A semis.

--The crowd of 19,893 for the 2A semifinals was the largest crowd for any hockey game at any level in Minnesota history.

Saturday night’s 2A attendance was 17,607. The total tournament attendance of 123,575 was the fourth-largest in history and the largest since 2008.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A: Alex Funk, Rochester Lourdes; Joey Hanowski, Little Falls; Grant Opperman, Jack Kenney, Breck; Chris Forney, Thief River Falls; Jared Kolquist, Jared Thomas, Zake Zeleznikar, Hermantown; David Zevnik, Andrew Commers, Tom Novak, Eric Schurhamer, St. Thomas Academy.

Class 2A: Dom Toninato, Nate Repensky, Duluth East; Michael Bitzer, Moorhead; Justin Kloos, Lakeville South; Conrad Sampair, Blake Heinrich, Sam Becker, Hill-Murray; Grant Besse, Christian Horn, Justin Quale, Dan Labosky, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

1A CONSOLATION GAMES

--Breck 4, Thief River Falls 3 (overtime): The Mustangs finished third on the strength of Nate Breitenfeldt’s goal at 3:50 of overtime. It was his first goal of the tournament.

--Little Falls 5, Rochester Lourdes 4: The Flyers led 4-0 in the third before Lourdes rallied to make it close in the fifth-place game. Joey Hanowski had a hat trick for the Flyers.

2A CONSOLATION GAMES

--Lakeville South 2, Moorhead 1: Patrick Lauderdale and Justin Kloos scored for the Cougars in the third-place victory.

--Duluth East 4, Eagan 1: Jake Randolph scored two goals as the Greyhounds won the fifth-place game.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 23 for the tournament, 49 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 405
*Miles John has driven: 6,775

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Girls State Basketball Tournament Pairings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2012 12:10:05 PM

Next week we will turn the tournament calendar to girls basketball. Four classes will compete for state titles, with games at Target Center and Williams Arena. Here are the pairings...

Class 1A
Thursday at Williams Arena
Mountain Iron-Buhl (29-1) vs. Sleepy Eye (19-10), 11 a.m.
Ada-Borup (26-2) vs. Minneota (29-1), 1 p.m.
Isle (25-5) vs. Maranatha Christian (25-5), 3 p.m.
Warren-Alvarado-Olso (26-4) vs. Spring Grove (27-3), 5 p.m.

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
Braham (29-1) vs. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0), 6 p.m.
Sauk Centre (25-4) vs. Worthington (20-7), 8 p.m.
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Providence Academy (24-4) vs. Minnehaha Academy (20-8), 6 p.m.
Pequot Lakes (19-11) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (17-11), 8 p.m.

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
#1 seed Richfield (25-4) vs. Red Wing (19-10), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Hill-Murray (22-7) vs. Hutchinson (25-3), noon
#2 seed Fergus Falls (28-1) vs. Chisago Lakes (24-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed DeLaSalle (25-3) vs. Monticello (17-12), 4 p.m.

Class 4A Pairings
Wednesday at Target Center
#1 seed Hopkins (28-1) vs. Lakeville North (21-8), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Eastview (24-5) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (22-7), noon
#2 seed Edina (25-4) vs. Duluth East (22-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed White Bear Lake (23-6) vs. Osseo (24-5), 4 p.m.



Benilde-St. Margaret’s Advances to Play Hill-Murray in Championship
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2012 11:42:41 PM

Click here to read about the game between Benilde-St. Margaret's and Lakeville South



Hill-Murray Beats Spuds In OT, Heads To 2A Championship Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2012 10:39:08 PM

Click here to read about the game between Hill-Murray and Moorhead



Hockey Is A Numbers Game:You’ve Got To Score To Win
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2012 6:07:30 PM

Before Friday’s Class 1A boys hockey state semifinal games began, there was one pretty darn vital statistic standing tall for three of the four contending teams to contemplate: St. Thomas Academy had given up only five goals in its last 13 games, and eight of those games were shutouts.

But there was also another pretty important fact to consider. St. Thomas Academy’s opponent at Xcel Energy Center was Breck, and in the quarterfinal round the Mustangs had set a new school record for goals in a season.

Performing a pregame boil-down of those numbers left one pretty strong question: How would St. Thomas Academy’s six blocks of granite fare against Breck’s rat-a-tat attack?

The answer came 14 minutes, 6 seconds into the second period when Peter Krieger scored with an assist by Tony Bretzman. Both of those boys happen to be students at St. Thomas Academy. And that was that. Final score: Cadets 1, Breck donut.

This was quite a turnaround from the quarterfinals, when STA beat Little Falls and Breck defeated Duluth Marshall, both by 7-0 scores. But as Breck coach Les Larson explained during the postgame media interrogation, this stuff’s not always easy.

“There’s no magic formula for success,” Larson said. “When two teams are evenly matched, and when you get to this level, it’s hard. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to win the battles, you’ve got to hope for a bounce, you’ve got to shoot the puck, you’ve got to crash the net, get the puck over the goal line. It’s not easy. It’s a battle.”

