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The Team? The Experience? It’s Everything
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/17/2018 11:44:28 PM

This weekend was remarkable for several reasons, most of them – but not all of them -- having to do with high school girls basketball in Minnesota. Let’s start, however, with what took place Friday evening far away in Charlotte, North Carolina.

That’s where the University of Virginia, a top seed in the NCAA men’s tournament, lost by 20 points to No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County, becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed in the tournament. Virginia coach Tony Bennett said all the right things afterwards…

“I told the guys, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.”

Now, let’s delve into what took place Saturday at Target Center, where the MSHSL girls basketball state championship games were held. One possible headline could read like this: “Three Teams Win First State Titles.” Indeed, Lyle-Pacelli in Class 1A, Sauk Centre in 2A and Cooper in 3A took home first-place hardware for the first time. In Class 4A, Eastview added to its previous championship collection.

The games are televised and everyone sees what happens on the court in the big NBA arena. Behind the scenes are quieter moments, and they can be heartbreaking as well as inspiring. Such as …

--In a corridor, members of the Roseau band quietly saying, “You guys were great” and “We’re so proud of you” as athletes, exiting the court after coming up short in the championship game, sob, their shoulders heaving.

--A few hours later, players from Northfield applauding for their band members as they cross paths backstage after the Raiders lost to Cooper.

And then there are moments that make you smile in appreciation for kids who understand that being part of a team is a special thing, and when that experience comes to an end – whether in victory or defeat – it can hit them hard.

Madi Heiderscheidt, a senior from Sleepy Eye, and Abigail Bollinberg, a junior from Lyle-Pacelli, exemplified that sense of loss following Lyle-Pacelli’s 57-33 victory over Sleepy Eye in the 1A title game.

Both girls wiped tears from their eyes as they talked about the season, and the team, and the journey, coming to an end.

Madi, who will play basketball at the College of Saint Benedict, said, “I’m not as upset about second place as I am that my career is over.”

Lyle-Pacelli coach Justin Morris (who lives in Omaha, as noted previously in John’s Journal) coached his final game with the Athletics Saturday, and that added to Abigail’s feelings, despite the gold medal hanging around her neck.

“I’m kind of sad,” she said as the tears flowed. “I won’t get to play with these seniors again. I won’t get to play for our coach again.”

Kristi Fett, Lyle-Pacelli’s 6-foot-5 center who has signed with Minnesota State Mankato, had 30 points and 16 rebounds against Sleepy Eye. After three games in three days facing defenders who tried to outmuscle her under the basket, Kristi said, “We always talk about bumps and bruises being temporary but memories like these last a lifetime. You’ll remember the faces when you look around the team circle for the rest of your life.”

Following the Class 3A game, senior Annika Hoff of Northfield (who will play in the Ivy League at Cornell) was asked about the experience of wearing the Raiders uniform. She began to speak, saying “It’s been awesome,” and then broke down in tears.

The team? The experience? It’s everything. That’s the job.

Familiar Foes, New Final Result In Class 2A

Sauk Centre and Roseau have faced off at state for three years in a row now; in 2016 Roseau beat the Mainstreeters 94-82 in the third-place game and last season the Rams beat Sauk Centre 75-64 in the championship game. This time, the Mainstreeters came out on top 63-52.

Sauk Centre, making its eighth trip to state, ended a string of second-place finishes from 2012, 2015 and 2017.

Cooper Makes History In Class 3A

The Cooper Hawks capped their state tournament debut in grand style, defeating Northfield 49-37 for the school’s first team state title since 1985, when the softball team won the Class 2A championship.

Northfield also was seeking its first title in its third trip to state. The Raiders received flowers earlier in the week from the 1979 team, which also was a state runner-up. The Raiders’ most recent state appearance came in 2010.

