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Timberwolves Honor Bob McDonald, Welcome MSHSL Student Media
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/25/2014 1:00:21 PM

When the Timberwolves played host to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon, a high school basketball coaching legend and the MSHSL Student Media program were part of the NBA day.

The Timberwolves honored retired Chisholm coach Bob McDonald at center court during halftime, presenting him with a basketball that was autographed by the Timberwolves players and a Timberwolves jersey with the number 1,012 on the back, representing how many games McDonald’s teams won during his 59-year coaching career.

Prior to the game, McDonald and three of his sons (Tom, Mike and Joel are all high school boys basketball coaches) posed for a photo at center court. After the halftime ceremony McDonald spent a few minutes chatting with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Bob McDonald is of Croatian ancestry, travels to Croatio every summer and speaks Serbo-Croation. Before the second half began he and the Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic chatted briefly in Serbo-Croation.

The McDonald family watched the game from a Target Center suite.

This weekend, Bob McDonald will serve as a head coach for one of the teams during the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association boys all-star series. His son Joel, the coach at Hibbing, will be one of his all-star assistant coaches. All-star games will be held Friday at St. Cloud State and Saturday at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Two hours before game time Sunday, four high school students who are members of the MSHL Student Media program met me at Target Center for an afternoon filled with behind-the-scenes experiences. This is the third year in a row that the Timberwolves have hosted Student Media members for a game, and the students always have a great time. The Timberwolves also provided free tickets to the game for the students’ family members.

The students invited to the game were (pictured, left to right) JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Nathan Jones of Jackson County Central, Matt Hoffman of Lakeville North and Nick Kelly of Lakeville North.

Before the game began, the students met in the Timberwolves conference room with Minneapolis Star Tribune Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda and Timberwolves radio broadcaster Alan Horton. The media pros talked about their career paths, offered advice to the student journalists and answered questions.

The students received media credentials, meaning they had access to everything that professional media members do on a daily basis. The students visited the Wolves locker room before and after the game and watched the game from media seats. They also watched Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman’s pregame press briefing and his more formal postgame news conference.

All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to the Timberwolves!

--To see more photos of Bob McDonald as well as the Student Media experience, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,194
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



A Chip On The Shoulder Leads To A State Championship Trophy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/22/2014 9:45:03 PM

Sometimes, a chip on the shoulder is very good thing. Just ask the girls basketball team from Win-E-Mac.

The Patriots carried a chip throughout the state tournament, and it began when votes by the participating coaches left Win-E-Mac among the three unseeded teams in Class 1A. This was despite the fact that the Patriots had been the fourth-place team at state last year and came into the tournament with a record of 28-2.

Saturday’s title game at Williams Arena against defending champ Minneota seemed like a tough task for a team playing in its first championship game, but the Patriots (pictured taking a picture) never wavered … despite carrying that chip on their shoulder.

They took the lead for good when Korbyn Ross hit a three-point shot with seven minutes left in the first half. They stretched the margin to 15 points in the second half and held off the Vikings down the stretch.

Coming in unseeded had an impact on how the Patriots approached the tournament, said coach Ian Hanson.

“Absolutely it did,” he said. “In our locker room the pep talk was, ‘We are number one.’ We were fourth last year and we had everybody back. We knew from the get-go we could be state champions.”

Madison McKeever led Win-E-Mac with 27 points and Ross had 17. Taylor Reiss had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Minneota and Emily Stienessen had 17 points.

CLASS 2A: NRHEG 71, KENYON-WANAMINGO 61

Carlie Wagner was in tears as her high school career ended with a second consecutive state title. The tears began as soon as the horn blew on New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s victory over Kenyon-Wanamingo, they continued as Carlie was joined on the all-tournament team by ninth-grade twin sisters Maddie and Marnie, and they were still rolling down her cheeks as she talked to the media.

Wagner (pictured) – who will continue her basketball career at Williams Arena with the Minnesota Gophers next season -- capped a spectacular high school career by scoring 36 points and continuing her assault on the state tournament record book.

She finished with 130 points in the tournament, breaking her record of 129 from a year ago. NRHEG also scored 248 points in three tournament games, breaking the record of 241 set by Rochester Mayo in 1997.

Megan Quam scored 22 points for Kenyon-Wanamingo; the Knights’ only two losses this season were against NRHEG.

3A/ PARK CENTER 73, MARSHALL 71 (THREE OVERTIMES)

Park Center, playing at state for the first time in school history, survived triple overtime and held off the Tigers. Marshall won state titles in 2001 and 2002 and was the runner-up in 2006.

Ann Simonet led the Pirates with 26 points and Cayla McMorris had 21. Kenzie Beekman scored 20 for Marshall. Marshall has only two seniors on the roster and Park Center has just one.

4A/ EASTVIEW 64, BLOOMINGTON KENNEDY 61

The Lightning rallied in the final minute to capture the state title. Their first lead of the game came with 48 seconds remaining. Madison Guebert led Eastview with 29 points and Kenisha Bell had 24 for Kennedy.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Three of the eight coaches leading their teams Saturday are graduates of Southwest Minnesota State University: Chad Johnston (1995) of Minneota in Class 1A, John Schultz (1986) of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in Class 2A and Dan Westby (1989) of Marshall in Class 3A.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Megan Schroeder, Lindsey Theuninck, Mankato Loyola; Mikayla Miller, Shelby Hinsch, Goodhue; Madison McKeever, Shelby Kaster, Korbyn Ross, Win-E-Mac; Emily Stienessen, Taylor Reiss, Shelby Corbin, Minneota.

2A/Abby Miller, Gabby Gruenhagen, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted; Bailey Mudek, Ava Gonsorowski, Esko; Siri Sviggum, Brittney Flom, Megan Quam, Kenyon-Wanamingo; Maddie Wagner, Carlie Wagner, Marnie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.

3A/ Chase Coley, Lucia Renikoff, Minneapolis Washburn; Bailey Strand, Brianna Rasmusson, Fergus Falls; Kenzie Beekman, Hannah Bennett, Sarah Buysse, Marshall; Cayla McMorris, Mikayla Hayes, Ann Simonet, Park Center.

4A/ Emma Boehm, Jayla Mayes-Jackson, Eden Prairie; MacKenzie Denk, Temi Carda, Lakeville North; Hana Metoxen, Madison Guebert, Kari Opatz, Eastview; Kenisha Bell, Tonoia Wade, Lashayla Wright-Ponder, Bloomington Kennedy.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Goodhue 74, Mankato Loyola 62: Mikayla Miller had 30 points for the Wildcats Shelby Hinsch had 24. Lindsey Theuninck led Loyola with 19 points.

2A/ Esko 53, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 44: Bailey Mudek led the Eskomos with 16 points and Abby Miller and Gabby Gruenhagen each had 17 for Howard Lake. Miller set a state tournament record by making 16 three-point baskets this week. The previous record was 13, set by Sara Schoenrock of Christ’s Household of Faith in 1997.

3A/ Fergus Falls 72, Minneapolis Washburn 62: Bailey Strand scored 45 points for the Otters and Chase Coley had 18 for Washburn.

4A/ Eden Prairie 48, Lakeville North 44: Martha Kuderer led the Eagles with 18 points and MacKenzie Denk had 10 for North.

--Photos by MNPrepPhoto.com. See photo galleries from Saturday’s championship games on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,154
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Tough Decision For Howard Lake Hoopsters: Europe Or State Tourney?
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/21/2014 9:03:24 PM

Long before the girls basketball team from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted won the Class 2A Section 5 championship, and long before they reached the state semifinals this week, important decisions had to be made by some of the players.

They revolved around basketball, yes. As in, “Do we want to commit to playing at state … even if we don’t get there, or is a school trip to Europe more important.”

That was the quandary some of the Lakers faced. Long ago, a National Honor Society trip to Europe was planned over spring break, which is next week. About 20 students flew to Amsterdam on Thursday, including several girls basketball players. Four other players, all starters, stayed behind to play at state.

Mikayla Kittock, Abby Wenniger and Kassandra Scherping went on the trip, and all three got to play in the Lakers’ quarterfinal victory over Minnehaha Academy on Wednesday. Abby Miller, the Lakers’ scoring leader this season, is president of the school’s NHS chapter. She and starting teammates Mackenzie Uter, Marissa Reed and Gabby Gruenhagen (pictured) are all missing the European trip.

Gruenhagen said she was unaware of a possible conflict until she was at a graduation party last year. “I was talking to our boys head basketball coach (Chad Gagnon). He said, ‘You better check up on that trip, because I think it’s the same weekend as the state tournament.’ ”

Gabby cancelled her travel reservation in December. “That way I could get all my money back, and I was pretty confident our team could get here,” she said.

Had the girls state tournament not traded dates with the boys tourney this year and been held last week, there would have been no conflict. But …

“We kind of had a pretty strong inkling probably from the Christmas break on (about the possible conflict),” said coach Jason Kuehn. “I asked the girls to let me know when they made a final decision.”

Reed cancelled a month ago. She said she looked into flying to Europe and joining the group after the tournament, “but that was a bigger mess than just cancelling.”

The players have already communicated with their teammates and friends who are in Europe. The travelers were planning to watch Friday night’s game between the Lakers and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva online.

Meanwhile, the players who stayed are happy they did.

Playing at state is “Awesome, like a dream come true,” Miller said. “It’s definitely life-changing and something you’ll never forget.”

The Lakers lost to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 87-58 Friday and will meet Esko in Saturday’s third-place game at Concordia University in St. Paul.

JANET KARVONEN AND CARLIE WAGNER IN THE RECORD BOOK

New York Mills legend Janet Karvonen set one of the longest-standing records in state tournament history, scoring a total of 329 points in four tourneys from 1977 through 1980. That record stood for all these years until Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva broke it on Friday.

