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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIBUTE TO THE LIFESAVERS

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

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

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

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

BROTHERS. FATHERS AND SONS

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

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

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

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

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

CLASS 2A UPDATE

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

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

SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER GAMES

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

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

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

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

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

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

TWITTER REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the club.

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

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

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

The second headline came off the court…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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