In Class 4A, Eastview Stays Unbeaten

Eastview closed its season with a 32-0 record, joining Sauk Centre (33-0) as the state’s only undefeated teams. The Lightning, who won their first state title in 2014, defeated Hopkins 68-63 in the championship game. Hopkins, which has won six titles and finished second three times since 2004, was led by sophomore Paige Bueckers with a tournament-high 37 points.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A

Kora Kritzberger, Ada-Borup/Norman County West; Mary Burke, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Lydia Sussner, Abby Hennen, Minneota; Madi Heiderscheidt, Sarah Ibarra, Brianna Polesky, Sleepy Eye; Olivia Christianson, Kristi Fett, Brooke Walter, Lyle-Pacelli.

Class 2A Kaylee Kirk, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton; Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Bren Fox, Abby Mackenthun, Norwood-Young America; Katie Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Victoria Johnson, Roseau; Kelsey Peschel, Tori Peschel, Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre.

Class 3A Destinee Oberg, Holy Angels; Cayle Hovland, Willmar; Heaven Hamling, Hannah DeMars, Grand Rapids; Annika Hoff, Grace Touchette, Rachel Kelly, Northfield; Aja Wheeler, Kierra Wheeler, Andrea Tribble, Cooper.

Class 4A Frannie Hottinger, Cretin-Derham Hall; Jayda Johnston, Roseville; Lauren Jensen, Ke James, Lakeville North; Paige Bueckers, Dlayla Chakolis, Raena Suggs, Hopkins; Megan Walstad, Mariah Alipate, Andrea Abrams, Eastview.

Girls State Basketball Tournament

Class 1A

Fifth place: Ada-Borup/Norman County West 63, Heritage Christian 47
Third place: Minneota 74, Mountain Iron-Buhl 56
Championship: Lyle-Pacelli 57, Sleepy Eye 33

Class 2A
Fifth place: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 64, Byron 32
Third place: Norwood-Young America 64, Maranatha Christian 54
Championship: Sauk Centre 63, Roseau 52

Class 3A
Fifth place: Holy Angels 56, Alexandria 46
Third place: Grand Rapids 51, Willmar 42
Championship: Cooper 49, Northfield 37

Class 4A
Fifth place: Cretin-Derham Hall 64, Maple Grove 57
Third place: Lakeville North 51, Roseville 46
Championship: Eastview 68, Hopkins 63

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Newcomers To The State Championship Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2018 11:10:09 PM

History will be made in Saturday’s Class 1A girls basketball state championship game at Target Center, as anyone who follows Sleepy Eye and Lyle-Pacelli can attest. Neither team has ever won a state title in girls basketball, and neither team has ever played in a championship game.

They combine for only three previous trips to state; Lyle-Pacelli in 2015 and Sleepy Eye in 2012 and 2016. Both teams advanced Friday with victories over schools that own long histories at the tournament.

Lyle-Pacelli defeated Minneota 53-42 in Friday’s semifinals. Minneota is playing at state for the seventh time since 2005, winning the title in 2013 and finishing second in 2014. And Sleepy Eye has gotten past Ada-Borup/Norman County West and Mountain Iron-Buhl, two of the giants in small-school girls basketball.

Ada-Borup won championships in 2008, 2009 and 2015 while finishing second in 2013. Mountain-Iron Buhl has placed second twice in seven trips to state since 2011.

And here’s a final fact to remember: Lyle-Pacelli is the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field and Sleepy Eye is not seeded at all.

Sleepy Eye senior Madi Heiderscheidt, who had a game-high 24 points Friday, said her team has relished the underdog role.

“Yeah, it’s great. I don’t think we’ve gotten the recognition we necessarily should the entire season. And it’s great to show everybody how hard we work and how good of a basketball team we can be. Being seniors, this is our last chance so we’re trying to keep our season alive as long as we can and it’s great to come out on this big stage.”

The big stage didn’t bother either of the winning 1A teams in the semifinals. Neither team had ever played a state tournament game at Target Center; all of their previous games at state had been played at Williams Arena or Mariucci Arena.

Senior experience has something to do with playing well in a big venue. Lyle-Pacelli has three seniors and Sleepy Eye has eight.

“You can tell that they have seniors. They’re senior-laden, they’re good kids,” Mountain Iron-Buhl coach Jeff Buffetta said of Sleepy Eye. “Give them credit, they put in the time. They’ve earned their moment.”