Both teams had plenty of chances. There were a total of 104 shots attempted in the 51-minute game, with Breck getting 25 shots on goal and St. Thomas Academy 31. But only one single puck landed in the happy zone, and that’s what was counted because that’s all that really counts.

“We didn’t score any goals,” Larson said. “You can’t win unless you score goals. We hold a very good team to one goal and we don’t win? That’s our fault. We didn’t score any goals. And we’ve got guys who can score goals. There’s the game right there, in my mind.”

HERMANTOWN 3, THIEF RIVER FALLS 2

Saturday’s 1A title matchup will be second-seeded St. Thomas Academy vs. top-seeded Hermantown. The Hawks advanced with a 3-2 victory over Thief River Falls. Jared Thomas’ second goal of the game was the difference, coming at 11:45 of the third period.

Hermantown has been the state runner-up the last two years, losing to St. Thomas Academy 5-4 in overtime last year and to Breck 2-1 two years ago. The Hawks are the only undefeated team in the state, but they will be viewed as the underdog against the Cadets.

“Isn’t that something? We’re 30-0 and we’re the underdog,” said Hermantown coach Bruce Plante, who always speaks his mind.

“To win this game tomorrow we have to play our best game of the year,” he said. “We played our best game of the year last year and lost. Two years ago we played our best game of the year and lost. We have to play our best game and hopefully it goes our way.”

Plante was asked about matchups between private Twin Cities schools and outstate public schools. His response was honest and clear.

“No it’s not, it’s not a level playing field,” he said. “Even if we could draw every kid in northern Minnesota, that’d be like 100,000 people. And they can draw from, I don’t know, how big are the cities? Eight billion people? They can get players from anywhere, everywhere.

“It’s hard for us to compete with these kinds of teams. Any small school will tell you that.… Nine out of every 10 people will be cheering for Hermantown, probably. They know we’re the underdog.”

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS

In Friday night’s games – all involving uneeded teams that beat the four seeded teams on Thursday – Hill-Murray met Moorhead and Lakeville South faced Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Stories on those games will be posted this evening.

DANGEROUS JOB

Derek Montgomery is a talented photographer who is shooting the tournament for the Duluth News Tribune. We all know hockey can be a dangerous sport, but Derek’s experience this week sheds a whole new light on what can happen even when you’re not on the ice.

In each corner of the glass at Xcel Energy Center, small holes for camera lenses allow photographers to fire away without worrying about the glass affecting their photos. Derek was photographing Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinal game between Hermantown and Rochester Lourdes when … well, let’s allow Derek to explain:

“I was covering the action from one of the corner holes. They were battling for the puck and one of the Hermantown or Lourdes players came skating around behind the net, and then another player did like a soft check. It wasn’t anything violent, but a stick went right into the camera and the camera went into my face. That’s kind of where my eyebrow opened up.

“I didn’t think anything was going on, and then I turned around and these girls from Hermantown were looking at me with this ghastly look on their faces. I touched my eyebrow and there was blood everywhere.”

Derek had been sliced in the eyebrow. No stitches were required, but medical personnel at the tournament patched him up and he kept shooting.

That’s called taking one for the team.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Lots of good questions are asked via Facebook and Twitter during these tournaments, and here’s a good one from Friday: “I noticed that the referees change pucks at the TV commercial time-outs. Do you know why?”

The answer was found via a phone call from the Xcel Energy Center press box to the timing/penalty box at ice level. A bucket containing ice and pucks is kept in the box, and the officials exchange pucks in order to have a “fresh, cold” puck in use. The same thing is done during NHL games.

Asked and answered.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The first game of the day Friday started 10 minutes late because of the large crowd that was waiting to enter the arena. The puck dropped at 11:29, which brings us to a point of great discussion during this tournament.

The game schedules always look like this: First game of early session starts at 11 a.m. and second game at 1 p.m.; for second session each day, starting times are listed as 6 and 8 p.m. But …

The 1 and 6 o’clock times are actually the times when the Channel 45 television coverage begins. The actual puck drop times are 1:19 and 6:19. That’s easy to explain. It’s tougher to figure out when the second game of each session will actually start. The listed times of 1 and 8 p.m. do not always have a strong relationship with reality. In fact, a pretty common phrase among the media goes something like this: “The 8 o’clock game is starting right on time at 8:45.”

I don’t have a major issue with the starting times of the first games listed at the top of the hour; that’s pretty common in televised sports. It might be better for the MSHSL, however, to list the starting times for the second game of each session as something along the lines of “approximately 30 minutes after first game ends.”

--Lots of photos from the tournament can be seen on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 18 for the tournament, 44 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 405
*Miles John has driven: 6,733

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Lakeville South: Guys Who Stay Together Win Together
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/8/2012 11:10:12 PM

Click here to read about Lakeville South's 3-2 victory over Duluth East



State Hockey Tournament: You Can Throw Those Seeds Out
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/8/2012 5:40:23 PM

Two things to know about the boys state hockey tournament: the scoreboard doesn’t lie and the seedings aren’t worth a bucket of warm pucks.

