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The Memories, The Photos, The Greatness Of State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/21/2015 8:28:39 PM

It’s pretty amazing what happens away from the action at a state tournament. Once the games are played and the reaction begins, some pretty neat things develop.

Case in point was a tremendous photographed issued via Twitter on Saturday afternoon by Reid Olson, the athletic director at Lyle High School. Lyle and Austin Pacelli have a cooperative girls basketball team, and the Athletics made history by getting to state for the very first time. They played three games in three days, finished fourth in Class 1A and were a worn-out bunch by the time it was all over.

The photo Tweeted by Olson showed the interior of a school bus with very few heads visible. You see one girl holding the fourth-place trophy on her lap and most everybody else is down for the count, sleeping on the ride home where the team would be welcomed by both school communities.

Another photo was issued from the Twitter account of the Norman County Fair. Ada-Borup is in Norman County, and those who have been there (as I have) know that the county fairgrounds are right across the road from the school.

Ada-Borup won the Class 1A state title with an 82-65 win over Maranatha Christian at Williams Arena, giving the Cougars a 32-0 record and the honor of being the only undefeated girls or boys basketball team in Minnesota this season.

The photo was of the sign outside the fairgrounds, reading “Congratulations Lady Cougars/ State Champs 32-0/The Fun Never Ends.”

A welcome home celebration was also held in Ada on Saturday night, and you can be sure there will be some basketball players having their picture taken with that sign.

And the cutest photo in the Twitter/state tournament category was of a one-day-old little girl. I wrote yesterday about Ada-Borup coach David Smart becoming a grandfather a few hours before the state semifinals, and how he had jokingly wanted the baby to be named “Swish.”

I don’t know who took the photo, but it was Tweeted by Ada-Borup athletic director Kelly Anderson, showing the baby wearing a knit cap that looked like a basketball and this caption: “Baby Swish is peacefully sleeping after Grandpa Smart's Cougars captured the trophy!”


The Cougars won their third girls basketball championship behind a balanced offensive attack and a strong defense. Miki Lee scored 22 points, Elizabeth Birkemeyer had 20, Lexi Merkens 17 and Haley Poehler 10. Maranatha’s Lexi Lee scored 32 points, the highest total in the tournament.


The Eagles won their first state title in their first trip to state and broke two tournament rebounding records. They set a new single-game record with 71 rebounds Saturday, breaking the mark of 67 set by Archbishop Brady in a 1979 game against Redwood Falls. Dover-Eyota also set a three-game tournament record with 171 rebounds, breaking the mark of 156 set by St. Paul Central in 2007.

Trailing 55-51 with 5:44 left, the Eagles outscored the Mainstreeters 20-3 down the stretch. Brandi Blattner led Dover-Eyota with 25 points, Megan Hintz had 24 and Madison Nelson 15. Sauk Centre’s Maesyn Thiesen scored 23 and Mauren Thiesen had 14.


The Pirated defeated the Tigers in the championship game for the second year in a row, not needing three overtimes as in last year’s contest.

Mikayla Hayes led the Pirates with 13 points while Hannah Schaub and Feyisayo Ayobamidele each scored 11. Marshall’s Marah Mulso scored 15 points, and Sarah Buysse and Morgan Saugstad scored 10 points each.


The Royals closed a 30-1 season by beating the defending state champion Lightning. Nia Hollie led the way with 26 points for Hopkins, TT Starks had 16 and Ashley Bates 15. Eastview was led by Madison Guebert with 19 points, Samantha Trammel with 12 and Erika Schlosser with 11.


Class 1A/ Brooke Walter, Sarah Holtz, Lyle/Austin Pacelli; Emily Stienessen, Taylor Reiss, Minneota; Alaina Jarnot, Lexi Lee, Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Haley Poehler, Miki Lee, Lexi Merkens, Ada-Borup.

Class 2A/ Kiley Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Roseau; Sarah Kaminski, Gracia Gilreath, Minnehaha Academy; Madison Nelson, Brandi Blattner, Megan Hintz, Dover-Eyota; Madison Moritz, Mauren Thiesen, Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre.

Class 3A/ Kristin Scott, Kasson-Mantorville; Rachel Heussner, Meghan Mandel, Orono; Sarah Buysse, Morgan Saugstad, Marah Mulso, Marshall; Mikayla Hayes, Hannah Schaub, Ann Simonet, Feyisayo Ayobamidele, Park Center.

Class 4A/ Taylor Koenen, Shakopee; Bobbi Brendefur, St. Michael-Albertville; TT Starks, Nia Hollie, Ashley Bates, Viria Livingston, Hopkins; Madison Guebert, Samantha Trammel, Rachel Ranke, Hana Metoxen, Eastview.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,309

What A Day: A Last-Second Victory And A New Grandchild
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/20/2015 7:20:17 PM

The biggest moment of the day Friday for Ada-Borup girls basketball coach David Smart didn’t come when senior Miki Lee scored the go-ahead basket in the lane with seven seconds to play. The biggest moment didn’t come when Austin/Lyle Pacelli junior Courtney Walter narrowly missed a three-point shot with one second to play. It didn’t come when the horn sounded on Ada-Borup’s 54-52 fingernail-grinding victory over the Athletics in the Class 1A state semifinals at Williams Arena.

As exciting as all that was, the big moment for Smart came early Friday morning, when his daughter Kelli and her husband, Steve Trudeau, became parents of a little girl. Alexis Nicole Trudeau, who was born in Fargo, N.D., is David and Becky Smart’s first grandchild.

“We’ve been up since about 4 this morning,” the coach (pictured) said after Friday’s game. “It was well worth it.”

The plan was a normal delivery but the Smarts received an early-morning text from their son-in-law that a caesarean section was in the works.

“Once they decided that, we knew it was just going to be a matter of time,” David said.

The team learned the news during breakfast at their hotel when Becky showed everyone a photo of the baby on her phone.

“Becky showed us her screensaver,” Lee said, “and we were all like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ”

Kelli played basketball for her dad, as did the Smart’s other child, Nicole. Kelli is a teacher and coach at Northern Cass High School in Hunter, N.D.

A Facebook page about the impending birth gave family and friends the opportunity to predict when the baby would be born along with guessing the height, weight and name. Grandpa Smart predicted that the baby would be named “Swish.”

“I was a pound off, I got the inches right but I got the name wrong,” said the very happy coach/father/grandfather.


It’s a good thing teams are told to bring both sets of uniforms to every game at the state tournament. Maranatha Christian came out for warm-ups in the Class 1A semifinals wearing their black home uniforms while Minneota was wearing its blue home uniforms.

Maranatha was the visiting team, however, and should have been wearing white. So the Mustangs interrupted their warm-ups, returned to the locker room for a quick change, came out in their white uniforms and resumed warming up. Crisis averted.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done that,” said senior Lexi Lee, who scored a game-high 28 points in the Mustangs’ 76-69 victory. “We kind of just put them on because we didn’t know. We felt like if we put on the wrong ones our coaches would say something, but I don’t even think they realized it. I didn’t even notice until one of the coaches came out on the court and told us.”

Maranatha coach Chris Buerman said nothing rattles his team.

“We’ve worn those so many times, they put them on and away we went,” he said.

“I joke all the time that this is the only team I’ve ever had where we have absolutely no routine. We can get here two minutes before game time or three hours before game time, it’s going to be exactly the same either way. They just kind of roll through whatever is in front of them.”


Lyle/Austin Pacelli, a cooperative team with students from both schools, made history by advancing to the Class 1A state tournament for the first time since the coop was formed in 2000.