Sleepy Eye coach Ryan Hulke said his team used a lack of recognition, such as in statewide rankings, as motivation.

“We were sitting there at 17, 18 all year, just giggling, (saying) ‘Whatever … we’ll beat them when it comes to it. Just give us a chance.’ ”

--After Lyle-Pacelli defeated Minneota on Friday, Athletics coach Justin Morris grew emotional for a moment in the postgame press conference. Saturday’s state championship game will be his final day as Lyle-Pacelli’s coach – he lives in Omaha, as noted in the previous edition of John’s Journal, and has been a commuter coach all season – and returned this year to finish what began when the current seniors were in seventh grade.

“The closeness and the family atmosphere we have,” Morris said. “We’re just so close.”

After all the questions had been asked and answered, Morris shook hands with every member of the media and thanked them for the work they do.

--Hulke said he and Morris have developed a good relationship. “We’ve really gotten to know each other these last two years. We text weekly, and these last two weeks it’s been daily and all day. It’s going to be a ton of fun going against them.”

Rematch Set In Class 2A

While new teams will vie for the Class 1A title, familiar foes will decide the Class 2A state championship Saturday when Roseau and Sauk Centre meet. Roseau defeated Maranatha Christian 78-66 Friday night and Sauk Centre beat Norwood-Young America 54-45.

Roseau is playing at state for the fourth year in a row. Last year’s title was the Rams’ first, and they defeated Sauk Centre 75-64 in the 2017 championship game

The Mainstreeters will try to cap off their eighth trip to state with their first championship. They were the runner-up in 2012, 2015 and a year ago.

“We’re very, very excited, ready to go and play the game,” said Sauk Centre senior Maesyn Thiesen.

The Busiest Official In Minnesota

Among one of the three-person officiating crews working at Target Center on Friday was Josh Lamppa, a man who has achieved a real rarity. Josh played at the boys state basketball tournament for Bigfork in 1994, coached the Nashwauk-Keewatin boys basketball team at the state tournament in 2004 and has now been an official at state in five different years.

Josh also is a football official who has worked in the state playoffs four times, including the 2016 Prep Bowl, and also is a registered volleyball official. When he’s not officiating, he’s the activities director at Virginia High School.

Tournament Tidbits

--After Minneota lost to Lyle-Pacelli on Friday, the Vikings turned their thoughts to Saturday’s Class 1A third-place game with Mountain Iron-Buhl at Concordia University in St. Paul. But it would be hard to forgive their fans for already looking ahead to next season.

The high school basketball careers of seniors Laura Knutson, Carolyn Hoffman and Hidie Moorse will end Saturday, but all the Vikings who played in the state semifinals were non-seniors. The Minneota starters were three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, with an eighth-grader and a ninth-grader coming off the bench.

“We’re obviously pretty young,” Minneota coach Chad Johnston said. “We still have an opportunity to finish the season on a win, and that’s something we can build on coming into next year.”

Girls State Basketball Tournament

Friday’s Semifinals
At Target Center

Class 1A

Lyle-Pacelli 53, Minneota 41
Sleepy Eye 63, Mountain Iron-Buhl 48

Class 2A
Sauk Centre 54, Norwood-Young America 45
Roseau 78, Maranatha Christian 66

Saturday’s Championship Games
At Target Center

Class 1A

Noon: Lyle-Pacelli vs. Sleepy Eye

Class 2A
2 p.m.: Sauk Centre vs. Roseau

Class 3A
6 p.m.: Cooper vs. Northfield

Class 4A
8 p.m.: Eastview vs. Hopkins

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

For Lyle-Pacelli, The Road To State Began In Nebraska
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2018 8:19:21 PM

Justin Morris has added up the miles he has driven during this basketball season. The grand total is right around 23,000 miles on the road between his home in Omaha, Nebraska, and the team he coaches in southern Minnesota.

Morris has been the head coach at Lyle-Pacelli since 2012 and this will be his final season with the team, which is a cooperative effort between Lyle High School and Pacelli Catholic in Austin. When he took over, there was a group of young girls who have helped raise the profile of the Class 1A program. The Athletics made their first trip to state when the current seniors were freshmen and they returned this year, which was the hope all season long.