Karvonen’s yearly totals were 59 points in the 1977 tournament, 76 in 1978, 98 in 1979 and 96 in 1980. New York Mills won state titles in 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Wagner, a senior who has signed with the University of Minnesota, scored 112 points in the 2012 tournament, 129 last year and had 41 in Friday’s game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, for a total of 335. She scored a tourney-record 53 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Pequot Lakes (in this photo, she is awarded the game ball by tournament director Lisa Lissimore).

Wagner will have a chance to add to her total in Saturday’s championship game vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo at Williams Arena.

Wagner also broke another state record Friday, becoming the leading scorer in girls basketball history. She has a total of 3,921, breaking the mark of 3,888 set by Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South in 2009.

--One more record was tied in the NRHEG-Howard Lake game. Howard Lake’s Abby Miller, who made six three-point shots in the quarterfinals, made seven more Friday, giving her 13 for the tournament. That ties the tournament record set by Sara Schoenrock of Christ’s Household of Faith in 1997. Miller will have a chance to break the record Saturday.

--Kenyon-Wanamingo 60, Esko 36: Siri Sviggum led K-W with 18 points and Judy Wagemaker had 15 for the Eskomos.

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS

--Minneota 45, Goodhue 43: In a game that included six lead changes and five ties, the defending state champs from Minneota came out on top. With the score tied 41-41 and 12 seconds to play, Minneota’s Taylor Reiss stole the ball, made a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw but teammate Megan Larson put in the rebound to make it 45-41. Meredith Watson scored for Goodhue as the game ended.

Reiss, who scored 40 points in the quarterfinals against Browerville, was held to 16 by Goodhue’s stout defense. Emily Steinessen also scored 16 for Minneota. Goodhue was led by Mikayla Miller with 25 points.

--Win-E-Mac 62, Mankato Loyola 61: Win-E-Mac sophomore Madison McKeever (pictured) led the Patriots with 32 points, broke one state tournament record and tied another. She broke the single-game record for free throw attemps with 25 and tied the record for made free throws with 20. Tayler Hill of Minneapolis set both marks in 2009. Megan Schroeder led Loyola with 21 points.

Win-E-Mac and Minneota will meet in the title game at noon Saturday at Williams Arena. Last year at state, Win-E-Mac beat Mankato Loyola in the quarterfinals, lost to Ada-Borup in the semifinals and lost to Bethlehem Academy in the third-place game. Saturday’s game will be their first appearance in a state championship game.

SATURDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
At Williams Arena
Noon, Class 1A/ Minneota vs. Win-E-Mac
2 p.m., Class 2A/ NRHEG vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo
6 p.m., Class 3A/ Park Center vs. Marshall
8 p.m., Class 4A/ Eastview vs. Bloomington Kennedy

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,114
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



There’s No Way To Mask The Toughness of Monica Vega
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/20/2014 5:55:03 PM

Seeing Ada-Borup play in the girls state basketball tournament is nothing new. Since 2006, the Cougars have been to state every year but two, they won Class 1A championships in 2008 and 2009 and were the state runner-up last year.

And yet, when the Cougars stepped on the court at Mariucci Arena for Thursday’s state quarterfinal against Goodhue, something looked different: Senior guard Monica Vega was wearing a see-through mask to protect a newly broken nose.

Vega, who stands only 5-foot-3, is a scrappy little cookie who reached the 1,000-point milestone Thursday. After Goodhue defeated the Cougars 65-58, Ada-Borup coach David Smart said, “Even at her height, I’d take 10 Monicas. She’s a tough kid but we weren’t sure she would be able to play.”

Vega, who scored 13 points Thursday (as did 5-foot-1 teammate Shaina Stevenson), suffered a broken nose – a compound fracture, to be exact – in practice two days ago. Smart didn’t offer too many specifics about what happened, other than saying Monica caught somebody’s elbow as that somebody was going up for a layup.

Thursday’s loss was a tough one for the Cougars. Losing in the first game at state is no fun, especially for a team that’s accustomed to spending the weekend competing for a state title. But Smart gave plenty of credit to Goodhue, a team whose most recent state tourney experience came in 2011, when the current seniors were in ninth grade.

Mikalya Miller, Goodhue’s senior scoring leader, had 25 points and 11 rebounds Thursday. She came off the bench at state four years ago, scoring 12 points when Goodhue lost to Hancock in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t even know how much she remembers from that,” joked Goodhue coach Josh Wieme.

Ada-Borup held a seven-point lead over the Wildcats with 12:56 remaining in the second half, but Goodhue chipped away.

“We felt if we could hang around and hang around, eventually our team would get rolling,” Wieme said. “Ada-Borup plays fantastic defense and they know how to play at the state tournament.”

Yes they do, even if one of the Cougars’ key players is wearing a facemask. During the game, I Tweeted a photo (the one you see here) of Vega with the caption “Ada-Borup 1,000-point scorer Monica Vega suffered a broken nose two days ago in practice.”

A few minutes later I received a Tweet that said simply, “My bad.” That Tweet was also sent to Monica Vega’s Twitter account.

So … the identity of the person who owns the elbow that broke Monica’s nose? The girls team sometimes practices against local males, and the elbow belongs to a senior on the Ada-Borup boys basketball team. A stand-up guy named Garrett Gunderson.

TWO SPORTS, TWO SCHOOLS, TWO STATE TOURNAMENTS

When Minneota beat Browerville 77-50 in Thursday’s first Class 1A quarterfinal, it was reminiscent of Marshall in 3A. In both cases, volleyball and basketball are highly successful behind athletes who compete in both sports.

Four of Minneota’s five starters Thursday were members of the Vikings’ third-place Class 1A volleyball team last fall. Marshall, which will meet Park Center for the 3A state title Saturday, is the three-time defending champion of 2A volleyball. Minneota and Marshall are only 12 miles apart.

Junior Taylor Reiss scored 40 points Thursday for Minneota. She also plays volleyball for the Vikings and plans to play volleyball in college. She has made her college choice but is keeping it to herself for now.

“We have a lot of athletes and we go into practice and work really hard,” Reiss said.

Marshall volleyball/basketball coach Dan Westby said Wednesday that his two-sport athletes spend time in the summer practicing one sport in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Reiss said the program is a bit different in Minneota, with basketball the focus early in the summer and volleyball workouts taking over as autumn nears.

OTHER CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS

-- Mankato Loyola 93, Maranatha Christian 91 (overtime): Loyola trailed by six with 3:10 to play but rallied to win. Lindsey Theuninck led Loyola with 37 points and Mikayla Payne had 24 for Maranatha. The teams broke the day-old tournament record for total points with 184; on Wednesday NRHEG and Pequot Lakes scored 168. Another tournament record fell: most points by a losing team.

--Win-E-Mac 73, Mountain Iron-Buhl 62: Win-E-Mac led by 11 at halftime and went on to advance to the semifinals. Shelby Kaster led the Patriots with 25 points and Mya Buffetta led Mountain Iron-Buhl with 21.

In the 1A semifinals, Minneota and Goodhue will meet at noon Friday at Williams Arena, with Mankato Loyola facing Win-E-Mac in the second game.

CLASS 3A STATE SEMIFINALS

--Park Center 63, Minneapolis Washburn 59: Cayla McMorris led the Pirates with 23 points. Chase Coley had 25 for Washburn.

--Marshall 52, Fergus Falls 51: Sarah Buysse and Hannah Bennett led the Tigers with 13 points each. Fergus Falls was led by Bailey Strand with 22 points. Park Center and Marshall will meet in the title game at Williams Arena at 6 p.m. Saturday.

CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINALS

--Eastview 62, Eden Prairie 51: Emee Udo had 17 points for the Lightning, who made 33 of 44 free throws. Emma Boehm scored 22 points for Eden Prairie.

-- Bloomington Kennedy 61, Lakeville North 51: Tonoia Wade scored 19 points and Kenisha Bell had 18 for the Eagles. North was led by MacKenzie Denk with 17 points.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--We were treated to a fantastic national anthem performance Thursday at Mariucci Arena, thanks to talented 13-year-old Lauren Senden (pictured), a seventh-grader at Mankato East Junior High.

--Browerville is one of the youngest teams in the tournament, with Candra Gould the only senior on the roster. The Tigers’ starters in their loss to Minneota were four sophomores and a ninth-grader. I would love to tell you more about the Tigers but Browerville is the only school in the tournament that provided no information about their team and no statistics.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Mankato Loyola coach Rick Theuninck after his team rallied to beat Maranatha Christian: “It shows what happens when kids play for each other and care about each other.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,019
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Another Record-Smashing Day For NRHEG, Carlie Wagner
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/19/2014 4:46:04 PM

Every time Carlie Wagner plays in the girls state basketball tournament, you better be ready to see something special. And a big crowd at Mariucci Arena on Wednesday saw something spectacular.

Wagner, the senior from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva who has signed with the University of Minnesota, broke her own state tournament record by scoring 53 points in the Panthers’ 100-68 Class 2A quarterfinal victory over Pequot Lakes. Last year she set the record by scoring 50 against Braham in the state championship game.

Three other tournament records fell in Wednesday’s game:

--NRHEG’s 100 points topped the previous record of 88 set by Eden Valley-Watkins vs. Cass Lake in 1984.

--The combined total of 168 points broke the record of 157 set by Monticello (79) and Fergus Falls (78) in two overtimes last year.

--NRHEG made 13 three-point shots, breaking the record of 12 set by Maranatha Christian vs. Spring Grove in 2012.

NRHEG will play two more games at state, and Wagner needs 76 points to tie the tourney record for total points (129) she set last year.