That was the lesson we – and by “we” I mean an Xcel Energy Center crowd of 17,222 -- learned during Thursday’s first session of the Class 2A tourney. Boom! No. 2 seed Maple Grove gets bounced out by unseeded Hill-Murray 5-2. Boom! No. 3 seed Eagan falls to unseeded Moorhead 4-0.

All of a sudden we have a wide-open tournament in which anything can happen. And if St. Paul has been turned into Upset City -- a theory that only became clearer during the evening session -- we better cinch up our seatbelts a little tighter for the remaining days of this stellar event.

History seems to come into play at times like this. Tournament history, to be precise. Maple Grove was making its first trip to the state tourney, and walking into the Big House and squinting up into the clouds and seeing the ceiling up there somewhere above the lower bowl, suite level, club level and upper bowl and behind that gigantic scoreboard that looks like an apartment building … well, it can make the stomach twist just a bit. Or maybe quite a lot.

Hill-Murray, on the other hand, is a veteran at these things. Although the Pioneers didn’t reach state last year, they had been here for the previous five years. So even if the kids don’t really have a feel for how things will work, the coaches know the frozen ropes. And that can provide a real edge.

“You’d like to hope so,” Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said. “Our coaching staff has been together for a long time and we’ve lived through it as players and coaches. I think we sensed a calm in the locker room; it’s a big stage and it’s one of the most exciting things in your life, but they had it under control. And there is a way to handle literally everything from hotels to the banquet, pregames. It takes a while to get that knack.”

The Pioneers showed quite a knack against Maple Grove, and Moorhead did the same against Eagan. The Eagan Wildcats were here a year ago, and opened the tournament with a 4-0 victory over – well, what do you know? – the Moorhead Spuds.

There was a certain pound-of-flesh, Eagan-themed afterglow of revenge for the Spuds. Couple tournament experience with a veteran lineup and a dash of score-settling, and you see a team like Moorhead turn the tables – and the chairs – on last year’s 4-0 loss and give it right back to Eagan.

As for seedings, they’re good for the pre-tournament chatterboxes but they pretty much get thrown out onto West Kellogg Boulevard once sticks touch pucks.

“We really preach -- and I believe it because I’ve been at the other end, too – that it’s a new slate,” said Lechner. “There’s eight teams, they’re zero and zero, so don’t change anything.”

Hill-Murray’s Zach LaValle, who scored two goals against Maple Grove, spelled it out…

“The atmopshere’s really fun but we know we’re here for one reason, and that’s to keep winning games.”

--The Upset City theme continued into the evening session, with Lakeville South knocking off top-seeded Duluth East 3-2. This result did not follow the script of the first session at all; Lakeville South had not been to state since 2008 and East went all the way to the state title game last year before losing to Eden Prairie in three overtimes.

----In Thursday’s final game, Benilde-St. Margaret’s defeated No. 4 seed Edina 3-2. Jack Jablonski, the Benilde player who suffered a severe spinal injury in late December, watched the game from a suite. This is the first time in tournament history all four seeded teams lost in the quarterfinals.

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

We’ll start the day with the Class 1A semifinals. No. 2 seed St. Thomas Academy will meet No. 3 seed Breck at 11 a.m., with top seed Hermantown facing No. 4 seed Thief River Falls in the second game.

In the Class 2A evening session, Hill-Murray and Moorhead will kick things off at 6 p.m, with the game between Lakeville South and Benilde-St. Margaret’s to follow.

1A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Little Falls 5, Duluth Marshall 4: Ben Newman, the Little Falls player who lost vision in one eye when he was eight months old (scroll down to read a profile), scored two goals for the Flyers at Mariucci Arena. Joey Hanowski also had two goals for Little Falls.

--Rochester Lourdes 10, New Ulm 1: Jason Samuelson, Alex Funk and Justin Dewitz all scored two goals for Lourdes, which will meet Little Falls in the fifth-place game Saturday at Mariucci Arena.

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--Maple Grove’s “Crimson Harmony” a cappella group knocked the national anthem out of the park before the Crimson met Hill-Murray.

--The Eagan band was solid. Strong percussion without being overbearing and strong brass. I’m a softie for low brass.

TWEETS OF THE DAY

--“This solar storm better not interfere with my hockey.”

--“Have to love High School hockey in Minnesota! Silver lining to retiring as player here...I get to watch HS Hockey Tourney!” That Tweet was courtesy of former Wild player Wes Walz.

--Lots of photos from the tournament can be seen on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 39 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 405
*Miles John has driven: 6,691

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



The Most Remarkable Player In The State Hockey Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/7/2012 4:37:47 PM

Ben Newman has overcome some physical issues during this high school hockey season. Early in the year, for example, the junior center from Little Falls had to deal with a shoulder injury that got in the way of his tough, physical style of play.