The Athletics came into the tournament unseeded, defeated third-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl 66-47 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and gave Ada-Borup (at 31-0 the only undefeated girls or boys team in the state) all it could handle Friday.

Lyle/Pacelli’s record over the last three seasons is 73-9 (23-4, 24-1, 26-4).

Friday’s Games
Class 1A semifinals
Maranatha Christian 76, Minneota 69
Ada-Borup 54, Lyle/Austin Pacelli 52

Class 2A semifinals
Sauk Centre 54, Minnehaha Academy 49
Dover-Eyota 94, Roseau 61

Saturday’s Championship Games
Noon/ 1A championship game: Maranatha Christian vs. Ada-Borup
2 p.m./ 2A championship game: Sauk Centre vs. Dover-Eyota
6 p.m./ 3A championship game: Marshall vs. Park Center
8 p.m./ 4A championship game: Hopkins vs. Eastview

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,269

3,000 Points Is Big, But Not Bigger Than A Team Victory
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/19/2015 8:38:03 PM

Minneota senior Taylor Reiss reached a big career milestone Thursday at Mariucci Arena, but becoming only the 13th girls basketball player in Minnesota history to score 3,000 points barely registered on the scale of what was important to her.

The fifth-seeded Vikings opened the Class 1A state tournament with a harrowing 69-68 victory over fourth-seeded Browerville. Reiss – who came in with 2,989 points -- had six points at halftime and reached 3,000 with two free throws early in the second half. She finished with 13 points in the game and 3,002 in her career with two games to go.

Actually, she finished the game on the bench after fouling out. But thanks to some hustle and sharpshooting by the rest of the Vikings, they moved on to Friday’s semifinals against Lyle/Austin Pacelli at Williams Arena.

“I believed in my teammates and I knew they could do it, even with me sitting on the bench,” she said.

The 5-foot-10 Reiss (pictured) joins a list of some of the top scorers in history, including Rebekah Dahlman, Carlie Wagner, Tayler Hill, Katie Ohm and Janet Karvonen.

“Obviously we were excited to get to the state tournament and give her that opportunity,” Minneota coach Chad Johnston said. “That’s just a huge milestone. Like I told the team, credit goes to the team because I’m pretty sure that 3,000 feels a heck of a lot better when you got a win. It doesn’t feel so good when you’re one and done.”

Minneota was very nearly one and done Thursday. Browerville led by 11 with 13:53 to go before an 18-1 Vikings run gave them a seven-point lead. Browerville led again with 2:25 remaining but Minneota held on down the stretch and LeAnn Jerzak secured the victory with two free throws with 15 seconds left.

The 5-foot-5 Jerzak, who averages less than four points a game, scored 14 on 5-for-7 shooting.

“She sparked us,” Johnston said of Jerzak. “She controlled the game a little bit, she hit key shots. We always know she’s going to play defense and that’s why she gets out there. Girls come off the bench and spark us at times, and you need those in big games. Especially when people get in foul trouble.”

Reiss – who will play volleyball at South Dakota State -- said the only other time she fouled out of a big game was in last season’s state championship game; in that case she fouled out in the final minute of a 61-53 loss to Win-E-Mac, when the outcome had already been decided.

“I haven’t had to do that a lot,” she said. “But I believed in my teammates and I knew they could do it, even with me sitting on the bench.

“I think we gave a lot of people some scares out there. We let them get a lead on us but we never gave up. That’s one of the things we talked about before the game, never give up and always work as a team. Some key players hit some really key shots when we needed it, even people who came off the bench.”

When the horn sounded, no one was more excited than Reiss. She sprinted off the bench and began hugging her teammates. Not in celebration of 3,000 points, either.

“Not a lot of people can say they scored 3,000 points,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment but the win was much more important to me.”

Reiss was a varsity player in eighth grade and has been a starter since ninth grade. This is the fifth trip to the state basketball tournament for her and teammates Emily Stienessen and Payton Boerboom.

“She’s meant a lot to us, obviously,” Johnston said of Reiss. “She’s been a big key, core part of this. She’s had some great surrounding players, but she’s a very unselfish player. She’s really matured over the years.

“She wants to win basketball games. She is just so competitive, that stuff is the bonus stuff. She wants to win. Nobody is more excited about what her teammates did at the end of this game than Taylor Reiss.”


--Just like on Wednesday, we had more sumo sightings at Mariucci Arena on Thursday. This time it was four students from Ada-Borup in the stands all pumped up.

--Springfield coach Paul Arnoldi suffered a torn Achilles tendon in his right leg seven weeks ago. Doctors recently cleared him to start putting weight on his leg, but he wears a “boot” and has a scooter on which to rest his leg and move around.

Class 3A semifinals
Marshall 55, Orono 48
Park Center 47, Kasson-Mantorville 37

Class 4A semifinals
Hopkins 64, Shakopee 33
Eastview 48, St. Michael-Albertville 30

Class 1A quarterfinals
Maranatha Christian 65, Stephen-Argyle 50
Minneota 69, Browerville 68
Ada-Borup 71, Springfield 53
Lyle/Austin Pacelli 66, Mountain Iron-Buhl 47

Class 1A semifinals
Noon/ Maranatha Christian vs. Minneota
2 p.m./ Ada-Borup vs. Lyle/Austin Pacelli

Class 2A semifinals
6 p.m./ Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy
8 p.m./ Dover-Eyota vs. Roseau

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,229

Picking It Up When “Heart And Soul” Goes Down
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2015 7:51:58 PM

It’s never a good sign when you see two people in an emotional embrace and one of them is in tears and on crutches. Kasson-Mantorville girls basketball coach Ryan Haraldson leaned down and wrapped 5-foot-4 senior guard Cori Kennedy in a bear hug outside the KoMets’ locker room Wednesday afternoon, crushed that the player he called “our heart and our soul” will not be able to play any more in the Class 3A state tournament.

The good news for Kasson-Mantorville? The unseeded KoMets defeated third-seeded New Prague 62-55 at Mariucci Arena in the state quarterfinals, guaranteeing themselves two more games. The horrible news? Kennedy will be on the sidelines.

Cori went down 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the game, was helped to the bench and then given assistance leaving the arena floor. She returned later with her knee tightly wrapped and using the crutches to ambulate. She sat behind the bench; a few times late in the game she managed to hop up on her good leg and cheer for her teammates.

But make no mistake, this was a big loss for the KoMets. Kennedy is the second-leading scorer in school history, the No. 2 scorer on this year’s team and she leads the KoMets in three-point scoring. This is her sixth trip to a state tournament: two in basketball, three in softball and one in volleyball. She will play collegiate softball at Minnesota State Mankato.

“She’s our leader, she’s our all-state point guard,” Haraldson said. “There was nothing we could do to get ready for that in practice, I’ll tell you that right now.”

Senior Kari Pingel took over for Kennedy and did an outstanding job. Pingel played 30 minutes, scoring six points with four rebounds and four assists.

“It was pretty awesome that we had a kid like Kari Pingel come off the bench as a senior,” said Haraldson. “She’s backed up Cori all of her life, just waiting for her time. Her time came today and she stepped up and did the job. Big-time players step up in big games.”

Kennedy has never missed a game in her varsity career. She’s so tough that when she had an injured right shoulder as a sophomore she shot lefthanded during one game.

“That’s why this is crazy,” KoMets senior Taylor Weibke said of seeing Kennedy go down. “I was in shock, my mind just kind of shut down for a second. I think all of us were worried, of course, because she’s one of our strongest players and leaders on the court.