In Wednesday’s game, Wagner made 17 of 34 field-goal attempts, six of 16 three-point attempts, 13 of 15 free throws with six rebounds, seven assists, six steals and two fouls. She went to the bench with 2:59 remaining in the game.

“Her ability to score from anywhere on the court at any time against anybody. That’s what makes her special,” said NRHEG coach John Schultz.

Kayla Miller led Pequot Lakes with 25 points and Vanessa Lane had 19.

NRHEG’s semifinal opponent on Friday at Williams Arena will be Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, which defeated Minnehaha Academy 62-43. Abby Miller led HL-W-W with 23 points and Sarah Kaminski scored 13 for Minnehaha Academy.

OTHER CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS

--Kenyon-Wanamingo 64, Redwood Falls 31: Siri Sviggum led K-W with 23 and Tara Sandgren had 13 for Redwood Falls.

--Esko 39, New London-Spicer 35: Ava Gonsorowski led the Eskomos with 14 points and Taylor Thunstedt had 24 for New London-Spicer.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

Mariucci Arena, normally home to the Gophers men’s hockey team, was transformed into a great basketball arena for the girls tournament. The ice had been removed, a process that took several days, and the basketball court sat on the arena’s concrete floor. The court is one that was used in the final year of the old St. Paul Civic Center, is owned by Xcel Energy Center and is being rented for this week’s tournament.

Written on each end of the court is “SAINT PAUL MINNESOTA” and Xcel Energy Center logos are painted on the floor.

From the coaches involved in Wednesday’s six games, the reviews were positive.

“The ball went in the basket so we loved it,” said Marshall coach Dan Westby after the Tigers defeated Chisago Lakes 68-44 in the Class 3A quarterfinals. “I don’t think it would have mattered where we played, the kids just wanted to get this thing started.”

Fergus Falls coach Brad Strand (pictured), whose team beat Kasson-Mantorville 61-52 in 3A, said simply, “I loved it.”

Fergus Falls and Marshall will meet in Thursday’s 2 p.m. semifinal at Williams Arena, and both coaches are very familiar with winning state titles.

Strand coached the Pelican Rapids boys team to state in 2003, 2006 and 2009. He was the Pelican Rapids boys coach for 15 years and won the Class 2A state championship in 2009. Strand could become the first coach to win state titles in girls and boys basketball.

Marshall has won the past three Class 2A volleyball state titles, and Westby also coaches the volleyball team.

Nine of Marshall’s 16 basketball players also play volleyball, and Westby said it’s impossible to have two-sport success without commitment from the athletes.

“On a typical summer day they’ll practice volleyball for two hours in the morning and basketball for two hours in the afternoon,” he said. “And now our volleyball kids won’t pick up a volleyball until the basketball season is over.”

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

--Fergus Falls 61, Kasson-Mantorville 52: Bailey Strand had 23 points for the Otters and Taylor Miller scored 13 for Kasson-Mantorville.

--Marshall 68, Chisago Lakes 44: Hannah Bennett scored 13 points for the Tigers. Bryanna Fernstrom scored 24 for the Wildcats.

THURSDAY’S GAMES AT WILLIAMS ARENA

Noon/ Park Center vs. Minneapolis Washburn, 3A semifinals
2 p.m./ Fergus Falls vs. Marshall, 3A semifinals
6 p.m./ Eastview vs. Eden Prairie, 4A semifinals
8 p.m./ Lakeville North vs. Bloomington Kennedy, 4A semifinals

THURSDAY’S CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS AT MARIUCCI ARENA
11 a.m./ Browerville vs. Minneota
1 p.m./ Ada-Borup vs. Goodhue
3 p.m./ Mankato Loyola vs. Maranatha Christian
5 .m./ Win-E-Mac vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 391
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,974
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Different Schedule, Different Venues, Same Great Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2014 2:21:31 PM

The girls state basketball tournament began Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday. I know that sounds odd, because the boys and girls basketball tournaments traditionally begin on Wednesday. But this year, tradition has changed.

It has to do with the availability of arenas. We are blessed to have such basketball venues as Target Center, Williams Arena and even Mariucci Arena, which is the home of the Gophers men’s hockey team. All three arenas will be used during the girls basketball tournament, but after Tuesday we say goodbye to Target Center and move the tournament to the two venues at the University of Minnesota.

It all goes back to college hockey. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference has contracted with Target Center to hold its inaugural conference tournament there later this week. Thus, Target Center is not available to the MSHSL. So we head to the U of M.

Since the Gophers men’s basketball team is playing an NIT game at Williams Arena on Tuesday night and the women’s team will do the same on Wednesday, the MSHSL games will be played at Mariucci Arena on those days. We have used Mariucci for basketball in the past, and it is a great venue for hoops.

The Class 4A quarterfinals were completed at Target Center on Tuesday, along with two Class 3A quarterfinals. The other two 3A games will be played Wednesday at Mariucci, along with all four 2A quarterfinals. The 1A quarterfinals will be played at Mariucci on Thursday.

Semifinals and championship games in all four classes will be played at Williams Arena; 3A and 4A semifinals on Thursday and 1A and 2A semis on Friday. All four title games will be played Saturday, as is tradition.

It’s different from what we are used to, but it will work out just fine.

The format will be the same in 2015 and 2016, with the boys basketball season beginning before the girls and the boys state tournament being played first. In 2017 and 2018, the girls tournament will be played before the boys. Through 2018 (that’s the length of the NCHC contract with Target Center), the girls tournament will use Target Center only on Tuesday, with the rest of the tournament being played at the U of M.

Remember, all these changes are due to the hockey tournament being held at Target Center; most of the the boys state tournament games through 2018 will be played at Target Center, while the girls tournament will be largely played at the U of M.

CLASS 4A QUARTERFINALS

--Eastview 63, St. Paul Central 58: Madison Guebert (29) and Laro Opatz (26) combined for 55 points for the Lightning. Rayna Sherow had 16 and Chelcie Kizart 14 for Central.

--Eden Prairie 67, Anoka 57: Martha Kuderer led the Eagles with 19 points and Jayla Mayes-Jackson had 18. Ashley Bray and Kyrah Fredenburg each scored 14 for Anoka.

--Lakeville North 69, Centennial 52: North used a 37-18 first half to hold off the Cougars. MacKenzie Denk led North with 21 points and Temi Carda had 18. Centennial’s Jill Conrad had 18 points.

--Bloomington Kennedy 71, St. Michael-Albertville 57: Kenisha Bell led the Eagles with 29 points. Sydney Tracy scored 19 for St. Michael-Albertville.

--Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena will feature three teams from the South Suburban Conference. Eastview will meet Eden Prairie (Lake Conference) at 6 p.m., followed by Lakeville North vs. Bloomington Kennedy.

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

--Park Center 68, Simley 53: Calya McMorris led the Pirates with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Kylie Brown scored 14 points for Simley.

--Minneapolis Washburn 62, Monticello 53: Chase Coley led the Millers with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Emily Gruber scored 24 for Monticello.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--St. Paul Central coach Marta Waalen is in her first year coaching the Minutemen but she is no stranger to the tradition at the school. Waalen played at Central, graduated in 2004 and played collegiately at Missouri-Kansas City. She was an assistant under former coach Willie Taylor for two years before taking the reins this season.

--Interesting sight in a Target Center hallway: While members of the Eastview pep band waited for their bus to arrive after the game, they gazed up as the Timberwolves' 6-foot-11, 291-pound Nikola Pekovic walked past on his way to practice.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,924
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Moments To Remember On Championship Saturday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2014 5:33:35 PM

The final day of any season is special for lots of reasons. Yes, state champions are crowned, but many other great things take place. This was certainly the case Saturday at Target Center, where the boys basketball season came to a glorious conclusion.

We had typical storylines …

--Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa winning its second Class 1A title in three years with a victory over Rushford-Peterson.

--Esko defeating Annandale for the 2A championship in the first boys basketball state title game for either school.

--Lakeville North, in a miracle finish, defeating Hopkins to take home the 4A title.

But there was more to see and enjoy. Example: Before their teams took the court for the Class 3A championship game, the bands from Austin and DeLaSalle joined forces and played the Ozzy Osbourne classic “Crazy Train.” Solid stuff.

One of my favorite moments came at halftime of the 2A title game, when statewide recipients of the MSHSL Triple-A Award (Academics, Arts, Athletics) were recognized on the court and on TV.

Thirty-two students from around Minnesota are honored at a luncheon as Triple-A finalists, and four of them receive four-year $1,000 college scholarships from the MSHSL. The four winners this year are Taylor Kraemer of Osakis, Dillon John of Adrian, Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan and William Dudley of Worthington.

After the on-court awards ceremony, Annandale recipient Matthew Fliegel dashed to his spot in the pep band. That is the epitome of the Triple-A Award!

--After the Esko fans finished celebrating their boys’ state title, they had to scoot north to Duluth to watch their girls basketball team play Barnum in the Class 2A Section 7 title game.

--My favorite quote Saturday came from Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix. After losing to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Vix was philosophical, saying “That’s the way basketball is.”

--DeLaSalle and Austin met in Saturday night’s 3A title game. It's 99.9 miles from Austin High School to Target Center. From DeLaSalle to Target Center ... 1.1 miles.

CLASS 1A: BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA 52, RUSHFORD-PETERSON 40

The Jaguars were severely tested by Rushford-Peterson, which relied on a strong defense. The only lower offensive total of the season for B-B-E came in an 83-47 loss to Class 4A Apple Valley.

B-B-E was the state runnerup in 2011 and won the title in 2012. Rushford-Peterson reached the title game for the second time in history; the Trojans were the champions in 2006.

Brian Goodwin led B-B-E with 24 points and 10 rebounds and James Kuefler had 10 points. Rushford-Peterson was led by Alex Vix with 12 points and Cole Kingsley with 11.