I wrote about Morris and the Athletics on Dec. 13, the day after they played a game in Randolph without their coach. Morris missed two other games during the season, but he will miss no more as the team closes the season at state. The top-seeded Athletics defeated Heritage Christian 59-43 in Thursday’s quarterfinals at Williams Arena and will meet Minneota on Friday at Target Center in the semifinals. (In this photo, Morris has his arms raised as the Athletics celebrate Thursday's win.)

The coach’s reason for moving from Austin to Omaha last summer sprang from an encounter after the 2015 state tournament. At a welcome home rally for the team, Morris was interviewed by a reporter from KAAL TV in Rochester. Her name is Megan Stewart; they ended up dating, are now engaged and they will be married in her hometown of Lakeville this summer. After Megan took a job at KMTV in Omaha early last year, Justin followed; he works as a senior vice president of a banking company.

In the postgame press conference Thursday, Justin opened by saying, “Last time I was here, I met my future wife. True story.”

Morris wanted to finish the story this season with the team’s three seniors: Brooke Walter, Kristi Fett and Kendal Truckenmiller. Fett, a 6-foot-5 center who has signed with Minnesota State Mankato, had a game-high 25 points and 18 rebounds Thursday.

Playing without their coach at some practices and games meant the athletes had to take more responsibility, Kristi said.

“It made us step up more. It brought us extremely close as a team because we knew that we had the responsibility, the whole team together. Most people probably think, ‘How can that work? You’re how far away and you’re the head coach?’ ”

Oh it worked.

Walter, whose father Brad is an assistant coach, said, “We’re a family here and we know what we have to do. We know when we come out and play we have to play our best every single game. We know what Justin would say, what he would do. Trust has been our big word.”

Tournament Tidbits

--Lyle-Pacelli’s Fett will be a tall order for Minneota in the semifinals, a fact acknowledged by Vikings coach Chad Johnston after his team defeated Menahga 74-69 in the quarterfinals. Minneota’s tallest player is 5-10 junior Lydia Sussner, who had 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Thursday.

“That’s always challenging,” Johnston said of defending against a player like Fett. “Stopping her is one thing; they will just throw it up to her. Lydia will obviously give up some height. We have to figure that one out. One philosophy is to let her get her points and try to take others out of the game, but they’re very capable of hitting those shots. We’ll have to decide which route we’ll take, and we’ll sit down tonight and figure out what we’re going to do.”

--Menahga made a strong impression in the Braves’ first trip to the state tournament. Minneota was making its seventh state appearance, having won state titles in 2013 and 2014, but Menahga stayed with the Vikings to the end. Second-year Braves coach Cody Pulju said he knew playing at Williams Arena for the first time would be a challenge.

“There’s not one thing you can do to prepare them for this, and that was the result in the first half (Minneota led 41-30 at halftime). I think the environment got to us offensively in the first half, which was what we expected.”

Nevertheless, the Braves gave Minneota all they wanted in front of a great big boisterous crowd from Menahga that saw their team lose for the first time in 31 games this season. The only undefeated teams remaining are Sauk Centre (31-0) in Class 2A and Eastview (31-0) in Class 4A.

--To kick off the Class 1A quarterfinals, Heritage Christian band director Matthew Kinne stood in front of the orchestra, waved an arm to get the kids started on the national anthem, then with trumpet in hand he hopped up to the back row, joined the brass section and played along.

--Best sign in the stands: “Mya is on Fiya” in honor of Sleepy Eye senior Mya Ibberson.

--Personal note: Thursday marked my eighth anniversary doing this work for the MSHSL. It’s the best job in the world. Thanks to you all for reading these words, for putting up with my Twitter hijinks, and for saying hi when our paths cross. You are awesome.