“We knew she was rooting for us and cheering for us, and I think we kind of turned it around, doing it for her. She couldn’t play and we wanted to show her that we could do it for her.”

Kasson-Mantorville will face a big test in Thursday’s 2 p.m. semifinals at Williams Arena, when they face defending champion and second-seeded Park Center. The Pirates defeated Richfield 72-57 Wednesday.

“We’ll adjust,” Haraldson said. “We’ve been about nine deep all year and we’ll be ready to go. We’ll go forward. We’ll get the scouting report ready and we’ll battle again.”


--After Park Center’s victory over Richfield, Pirates coach Chris VanderHyde was asked about the differences between last year (when the team was at state for the first time) and this year. A year ago the team’s star was Cayla McMorris, who now plays at the University of Wisconsin.

“I keep telling the girls to treat this one like it’s new, like it’s something different,” he said. “Because last year was last year, that’s over, we’re a different team. We had Cayla McMorris and all that kind of stuff. This year is a different group in terms of the way they’ve forged themselves as a group. To be here is a special thing and you’ve got to treat it that way. Not everybody gets to come to the state tournament. Just because you’ve been here twice doesn’t mean you can be, ‘Oh, we come here every year.’ You can’t be like that. It’s got to be new, it’s got to be special.”

--My favorite band members of the day: Two horn players from Fairmont performed while wearing inflated black sumo suits. I’m not sure if there was a message there, but the look was outstanding.


Class 3A
Park Center 72, Richfield 57
Kasson-Mantorville 62, New Prague 55

Class 2A
Sauk Centre 67, Norwood-Young America 45
Minnehaha Academy 49, Annandale 38
Dover-Eyota 62, Fairmont 53
Roseau 50, Esko 37

Class 3A semifinals at Williams Arena
Noon/ Orono vs. Marshall
2 p.m./ Park Center vs. Kasson-Mantorville

Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Shakopee
8 p.m./ Eastview vs. St. Michael-Albertville

Class 1A quarterfinals at Mariucci Arena
11 a.m./ Stephen-Argyle vs. Maranatha Christian
1 p.m./ Minneota vs. Browerville
3 p.m./ Springfield vs. Ada-Borup
5 p.m./ Lyle/Austin Pacelli vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl

*Schools/teams John has visited: 452
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,189

Same Nickname, Same Colors And Teacher vs. Student
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/17/2015 8:22:45 PM

When Princeton and Marshall squared off in Tuesday night’s Class 3A girls state basketball quarterfinals at Target Center, there were a few similarities. Both teams are the Tigers, for example. And the colors of both schools are orange and black.

The familiarities, however, went much deeper. Third-year Princeton coach Andy Fenske, 27, is a 2006 graduate of Marshall, where girls basketball coach Dan Westby was his physical education and health teacher in seventh and eighth grade.

One of the hurdles for Fenske was what to call Westby, 55, who has been a coach (he also coaches Marshall’s volleyball team) for 26 years.

“No way can I ever call him Dan,” Fenske said with a laugh earlier this week. “Maybe Mr. Westby, out of sheer respect.”

Westby confirmed that fact.

“I called him the other day about exchanging film. I said, ‘Andy, Dan Westby calling.’ He said, ‘I’m not comfortable calling you that.’ He’s a nice kid.”

Fenske (pictured with Westby) has done a marvelous job at Princeton. The Tigers were 12-15 in each of the last two seasons and finished this season with a record of 20-9 after losing to Marshall 65-30 Tuesday. A year ago, with no seniors on the team, Princeton lost to North Branch by two points in the Section 7 playoffs. That defeat has driven them since last season ended.

“The big thing throughout the offseason was, ‘Remember that feeling. We don’t want that to happen again,’ ” Fenske said. “The girls had 6:30 a.m. workouts in the summer and they showed real dedication and heart. We have six seniors on the team and they’ve been pushing us the whole way.

“We started the season 5-0 and we started to realize they were a good team and they could play with anybody. We went from a team that was very little-known to hopefully a team that can make an impact.”

An impact has certainly been made this season. Tuesday’s game was Princeton’s inaugural trip to the girls state basketball tournament; the Tigers boys’ last appearance was in 1932.

Fesnke is familiar with the Marshall players as well as the coach. When he was a student at Gustavus Adolphus College he coached many of the current basketball players in summer tee ball. His father, Mike, is an elementary physical education teacher in Marshall, and many of the basketball players had Mike as a teacher.

Fenske calls Westby “absolutely one of my favorite teachers. He would quote-unquote pick on me a little bit and have me demonstrate skills, different weightlifting techniques. He’d always select me in everything. I thought the world of Mr. Westby. I thought he was the coolest guy in the world.”

Westby said, “The thing I remember about Andy was that he was always hard-working and very respectful. I remember Andy as a high school football player; he was maybe a little undersized but he was asked to play on the offensive line and he got everything he could out of himself. He was a great, great kid. I always enjoyed him as a student.

“His team is a reflection of him. Andy was a hard-working kid and he coaches with a lot of energy. I’m not surprised to see his team at the state tournament. They’re a good team and that’s a tough draw. We’re really impressed with him.”


--Coaches Rich Decker of Rochester Mayo and Brian Cosgriff of Hopkins entered their teams’ Class 4A quarterfinal matchup Tuesday with a combined total of exactly 1,000 career victories. Decker had won 584 games, most of them as the boys coach at Rochester Lourdes, and Cosgriff came in with 416 wins. Cosgriff’s total is 417 after the Royals’ 62-35 victory over the Spartans.


Class 4A
Hopkins 62, Rochester Mayo 35
Shakopee 62, White Bear Lake 56
Eastview 62, Andover 28
St. Michael-Albertville 66, Centennial 53

Class 3A
Orono 70, Thief River Falls 42
Marshall 65, Princeton 30

*Schools/teams John has visited: 440
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,149

Some Things Are Bigger Than Basketball
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2015 2:03:32 PM

As usual, this has been a very good season for the Hopkins girls basketball team. The Royals take a record of 27-1 and the No. 1 seed into Tuesday’s 10 a.m. Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal game against Rochester Mayo at Target Center.

Hopkins is one of the premier girls basketball programs in Minnesota, with state titles in 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Coach Brian Cosgriff is wary of the quarterfinal matchup, mostly because the coach on the other bench is Rick Decker, the former boys coach at Rochester Lourdes who is in the boys basketball coaches Hall of Fame and has the Mayo girls at state for the second time in three years.

“I’ve known Rich since college,” said Cosgriff, who is a 2015 inductee into the girls basketball coaches Hall of Fame. “I saw our draw and I thought this is the worst possible draw for us. His kids will play hard. We have our hands full.”

The Royals’ hands are full and their hearts are heavy for reasons that have less to do with basketball and more to do with family. The players, their parents and many Hopkins fans have rallied around Cosgriff’s brother Brad, who is dealing with brain cancer. (Pictured, left to right, are brothers Barry, Brad and Brian Cosgriff.)

“It’s pretty tough right now,” Brian Cosgriff said. “He’s home, on oxygen all the time.”

Brad was treated for lung cancer about a year ago and one lung was removed. He was cancer-free for more than a year. But one Saturday last fall, everything changed.

Brian Cosgriff is a member of the chain gang at University of Minnesota football games. While tailgating with his brother and others after a game at TCF Bank Stadium, something wasn’t right.

“He was as forgetful as all get out,” Cosgriff said of his brother. “He’s an attorney and always well-dressed, but he was a little disheveled.”

Brad’s wife took him to the emergency room. Test revealed a brain tumor in the front of his head and two in the back. The next day Brad was undergoing major surgery. The tumor in the front of Brad’s head was removed and the other two are being treated by CyberKnife radiation.