B-B-E had 42 rebounds to 20 for the Trojans, to which Vix said, “I just think we were vertically challenged.”

CLASS 2A: ESKO 60, ANNANDALE 41

The Eskomos shot 54 percent for the game (68 percent in the second half) and made six of 12 three-point shots in beating the Cardinals. Marc Peterson led the Eskomos with 16 points, Kory Deadrick had 14 and Casey Staniger 13. Annandale was led by Matt Miller with 10 points.

The game was a rematch of last year’s third-place game, where Annandale beat Esko 59-58.

CLASS 3A: DELASALLE 60, AUSTIN 40

The Islanders won their third consecutive state championship with a dominating performance. DeLaSalle jumped out to an early lead and was in front 33-20 at halftime. Reid Travis led the Islanders with 16 points and Sacar Anim had 13. Ajuda Nywesh scored 24 points for Austin. DeLaSalle finished with a 32-17 rebound edge.

CLASS 4A: LAKEVILLE NORTH 84, HOPKINS 82

J.P. Macura had 43 points and 10 rebounds for Lakeville North, which came from behind in the final minute to win the state championship. Macura made 15 of 30 field-goal attempts, five of 13 three-point shots and eight of 11 free throws. Bronson Bruneau added 16 points for the Panthers. Hopkins was led by Kamali Chambers with 24 points.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Davonte Williamson, Trevontae Brown, Fond du Lac Ojibwe; Jeremiah Hanson, Josh Goldschmidt, Maranatha Christian; Brian Goodwin, Billy Borgerding, James Kuefler, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Cole Kingsley, Austin O’Hare, Alex Vix, Rushford-Peterson.

2A/ Mitch Pfingsten, Josh Eversman, Fairmont; Austin Bauer, Kyle Sorenson, Caledonia; Chase Knickerbocker, Matt Miller, Andrew Fort, Annandale; Casey Staniger, Kory Deadrick, Marc Peterson, Esko.

3A/ Cole Hennings, Orono; Justin Dahl, Brent Hentges, Holy Family Catholic; Zach Wessels, Ajuda Nywesh, Bret Lukes, Austin; Sacar Anim, Reid Travis, Geno Crandall, Jarvis Johnson, DeLaSalle.

4A/ Joe Rosga, Donnell Gresham, Cretin-Derham Hall; Tyler Weiss, Steffon Mitchell, Shakopee; J.P. Macura, Connor Flack, Bronson Bruneau, Lakeville North; Jacob Wright, Kamali Chambers, Amir Coffey, Hopkins.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Maranatha Christian 103, Fond du Lac Ojibwe 87: Josh Goldschmidt led Maranatha with 45 points. Fond du Lac Ojibwe set a tournament record by making 19 three-point shots and Trevontae Brown tied the single-game record with 10 made threes.

2A/ Caledonia 79, Fairmont 65: Caledonia’s Austin Bauer had a game-high 21 points, and Kyle Sorenson added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors. Fairmont was led by Mitch Pfingsten with 16 points, Jay Ruen with 15 and Josh Eversman with14.

3A/ Holy Family Catholic 56, Orono 35: Brent Hentges led Holy Family with 13 points and Justin Dahl had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Orono’s Ethan Larson had 10 points.

4A/ Shakopee 62, Cretin-Derham Hall 56: Tyler Weiss led Shakopee with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Joe Rosga had 22 points for Cretin-Derham Hall.

GIRLS STATE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The girls tournament will begin Tuesday at Target Center, and beginning Wednesday all game will be played at Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena. The pairings are set in all classes except 2A; because of the Esko-Barnum section final Saturday night, that field will be finalized Sunday.

CLASS 1A
#1 seed Minneota vs. Browerville
#4 seed Goodhue vs. #5 seed Ada-Borup
#2 seed Maranatha Christian vs. Mankato Loyola
#3 seed Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Win-E-Mac

CLASS 3A
#1 seed Park Center vs. Simley
#4 seed Minneapolis Washburn vs. #5 seed Monticello
#2 seed Fergus Falls vs. Kasson-Mantorville
#3 seed Marshall vs. Chisago Lakes

CLASS 4A
#1 seed Eastview vs. St Paul Central
#4 seed Eden Prairie vs. #5 seed Anoka
#2 seed Centennial vs. Lakeville North
#3 seed Bloomington Kennedy vs. St. Michael-Albertville

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,879
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Familiar Teams In Class 1A Basketball Championship Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/14/2014 8:50:39 PM

When the Class 1A boys basketball state championship game tips off Saturday at noon at Target Center, the teams will be very familiar to fans who have been paying attention in recent years. The pedigrees of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Rushford-Peterson are flush with state tournament experience, making Saturday’s matchup intriguing.

B-B-E was the 1A runner-up in 2011 and state champ in 2012; Rushford-Peterson has played in the state semifinals three of the last four years. The teams advanced with semifinal victories Friday: B-B-E beating Fond du Lac Ojibwe 76-58 and Rush-Pete defeating Maranatha Christian Academy 53-51.

The motivations are similar, with a slight twist. B-B-E didn’t make it to state last year, leaving a foul taste that has lingered throughout this season.

“A state championship was our goal from the start,” said Jaguars senior James Kuefler.

Rushford-Peterson, meanwhile, is tired of playing in third-place games at Concordia University in St. Paul. The Trojans (celebrating in this photo) finished third at state last year, losing to Maranatha in the semifinals. Two years ago they also were third, losing to Southwest Minnesota Christian in the semis. They also played at Concordia in 2010, losing to Ellsworth in the third-place game.

The Trojans are 31-1 this season, losing only to Class 2A state semifinalist Caledonia. Rushford-Peterson’s last appearance in the state championship game was in 2006, when the Trojans beat Ellsworth 55-52.

“One of this team’s goals was to be in the state championship game,” said Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix. “Our message was we don’t want to play at Concordia.”

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa is an experienced team, with three starters and a sixth man who played on the 2012 state championship team. The Jaguars have won 71 home games in a row (one short of the state record), 69 consecutive Central Minnesota Conference games and six conference championships. They are 30-1 this season, with their only loss against Class 4A power Apple Valley.

“We’ve been super-motivated all year,” said Jaguars coach Dave Montbriand. “We just kept playing really, really hard.”

Asked if this year’s team is the best B-B-E has had in this lengthy run of success, Montbriand smiled and said, “This team could be our best. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

Brian Goodwin led B-B-E with 25 points Friday, and Vix specifically mentioned the 6-foot-4 senior when asked about playing the Jaguars.

“They’re very good. I don’t know how we’re going to stop Goodwin.”

Let’s see what happens.

73 VARSITY SEASONS AND COUNTING

Annandale coach Skip Dolan has been around the block, coaching much more than boys basketball for the Cardinals. He has also coached girls basketball, football and softball, and this is his 73rd varsity season in Annandale. His teams have won conference titles in all four sports.

The Cardinals defeated Caledonia 81-76 Friday night in the Class 2A semifinals, and will meet Esko in Saturday’s 2 p.m. state championship game. The Eskomos beat Fairmont 56-43 in Friday's second semifinal.

It will be the first time in a boys basketball title game for Annandale. Dolan (pictured) played in the state tournament for Renville in 1971 and 1972 at Williams Arena.

“That’s kind of where I get the drive, from Renville,” he said. “I love what I do.”

Almost a year ago, Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after a video surfaced of him hitting, shoving and berating players. A few days after Rice was fired, Dolan spoke at a Kiwanis luncheon. He was asked about Rice and what he did in his practices. His comments included …

“Coaches getting intense is part of the nature of the beast, but what made me truly sick about the Rutgers situation is that I truly believe one of the best classrooms in our schools is the athletic fields and courts. Mike Rice did not take advantage of the opportunity to teach these young men of our future so many things that are going to help them be successful in life. Instead he destroyed a golden opportunity to be a quality teacher which had nothing to do with coaching.

“Many of you sitting out in the audience listening to me either have hired young people or will be hiring them in the future. Wouldn't you like to hire a young man or woman that was taught the following qualities every day while they were in school?

* You need to show up every day
* You need to be on time.
* You need to be accountable.
* You need to work even harder today, to be better than you were the day before.
* You need to learn to work with a group of people and tolerate all of the differences. Be a team!
* You need to learn to be confident, and yet be humble.
* You will learn to respect authority.
* You will learn how to show gratitude.

“I tell you and my players, if these traits are instilled, whether a young person goes on to college or joins the work force, they will be successful. That player will have pride in themselves and their life.

“Shame on Rutgers for destroying such a classroom. It makes me sick that we have people who don’t get the real meaning of what we are trying to accomplish in the coaching profession.”

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY SCHEDULE
Noon/ Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. Rushford-Peterson, 1A title game
2 p.m./ Annandale vs. Esko, 2A title game
6 p.m./ DeLaSalle vs. Austin, 3A title game
9 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Lakeville North, 4A title game.

--And let’s end the day with a note about something very special that took place a couple weeks ago at the state wrestling tournament. St. Michael-Albertville wrestler Mitchell McKee, whose father Steve is dealing with cancer, won a state championship. But the story goes much further.

During Friday’s CBS Evening News, an “On The Road” segment with Steve Hartman focused on the McKees. It’s very touching and emotional. I have posted links to the story on the MSHSL Facebook page and my Twitter profile (@MSHSLjohn). You can also find it by Googling “Teen wrestler sets sights on championship win for dad.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,837
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Old Coach, New Team: Park Christian Makes History
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/13/2014 4:14:58 PM

Erv Inniger was a contented coach on Thursday at Williams Arena, despite the fact that his Park Christian Falcons lost to top-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 85-50 in the Class 1A boys state basketball tournament.