Girls State Basketball Tournament
Thursday’s Games

Class 1A Quarterfinals

At Williams Arena
Lyle-Pacelli 59, Heritage Christian 43
Minneota 74, Menahga 69
Mountain Iron-Buhl 59, Stephen-Argyle Central 47
Sleepy Eye 53, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 51

Semifinals at Target Center

Class 3A

Cooper 65, Willmar 54
Northfield 64, Grand Rapids 54

Class 4A
Eastview 57, Lakeville North 47
Hopkins 61, Roseville 34

Friday’s Semifinals
At Target Center

Class 1A

Noon: Lyle-Pacelli vs. Minneota
2 p.m.: Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Sleepy Eye

Class 2A
6 p.m.: Sauk Centre vs. Norwood-Young America
8 p.m.: Maranatha Christian vs. Roseau

Saturday’s Championship Games
At Target Center

Class 1A

Noon: Lyle-Pacelli or Minneota vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Sleepy Eye

Class 2A
2 p.m.: Sauk Centre or Norwood-Young America vs. Maranatha Christian or Roseau

Class 3A
6 p.m.: Cooper vs. Northfield

Class 4A
8 p.m.: Eastview vs. Hopkins

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Willmar Players Honor Coach With ‘Terrible’ T-Shirts
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/14/2018 7:04:41 PM

When the Willmar High School girls basketball team gathered for a sendoff from school before they journeyed to the Twin Cities and this week’s state tournament, they posed for a photo wearing their favorite t-shirts.

Everyone had a big smile, even the coach whose face was plastered on the shirts. But the face of Cardinals coach Dustin Carlson is not from a recent photo, oh no. It’s one of his Willmar High School graduation photos from 2004, and – as with most people who look back at such photos from their younger days -- it’s a hoot.

The teenage Carlson is shown in a nearly shaved head, arms crossed in front, with the words “STRAIGHT CASH HOMIE” printed above the photo on the black t-shirts.

“They picked the worst one of the five they could find, and that was on purpose,” he said with a grin after the Cardinals rallied to defeat DeLaSalle 52-47 in overtime in Wednesday’s Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. “They scanned through them and said, ‘That one’s decent, that’s one decent, oh that one’s terrible, let’s put that on a shirt.’ ”

Senior Cayle Hovland, who scored a game-high 15 points Wednesday, came up with the idea for the shirts. When the team had dinner at the home of Carlson’s mother early in the season, she found a treasure trove of old photos of their coach.

“I was like, ‘We’ve got to get the worst one,’ ” Cayle said. “And I have a friend who works at a t-shirt company and she said, ‘Oh, yeah, I got you. We’ll make them.’ We made them.”

On the court, Carlson was very well-dressed Wednesday in a red sport coat, white shirt, striped tie, gray slacks, gray shoes. The jacket came off for the second half; DeLaSalle led by 15 at intermission before the Cardinals outscored them 28-13 to tie the score 42-42 at the end of regulation.

The Cardinals shot only 23.5 percent in the first half but 52.4 in the second. The Islanders’ percentage went the other way: 33.3 in the first half and only 12.5 in the second.

The line “Straight Cash Homie” was made famous by the Vikings’ Randy Moss when discussing how he paid fines to the NFL. Carlson said he likes to borrow the phrase when the players make shots in practice, or when he does.

The shirts were unveiled to the coach before a game early in the season.

“We were standing out there right before warmups and the girls weren’t coming out on the floor. I was thinking, ‘What is going on? Why is it taking so long?’ All of a sudden they all come out in these black shirts and my head snapped back, ‘What the heck is that on there?’ And then I saw my face.”

Willmar will meet Cooper in the state semifinals Thursday at noon at Target Center. There's no word on whether the t-shirts will make an appearance.

Tournament Tidbits

Cooper is playing at state for the first time in school history, but the Hawks coach is very familiar with the tournament as well as Williams Arena. Kiara Buford (pictured), in her fourth year as Cooper’s coach, played in four state tournaments at St. Paul Central and was on championship teams as a junior and senior in 2007 and 2008. After that she played at the University of Minnesota, where she was a two-year team captain and MVP.

The top-seeded Hawks defeated Alexandria 58-51 Wednesday in the 3A tournament at Williams Arena. Buford’s sister Jada led all scorers with 20 points.