As news of Brad’s condition spread, the basketball team became involved in the efforts to support Brad, Brian and the Cosgriff family.

On March 6 the team was having a pasta party at school before playing Edina in the Section 6 semifinals the next day. Cosgriff was watching game films when he received a phone call from one of the parents saying “You better get down here.”

There was no emergency. The players and parents were unveiling t-shirts in support of Brad. The shirts bore a grey ribbon (in support of brain cancer awareness) and the words “We wear grey for Bradley Cosgriff. You Fight, We Fight, Let’s All Fight Against Cancer.”

Players, coaches, families and fans began wearing them at the game next day. Brad wasn’t able to attend, but he was on hand when the Royals defeated Minnetonka last Wednesday in the section title game.

“It’s really special,” Brian Cosgriff said. “He just turned 60, so he’s young. He couldn’t wait to have his picture taken with the whole team. It was very touching.”

The Hopkins student body and basketball team is very eclectic, with students from more affluent areas of western suburbs as well as from north Minneapolis. Standing together for Bradley Cosgriff has brought the team even closer together.

“We’ve really come together as a family,” Brian said. “The parents have come together, the coaches, the fans, everyone has come together.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,109

Two Small Towns Where Big Hoop Dreams Come True
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/14/2015 5:22:48 PM

Little kids shooting hoops on asphalt courts. Teenagers gathering inside the school gym to work on their skills when they could have their faces buried in electronic devices. Small towns filled with people who appreciate hard work and tradition and take great pride in their hometown teams.

Rushford-Peterson and Melrose, that’s what we’re talking about here. Those two teams took home boys basketball state championships Saturday, and if you listen close you can probably hear all the hoops and hollers still emanating from inside the borders of those communities.

The two stories are not identical. Both teams have won previous state titles, but the time frames are much different. Rushford won the Class 1A championship in 1989 and 2006, finished fourth at state in 2010 and third in both 2012 and 2013 before a runner-up finish last season.

Rushford-Peterson defeated Maranatha Christian Academy 51-44 Saturday at Target Center, handing the Mustangs their second Class 1A championship-game defeat in three years.

Melrose, on the other hand, has waited a long, long time. The Dutchmen last came to state (and won a championship) in 1974, when the great Mark Olberding was the star. Forty-one years later they held off Caledonia 63-51 to capture the Class 2A title.

Hard work and tradition are main ingredients for both teams.

“When I was a little kid we won a state championship,” said Rushford-Peterson senior Cole Kingsley, who played on an ankle that was injured in Thursday’s quarterfinals. He was talking about 2006, way back “when I was a younger kid, seeing them play up here, it was a dream of all of us.

“Growing up, that’s kind of all we’d do in Rushford. There’s not a whole lot to do, so we were usually always in the gym playing basketball. … We play a lot of basketball down there in Rushford and it’s good to see all the hard work pay off.”

Tom Vix has been the Rushford-Peterson coach for 30 years and this was the 15th time he brought a team to state. He knows as well as anyone that success breeds success, or as he put it Saturday, “Winning brings more winning.”

“Our gym is full all the time,” Vix said. “Any time there’s a night when the kids don’t have anything to do, they’re playing basketball; Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, little kids. I know with the nice weather all the blacktop will be full with little kids playing. They all want to be Cole Kingsley, they all want to be Alex Vix, they all want to be Noah Carlson or whoever. I saw a lot of our little kids with a number and name written on their foreheads today.”

For Melrose, the 41-year drought between state tournaments has been all the tougher because the Dutchmen have come close to many times. Assistant coach Daryl Oja, who was the head coach for 28 years, has seen a lot of near misses.

“This was the 10th time since 1974 we played in a section final game,” he said. “Something would happen and we wouldn’t win.”

He was talking while the Dutchmen were cutting down the net after the championship game. The Melrose fans roared each time a player climbed a ladder and took a snip with a scissors.

“Look at this,” Oja said. “The community and basketball, the pride is so awesome, it’s unbelievable.”


The Islanders became only the fourth team in the 103-year history of the tournament to win four consecutive state titles. They did so in convincing fashion against the Governors.

The other teams to complete the four-peat were Southwest Minnesota Christian (Class 1A, 1999-2002) and Minneapolis Patrick Henry (3A, 2000-03).


Apple Valley was strong down the stretch and held on for the win in a back-and-forth game between the top two seeds in the tournament. Top-seeded Champlin Park suffered it first loss after 31 victories and the Eagles finished the season with a 30-2 record. Apple Valley lost to Champlin Park in late December and to Eastview in February.

It was Apple Valley’s second state title in three years.


Class 1A/ Petric VanErp, Eric VanErp, Battle Lake; Austin Bulthuis, Taylor Slagter, Central Minnesota Christian; Damario Armstrong, Jeremiah Hanson, Jake Meyen, Maranatha Christian; Charlie Krambeer, Kyler Paulson, Alex Vix, Rushford-Peterson.

Class 2A/ Ade Lamu, Trenton Krueger, St. Croix Lutheran; Jonah Breiter, Jeff Lewis, Maple River; Owen King, Colton Lampert, Kyle Sorenson, Caledonia; Tyler Braegelmann, Dillon Haider, Drake Meyer, Melrose.

Class 3A/ Gorg Alhag, CJ Ayers, Mankato East; Joey Kortuem, Oliver Smith, Waconia; Eric Elliott, Jalen Mobley, Malik Jones, St. Paul Johnson; Sacar Anim, Joshua Collins, Jarvis Johnson, DeLaSalle.

Class 4A/ Steffon Mitchell, Booker Coplin, Shakopee; Carter Brooks, Drew Stewart, Lakeville North; Gary Trent Jr., Tre Jones, Brock Bertram, Apple Valley; Marty Hill, JT Gibson, McKinley Wright, Champlin Park.


Two people were honored at halftime of Saturday night’s games. During the Class 3A game, Dave Harris of Alexandria was honored as the inaugural recipient of the MSHSL Outstanding Media Service Award. Dave recently retired after a distinguished 48-year career as a sports broadcaster at KXRA radio in Alexandria.

At halftime of the Class 4A game, recently retired MSHSL director of information Howard Voigt was honored. Howard served the MSHSL and the students of Minnesota during a distinguished 25-year career.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,109

41 Years Later, Melrose Returns To The Championship Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/13/2015 9:17:58 PM

A lot of newsworthy events took place in 1974. Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, Stephen King published his first novel, Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman at the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, and Richard Nixon resigned as president.

In Melrose, Minnesota, however, the thunderclap that lives to this day came when the Melrose Dutchmen won a boys basketball state championship. The team finished a perfect 27-0 season by beating Mound 38-32 in the Class A title game and Class AA champ Bemidji 58-52 in a game pitting the two class winners.

Forty-one years later, the Dutchmen are back. With a 55-40 victory over top-ranked and top-seeded St. Croix Lutheran on Friday at Target Center, Melrose will play in Saturday afternoon's championship game against second-seeded Caledonia, a 74-58 winner over Maple River in Friday's second 2A semifinal.

Not only is this Melrose’s first state title game since 1974, it is their first appearance at state since 1974. Bus after bus and car after car came to the Twin Cities for this week’s games, and the purple-clad Melrose faithful have been the most excited fans at Target Center.

“Everybody is town is so jacked about this, so jacked,” said coach Ryan Dusha. “You walk around town, the grocery stores, you go up Main Street, everyone’s got smiles on their faces. And our contingent here in purple is so amazing, it’s so much fun.