And during Wednesday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal game against St. Thomas Academy at the Xcel Energy Center, Newman was forced to leave the ice for a time after a high stick sliced into the skin above his left eye.

That episode could have been much worse, considering that Newman’s left eye is his only working eye. That’s right, Ben Newman plays hockey – and plays it very, very well – despite having vision in just one eye.

Is it a miracle? Not if Ben has anything to say about it. He lost the vision in his right eye when he was only eight months old, so as he put it after the Flyers lost to St. Thomas Academy, “I don’t know what it’s like to have two eyes.”

It is remarkable that he not only plays center on the hockey team’s first line but is a running back on the Little Falls football team. Wearing a facemask on the ice and a plastic visor on the football field protects his vision, but still … this is remarkable.

“I don’t notice it at all,” Ben told me. “It’s just like nothing’s wrong.”

He was just learning how to walk, pushing a wheeled planter across the floor. The toddler lost his balance and a brass rod on the planter struck his right eye. From that day forward, Ben has seen the world through his left eye.

“We’ve always been aware that he only has one eye,” Flyers coach Tony Couture said. “It’s a unique situation because you don’t realize what he goes through on a daily basis, and I don’t think he understands the whole process, either.

“The fact is that when he had his injury he was very young. He’s never had to play with two eyes so he doesn’t really know. You put your hand over one eye and your peripheral vision only goes so far.”

Couture said the coaching staff thought about putting Ben at wing, where his vision issue might not come into play as much as it could at center ice.

“But he’s been our center for a couple years now,” Couture said. “He never complains about anything. He’s kind of a hardnosed kid, a smart hockey player, kind of that grinder type.”

Newman became the 18th member of the Little Falls career 100-point club this season, and he has 21 goals and 24 assists in 2011-12. His linemates are Joey Hanowski (31 goals, 26 assists) and Luke Majerle (14 and 29). Majerle leadsthe Flyers in plus-minus this season at +44, and Newman is next at +43.

“For me, I just try to keep my head on a swivel more than other people,” Ben said.

A miracle? Maybe. Remarkable? Absolutely.

CLASS 1A RESULTS

--St. Thomas Academy 7, Little Falls 0: Senior Andrew Commers had two goals and three assists and freshman Tom Novak had two goals and two assists for the Cadets, who outshot the Flyers 42-15.

--Breck 7, Duluth Marshall 0: The Mustangs scored their first three goals on power plays and cruised past the Hilltoppers. Matt Colford had two goals and and assist.

--Hermantown 7, Rochester Lourdes 2: Jared Thomas scored twice and added two assists for the top-seeded Hawks, who moved to 29-0. The score was 2-2 late in the first period before Hermantown did the rest of the scoring.

--Thief River Falls 5, New Ulm 1: Riley Soderstrom and Tanner Nessen each scored twice as the Prowlers advanced to meet Hermantown in Friday’s semifinals.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

--Hermantown coach Bruce Plante referred to senior goaltender Matt Mensigner, who made 13 saves, as “a maniac genius.” He meant it as a compliment.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“My friends and I are sitting in class, following your tweets. Excited to be at the X tomorrow!”

--My reply: “Keep those phones hidden.”

OVERHEARD NEAR THE MINI DONUT STAND

--“Oh God, they’re five dollars.”

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

Long before the first skate touched ice, the Little Falls pep band opened the musical portion of the tournament with the Yardbirds classic, "For Your Love." That one’s from 1965. To which I can relate.

--Pretty fair “Chicken Dance” rendition by the Duluth Marshall band. Couple of talented kids on snare in that bunch.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 5 for the tournament, 35 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 397
*Miles John has driven: 6,649

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Back At The X For Another Great State Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/7/2012 5:21:48 AM

Good morning once again from Xcel Energy Center! For the third week in a row this building is the center of prep sports in Minnesota. After completing the girls state hockey tournament and the state wrestling tournament, we turn our focus this week to the boys state hockey tournament.

We will see four games played at the X each day through Saturday, when Class 1A and 2A state champions will be crowned. With consolation-round games being played at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, the Twin Cities is home to plenty of high-level hockey this week.

The festivities will begin with today’s 1A quarterfinals. Defending state champ St. Thomas Academy and Little Falls will meet in the first game; Channel 45’s TV coverage will begin at 11 a.m. and the puck will drop at 11:19.

All quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games in this tournament are being televised by Channel 45 and webcast by www.prep45.com.

Here is what we’re looking at in today’s Class 1A quarterfinals…

#2 seed St. Thomas Academy (23-4) vs. Little Falls (19-9), 11 a.m.
#3 seed Breck (24-3-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (21-7), 1 p.m.
#1 seed Hermantown (28-0) vs. Rochester Lourdes (20-8), 6 p.m.
#4 seed Thief River Falls (22-4-2) vs. New Ulm (17-11), 8 p.m.

The Class 2A hockey tournament will begin Thursday…

#2 seed Maple Grove (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (22-6), 11 a.m.
#3 seed Eagan (24-3-1) vs. Moorhead (21-6), 1 p.m.
#1 seed Duluth East (27-1) vs. Lakeville South (20-8), 6 p.m.
#4 seed Edina (23-5) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6), 8 p.m.