Inniger, 69, was joyous because he had experienced a wonderful journey this season, a journey that he never knew was coming until he decided to take over the Falcons. He had never before coached a high school team, despite a basketball resume that’s hard to match.

Inniger played at Indiana University in the 1960s and with the ABA’s Minnesota Muskies in 1967-68. His coaching career began at Golden Valley Lutheran College, followed by five years at Augsburg College and then a lengthy career as the coach at North Dakota State from 1978 to 1992. When Inniger retired at NDSU, he was the program's all-time winningest coach.

He accepted the job offer at Park Christian (which is in Moorhead) last year on a single-season basis. The team needed someone to guide them for a year, and the expectation is that assistant coach Josh Lee will succeed Inniger.

After being out of coaching for 22 years, Erv turned to his son Bart for help. Bart, who is the former head girls coach at Minnetonka, helped his dad learn what needed to be done.

“I didn’t know any of the kids, so we started completely from scratch,” Erv said. “Bart was the biggest help, because he told me we had to do open gyms and things like that. During the first month I said to my wife, ‘What am I doing here?’ ”

What he was doing was mentoring young athletes and helping guide them on their path, on and off the court.

Senior Matt Moberg, who led the Falcons with 15 points Thursday, said, “It’s been amazing, absolutely wonderful. He’s helped us play as a team and helped us play to our potential.”

Park Christian had never before played in the state tournament, so Inniger’s first and only team made history. And the coach had as much fun as anyone.

“It’s been a ball,” he said. “Who gets an opportunity like this? It’s been so special.”

THREE OVERTIMES AND MORE HISTORY IS MADE

Fond du Lac Ojibwe, a school in Cloquet with an enrollment of 34 students, also was playing at state for the first time Thursday. And in a wild 1A quarterfinal, the Ogichidaag defeated Canby 85-82 in three overtimes.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe led by 17 points early in the second half before the Lancers rallied to send the game into overtime tied 67-67. Two more extra sessions followed before the issue was decided. And everyone was exhausted.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe coach Earl Otis, who has a flaming, feathered basketball tattooed on his left forearm, said he had never before experienced such a game.

“Never. Not even as a player,” he said. “I’m at a loss for words. It’s an unbelievable feeling, especially since this is our first time down here.”

The Ogichidaag average more than 90 points per game, playing a fast-paced style. As Thursday’s game wore on through the three four-minute overtimes, conditioning was a factor, Otis said.

“That’s all we do at practice: run, run, run, run.”

OTHER CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS

--Maranatha Christian 95, Red Lake 67: Jeremiah Hanson, the youngest of eight Hanson brothers to play for Maranatha Christian, led the Mustangs with 31 points. His brother Daniel is a Maranatha assistant coach and his brother David, who was a Mustangs assistant last year, is now a graduate assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh. The Hansons also have two sisters, and Jeremiah is the youngest of them all.

--Rushford-Peterson 71, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 63: Cole Kingsley had 18 points for Rushford-Peterson, which will meet Maranatha Christian in Friday afternoon’s semifinals at Target Center.

CLASS 4A: FOUR OVERTIMES AND ONE MIRACLE SHOT

Hopkins defeated Shakopee 49-46 in four overtimes Thursday night at Target Center, advancing to Saturday’s Class 4A title game. This game was, uh, interesting for how some of the overtimes played out. It went like this: Hopkins wins the tip, holds the ball for nearly the entire four-minute overtimes, calls a timeout with 19 seconds or so left and tries to make a shot at the horn. The first and second overtimes were scoreless.

A 55-foot miracle basket wasn’t in the plans, but that’s how the Royals won the game. Amir Coffey threw up a prayer from behind the center line and swished it. The officials checked video replay to be sure the shot counted; I took this photo of the shot and it was clearly off before the red lights around the backboard flashed.

--Lakeville North 55, Cretin-Derham Hall 52: North’s J.P. Macura scored a game-high 33 points and hit the game-winning three-point shot at the horn. The Panthers will meet Hopkins for the 4A state title Saturday at 9 p.m.

CLASS 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH IS SET

DeLaSalle and Austin will meet in Saturday’s 3A title game for the second year. DeLaSalle won 50-33 a year ago, and the Islanders are seeking their third consecutive state championship. In Thursday’s semifinals, DeLaSalle beat Orono 67-41 and Austin defeated Holy Family Catholic 70-42.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa students dressed in Duck Dynasty style, wearing camo and fake beards and blowing on duck calls.

--B-B-E has won 71 straight home games. The state record is 72 by Walnut Grove from December 1952 to February 1960. B-B-E’s last home loss was to Benson on Jan 30, 2009.

--Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City fans are mourning Zach Junkermeier, a senior at ACGC who was killed Tuesday during an avalanche in Montana. He was stuck on a slope and trying to start his snowmobile; another snowmobiler was riding above him on the mountain when the avalanche was triggered.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,792
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Big Court, Big Coaching Lead To Big Victory For DeLaSalle
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2014 5:37:54 PM

When DeLaSalle opened Class 3A play in the boys state basketball tournament Wednesday, everything seemed to fall into place. One key to the Islanders’ 81-48 victory over St. Paul Central was the combination of the Williams Arena court and the coaching of former Gophers player Quincy Lewis, now an Islanders assistant.

DeLaSalle, which is gunning for a three-peat state title, was not troubled in the least by playing on the court at Williams Arena, which is 10 feet longer than high school courts. In fact, the Islanders relished the chance to run free with some specialized coaching by Lewis, who played on the Gophers' 1997 Final Four team.

“I thought we were able to attack in transition in a way that hasn’t happened in the last couple of games because Central wanted to play a more up-tempo game,” said head coach Dave Thorson (pictured). “So I thought we had more opportunity to run. ... Quincy Lewis has done a great job of not only educating me but doing a great job teaching our kids how to play in the open floor. And I thought you really saw that today.

“There’s no question that our guys love to be on the bigger floor. It’s a big difference; going from a high school floor to a big floor is three hard strides. For us that’s important, that means we can probably get the ball up the floor a little bit faster.”

The Islanders led 18-3 after seven minutes and cruised into Thursday’s noon semifinals against Orono at Target Center. By the game’s end, DeLaSalle had scored 50 points in the paint and 16 on fast breaks. It didn’t hurt that the Islanders also shot better than 70 percent from the field. Sacar Anim led DeLaSalle with 21 points and Reid Travis had 20.

ALL’S RIGHT WITH WRIGHT COUNTY CONFERENCE

There are 11 boys basketball teams in the Wright County Conference and four of them qualified for this week’s state tournament. The number might have been six if two section title games hadn’t been matchups of WCC teams.

Here’s the rundown: New London-Spicer and Annandale made it to state in Class 2A, with Holy Family Catholic and Orono qualifying in 3A. Orono defeated conference rival Delano in the Section 5 championship game and Holy Family beat Waconia (another WCC team) to win Section 6. Another WCC team, Glencoe-Silver Lake, lost in the 2A Section 2 semifinals.

In Wednesday’s 3A state quarterfinals, Orono beat Marshall 67-60 and Holy Family defeated Cloquet 63-41. In an evening 2A quarterfinal, Annandale beat New London-Spicer 76-70.

“Every night in our conference, you just battled,” said Orono coach Barry Wohler. “It’s physical. Our conference really gets us ready for tournament time.”

--Wohler was the head coach at Marshall from 1999 to 2004 before he went to Orono. He continues to have strong ties to Marshall and recognized some of the names on the Tigers roster. Those included three of the Tigers starters Wednesday: Reece and Connor Winkelman and Riley Sharbono.

“(Marshall assistant coach) Mike Christianson is one of my closest friends in the world,” Wohler said. “And I’ve gotten to know (head coach) Travis Carroll through him. When I was living in Marshall, the Winkelman boys were in first, second grade, three houses down, always on the court, and the Sharbonos lived behind us. I coached Sharbono’s older brother and he was a heck of a player, so I knew were in for a mess against those guys. They can play and I know how competitive Marshall kids are. I was hoping we could find a way.”

--The Marshall team wore warmup T-shirts that read “Team Carter/Carter Strong” in honor of Carter Boerboom, a Marshall eighth-grader who is dealing with cancer.

--In the other 3A quarterfinal, Austin beat Alexandria 61-50.

--Class 4A results: Hopkins beat Tartan 70-58, Shakopee beat Osseo 54-51, Lakeville North beat Buffalo 59-47, and Cretin-Derham Hall beat St. Francis 69-53.

--Class 2A results: Annandale beat New London-Spicer 76-70, Esko beat East Grand Forks 57-54 in overtime, Caledonia beat St. Paul Academy and Summit School 73-53, and Fairmont beat St. Peter 58-54.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The first pep band song out of the chute at Williams Arena on Wednesday morning was Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" by the DeLaSalle Orchestra. Like me, that tune is from the 70s.

--Since before the boys state hockey tournament, I had been hoping to hear a pep band play “Happy” by Pharrell. The Mighty Mighty Orono band came through for me Wednesday at Williams Arena. I love it when bands take requests.

--Sign carried by a student from St. Paul Central: “DeLaSalle warms up to Nickleback.” (We forgive the spelling error in Nickelback.)

--Lakeville North has been wearing blue socks all season in honor of Alyssa Ettl, a North student who died in a December auto accident on her way to school.

--This is Shakopee coach Bruce Kugath’s 30th year with the Sabers. Kugath recorded his 500th victory this season.

--John’s Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper contributed to this report. Thanks Luke!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 363
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,742
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn




East Grand Forks And Hermantown: Pride All Around
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/8/2014 4:37:22 PM

Bruce Plante, who Friday had joked about not being able to go out in public if Hermantown lost in the Class 1A boys hockey state championship game for the fifth year in a row, delivered a strong postgame message Saturday. The message came after the second-seeded Hawks indeed lost the title game for the fifth consecutive year, a 7-3 defeat to top-seeded East Grand Forks at Xcel Energy Center.