“It’s always different when your shoes don’t look like their shoes,” Kiara Buford said of the difference between playing and coaching. “When you’re a player you’re anxious to play and you feel a responsibility to win and you feel like you have control. As a coach you don’t expect to feel the same way as the players do. The difference is you can’t play. I try to communicate with them as best as possible and hope I’ve prepared them throughout the season.”

--Alexandria coach Wendy Kohler, a Hall of Famer in her 33rd year, is old-school when trying to get her players' attention: She puts two fingers in her mouth and whistles.

--The smallest enrollment among the schools competing in the girls state basketball tournament is Stephen-Argyle Central with 81 students in grades nine through 12. The largest is Prior Lake with 2,466.

Girls State Basketball Tournament

Class 1A

Thursday at Williams Arena
11 a.m.: Heritage Christian vs. Lyle-Pacelli
1 p.m.: Menahga vs. Minneota
3 p.m.: Stephen-Argyle Central vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
5 p.m.: Sleepy Eye vs. Ada-Borup/NCW

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
Sauk Centre 67, Byron 61
Norwood-Young America 67, Minnehaha Academy 58
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Maranatha Christian 85, Mesabi East 49
Roseau 62, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 56

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Robbinsdale Cooper 58, Alexandria 51
Willmar 52, DeLaSalle 47 (OT)
Northfield 49, Mankato West 44
Grand Rapids 75, Holy Angels 60

Class 4A
Wednesday at Target Center
Eastview 78, Prior Lake 44
Lakeville North 68, Maple Grove 66 (OT)
Hopkins 74, Forest Lake 38
Roseville 56, Cretin-Derham Hall 48

Thursday’s Semifinals
At Target Center

Class 3A

Noon: Cooper vs. Willmar
2 p.m.: Northfield vs. Grand Rapids

Class 4A
6 p.m.: Eastview vs. Lakeville North
8 p.m.: Hopkins vs. Roseville

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

The Voice Is Gone, But The Memories Will Last Forever
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2018 9:51:30 PM

Orono High School boys hockey coach Will Scholz felt bad and sounded worse. His voice had been on a downward glidepath from the start of the state tournament on Wednesday, and it was little more than a rasp by Saturday afternoon.

“Sorry guys, this is just awful,” he said to reporters assembled for the Spartans’ postgame news conference after the Class 1A state championship game at Xcel Energy Center. But he was smiling, and that message was loud and clear.

Orono defeated Alexandria 2-1 in a game between two teams seeking their first state titles, and the Spartans were delirious.

Orono senior Thomas Walker, who scored his team’s first goal, talked about imagining such things while skating on the pond in his backyard.

“This was a little better than that,” he said. “You dream about this forever.”

Orono played at state for the ninth time; their previous trip was in 2014. They won 16 games in each of the last two seasons before coming to state this week with a 20-7-1 mark and finishing with three more wins. This kind of accomplishment usually has implications that extend far beyond one team and one season. (Pictured are Landon Wittenberg, Thomas Walker and coach Will Scholz.)

“It’s amazing. I cannot wait to see how this impacts the program, because I know it’s going to have an impact,” said Walker. “I think this really shows the community that we’re a force to be reckoned with. When you put your mind to something and you work hard, you can compete with the big boys.”

Landon Wittenberg, who scored the winning goal (his first of the tournament) in the third period, summed it up nicely.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “There are all these little kids watching and they look up to you. And we were once those little kids. ... it just means a ton to us and the community.”

The two interview sessions after the 1A game started 10 minutes apart, and it’s no surprise that the mood is quite different – and the session shorter – when the losing team comes to the dais. Alexandria coach Ian Resch was accompanied by senior goaltender Jackson Boline and junior Jack Westlund, who scored the Cardinals’ goal Saturday. Players aren’t required to speak to the media, but it says something about Jackson and Jack that they were willing to do so.

The Cardinals brought a record of 17-10-1 to the tournament, with seven of those losses coming in a nine-game stretch between Dec. 12 and Jan 4. That fact makes their run to the state championship game especially remarkable. And when you consider that they were seeded third in Section 6, it’s even more of a feat.