Remember, instant updates and assorted deep thoughts can be seen by following @MSHSLjohn on Twitter, and the MSHSL Facebook page will also be plugged into the tournament.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 0 for the tournament, 30 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 389
*Miles John has driven: 6,607

--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 MSHSLjohn



Fosston And The First State Basketball Tournament Championship
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2012 2:32:17 PM

By Colby Garlick
MSHSL Intern

Herbert Whaley graduated from Fosston in 1911 and began working for the railroad right after graduation. In the fall of the 1911-12 school year, Fosston High School was searching for a volunteer coach for boys basketball. When no one within the district accepted the responsibility, school officials approached Herbert with the offer due to his experiences as an athlete. Whaley graciously accepted the position.

Whaley wasted no time getting the team in tip-top shape; the Fosston team was at a disadvantage with the players weighing an average of 130 pounds. Herbert stressed fundamentals, teamwork and good ball movement. Even though the players were small, Whaley taught them to be a physical ballclub. In fact, the Fosston basketball team became so physical that other teams nicknamed them the “Jack Pine Savages” instead of their school’s name, the Jack Rabbits.

It wasn’t just the players of the Fosston team that helped them become so strong on the court, they also had some help from the atmosphere and the layout of the Fosston gymnasium. There was dim lighting from lamps, and steam pipes bordered the playing floor. It wasn’t uncommon for a Fosston player to give an opponent a little shove into the steam pipes during game play.

Carlton College in Northfield had just opened a new gymnasium and in order to promote the new gym, the college decided to create and host the first official high school state basketball tournament. Fosston’s rugged play earned them one of the best records in the state and a trip to the first state high school basketball tournament.

Carlton College paid for six players, along with a coach, to travel with each team. However, since Whaley wasn’t employed by the school district he was no longer officially dubbed the head coach; the principal was the official coach of the team and Herbert was the assistant. Herbert went on to travel with the team and was present at the state tournament, much to many contrary beliefs and stories that Fosston won the championship without a coach.

The Fosston team arrived in Northfield by train and on Thursday, April 3, 1913, played its first state tournament game against Wilmer. Fosston had no problem handling Willmar, winning 27-17. On the second day of the tournament, Fosston had a similar result against Plainview, winning 38-27.

On the third and final day of the tournament Fosston defeated Luverne 38-28 to advance to the first state championship game, which was played later that Saturday night against Mountain Lake. In front of 2,000 enthusiastic fans, Fosston defeated Mountain Lake in a 29-27 thriller, becoming the first state high school championship team.

That magical trip was the first time any of the Fosston players had left their hometown. The Fosston basketball team was probably more thrilled to see the big city than they were to play in the state tournament. When the team got to Carlton College, they saw a real authentic swimming pool for the first time in their young lives and they had the pleasure of actually swimming in it. The team’s entire experience was more overwhelming and exciting than winning the tournament; that was just a bonus for them and the town of Fosston.

Whaley graduated one year prior to these events and he may have looked quite young, but in reality he was older than his high school graduation date may suggest. Fosston didn’t have class graduations every year; they did this in order to keep the enrollment of the school at optimal levels. Whaley actually graduated with his brother, who was three years younger.

Following Fosston’s amazing championship run, Herbert Whaley retired after just one magical season as Fosston’s head coach. He married, moved to Crosby, where his wife was from, and they started a family. While living in Crosby, he helped the founder of Crosby, George Crosby, establish a restaurant and Whaley also became the assessor for the city of Crosby.



Eden Prairie Takes 2A Swim Title Behind 9 Medal-Winning Performances
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2012 10:57:19 PM

Click here to read about the Class 2A state swimming and diving championships



St. Thomas Academy Wins 10th 1A Swim Title Since 1999
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2012 5:43:20 PM

Click here to read about the Class 1A state swimming and diving championships



State Wrestling Championships: Surprises Everywhere
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2012 11:05:47 AM

When the gold medals had been placed around necks and cameras snapped from the stands at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, some memories were made that will last a long, long time.

There were tears, as is always the case when dreams of state titles are not realized. But in at least two cases Saturday, tears flowed from the eyes of champions who have little in common other than they are wrestlers.

One of them was very familiar. Ben Morgan (right) of Forest Lake, who won a 3A title as an eighth-grader before placing third three times, went out in style as a senior with his second title, winning at 132 pounds. As an eighth-grade state champ four years ago, Morgan put on an exuberant celebration. This time, however, his emotions took over and he did little more than weep. It was a celebration, nonetheless.

Albert Lea senior 285-pounder Bryce DeBoer also cried after winning a 3A title. His story, however, is much different because he is far from a veteran wrestler, much less a veteran of the state tournament. DeBoer (pictured below) is a first-year high school wrestler, and he showed what can be accomplished.

