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John’s Journal: After 87 Years, Fresh History For Farmington

Boys Basketball Team Celebrates First Trip To State Since 1937

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 - 5:35 PM


The 175-member Farmington band was part of a huge contingent of Tigers fans at Target Center. (Photo by Scott Meier).


Farmington coach Tharen Johnson.

When Minneapolis Edison defeated Virginia to win the state boys basketball championship, it was huge news in Minnesota. Edison’s 37-24 victory – in which each basket, according to the rules, was followed by a jump ball at center court – didn’t make headlines nationally, but there was a lot going on in the United States.

The Golden Gate Bridge opened … War Admiral won the Kentucky Derby … Amelia Earhart disappeared ... the Hindenburg exploded.

It was 1937, and the Farmington High School boys basketball team played in that state tournament. They didn’t reach the championship round, but the scrappy kids from the farm community of less than 1,500 souls made it to Minneapolis for the big show.

And here we are, 87 years later and the Farmingtonians have finally returned.

The Tigers made brand-new history in 2024 by winning the Section 1 championship and advancing to the Class 4A state tournament with a sterling record of 23-6.

The town’s current population is more than 23,000 and it seemed like every last one of those folks was standing and hollering inside Target Center on Wednesday, where the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Cretin-Derham Hall 57-56 in the quarterfinals. Farmington will meet Rogers in the consolation bracket Thursday at Concordia University in St. Paul, with the winner playing for fifth place on Friday.

Cretin-Derham Hall is making its 16th trip to state since 1976, with championships in 1991, 1993 and 2018. The Raiders, who lost to Farmington 74-65 in the Raiders’ first game of the season on Dec. 9, will meet Wayzata in the state semifinals Thursday at Williams Arena.

If you’re going to return to state after nearly 90 years, why not go all out? That’s what Farmington did Wednesday, with six fan buses and four band buses making the 27-mile drive to Target Center, bringing 175 musicians. (It’s a big week for the Farmington band, with 80 kids traveling to Spain on Saturday.)

The Tigers colors are orange and black, and nearly everyone was dressed in orange at Target Center, wrapping around one side of the court and the bowl behind one of the hoops. It looked like a convention of deer hunters.

“What a story that is,” said Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jerry Kline Jr. “I was at their (section final) last week down in Rochester and seeing the sea of orange, it was just like Owatonna a couple years ago, the sea of blue. The whole town shuts down and they all come. What a supportive group.”

Tharen Johnson, a graduate of St. Cloud Tech and St. Cloud State who teaches math in Farmington, is in his eighth year as the Tigers head coach and 19th year on the staff.

In 2022 they played in a section title game for the first time in 20 years and set a then-school record with 21 wins. After a 17-11 finish in 2022-23, this season has been stellar.

“As a coach it’s kind of a whirlwind because there's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that most folks don't see, the media stuff, the logistical stuff, in getting to the state tournament, but it's well worth it,” Johnson said. “For the players to have this experience, we wouldn't trade it for anything.

“Eighty-seven years is definitely a long time and our community … you saw the sea of orange out there. They definitely supported us and I couldn’t be prouder of the way our guys handled themselves and I know the community is so proud of the effort they put out there, even though it didn't come out the way we wanted.”

Farmington senior Tyler Beckwith, one of four Tigers in double figures with 11 points, said the huge turnout of fans was important.

“I noticed our fans, the huge student section, all the support,” he said. “It feels good when the community has your back.”

Tyler, Brandon Hrncir (12 points) and Liam Roche (10 points) are the only seniors on the team.

“I hope this is a legacy for our program,” Beckwith said.

Johnson said, “We’ve played most of the season with three seniors and six juniors. So we’ve got a good group returning. I hope it doesn't take another 87 years to come back.”

Upset Of The Day

In the 4A quarterfinals’ biggest surprise, unseeded Eagan knocked off second-seeded Park Center 73-70. The Wildcats, whose last state appearance was in 2005, will face Minnetonka in Thursday night’s semifinals at Williams Arena. Park Center (25-4) will meet Coon Rapids in the consolation bracket.

Eagan coach Kevin McKenzie said playing tough competition – like Farmington – in the South Suburban Conference helped prepare the team for the postseason.

“In the South Suburban we played so many top 10 teams; Lakeville North, Shakopee, Farmington, Lakeville South. We see them twice a year so we know these guys are battle-tested.”

Class Acts

--Cretin-Derham Hall’s Kline applauded for each of the Farmington players during pregame introductions.

--Farmington band members applauded each time the Cretin-Derham Hall band finished a tune.

--MSHSL senior content creator 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 [email protected] 

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Boys Basketball State Tournament 2024: Day 1 Recap