“We were underdogs just to come out of the section. And to be playing in the championship game today, I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Resch said. “It’s going to take a couple days but the guys will be able to reflect and realize what they accomplished. Right now they’re in the middle of it and it stings, it hurts. But they’ll be talking about this and they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

Boline, who received the Herb Brooks Award after the game, said he never lost faith.

“I believed in our guys. When we were in that stretch, we were still getting to know each other, almost, because some of these guys had never played together. It’s a young team. We just had to come together and that’s what we did. I always believed that we could come here, and we did.”

Westlund was asked about what he did immediately as the game ended; he skated to Boline and embraced him.

“The way he played was the reason we were in that game,” Jack said. “And he had nothing to be ashamed of, he played unbelievable all year. Especially in the playoffs. Without him we wouldn’t have been in this game.”

Boline said, “All these guys on this team are my family. I love them all. It’s just a tough way to go out.”

Minnetonka defeats Duluth East for 2A title

The Minnetonka Skippers made history by capturing their first boys state hockey championship with a 5-2 victory over Duluth East. Minnetonka’s previous best finish at state was runner-up in 2010. Duluth East won state championships in 1960, 1995 and 1998. The Greyhounds have finished second six times.

Minnetonka’s Joe Molenaar, who received the Herb Brooks Award during the postgame awards ceremony, scored one goal and had two assists. Grant Doctor had three assists, giving him nine points in the tournament.

Tournament Tidbits

--Minnesota Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, who played in the 1991 state tournament for Richfield, missed the Wild's game in Edmonton on Saturday night. He had a good reason: He was at Xcel Energy Center to watch his son Mason, who plays for Minnetonka.

--Also on hand at the tournament on Saturday was Maddie Rooney, former goalie on the girls and boys teams at Andover High School who won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA.

--Attendance for the Class 1A championship session was 8,544 and a crowd of 18,914 attended the evening 2A session. Total attendance for the tournament was 107,674.

Boys State Hockey Tournament

Class 1A

Fifth-place game: Thief River Falls 5, Mankato East 1
Third-place game: Hermantown 4, Mahtomedi 0
Championship game: Orono 2, Alexandria 1

Class 2A
Fifth-place game: St. Thomas Academy 6, St. Michael-Albertville 2
Third-place game: Edina 11, Centennial 0
Championship game: Minnetonka 5, Duluth East 2

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A:
Blake Biondi, Darian Gotz, Hermantown; Kory Pilarski, Mahtomedi; Nick Corneliusen, Thief River Falls; Daniel Eckerline, Jack Kubitz, Jack Suchy, Thomas Walker, Orono; Caleb Strong, Jack Powell, Jack Westlund, Jackson Boline, Alexandria.

Class 2A: Ben Brinkman, Sammy Walker, Edina; Rob Christy, St. Thomas Academy; Garrett Worth, Ian Mageau, Luke LaMaster, Parker Klieve, Duluth East; Bobby Brink, Charlie Glockner, Grant Docter, Joe Molenaar, Josh Luedtke, Minnetonka.

Herb Brooks Award winners

Class 1A:
Jackson Boline, Alexandria.

Class 2A: Joe Molenaar, Minnetonka.

Girls State Basketball Tournament
Quarterfinal Pairings

Class 1A

Thursday at Williams Arena
11 a.m.: Heritage Christian vs. Lyle-Pacelli
1 p.m.: Menahga vs. Minneota
3 p.m.: Stephen-Argyle Central vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
5 p.m.: Sleepy Eye vs. Ada-Borup/NCW

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
6 p.m.: Byron vs. Sauk Centre
8 p.m.: Norwood-Young America vs. Minnehaha Academy
Wednesday at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: Mesabi East vs. Maranatha Christian
8 p.m.: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Roseau

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
10 a.m.: Robbinsdale Cooper vs. Alexandria
Noon: DeLaSalle vs. Willmar
2 p.m.: Northfield vs. Mankato West
4 p.m.: Holy Angels vs. Grand Rapids

Class 4A
Wednesday at Target Center
10 a.m.: Prior Lake vs. Eastview
Noon: Maple Grove vs. Lakeville North
2 p.m.: Forest Lake vs. Hopkins
4 p.m.: Roseville vs. Cretin-Derham Hall

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