The day’s biggest surprise came in 3A at 126 pounds, where St. Cloud Apollo junior Mitch Bengston, a three-time champ, saw his state-record winning streak ended at 179 matches. Sam Brancale of Eden Prairie won his second title by getting a reversal in the final seconds and winning 2-1.

Simley had seven individuals in the 2A championship round and came away with five winners, while Apple Valley had five in the 3A finals and crowned four state champions. Apple Valley’s Brandon Kingsley (160) won his fourth title.

Gaining gold for the third time were Medford’s Curt Maas (1A 152), Joey Munos of South St. Paul (2A 132) and Jake Short of Simley (2A 145).

Among wrestlers winning their second state championships were two seniors from 1A Kenyon-Wanamingo, Mitchel Lexvold at 120 and Oakley McLain at 126.

Apple Valley eighth-grader Mark Hall won his second title at 3A 145, keeping him on track to possibly become the state’s first six-time state champion.

The boys state swimming champions also were decided Saturday, and John’s Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper has posted stories from Class 1A and 2A here on our website.

And in other news, the pairings for next week’s boys state hockey tournament were finalized Saturday.

Here’s how the Class 2A hockey tourney looks…

#2 seed Maple Grove (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (22-6), Thursday, 11 a.m. #3 seed Eagan (24-3-1) vs. Moorhead (21-6), Thursday, 1 p.m. #1 seed Duluth East (27-1) vs. Lakeville South (20-8), Thursday, 6 p.m. #4 seed Edina (23-5) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6), Thursday, 8 p.m.

And here is the Class 1A field…

#2 seed St. Thomas Academy (23-4) vs. Little Falls (19-9), Wednesday, 11 a.m. #3 seed Breck (24-3-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (21-7), Wednesday, 1 p.m. #1 seed Hermantown (28-0) vs. Rochester Lourdes (20-8), Wednesday, 6 p.m. #4 seed Thief River Falls (22-4-2) vs. New Ulm (17-11), Wednesday, 8 p.m.

With that, we’re going to take part of a day off and began ramping up for another great state tournament week.

--See a photo gallery from the wrestling championship matches on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 30 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS *Schools/teams John has visited: 381 *Miles John has driven: 6,565

--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 @MSHSLjohn



The Biggest Victory Of The Tournament, But More Work Remains
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/2/2012 8:02:26 PM

There was no celebration, no pumping fists, no backflips, no victory laps, no arms thrust toward the ceiling of Xcel Energy Center on Friday. Ben Morgan simply shook hands with Dakota Trom and walked off the mat.

Yes, it was the biggest match of the first day of individual competition at the state wrestling tournament. But it was only the first day. Morgan needs two more victories Saturday to take home a gold medal, and boy oh boy will it be a sweet moment for the Forest Lake senior if that happens.

You see, Morgan already owns one state title. That came when he was an eighth-grader, and for three years since then he has finished third at state. Friday’s 7-2 victory over Trom, an Apple Valley senior who won state championships in each of the last three years, certainly put Morgan on the right path. (They are pictured here.)

“I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” he said of coming up short of a state title. “I’ve worked too hard this year, I went through too much pain and stress to lose my last state tournament.”

Morgan is ranked No. 9 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News and Trom is No. 11. Those spots would be reversed if not for a 5-3 victory by Morgan over Trom at the Minnesota Christmas tournament. And ever since that day in December, Trom has thought ahead to meeting Trom again at state.

“The mental focus? I can’t even tell you how much, man,” he said. “It’s every other 30 minutes. Ever since the Christmas tournament, I’ve spent at least nine hours a day thinking about this moment.”

Now Morgan (36-2 this season) will focus on his semifinal match against senior Phillip Horsager (15-7) of Spring Lake Park. On the other side of the bracket, the matchup is sophomore Justin Harold-Plakut (33-8) of Woodbury and sophomore Mark Voss (37-8) of St. Michael-Albertville.

When Morgan won his first state title so many years ago, his celebration was something to behold. Fists clenched and arms raised, Morgan leaned back and roared to the heavens. With blood dripping from his forehead, he sprinted around the mat and leaped into the arms of his father (and Forest Lake assistant coach), Gordy Morgan. He received a thunderous ovation from the fans.

That was in 2008. This is 2012. Forest Lake coach Billy Pierce reminded Morgan immediately after Friday’s big win that he still had work to do.

“I’ve already talked to him about that,” Pierce said. “I said, ‘This is not a final match. Save your celebration for later. Keep it respectful and eye on the prize.’ ”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Simley has a tournament-best nine individuals in the Class 2A semifinals. Eight wrestlers from Apple Valley have reached the 3A semifinals. In Class 1A, Kimball, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, Jackson County Central, Wabasso and Minneota all have four individuals in the semifinals.

--At 126 pounds, three-time 3A champ Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud Apollo extended his state-record winning streak to 178. The junior will face Rosemount senior Steve Levine in the semifinals.

--In the biggest quarterfinal match in Class 1A, Mitchel Lexvold of Kenyon-Wanamingo beat Isaac Novacek of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 6-2 at 120 pounds. Lexvold won a state title last year and Novacek did so in 2010.