But the message was resounding.

“I’m totally and completely OK because our kids played so hard, the best they could,” said Plante (pictured), who has been coaching for 25 years. “This was kind of a rebuilt team and they went this far. You have to be proud of what they’ve done. I love them to death because they gave everything they had. We ran into a better team.”

East Grand Forks won behind an attack that was balanced as well as relentless. The Green Wave’s goals came from seven players: Dixon Bowen, Eddie Eades, Jace Pesch, Grant Loven, Reed Corbid, Cale Mack and Tanner Tweten.

“It just doesnt seem to be our deal,” said Plante, whose team lost to Breck in the 2010 title game and to St. Thomas Academy the previous three years.

“It feels a lot better losing to East Grand than anybody else we’ve lost to, I’ll tell you that,” Plante said. “They’re the same kind of program we are.”

East Grand Forks was making its ninth trip to state and played in its second championship game. In 1999 the Green Wave lost to Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-2 in the 1A final.

This time, the Green Wave defeated Orono 5-1 and St. Cloud Cathedral 2-1 in reaching Saturday’s game. Hermantown led 1-0 after the first period on a goal by Scott Wasbotten and appeared to be in control. But things changed in the second period, when East Grand Forks scored five times and outshot the Hawks 15-6.

“After the first period we came into the locker room and we knew it was going to be a tough period,” said Green Wave junior defender Tye Ausmus. “It was the state championship game. Nothing is given to you. We were quiet, just got ready for the second, we went out there and did our thing and had a really good period.”

East Grand Forks coach Tyler Palmiscno said, 'There will never be a team from the East side better than this team. This senior class set this goal five or six years ago. And they worked for it. It’s special.”

Plante said he will take some time in deciding if he will continue coaching.

“That’s to be decided down the road a little bit. Maybe somebody can get them through the last game, I don’t know. It gets to be a pretty big sack of rocks on your back after a while. It gets heavy.”

CLASS 2A/ EDINA REPEATS AS STATE CHAMP

Edina won its ninth state championship, rolling to an 8-2 victory over Lakeville North. The No.1 seed in Class 2A, the Hornets were charged by a fast, physical and deep roster and stellar goaltending.

Though it was Edina’s high-flying offense that took over the title game, coach Curt Giles said his team was focused on defense.

“We’ve been preaching all year long that we need to commit to defense against teams deep and talented like Lakeville North,” he said. “When you’re committed to defense, the goals will come.”

Edina played like a team without any weaknesses in three tournament games at Xcel Energy Center, though, according to senior Tyler Nanne, this was a team that had its downs this season, particularly on one night in January.

“We got our butts kicked against Hill-Murray and our coaches skated us hard after the game when we got back to our rink,” he said. “It’s exactly what we needed, we deserved it. Without this coaching staff, we would be nothing.”

Casey Dornbach got the scoring going early for Edina, benefitting from precision passing from Garret Wait and Tyler Nanne. Lakeville North junior forward Max Johnson tied the score later in the first period, only to have Edina’s Ben Foley respond seconds later with a power-play score. Johnson scored the only other goal for the Panthers in the game.

Miguel Fidler scored the next two goals for Edina, followed by one by Parker Mismash. Kiefer Bellows scored the next two Edina goals and the celebrating began. Senior forward Cullen Munson capped the game off with a score of his own.

Consistent success like that of Edina’s requires strong leadership. Bellows, a sophomore, credited his older teammates with steadying the ship.

“The seniors settled our emotions down and led us all year long,” he said. “They have been here before and knew what to expect.”

Giles called this Edina squad “one of the best teams in the school’s history,” citing his belief that they committed to a true team concept. “Anybody on any night could step up for us,” he said. “We’ve had some high-end, talented kids come through here the past 15 years and on this team everyone was involved in our success.”

CONSOLATION BRACKETS

1A third-place game/ New Prague 5, St. Cloud Catheral 2: Austin Killian scored twice for the Trojans.

1A fifth-place game/ Totino-Grace 4, Luverne 3 (two overtimes): Joey Brey scored two goals for the Eagles, including the game-winner in the second overtime.

2A third-place game/ Eagan 6, Eden Prairie 4: A last-minute goal by Nick Wolff, plus an empty-netter by Wolff, carried the Wildcats past the Eagles.

2A fifth-place game/ Roseau 3, Duluth East 2: Alex Strand scored twice for the Rams, including the game-winner in the third period.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A/ Daniel Bailey, William Hammer, Zach Fritz, St. Cloud Cathedral; Ben Henderson, Totino-Grace; Gunnar Olson, Luverne; Austin Isaacson, New Prague; Nate Pionk, Zach Kramer, Hermantown; Colton Poolman, Tye Ausmus, Tanner Tweten, Josh Weber, Hermantown.

Class 2A/ Nick Wolff, Andrew Lindgren, Eagan; Alex Strand, Zach Yon, Roseau; Phil Beaulieu, Duluth East; Luc Snuggerud, Eden Prairie; Jack Poehling, Nick Poehling, Lakeville North; Miquel Fidler, Dylan Malmquist, Tyler Nanne, Andrew Rohkohl, Edina.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Ryan Clark, a former Fargo Forum sports reporter who has covered the state hockey tournament in the past, is now working in Florida at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. On Saturday morning he was at a Florida Panthers practice, and people with the NHL team asked him if it was possible to watch the Minnesota state hockey tournament. He directed them to the prep45.com webcast.

--Written on a whiteboard in the East Grand Forks locker room: “All In – Together.”

--Total tournament attendance was 119,178 ... the second-largest total in last six years.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 353
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,692
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Memories Of 1979: New Prague Hockey Has Come A Long Way
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/7/2014 5:55:37 PM

This week has been a time of celebration in New Prague. The Trojans played in the boys state hockey tournament for the first time, beating Chisago Lakes in the quarterfinals before losing to Hermantown in Friday’s Class 1A semifinals.

For New Prague assistant coach Chris Morris, the trip to state is even more memorable because he can remember when there was no high school hockey in his hometown. The first varsity team was assembled in the 1979-80 season, when Morris was a junior .

“We started as bantams and we’d had nothing after bantams,” Morris said Friday. “We put together a midget team, and after midgets we put together a high school team. We had a lot of involved parents and a lot of community support.”

There was no ice arena in New Prague at the time, so the players spent time on outdoor ice. The closest rink was 20 miles away in LeSueur, which meant 4 a.m. bus rides to practice. A rink was built in New Prague in 1996.

“It was old-school,” said Morris, an attorney in New Prague who was the Trojans head hockey coach from 1995 to 2003.

He said the equipment back then was “whatever you could put together. Boy, that was a long time ago. We had a group of kids who really wanted to keep playing hockey, and their parents, and it was great.”

The inaugural team had little more than a dozen players and a schedule that included some games against junior varsity teams. They finished with a record of 15-6.

This year’s Trojans will take a record of 22-5-3 into Saturday’s third-place game against St. Cloud Cathedral.

“It’s pretty rewarding to see how the town has come along,” Morris said. “It’s becoming a hockey town. We’re proud of the boys.”

HERMANTOWN’S BUD GRANT

Hermantown has finished second in Class 1A for the last four years and will meet East Grand Forks in Saturday’s championship game. Coach Bruce Plante admitted that the four title-game losses have mystified him. But he also can joke about the situation.

“I don’t even know what to think about this,” he said. “People call me some names already about taking second place. The one I like is when they compare me to Bud Grant. He shoots ducks, he fishes, kind of like me.

“I don’t really know what to say about five times. It would be committing hari-kari to take second place again. It’s a weird deal, man, it’s way out there somewhere. I’m not going to be able to go out in public again if we lose, at least not in Hermantown.”

--Scott Wasbotten scored two goals for Hermantown in the Hawks’ semifinal victory over New Prague. Austin Isaacson had a goal and assist for New Prague.

--East Grand Forks 2, St. Cloud Cathedral 1: A goal by Tanner Tweten early in the third period sealed the victory and boosted the Green Wave into the championship game. Colton Poolman scored for East Grand Forks in the first period and Cathedral’s Erik Gadbois made it 1-1 in the second.

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS

--Lakeville North 5, Eden Prairie 4 (two overtimes): Nick Poehling scored the goal that sent the game into overtime and got the game winner in the second extra session for the Panthers. Poehling tied the score 4-4 in the second period before the teams played a scoreless third period and first overtime. Steven Spinner had two goals for the Eagles.

-- Edina 3, Eagan 1: Dylan Malmquist and Garrett Wait scored the first two goals for the defending state champion Hornets, who will meet Lakeville North in Saturday night’s championship game. Malmquist added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

2A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Roseau 5, Centennial 3: Alex Strand had two goals and two assists for the Rams and Collin Hughes scored two goals for Centennial. The Cougars had 48 shots on goal to 31 for Roseau, with Rams goaltender Ryan Anderson making 45 saves.

--Duluth East 2, Stillwater 1 (overtime): Brian Bunten scored the winner for the Greyhounds 3:07 into overtime. Duluth East and Roseau will meet in the fifth-place game at Mariucci Arena on Saturday.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Hermantown players are wearing stickers on their helmets that say “Tim” in honor of Tim Ellingson, a former assistant coach, rink manager and Hawks supporter who died suddenly in January at 68.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 353
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,652
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Brotherly Love Leads Lakeville North Into 2A Hockey Semifinals
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/6/2014 5:34:25 PM

By Luke Sleeper, John’s Journal Correspondent

After Lakeville North’s 2-1 overtime victory over Roseau in the Class 2A state hockey quarterfinals Thursday, it didn’t take long for the nerves to wear off for the Poehling brothers. Twins Nick and Jack and younger brother Ryan stood together in an Xcel Energy Center corridor, taking verbal jabs at each other and exchanging brotherly shoves.