“To us it’s just a game once we get on the floor, but to everybody it’s just so much fun. It’s awesome. If anybody wants to steal anything in Melrose, tonight or tomorrow would be the time to do it.”

The star of that 1974 team was Mark Olberding, who went on to play at the University of Minnesota before a 12-year career in the ABA and NBA. He spent six years with the San Antonio Spurs and now lives in San Antonio.

Olberding, now 58 years old, returned to Minnesota to watch Melrose’s state quarterfinal win over Redwood Valley on Wednesday and spoke to the team before the game.

Melrose junior Colton Meyer, who made six of seven shots and scored 12 points against St. Croix Lutheran, said meeting and hearing from the biggest name in Melrose sports history was special.

“He’s the best player to come out of Melrose and one of the best ones to come out of Minnesota and make it to the NBA,” Meyer said. “It meant everything to us. To hear from an NBA player and a former state championship player, it meant everything.

“He just said to have fun out there and play your hearts out. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Dusha said, “He had an excellent message and I think that actually settled our nerves down. It didn’t get us too excited; it was actually like ‘here’s a Melrose guy who played in the state tournament, he’s saying play to your strengths, defensive rebounds, listen to your coaches, do all the stuff you need to do.’ And it was like, OK, if it worked for them it should work for us.”

Oh, something is certainly working. The Dutchmen were seeded fourth at state, which is a middling label in an eight-team field. And here they are after beating the five seed and the one seed, right where they wanted to be … if that’s how they looked at things.

“For us it’s a journey, not a destination,” said Dusha. “We never look at, ‘You’ve got to get to the state championship game for a team to be successful.’ It’s always about the process. We talk about playing championship basketball, what do you have to do to win championships? Championship basketball is not a destination, it’s a mindset. We really try to instill that in our guys throughout the years, and we’re going to continue that mindset tomorrow.”

Olberding had business commitments in San Antonio and returned there Thursday morning.

“He had to bring clients to the Cavs-Spurs game Thursday night,” Dusha said with a smile. “So we lost out to LeBron.”


--Rushford-Peterson’s Tom Vix has his 15th team at state, which ties for the most among boys basketball coaches along with Ken Novak Jr. of Hopkins. Next are Ove Berven, Austin, and Bun Fortier, Bemidji (14), Bob Brink, Rocori, and Dave Thorson, DeLaSalle (13), Zig Kauls, Mounds View (12), Bob McDonald, Chisholm, and Lynn Peterson, Staples (11), and Vern Simmons, St. Paul Johnson (9).


Rushford-Peterson 62, Central Minnesota Christian 39
Maranatha Christian Academy 74, Battle Lake 69

Melrose 55, St. Croix Lutheran 40
Caledonia 74, Maple River 58


11 a.m./ Rushford-Peterson vs. Maranatha Christian Academy

1 p.m./ Melrose vs. Caledonia

5 p.m./ DeLaSalle vs. St. Paul Johnson

8 p.m./ Champlin Park vs. Apple Valley

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,069

Rushford-Peterson: Confidence Was High, And So Was The Accuracy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2015 8:24:50 PM

Rushford-Peterson boys basketball coach Tom Vix had a good feeling going into Thursday’s Class 1A state quarterfinals at Williams Arena. The top-seeded Trojans would be facing unseeded Fond du Lac Ojibwe in the day’s first game at Williams Arena, but Vix’s positive vibe was all about his own team.

“We had a great practice yesterday,” he said after the Trojans defeated Fond du Lac 105-58 behind some miraculous shooting. “We just lit it up (in practice) so our confidence was high.”

The only question is which was higher: Rushford-Peterson’s pregame confidence or their in-game shooting percentage? The Trojans shot 64 percent from the field and made16 of 27 three-point shots, with Charlie Krambeer leading the way. He scored a career-high 33 points, making 12 of 17 shots (seven of nine three-pointers).

At one point late in the first half the Trojans were shooting 72 percent. Their shooting percentage coming into the game was 49 percent.

“We got some shots to go and the basket just got bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Vix, who is a 30-year head coach and has a team at state for the 15th time. This is Rushford-Peterson’s fourth consecutive trip to state; Rushford High won a state title in 1989, Rushford-Peterson did so in 2006 and finished second in 2005 and last year.

Krambeer felt he had something to prove this year. In three games at state last season he made only three of 15 field-goal tries and totaled 11 points. In Thursday’s game he had 11 points in the opening four minutes.

“I was just glad I could help my teammates out in a positive way,” Charlie said after the game.

Charlie’s previous career high was 23 points and he averaged 13.5 points this season. But he is a senior, and knowing it’s your last go-round can be a pretty strong motivator.

“This could have been our last game,” Krambeer said. “Now we’re guaranteed two more games. Right now it’s about getting wins.”

The only downside for the Trojans is the status of senior guard Cole Kingsley. He went down with an ankle injury Thursday and was headed for postgame X-rays. Earlier in the year he missed two games after what Vix called “a liver punch.”

Rushford-Peterson knows the state tourney routine as well as any team. They will rest, eat, sleep and prepare for Friday’s semifinal game against Central Minnesota Christian. There’s no way to accurately predict how the shots will fall at Target Center, but Thursday’s game will go down in lots of memory banks.

As Vix said, “I don't know if we can play better offensively.”


Nevis coach Scott Kramer was wearing a smile after the Tigers lost to Central Minnesota Christian 56-47 in a hard-fought Class 1A quarterfinal game. Yes, the defeat was not what they had hoped for. But the accomplishments of the team – a school-record 26 victories and the school’s first trip to this tournament – made it sweet nonetheless.

“It’s very difficult in this situation to get down,” Kramer said. “You have to tip your hat to them. CMC came out and did not give us anything easily. We fought and so did they.

“It was a great season for us. I told the kids that this is something they can be proud of. And for our younger kids, they got a taste of this and they’ll work hard to get back.

“It was a dream, everything we thought it would be.”


--Roy Ward, a legendary coach and multi-sport official for many years, is attending his 70th consecutive boys state basketball tournament this week. Roy was a longtime coach and administrator for St. Paul, North St. Paul and Tartan schools and was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2001.


DeLaSalle 74, Mankato East 40
St. Paul Johnson 69, Waconia 62

Champlin Park 65, Shakopee 57
Apple Valley 67, Lakeville North 58

Rushford-Peterson 105, Fond du Lac Ojibwe 58
Central Minnesota Christian 56, Nevis 47
Maranatha Christian Academy 59, Red Lake 55
Battle Lake 83, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 66


Noon/ Rushford-Peterson vs. Central Minnesota Christian
2 p.m./ Maranatha Christian Academy vs. Battle Lake

6 p.m./ St. Croix Lutheran vs. Melrose
8 p.m./ Caledonia vs. Maple River

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,029

Albany, Hermantown Make Statements At State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/11/2015 6:39:13 PM

The doors to Williams Arena hadn’t been unlocked for very long Wednesday morning when the first visitors arrived. It was the Albany High School boys basketball team. And it’s easy to understand why the Huskies got to The Barn so early. They had a big game, and a big day, ahead of them.

The test they faced was robust. Their Class 3A state quarterfinal opponent was the DeLaSalle Islanders, who happen to be the three-time defending state champions. Game time was 10 a.m. At 9 o’clock some of the Huskies were lounging on the bench, some had headed upstairs to check out Williams Arena’s cloud-level views.

The game? Well, the outcome was what most impartial observers probably expected; DeLaSalle defeated Albany 70-60. It was a whale of a contest, and what happened on the court will join the rest of the tournament's experiences in the Huskies’ memory banks: the police cars and fire trucks that escorted the team out of town on Tuesday, that first walk into an empty Barn, standing for the national anthem, competing with every last ounce they had.