--One of the biggest matches of Saturday’s quarterfinals will come in 2A at 145 pounds. Jake Short of Simley and Gabe Fogarty of Scott West, will meet to decide who advances to the title match.

--Wrestlers who lost for the first time this season on Friday: Clay LaVasseur, Rogers (3A 195); David Johnson, Roseville (3A 220); Michael Jarnot, Holdingford (1A 138) and Garrett Hoffner, Mahnomen/Waubun (1A 145); Taylor Lewandowski, Foley (2A 160); Garret Miller, Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1A 170); and Jesse Hein, Perham (1A 285).

WHERE DO THE MATS COME FROM?

My wife posed that question to me, and I did not know the answer. But after interrogating a high-ranking official – tournament manager Byron Olson – I learned a few things.

The mats used at state are brand new. They are made by Dollamur Sport Surfaces, and some of them have already been sold to Minnesota high schools before the tournament begins. That way, the schools save money on shipping because Dollamur sends them to the Xcel Center and the schools are responsible for them after the tournament ends.

Mats used this year will soon be headed to Lakeville North, Byron, Yellow Medicine East and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.

AND IN HOCKEY NEWS...

These teams have qualified for next week's boys state hockey tournament…

Class 2A
Lakeville South (20-8)
Edina (23-5)
Eagan (24-3-1)
Hill-Murray (22-6)
Maple Grove (24-2-2)
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6)
Duluth East (27-1)
Moorhead (21-6)

2A seedings and brackets will be announced Saturday morning.

Class 1A
Rochester Lourdes (20-8)
Breck (24-3-1)
New Ulm (17-11)
St. Thomas Academy (23-4)
Hermantown (28-0)
Little Falls (19-9)
Thief River Falls (22-4-2)
Duluth Marshall (21-7) or Hibbing/Chisholm (16-11)

Duluth Marshall and Hibbing/Chisholm play at 2 p.m. Saturday. 1A state seedings and brackets will be announced Saturday evening.

GREAT NEWS FOR NICK MANZONI

On Sept. 1, I posted a story here about Nick Manzoni, a soccer player from Orono High School. The senior, who was named a Class A first-team all-state player as a junior, is considered one of the best players in the state. Last summer Nick was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma and he was unable to play soccer last fall.

His treatments included surgery and chemotherapy, and some great news was announced via Twitter on Friday:

“Nick has finished his chemo! Time to give thanks! Prayer service March 8, 7:30, St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral. All are welcome.”

Congratulations Nick!

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 25 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 381
*Miles John has driven: 6,523

--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 Wrestling Tournament: Day Two Update
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/2/2012 3:12:12 PM

It’s a wild and woolly scene inside Xcel Energy Center today as the individual competition of the state wrestling tournament gets under way. We have completed the first round of matches in all three classes, with quarterfinal-round matches coming up this evening.

There were few surprises in the first round, with all returning state champions and undefeated wrestlers advancing. Here are some items of note from the first round…

CLASS 3A
--All nine returning champs advanced.

--Eleven of Apple Valley’s 13 state qualifiers moved to the quarterfinals tonight.

--At 126 pounds, three-time champ Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud Apollo extended his state-record winning streak to 177. The junior will face Michael Pleski of Forest Lake in the quarterfinals.

--In the most anticipated quarterfinal match, three-time champ Dakota Trom of Apple Valley will meet 2008 champ Ben Morgan of Forest Lake at 132 pounds. Morgan beat Trom at the Minnesota Christmas tournament.

CLASS 2A

--All 10 past champions moved into the quarterfinals. No quarterfinal matches will pit returning champions or unbeaten wrestlers.

--The 285-pound class is stocked with talent. Austin Goergen of Caledonia is a two-time state champ, and Jesse Hein of Perham and Michael Krolls of Scott West are undefeated this season. If Hein and Krolls win tonight they will meet in the semifinals on Saturday.

CLASS 1A

--Seven returning state champions won their opening matches.

--The biggest quarterfinal match will pit two returning champions at 120 pounds: Isaac Novacek of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River and Mitchell Lexvold of Kenyon-Wanamingo.

--Undefeated wrestlers will meet at 145: Garret Hoffner of Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Larry Bomstad of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City.

GREAT NEWS FOR NICK MANZONI

On Sept. 1 I posted a story here about Nick Manzoni, a soccer player from Orono High School. The senior, who was named a Class A first-team all-state player as a junior, is considered one of the best players in the state. Last summer Nick was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma and he was unable to play soccer last fall.

His treatments included surgery and chemotherapy, and some great news was announced via Twitter on Friday:

“Nick has finished his chemo! Time to give thanks! Prayer service March 8, 7:30, St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral. All are welcome.”

Congratulations Nick!