Minutes after the game ended, Ryan’s older brothers (who are juniors) were eager to describe how they had duped the freshman into approaching random hockey patrons around the arena on Wednesday, telling him they were professional hockey scouts interested in the youngest Poehling’s talents.

“We found some random guys in hockey jackets and pointed them out to (Ryan),” Jack said, putting his arm around his younger brother. “We’d say ‘Hey Ryan, come talk to this scout, he wants to speak to you.’ ”

Such off-ice behavior is commonplace for the Poehlings, but it’s been their performances on the ice that has people taking notice.

The three brothers are forwards on Lakeville’s top line and have combined for 128 points this season. Jack is four points from breaking the single-season school points record (55), while Ryan already owns the Lakeville North record for points by a freshman (33). Nick leads all Panthers with four game-winning goals this season. All three Poehlings have accepted scholarship offers from St. Cloud State.

Jack capitalized on great passes from Ryan and Nick to score North’s first goal Thursday, which tied the game 1-1 (and might have been the first time in state tournament history that three brothers combined on a goal). Freshman forward Henry Enebak broke the tie in overtime with his 11th goal of the season, sending the Panthers to Friday's semifinals against Eden Prairie.

“Growing up together and playing street hockey all the time has made us pretty aware of where each other will be on the ice and what we like to do,” Nick said.

Though they laugh about it now, Ryan and his brothers point to the first game of the season as the turning point for them as teammates and brothers. Nick and Jack were in a scuffle in the corner boards with a few Eastview players when they saw their little brother skating toward them to the rescue.

“Ryan came in and got a couple shots in and skated away,” Nick recalled. “We like to give him a hard time for coming to help us and then skating out of there right away.”

Ryan said, “Then everything kind of took off. So much has happened since then, it’s unbelievable.”

EDEN PRAIRIE 4, CENTENNIAL 3

Jack Sullivan scored twice and Marc Sullivan added a goal to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead midway through the first period, but the Cougars fought back. Centennial scored twice in the second period to get within 4-3 but Eden Prairie hung on to advance to the semifinals against Lakeville North.

EDINA 6, STILLWATER 1

The defending state champion Hornets came out flying, scoring four times in the first period and running away with the victory. Tyler Nanne had four goals for Edina, which outshot the Cougars 27-13 overall and 11-3 in each of the first and third periods.

EAGAN 3, DULUTH EAST 0

Max Eisenheimer scored two goals for the Wildcats, who will meet Edina in Friday’s semifinals.

FATHER AND SON MAKE STATE TOURNEY MEMORIES

The Fritz family of St. Cloud is enjoying a very special week during the state hockey tournament. St. Cloud Cathedral junior goaltender Zach Fritz made 26 saves Thursday night when the Crusaders defeated Totino-Grace 4-3 in overtime in the Class 1A quarterfinals. Cathedral will meet East Grand Forks in Friday’s semifinals.

Zach’s father, Troy Fritz, knows the feeling. Exactly 30 years ago, Troy was the starting goaltender for St. Cloud Apollo when the Eagles played in the state tournament at the St. Paul Civic Center. The 1984 team didn’t win a game at state (losing to Hibbing and Roseau), so Zach has something on his dad.

“My dad is super proud, super excited,” Zach said after the first-round victory. “He knows what it feels like. I wasn’t quite sure. I knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s pretty awesome right now.”

Back in 1984 the tournament was held at the St. Paul Civic Center, where the Xcel Energy Center now sits. Troy remembers his team coming in as a Cinderella story, and he also remembers the philoshophy of the team.

“For us the motto all year long was ‘Big team, little me,’ ” Troy said. “It had nothing to do with the individuals. We got there as a team and it was a pretty exciting journey.”

Troy has been giving his son advice. “As Zach was going down this line. I kept telling him, ‘Remember, it’s just another game.’ I think he took it to heart. He’s a pretty even-keel personality. It’s kind of neat to share some similar experiences.”

TWITTER MANIA

Twitter lights up during major events like the boys state hockey tournament, with lots of people pitching in with thoughts, comments and smart remarks. Here’s a Tweet that came from a famous former Texas high school football star named Adrian Peterson: “Heard the MN state hockey tourney is the biggest high school tourney of any sport in the US, wow! Good luck to all participants!”

And here’s a smattering of Twitter comments regarding veteran NHL broadcaster Gary Thorne, who is calling the Class 2A tournament along with 50-year veteran analyst Lou Nanne on KSTC Channel 45 …

--“Gary Thorne has already earned his paycheck, sign him long-term.”

--“Absolutely loving Gary Thorne and Lou Nanne on the call. Hockey heaven.”

--“Gary Thorn and Lou Nanne doing play by play is pretty incredible.”

--“Gary Thorne and Lou Nanne calling the games is pretty freaking cool.”

--“Every time Gary Thorne yells "GOAL!!!", I immediately look up to see if it was Messier or Gretzky or Lemieux.”

--“I hope 45 realizes that they have to bring back Gary Thorne every year now.”

CLASS 1A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Luverne 5, Chisago Lakes 2: Gunnar Olson and Jaxon Nelson each scored twice for the Cardinals.

--Totino-Grace 4, Orono 1: Ben Henderson had a hat trick for the Eagles, who will meet Luverne in Saturday’s fifth-place game at Mariucci Arena.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 353
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,612
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Luverne Makes Hockey History Under Guidance Of Young Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2014 5:45:54 PM

By Luke Sleeper, John's Journal Correspondent

Luverne boys hockey coach Derrick Brown was fighting a hoarse voice and a constant smile when he sat down for a postgame media conference after his team’s 6-3 loss to No. 2 seed Hermantown in Wednesday’s Class 1A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

Brown could barely sit still in his seat when describing the pride he felt in his players, who made their school’s first state appearance.

“I’ve been trying to tell the players to keep their heads up,” he said. “I’m just so proud of those guys.”

Brown, 28, knows what it means to play on the big stage. He played on two state tournament teams at Princeton High School in 2002 and 2003.

After graduating from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Brown (pictured) found a teaching job in the southwest corner of the state, 250 miles away from his hometown. He was hired to teach civics and economics in Luverne as well as coach hockey.

“Southern Minnesota isn’t exactly a hotbed for hockey coaches,” Brown said. “But I was 23 years old, I just figured ‘why not?’ and packed up everything and headed south.”

Five years and 97 wins later, Brown and his team found themselves making school history in St. Paul after an undefeated season, despite some skepticism about the strength of Luverne (27-1-1) and its schedule.

“Not many people think very highly of our section and our part of the state when it comes to hockey,” he said. “We have some high-end kids. I think our guys proved today that they are legitimate hockey players.”

Longtime Hermantown coach Bruce Plante was impressed with the young coach and his team after their matchup Wednesday.

“You can tell that (Brown) is a really good, really smart coach,” he said. “(Luverne) is a really dangerous and aggressive team, they can really play. They got our guys nervous.”

Plante compared the importance of Luverne’s inaugural visit to the state tournament to his team’s first appearance in 1994.

“I told (Brown) that making the tournament is where it all starts,” he said. “The exposure you get here is so unbelievably great for your program to have a great team like theirs. So many more kids start coming out for hockey.”

In a sport predominantly full of veteran coaches and traditional powers, Brown brings a different, more youthful perspective to the game in Luverne.

“As young as I am, I kind of get what it’s like to be in (the player’s) shoes,” he said. “It was only 10 years ago that I was here playing in this thing. A lot of good can come with understanding the guys better than an older coach might.”

With Brown likely a hot commodity in Minnesota hockey and his career still very much in its early stages, the young coach has been speculating on where it may lead him.

“I was actually talking to my dad last night about the future a little bit. I guess I can’t really guarantee where hockey could take me,” he said. “Part of me thinks it would be awesome to build something here and make the state tournament a tradition for Luverne hockey and bring some state titles to this program.”

With a young nucleus of talent returning for the Cardinals, including eighth-grader Jaxon Nelson -- whom Brown described as having “legendary potential” -- Luverne could become a tournament mainstay.

“Jaxon has really impressed me this year,” Brown said. “With young guys, you never really know how it’s going to work out. He fits in so well in our locker room. He’s just so humble and mature for his age. He has the potential to be legendary in Minnesota high school hockey.”

Chances are, many of those same things are being said about Brown, too.

Luverne will face Chisago Lakes in the consolation bracket Thursday morning at Marucci Arena.

--Nate Pionk scored two goals in Hermantown’s victory over Luverne, with Gunnar Olson scoring twice for Luverne. The Hawks had 48 shots on goal to Luverne’s 26.

NEW PRAGUE 5, CHISAGO LAKES 2

New Prague made some noise in its first trip to state, using a quick-strike attack to defeat the Wildcats and advance to Friday’s semifinals against Hermantown. New Prague scored goals 46 seconds and 1:04 into the second period as well as 1:30 into the third. Seth Kriha and Alex Gregor each scored two goals for New Prague.

EAST GRAND FORKS 5, ORONO 1

Tanner Tweten scored two goals for the top-seeded Green Wave. East Grand Forks, which not lost Dec. 27, outshot the Spartans 29-14.

ST. CLOUD CATHEDRAL 4, TOTINO-GRACE 3 (OT)

Erik Gadbois scored on a power play 5:21 into overtime to boost the Crusaders into Friday’s semifinals against East Grand Forks. Totino-Grace led 3-1 after the first period before Cathedral scored twice in the second, and it remained 3-3 through regulation.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The first pep band song of the day was a good one: “Thrift Shop” by the Luverne band at 10:08 a.m.