The situation was similar in the third Class 3A game of the day. Hermantown, unseeded and playing at state for the very first time, faced second-seeded St. Paul Johnson, which is at state for the sixth time in seven years.

Hermantown came within a rimmed-out three-point shot at the buzzer of taking the game to overtime. Johnson escaped with a 59-50 victory, one that was hard-earned against the Hawks.

Hermantown coach Joe Schmitz lingered with his team in the locker room, then apologized to the assembled media outside the door for making them wait a bit.

“We have some great seniors and we just wanted to send them off the right way,” he said.

“This was an amazing run, a history-making run. They battled. They have nothing to hang their heads about. We came in believing we were going to shock the Twin Cities.”

Albany was not a first-timer at state like Hermantown, but the Huskies had not been to this tournament since 1997 (Wednesday’s game was the school’s fourth trip to state overall). Albany lost, yes. But the Huskies competed so hard that anyone who was in the building will be talking about them for a long time.

Years from now, a scrappy team of underdogs will work hard and battle their rear ends off and someone in the stands will lean into their neighbor’s ear and say, “This team reminds of those boys from Albany in 2015.”

Huskies coach Cory Schlagel, having just exited a locker room filled with equal parts pride and emotion, said, “Our kids competed and that's been our m.o. all year. Our guys are nitty gritty. We’re not as talented as DeLaSalle but we compete. That’s what we did all year long.”

DeLaSalle led 29-19 at halftime and it was an even matchup after that. The second half was a 41-41 deadlock, with Albany trying mightily to take the thing over. They cut the margin to five points with 1:24 left when Nick Raeker hit a three-pointer, and it was five with 58 seconds to go on a jumper by Kenny Weber.

DeLaSalle’s final five points came on three free throws and a layup as Albany was forced to foul.

“That's a really good team we just beat. Really good,” said Islanders coach Dave Thorson. “I knew they had a defensive mentality.”

DeLaSalle is not only going for its fourth consecutive state title, but the Islanders’ lineup is packed with Divison I players. Jarvis Johnson will play at the University of Minnesota, Sacar Anim at Marquette and Josh Collins at North Dakota.

Sometimes a coach will size up a talented opponent and panic, shredding the normal game plan and going to something new. Schlagel isn’t one of those coaches.

“We played other good basketball teams but nobody with the size and length they have,” he said. “A lot of people asked if we were going to change our game plan. To be honest, we played the way we always have.

“I can’t be any happier or proud of our guys.”


--After Mankato East held off New Prague 65-60 in Class 3A, coach Joe Madson said, “I’ve told the guys that when you win on Wednesday it really feels like you’re in the state tournament. You’re going to play two more games, you’re going to play on TV. These are things kids dream about.”

--My favorite mascot of the day: That’s easy. The Governor of St. Paul Johnson.


St. Croix Lutheran 37, Esko 35
Melrose 81, Redwood Valley 66
Caledonia 72, Annandale 66
Maple River 78, Breckenridge 72

DeLaSalle 70, Albany 60
Mankato East 65, New Prague 60
St. Paul Johnson 59, Hermantown 56
Waconia 73, Orono 68

Champlin Park 89, St. Francis 48
Shakopee 64, Roseville 53
Apple Valley 70, St. Michael-Albertville 57
Lakeville North 65, Hopkins 61

At Williams Arena
11 a.m./ Fond du Lac Ojibwe vs. Rushford-Peterson
1 p.m./ Nevis vs. Central Minnesota Christian
3 p.m./ Red Lake vs. Maranatha Christian Academy
5 p.m./ Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City vs. Battle Lake

At Target Center
Noon/ DeLaSalle vs. Mankato East
2 p.m./ St. Paul Johnson vs. Waconia

At Target Center
6 p.m./ Champlin Park vs. Shakopee
8 p.m./ Apple Valley vs. Lakeville North

*Schools/teams John has visited: 422
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,993

Runner-up Routine Continues For Hermantown
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/7/2015 5:47:08 PM

When you consider all the second-place medals that the Hermantown hockey team has hauled home from the state hockey tournament, there are the beginnings of a pretty substantial silver mine up north.

Saturday was, well, how to put this? It was loss No. 6 for Hermantown in Class 1A state championship games over the last six years. The phrase “six of one, half dozen of the other” doesn’t come close to doing this situation justice. Anyone who has a beating heart feels for the Hawks … six tries, six second-place finishes and a whole bunch of what-ifs.

After falling 5-4 in overtime to East Grand Forks at Xcel Energy Center, Hermantown coach Bruce Plante referred to “guys in the locker room bawling their eyes out.” That’s a hard scene to get out of your head … and it’s been this way for six years in a row for the Hawks. Imagine.

It was the second consecutive title-game victory for East Grand Forks over Hermantown. A year ago the score was 7-3.

“We made one more play than they did,” said Green Wave coach Tyler Palmiscno.

Plante said, “I’m getting used to it. It’s not fun. I just don’t get it. It’s weird to me. The hockey gods didn’t work in our favor again. We had all kinds of chances to win this game.”

Yes they did, and the Hawks came oh so close to finally getting over the golden hump. East Grand Forks led 2-0 after the first period, Hermantown tied it 2-2 in the second. Dixon Bowen scored late in the second period for the Green Wave and teammate Austin Monda’s second goal of the game early in the third put East Grand up 4-2.

And then, wham! Wyatt Aamodt and Eric Gotz scored for the Hawks 17 seconds apart late in the third period, making it 4-4 as regulation ended.

“When we tied it up I thought maybe the tide’s turning here,” Plante said. “Maybe we’ll get that lucky bounce.”

The luck went the other direction when Tanner Tweten got the game-winner (his second goal of the game) for the Green Wave 3:34 into overtime.

Hermantown hearts? Crushed.

“It’s a hockey game,” said Hermantown senior Nate Pionk. “You can’t just quit. You have to come back.

“In overtime it’s anyone’s game. Just because we get those two late goals it doesn’t mean you’re going to win it. We just didn’t find the back of the net.”

There’s the separation between finally winning gold medals and returning home with another bag of silver. And as happy as the East Grand Forks players were, they understood how it felt in the other locker room.

“Some of our players know some of their players, and you just feel for them,” said Bowen, who was named the Class 1A Herb Brooks Award winner after the game. “They’ve worked extremely hard. They’ve had a great season. You feel for them.”

Plante said, “I’m really proud of how we came back. We never gave up, we never gave in. We battled hard to the end. Some of the guys were gassed but they played hard, right to the bitter end.”


The top-seeded Panthers completed a 31-0 season with a dominating victory over the unseeded Greyhounds (16-11-4). The Poehling brothers – seniors Jack and Nick and sophomore Ryan – all scored, as did Angelo Altavilla, who was named the winner of the 2A Herb Brooks Award.

North outshot East 23-13 in a defensive-oriented game. Ryan Peterson scored for the Greyhounds in the third period to make the score 3-1 before Nick Poehling scored into an empty net.


Class 1A/ Jack Becker, Mahtomedi; Tanner Breidenbach, St. Cloud Apollo; Eric Gotz, Luke Olson, Nate Pionk, Ryan Kero, Wyatt Aamodt, Hermantown; Dixon Bowen, Grant Loven, Josh Weber, Tanner Tweten, Trevor Selk, East Grand Forks.

