John’s Journal: 78 Consecutive Wins And A Shared Record
2021 Hopkins Team Sparks Memories For 2002 Fosston Greyhounds
Posted: Friday, April 9, 2021 - 6:22 PM
There was a minor conflict at the Mahlen residence in Fosston on Wednesday evening. The family was watching the Class 4A girls basketball state semifinal between Hopkins and Chaska, and Brynlea Mahlen, a ninth-grader, was rooting for Hopkins because she is a big fan of former Royals star and current UConn All-American Paige Bueckers.
“She has followed Hopkins since Paige was in seventh grade,” said Brynlea’s mother, Rochelle. “She was cheering for Hopkins throughout their streak.”
The Royals’ winning streak was 78 games before they faced Chaska at Target Center. That matched the state-record 78-game streak by the Fosston Greyhounds from 1999-2002. Rochelle was the head coach of those teams.
As the game went on, Rochelle asked Brynlea, “Are you still cheering for Hopkins? She said, ‘I don’t know now.’ ”
Chaska defeated Hopkins 67-62, ending the Royals’ streak and forging a tie for the all-time longest win streak. The Royals’ last defeat had come early in the 2018 season. They won the 4A title in 2019 and had advanced to the 2020 title game before the tournament was halted because of Covid.
Fosston’s 78-game streak began a few days before Christmas in 1999 and ended with a loss to Kittson County in a 2002 section final. The Greyhounds won Class A state championships in 2000, 2001 and 2003. (The national record for girls basketball is 218 consecutive wins by a team from Baskin, Louisiana, from 1947-53.)
The players on those Fosston teams, now 30-something, and their coaches maintain connections on Facebook, and they were involved in a group text during the Hopkins-Chaska game. Afterwards, some of the players got together on a Zoom call. Comparisons were made to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the last NFL team to complete a perfect season.
Rochelle (Horn) Mahlen, an elementary teacher in Fosston, coached the Greyhounds from 1993 through 2003, when she had been married for a year and was pregnant with her first child. Her husband, Nate, is an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota Crookston. The head coach there is Mike Roysland, whose daughter Kelly was a star for Fosston during the streak, played at the University of Minnesota and is now an assistant to Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen.
Kelly Roysland Curry is now a mother of two; her husband Eric Curry is a top NCAA basketball official. Kelly, a 2003 Fosston grad, also played on two state championship volleyball teams and was named the state’s Ms. Volleyball award winner in 2002. She was a six-time letter winner in golf, placing in the top 10 at state four times, including second place in 2002.
“It was pretty fun,” Roysland said of watching Wednesday’s game on television. “To have everybody watching together was really fun.
“We really had a good group, we all came up and played together when we were younger.”
She said she had mixed emotions watching the Chaska-Hopkins game.
“I had not really put much thought into the record until they tied it. I know what it’s like to accomplish something like that. And it’s nice to have your name in the record books in some fashion. I was thrilled for Chaska because they’re a really good team. I’ve also experienced that same kind of heartbreak with losing in a big game like Hopkins did. There are lots of individuals on both teams that are really good players.”
Before Fosston’s streak, the state record for consecutive girls basketball wins was 56 by Rochester Lourdes from December 1989 to December 1991. (The state record in boys basketball is 69 by Edina from 1965-68.)
“We really didn’t even kind of know that there was a record out there until we were at 30-some games,” Mahlen said. “One of my assistants said, ‘Hey, you know we could maybe have a shot at the all-time winning streak.’ It wasn’t talked about a lot until we got real close. This was a very mature group, a one-game-at-a-time thing. The goal was always the state tournament.”
The Fosston players and coaches plan to send gifts (as yet undetermined) to the Chaska and Hopkins teams.
“We thought it was a great ballgame with two great teams,” Mahlen said of the Chaska-Hopkins contest. “We’re sending some things off to both teams to acknowledge what they’ve done.
“I think our kids sit back and see exactly what they accomplished, and it’s just unheard of. We’re just a little school in northern Minnesota. We had some very good players and we played teams like Minnetonka, Bemidji, Moorhead, we did what we could to have these kids ready for big games.”
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org