--Another pep band highlight came when the New Prague musicians played the Bruno Mars hit “Locked Out of Heaven.”

--Quote of the day: “The beauty of hockey is anybody can win.” -- Hermantown coach Bruce Plante.

--Name of the day: Luverne’s Gunnar Olson.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 345
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,572
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



The Voice Of Hockey: Gary Thorne Set For Boys State Tourney
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2014 6:52:38 AM

(This story originally appeared on John's Journal on Feb. 7.)

If you want to listen to someone who is excited about the boys state hockey tournament, listen to the familiar voice of Gary Thorne. The veteran broadcaster, who is well-known for his work with the NHL, Major League Baseball, ESPN, the Olympics and college hockey and football, will handle play-by-play duties on KSTC-Channel 45 for the Class 2A state tourney March 6-8 at Xcel Energy Center.

I talked with Thorne on the phone recently, and his excitement was palpable. He has never attended the MSHSL boys state hockey tournament and he is thrilled to be part of it in 2014.

“It’s one of those events, that if you like hockey it’s certainly up there among the major events in the country,” he said from his Florida home.

Thorne has seen it all. As a radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, he made the call when a ground ball got past Boston first baseman Bill Buckner in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Currently he is a broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles; he also has been the voice of ESPN Radio’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.

His hockey broadcasting career began at the University of Maine, his alma mater.
From 1992 through 2004, Thorne called NHL games for ESPN, ESPN2 and (beginning in 1999) ABC.

During his years in the NHL he came to know many players who grew up in Minnesota. He learned a lot about the state hockey tournament through those relationships.

“They’ve said that next to winning the Stanley Cup, winning the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament is their biggest thrill,” Thorne told me.

Several years ago Thorne met Dennis Silva, the KSTC executive sports producer in charge of MSHSL state tournament television coverage. As they chatted, Thorne told Silva to keep him in mind if Silva ever needed a play-by-play person for the state hockey tournament. When Silva contacted Thorne recently, they had a deal in a short period of time.

“I knew it was the No. 1 high school tournament in the country, with big crowds, a tremendous viewing audience and a great level of talent on the ice,” Thorne said. “I told him, ‘If you need anybody, give me a call.’ ”

Thorne is already doing homework for the tournament by following the top teams in Class 2A.

“I’ve got a rundown on the teams that might be likely to be involved, and their players,” he said. “I’m trying to get a little familiar with everything involved.”

His broadcast partner at the tournament will be Lou Nanne, who will be attending his 50th boys state hockey tourney. Thorne and Nanne have known each other for years.

“I’ve known Lou from his days in the NHL and we’ve crossed paths many times over the years, I believe going back to my days of doing college hockey at Maine. I couldn’t believe it when I heard this will be Lou’s 50th tournament. That’s just unbelievable. What a run.”

Thorne will arrive in the Twin Cities a few days before the tournament begins to have meetings with the rest of the KSTC broadcast team. He can hardly wait.

“Everyone’s told me that the atmosphere is one of the things that makes the tournament so special,” he said. “That it’s just unbelievable, the passion of the fans and the players. It’s engaging to me. I can’t wait. It will be great fun. It’s one of those things that will seem like it’s over before it starts.”

His contract to work at the tournament is for one year. But …

“That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen again.”




Championships Won, Memories Made, An Era Comes To An End
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2014 9:48:12 PM

Saturday was one of those rare, special days that provide memories of a lifetime. It was a combination of season-ending championships, large and enthusiastic crowds, and families, all tied together from around our state.

In Minneapolis, boys swimmers and divers competed in the state championships at the University of Minnesota. In St. Paul, wrestling ruled the roost at Xcel Energy Center. The pairings were set for the next state tournament, boys hockey. And in a school gymnasium in Hibbing, a historic chapter came to a close. Let’s begin there.

THE END OF AN ERA IN CHISHOLM

We all knew this day was coming. Back in November, Chisholm boys basketball coach Bob McDonald announced that the 2013-14 season would be his last. And his remarkable career came to a close Saturday when Chisholm lost to Bigfork 47-39 in the Class 1A Section 7 playoffs in Hibbing.

McDonald, 80, ended his 59-year coaching career with an amazing record of 1,012 wins and 428 losses. He is the only coach in Minnesota basketball history to win 1,000 games and the 13th boys coach in the nation to do so. He will be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in July. Well done, sir.

WRESTLING: GOLDEN MEMORIES

There hasn’t been a lot of drama when Kasson-Mantorville senior heavyweight Sam Stoll is on the mat. In fact, Stoll was considered a near-sure thing to win his second consecutive Class 2A state title when the heavyweight competition at state began.

His high school career came to a glorious end Saturday night when he pinned Milaca senior Brandon Merten in the championship match. It was Stoll’s 63rd consecutive pin, which is a national high school record. Stoll will start a new wrestling chapter next season at the University of Iowa.

--Border West junior Cameron Sykora defeated Spencer Jenniges of Wabasso/Red Rock Central to win the 120-pound division of Class 1A. It made Sykora a four-time winner and a candidate to win his fifth next season. Previously, 14 wrestlers have won four state titles and four others have won five crowns.

The five-time winners are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-07) and Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-08, 2010-11).

--Apple Valley sophomore Mark Hall rolled to his fourth state title and could become the first Minnesota wrestler to win six championships. In Saturday’s 3A 170-pound title match he defeated Garrett Beaman of Henry Sibley.

A FAMILY AFFAIR AT ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE

When Tommy Thorn, a senior from St. Michael-Albertville, defeated George Farmah of Eastview to win the 3A wrestling title at 126 pounds, the feat meant more than the four state championship Tommy has won.

It also means that the Thorn family has more state titles than any other family in state wrestling history. David Thorn won four times and Mike was a three-time champion, giving the Thorns a total of 11 crowns. The Sanders family from Wabasha-Kellogg owns 10 titles, with Eric and Zach Sanders each winning five times between 1999 and 2007.

--See a list of all the state wrestling champions below.

BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING

St. Thomas Academy, Breck/Blake and Fergus Falls finished first, second and third Saturday in the Class 1A boys swimming and diving championships.

In Class 2A, Wayzata, East Ridge, Eden Prairie finished one, two, three.

BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENTS ARE SET

The seeds and pairings for the boys state hockey tournament were set on Saturday, with East Grand Forks getting the top seed in Class 1A and Edina named the top seed in 2A. Here are the quarterfinal pairings at Xcel Energy Center …

CLASS 1A

#2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1) , 11 a.m. Wednesday
#3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Wednesday
#1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1), 6 p.m. Wednesday
>#5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1) vs. #4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Wednesday

CLASS 2A

#2 Lakeville North (23-4-1) vs. Roseau (20-7-1), 11 a.m. Thursday
#3 Eden Prairie (17-8-3) vs. Centennial (16-10-2), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Thursday
#1 Edina (22-4-1) vs. Stillwater (16-10-2), 6 p.m. Thursday
#5 Eagan (18-9-1) vs. #4 Duluth East (21-6-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Thursday

WRESTLING STATE CHAMPIONS

106/ 1A Skylar Hieronimus, Adrian; 2A Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea; 3A Brent Jones, Shakopee.

113/ 1A Austin Anderly, LeSueur-Henderson; 2A Jakob Stageberg, New London-Spicer; 3A Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North.

120/ 1A Cameron Sykora, Border West; 2A Skyler Petry, Waterville-E-M; 3A Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville.

126/ 1A Louis Sanders, Lake Crystal-Welcome Memorial; 2A Anthony Luft, Worthington; 3A Tommy Thorn, St. Michael-Albertville.

132/ 1A Quinten Barres, Kimball; 2A Griffin Parriott, New Prague; 3A Maolo Woiwor, Apple Valley.

138/ 1A Hank Friederichs, Chatfield; 2A Zach Siegle, Scott West; 3A Seth Gross, Apple Valley.

145/ 1A Larry Bomstad, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville; 3A Mark Voss, St. Michael-Albertville.

152/ 1A Logan Peterson, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Mack Short, Simley; 3A Owen Webster, Shakopee.

160/ 1A Mitch Lange, Royalton/Upsala; 2A Andrew Fogarty, Scott West; 3A Cody Skog, Cambridge-Isanti.

170/ 1A Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central; 2A Josh Selly, Tri-City United; 3A Mark Hall, Apple Valley.

182/ 1A Niko Anderson, Fillmore Central; 2A Austin May, Zimmerman; 3A Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley.

195/ 1A Nathan Rose, Sibley East; 2A Lance Benick, Totino-Grace; 3A Justin Cumberbatch, Alexandria.

220/ 1A Lucas Damm, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Clay Broze, Cannon Falls; 3A Alex Hart, Prior Lake.

285/ 1A Alex Schroepfer, Wabasso/Red Rock Central; 2A Sam Stoll, Kasson-Mantorville; 3A Luis Pinto, Prior Lake

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 347
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,532
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Brackets Are Set For Boys State Hockey Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2014 11:27:26 AM

CLASS 1A BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
At Xcel Energy Center

#2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1) , 11 a.m. Wednesday

#3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Wednesday

#1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1), 6 p.m. Wednesday

#5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1) vs. #4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Wednesday

CLASS 2A BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
At Xcel Energy Center

#2 Lakeville North (23-4-1) vs. Roseau (20-7-1), 11 a.m. Thursday

#3 Eden Prairie (17-8-3) vs. Centennial (16-10-2), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Thursday

#1 Edina (22-4-1) vs. Stillwater (16-10-2), 6 p.m. Thursday

#5 Eagan (18-9-1) vs. #4 Duluth East (21-6-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Thursday



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