Class 2A/ Garrett Wait, Edina; Peter Tufto, Seamus Donohue, St. Thomas Academy, Alex Spencer, Ash Altmann, Gunnar Howg, Ryan Peterson, Duluth East; Jack McNeely, Jack Poehling, Jack Sadek, Nick Poehling, Ryan Edquist, Lakeville North.


--This year's total of 135,618 fans is a record for the tournament. The previous high was 129,643 in 2008.

--The Chicago Blackhawks lead the NHL with an average home attendance of 21,720. Friday night's crowd of 21,609 for the Class 2A semifinals would rank No. 2 in the NHL.

--Saturday’s championship games marked the fifth time in the 1A/2A era with three finalists from northern Minnesota. There were four in 2007: Roseau, Grand Rapids, Hermantown and Duluth Marshall. The other years with northern teams were: 1994 (Warroad, Moorhead, Hibbing), 1995 (Duluth East, International Falls, Moorhead) and 1998 (Duluth East, Eveleth-Gilbert and Hermantown).


Class 1A
Fifth place: New Prague 3, Breck 2 (2 OT)
Third place/ Mahtomedi 4, St. Cloud Apollo 3
Championship/ East Grand Forks 5, Hermantown 4 (OT)

Class 2A
Fifth place: St. Thomas Academy 2, Blaine 1
Third place/ Edina 4, Eden Prairie 2
Championship/ Lakeville North 4, Duluth East 1

*Schools/teams John has visited: 412
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,945

The Underdog Hounds Of Duluth East Do It Again
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/6/2015 9:17:41 PM

It was clear that Mike Randolph wasn’t telling a lie. After the Duluth East Greyhounds continued their postseason underdog journey with a shocking upset of Edina in Friday night’s Class 2A boys state hockey semifinals at Xcel Energy Center, the Hounds coach said simply: “I didn’t think it was an upset.”

He will not find a lot of company in that thought. Consider …

--Edina was the two-time defending state champ.

--The Hornets had defeated Duluth East 7-1 on Dec. 30.

--Edina was seeded second in the eight-team field and East was one of three unseeded teams.

--Edina came into the semifinals with a record of 25-1-2. East was 15-10-4.

Not an upset? OK, coach.

“I’ve been here 17 times and I’m kind of used to it,” Randolph said of the state tournament hoopla. It’s rare that he shows much emotion, but as the horn sounded Friday he raised both arms as well as a big grin.

“Did you see me on the bench after the game,” he said in the postgame press conference. “I’m already thinking about watching this game as soon as you guys let me go.”

He was referring to the second semifinal between Eden Prairie and Lakeville North.

“All we do is worry about us,” Randolph said. “And if we’re playing our game and we’re on our game, we’ll have our peaks and valleys as you can see, but we’ll find a way. That’s what’s important.”

The theme in the Hounds’ prior two games went like this: fall behind by three goals and mount a tremendous comeback. That didn’t happen against Edina, which made East goaltender Gunner Howg happy.

“For me it did feel a lot better going into the game and not being down three right away,” he said, smiling. “That was a big weight off my shoulders.”

Edina opened the scoring when Patrick Haug got a goal 10 minutes into the first period. It was all East after that; Luke Dow scored later in the first period, Nick Altmann scored 31 seconds into the second and Ash Altmann finished it off with less than three minutes left in the third.

Who called them underdogs?

“It takes a lot of pressure off us and puts it on the other team,” Nick Altmann said. “We have nothing on the line and we just go out and play.”


Top-seeded North (30-0) broke open a close game with two third-period goals and moved into the title game against Duluth East. The score was 2-2 after two periods, but the Panthers’ Max Johnson, Chaz Dufon, Jack Poehling and Luke Seper scored in the third. Eden Prairie (19-10) will face Edina in Saturday’s third-place game.


Turn back the clock to the 2014 Class 1A state tournament. And keep turning that sucker back all the way through 2013 and 2012 and 2011 and 2010. And then look at the Hermantown Hawks as they prepare for Saturday’s state championship game.

This is a very familiar perch for the top-seeded Hawks (27-2-1), who will face third-seeded East Grand Forks (25-4) in the title game at noon. The same two teams met for the state championship last year, with East Grand Forks winning 7-3. Hermantown was also on the low end of the score in the previous four title games. So Saturday’s game will be their sixth title game in a row, and they enter with renewed hopes of finally taking home the big trophy.

“There’s not really pressure,” senior Nate Pionk said after the Hawks beat St. Cloud Apollo 2-0 in Friday’s semifinals. “What happened in the past is in the past. We’re going to come out with open minds, we’re going to look for a way to win this one.”

East Grand Forks, which advanced with s 5-2 win over Mahtomedi, lost to Hermantown 3-0 on Dec. 31. That’s hopefully a positive omen for the Hawks, but after going donut-for-five in five straight title games, you still have to wonder if there’s an angry ape on your back.

“I just try to get ‘em to play our game,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “And if our game is good enough we’ll win. If we don’t, we won’t. We want to play without nerves or fear and we try to play the best we can.

“In four of those (previous title) games we played really well, maybe some of the best hockey all year. And we didn’t win. We want them to play as good as they can.”

Two days after an 8-0 quarterfinal win over Spring Lake Park, the Hawks played a workmanlike game Friday. Jesse Jacques scored in the first period and Cole Koepke did the same in the third. Plante called Koepke’s goal the key moment in the game.

“That really gets rid of some of the ulcer juices right there, when you get that second goal.”


Grant Loven had a hat trick for the Green Wave and Trevor Selk and Austin Monda also scored. The score was 2-2 in the second period after the first two goals by Loven and Mahtomedi scores by Joe Forciea and Tim Kuivinen. But East Grand Forks did the rest of the scoring, finishing with a 33-20 advantage in shots on goal.


--Friday night's Class 2A state hockey attendance was 21,609. That's the largest crowd for an indoor hockey game in Minnesota ... ever. Another hockey attendance note: Every session except Wednesday evening has set an all-time record for that session.

--Getting to the state tournament can be simple or not so simple. For example, fans from East Grand Forks and Mahtomedi faced much different journeys. East Grand Forks High School is 327 miles from Xcel Energy Center; Mahtomedi High School is only 14.6 miles away.


Class 1A
Fifth place: New Prague vs. Breck, 10 a.m. (Mariucci Arena)
Third place/ Mahtomedi vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 9 a.m.
Championship/ East Grand Forks vs. Hermantown, noon

Class 2A
Fifth place: St. Thomas Academy vs. Blaine, noon (Mariucci Arena)
Third place/ Edina vs.Eden Prairie, 4 p.m.
Championship/ Duluth East vs. Lakeville North, 7 p.m.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 412
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,905

Never Give Up On The Duluth East Greyhounds
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2015 9:57:55 PM

The most dangerous lead in hockey is a three-goal margin over Duluth East. That’s the lesson for teams who have faced the Greyhounds in recent days, including St. Thomas Academy in Thursday’s Class 2A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

The Cadets held a 3-0 lead after the first period and were in front 5-2 heading into the third period. But here came the Greyhounds … tying the score 5-5 with two goals in the last three minutes of regulation and winning on a goal by Ryan Peterson – his second of the game -- 91 seconds into overtime.

“No matter what happens, if you stick with it you’ll get good looks,” East coach Mike Randolph said. “The guys stuck with it, we got our looks and they buried it.”

A big rally is nothing new for the Greyhounds, who are unseeded at state and have a record of 15-10-4. In last week’s Section 7 championship game against Elk River they came back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win 5-4 in double overtime.

Their victory over third-seeded St. Thomas Academy (24-5) was a shocker, but the Greyhounds did control some aspects of the game. The most glaring example was their 30-21 advantage in shots on goal.