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 7 for the tournament, 22 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 381
*Miles John has driven: 6,523

--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



Repeat After Me: Apple Valley, Simley, Jackson Are State Champs
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2012 10:07:56 PM

The three teams that captured state wrestling titles on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center know all about the routine. Win three matches at the state tournament, stand in line for medals and then pose for a team photo with the first-place tropy.

Apple Valley won its seventh straight Class 3A title, Simley took home the 2A hardware for the fifth year in a row and Jackson County Central won its third 1A crown in a row.

Apple Valley’s 49-24 victory over St. Michael-Albertville in the gold-medal match gave the Eagles 13 of the last 14 big-school championships. Simley beat Scott West 36-22 in 2A and Jackson County Central held off Kimball 35-28.

Results of the third-place matches…

Class 1A/ Minneota 42, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 26
Class 2A/ Foley 32, Kasson-Mantorville 22
Class 3A/ Prior Lake 30, Hastings 21

Results of the fifth-place matches...

Class 1A/ Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 41, Barnesville 22
Class 2A/ Milaca 35, Monticello 34
Class 3A/ White Bear Lake 35, Little Falls 27

The action will resume at 9 a.m. Friday with the beginning of the individual competition.

Thursday was also a big night for boys hockey, with seven teams winning section titles and qualifying for next week’s state tourney here at the Xcel Center.

The hockey scores were …

Class 1A
Section 2A: Breck 7, Blake 5
Section 6A: Little Falls 6, Fergus Falls 1
Section 8A: Thief River Falls 4, East Grand Forks 1

Class 2A
Section 1AA: Lakeville South 7, Lakeville North 1
Section 3AA: Eagan 10, Hastings 1
Section 7AA: Duluth East 4, Andover 1
Section 8AA: Moorhead 3, Brainerd 1

Five more state hockey participants will be decided Friday night …

CLASS 1A
Section 3: New Ulm vs. Luverne
Section 4: St. Thomas Academy vs. Totino-Grace
Section 5: Hermantown vs. Rogers

CLASS 2A
Section 4: Hill-Murray vs. Roseville
Section 5: Maple Grove vs. Blaine

Finally, one game will be played Saturday …

Class 1A
Section 7: Duluth Marshall vs. Hibbing/Chisholm

--As always, instant updates on all these events can be found by following @MSHSLjohn on Twitter, and lots of photos (especially from wrestlingt) are posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Thursday’s semifinals and championship wrestling matches were webcast by www.prep45.com. Through the semifinals, the total number of viewers was 3,720.

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 321
*Miles John has driven: 6,481

--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 Wrestling Championship Matches Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2012 12:09:51 PM

The lineup is set for tonight’s matches to decide the team champions of high school wrestling in Minnesota. The quarterfinals and semifinals have been completed at Xcel Energy Center, and here are the 7 p.m. title matchups…

Class 1A
Kimball (34-0) vs. Jackson County Central (24-3)
Class 2A
Scott West (25-0) vs. Simley (27-3)
Class 3A
St. Michael-Albertville (29-6) vs. Apple Valley (28-1)

The top seeds (Jackson, Simley and Apple Valley) have all advanced. Kimball and Scott West are No. 2 seeds and St. Michael-Albertville is the third seed.

Apple Valley has won the last six 3A titles and 12 of the last 13. Simley is trying to win its fifth straight championship and Jackson County Central is a two-time defending state champ.

Simley and Scott West also met in the title match a year ago, with Simley winning 39-16. In 3A last year, Apple Valley defeated St. Michael-Albertville 61-6 in the title match.

The championship matches can be seen on the web by going to www.prep45.com and clicking on “Live Schedule.” That site is also webcasting tonight’s Section 7AA boys hockey final between Duluth East and Andover at Amsoil Arena in Duluth at 7:30.

Recapping today’s wrestling action…

Semifinals
Class 1A
Kimball 35, Minneota 33
Jackson County Central 25, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 25

Class 2A
Scott West 31, Foley 21
Simley 47, Kasson-Mantorville 20

Class 3A
St. Michael-Albertville 31, Hastings 19
Apple Valley 62, Prior Lake 3

Quarterfinals

Class 1A
Kimball 55, Barnesville 9
Minneota 44, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 23
Jackson County Central 52, Pierz 15
Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 39, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 30

Class 2A
Scott West 53, Monticello 9
Foley 47, Windom 10
Simley 44, Milaca 17
Kasson-Mantorville 43, Perham 10

Class 3A
Hastings 47, Little Falls 19
St. Michael-Albertville 56, Champlin Park 7
Apple Valley 58, Willmar 12
Prior Lake 44, White Bear Lake 15

On Friday we’ll kick off the individual wrestling competition at 9 a.m.

But it’s not just wrestling on the docket today. The boys state swimming and diving meet begins its three-day run today with diving preliminariesat the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, there are seven boys hockey section finals as well as section games in girls and boys basketball.

As always, instant updates on all these events can be found by following @MSHSLjohn on Twitter, and lots of photos (especially from today’s wrestling tournament) are being posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

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

BY THE NUMBERS *Schools/teams John has visited: 321 *Miles John has driven: 6,481

--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



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