“I’m looking up at the scoreboard and thinking we’ve got ‘em under 20 shots in the third period,” Randolph said. “We didn’t play that bad. We played the way we needed to play to give us a chance to win. That’s the way we’ve been playing and that’s the way we have to play.”

Nick Funk, Luke Dow, Brian Bunten and Evan Little also scored for East; Peter Tufto had two goals and three assists for the Cadets.

St. Thomas Academy co-coach Greg Vannelli said, “Once momentum starts going the other way and you can’t stop it, that’s what happens sometimes. It happened really fast.

“You can control the effort but not the outcome sometimes.”

In the postgame press conference, the first question posed to Randolph was basically this: How does your team keep winning these games?

He nodded toward the Greyhounds captains, Nick Altmann and Brian Bunten, who were sitting near him.

“See those two guys right there? They drive the bus and everybody’s jumped on. They’re two of the hardest-working captains we’ve ever had.”

Peterson, he of the two goals scored, explained the East magic like this: “We know we have to work every game. We’re used to coming back and working hard from the first minute of the period to the last minute. And it pays off.

“On the bench we kept saying, ‘Keep believing, keep working, stick to the systems.’ It works every time.”


This game was much like the Duluth East-St. Thomas Academy contest, but Edina held off a late onslaught by the Lumberjacks. The Hornets led 3-0 after one period after outshooting Bemidji 12-2, but the team making its first tournament appearance since 1986 never went away.

“They’ve got a good hockey team,” Edina coach Curt Giles said of the Lumberjacks. “We knew they were going to battle, knew they weren’t going to quit.”

Two goals by unseeded Bemidji (23-4-2) in the second period made it a 3-2 game, Edina (25-1-2) got two for a 5-2 score and the Jacks’ Josh Lusby scored with 55 seconds left in regulation to make it 5-4. Edina’s Casey Dornbach ended the scoring with two seconds to go. Matt Masterman scored twice for the second-seeded Hornets.

Bemidji coach Wade Chiodo, asked about his team’s first trip to state in nearly three decades, said “It’s been absolutely awesome. It’s been 29 years. People are excited and they should be. We have a good hockey team and that’s the bottom line.”


Jack Poehling scored two goals and Max Johnson and Henry Ebenak each scored once as the top-seeded Panthers (29-0) advanced to Friday night’s semifinals. North outshot the unseeded Pioneers 29-17. Jacob Olson scored the goal for Hill-Murray (21-8).


Michael Graham and Casey Mittelstadt each scored two goals for the fifth-seeded Eagles (19-9), who will meet Lakeville North in Friday’s semifinals. Fourth-seeded Blaine fell to 22-6-1.

Mahtomedi vs. East Grand Forks, 11 a.m.
Hermantown vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 30 minutes after end of first game

Edina vs. Duluth East, 6 p.m.
Lakeville North vs. Eden Prairie, 30 minutes after end of first game

*Schools/teams John has visited: 412
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,865

A Big Win, A Pink Helmet And A Vow To Stay In 1A
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/4/2015 9:11:58 PM

There is one big question swirling around the Class 1A boys state hockey tournament: Can the Hermantown Hawks, losers in the last five state championship games, finally take home a first-place trophy?

The top-seeded Hawks opened the 2015 tournament in grand style Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, scoring three goals in the first period and cruising to an 8-0 victory over unseeded Spring Lake Park, which is at state for the first time. Nate Pionk and Ryan Kero each scored three goals for Hermantown.

But there has been another question about Hermantown: Are the Hawks considering opting up to Class 2A in future seasons? To that question we have an answer.

“No, we’re not going up to double A,” coach Bruce Plante said after the game. “We only had 37 kids come out for the team this year. Last year we had 32 come out. We happen to be one of the best teams in single A and we’re proud of that.”

Now, moving on to a pink bicycle helmet that joined Plante, Pionk and Kero at the postgame press conference. Pionk carried it into the room and placed it on the table in front of him. Obvious question: What’s the deal with the bike helmet?

Nate explained that someone on the team picked it up in St. Cloud (he thinks) and it has become a lid that signifies the MVP of each game. His teammates decided Pionk had earned it Wednesday, but he said, “It got passed to me, and I said, ‘Ryan and I should share this one.’ ”


New Ulm came into the state hockey tournament with an 0-8 record in four previous appearances, but the unseeded Eagles gave second-seeded Mahtomedi all they wanted. Mahtomedi came out on top 6-3 but it was a struggle.

The score was 1-1 after the first period and Mahtomedi’s lead was 4-3 early in the third before the Zephyrs’ Jack Gunderson scored his second goal and Jack Becker completed a hat trick to secure the victory.

Colin Huffman scored for New Ulm only 40 seconds into the third period, making it 4-3. Ethan Kraus, who had scored the Eagles’ first goal, said, “Oh yeah, it was game on. That was when we knew we had a pretty good chance of winning that game. We hung in there until the end.”

Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl said his team played poorly with the puck and has some work to do if they want to win in Friday’s semifinals.

“I thought (New Ulm) battled real hard and to be perfectly honest I thought we really struggled,” he said. “We fought it all night long.

“The guys in the room know we’re a good hockey team, a much better team than we showed today. I think it’s a matter of making a commitment to stay the course and play our game. I think it’s a matter of conviction; we’re not going to leave the tournament with regrets and we’ll leave everything on the ice Friday when we come back.”


The defending state champion Green Wave outshot the Spartans 32-17 and Dixon Bowen led the way with two goals.

The game was scoreless through the first period and Bowen got on the board in the second period. Third-period goals were scored by Cooper Jerome, Nick Derrick and Bowen into an empty net.

“We hit two posts at critical times. A call here, a call there, you have to take momentum or get it back,” said New Prague coach Chris Lonke. “I can’t ask any more of our guys. They were focused and played to win the hockey game. It just wasn’t meant to be today.”


Brandon Bissett scored the game’s only goal in overtime, lifting the Eagles into Friday’s semifinals against Hermantown. Breck had 25 shots on goal to 14 for Apollo.


East Grand Forks' Bowen made an important decision before the season began. He played 10 games with the Fargo Force of the U.S. Hockey League before the high school season began, and he will return to the Force after this weekend.

But nothing was going to keep him from his senior season with the Green Wave.

“I was loyal to my coaches and my teammates and I said I was going to stay,” Bowen said after Wednesday’s game. “I haven’t regretted that decision at all.”

He has a bright future in hockey. He is a Mr. Hockey finalist and he will play collegiately at the University of North Dakota. Some players choose to leave high school early, but many don’t.

“I think some people started to worry about it a little bit,” Bowen said. “I had to make the decision for me. I thought it was a good decision and I wanted to come back and accomplish something here.”


--Quote of the day/ New Ulm’s Jon Kopacek, who got a goal in the second period: “It was pretty cool scoring here. … when you play here you have a little extra step.”

--Wink of the day/ Mahtomedi’s Jack Becker, sitting on the bench after his third goal and seeing himself on the big screen at Xcel Energy Center, winking at the camera.

Thursday’s Quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center
Bemidji (23-3-2) vs. #2 seed Edina (24-1-2), 11 a.m.
Duluth East (14-10-4) vs. #3 seed St. Thomas
Academy (24-4), 30 minutes after end of first game
Hill-Murray (21-7) vs. #1 seed Lakeville North (28-0), 6 p.m.
#5 seed Eden Prairie (18-9) vs. #4 seed Blaine (22-5-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game

*Schools/teams John has visited: 404
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,825

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