John's Journal
Class 1A Boys Tennis Rankings4/1/2017
Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association

CLASS 1A

TEAMS
1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 St. Paul Academy
5 Litchfield
6 Foley
7 Holy Family Catholic
8 Hibbing
9 Mound Westonka
10 Luverne

INDIVIDUALS
1 Ben Ingbar, Blake
2 Jack Barker, Blake
3 Joe Mairs, Blake
4 Peter Erickson, Rochester Lourdes
5 Karthik Papisetty, Breck
6 Thomas Metz, Breck
7 Mathew Metz, Breck
8 Ryan Ortega, Winona Cotter
9 Rafait Solaiman, St. Peter
10 Jose Williamson, Minnehaha
Class 2A Boys Tennis Rankings4/1/2017
Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association

CLASS 2A

TEAMS
1 Minnetonka
2 Rochester Century
3 East Ridge
4 Mounds View
5 Lakeville South
6 Rochester Mayo
7 Eastview
8 Wayzata
9 Edina
10 Benilde

INDIVIDUALS
1 Ben van der Sman, East Ridge
2 Nikita Snezhko, Armstrong
3 Sebastian Vile, Rochester Mayo
4 Ben Wheaton, Minnetonka
5 Gavin Young, Eastview
6 Maxim Zagrebelny, Eagan
7 Varun Iyer, Century
8 Connor Olson, Orono
9 Chase Roseth, Lakeville South
10 Sam Hochberger, Maple Grove

In A New Baseball Season, The Miracle Of Henry Sibley Lives On4/1/2017
It’s a new season of high school baseball in Minnesota but you have to forgive people who want to talk about what the Henry Sibley Warriors accomplished last season. It’s a remarkable, one-in-a-million saga that will be remembered for a long, long time. Because how many teams in any sport anywhere go from a record of 4-14 to a state championship?

The Warriors – whose school is in Mendota Heights -- began the 2016 season with five losses before stringing together four consecutive wins. But that was followed by nine defeats in a row, giving them a record of 4-14. They closed the regular season with two wins and took a 6-14 mark into the double-elimination Section 3 playoffs.

They opened the postseason by beating St. Paul Highland Park 9-3 and losing to St. Thomas Academy 1-0. One more loss in the section tournament would have ended their season, but the Warriors won four games to claim the section title, then went to state and defeated Northfield, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Mahtomedi to become Class 3A state champs.

Looking back from the doorstep of the 2017 season, returning members of the team can only shake their heads at the memories.

“We had our banquet before the section tournament started,” said current senior catcher Matt Richards. “Coach gave a little talk and said, ‘We’re not done yet. We still have to go out and finish the section tournament and try to make the most of it.’ The timing of that was funny because we were 4-14 and the regular season was done and nobody had any idea what was going to happen next.”

It was remarkable. After the state championship game at Target Field, Henry Sibley coach Greg Fehrman tried to explain, saying, “I can’t. I really can’t. I wish I could but I can’t. It’s one of those things that turned out the way it did.”

Henry Sibley’s only previous baseball state championship came in 1994; the team also went to state in 2005. It’s pretty easy to figure out the team’s goal this spring: Get back to state, but maybe without so much drama and high-wire intrigue.

“I’m one of those people that believes every time you start a new year, ultimately your goal is to win a state title,” said Fehrman, who is beginning his 27th year as the Warriors head coach. “You’re always trying to make sure you play the game as clean as you can play it. Make sure you throw the ball across the plate, get the outs you’re supposed to get and battle as best you can.”

Eight of last year’s 15 losses were by one run, so the Warriors weren’t as far behind the pack as their record may have made it look.

“It looks one way on the outside looking in, and on the inside looking out you get another look at it,” said Fehrman (pictured). “From my perspective, it’s one of those deals where we weren’t that bad. We lost a lot of games by one run. We had some concerns as far as injuries and a couple other issues. In the end, we started cleaning up our game a little bit. Once you start playing good it’s kind of contagious. We had a good understanding of how we wanted to go about the plan.”

The hope this season is that the Warriors’ contagious spirit continues.

“I think last year we just took it one day at a time,” said senior infielder and pitcher Joe Ihrke. “Earlier in the season we were probably trying to do too many big things. When we were unsuccessful at that we kind of took a step back and took it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one pitch at a time. I’m excited for this year. I think we have a chance to be successful this year.

“After the first day of practice (this season), coach Fehrman took us aside and said we made our hay last year but it’s a new year so that’s over with.”

There are six returning starters this year, but other than Richards behind the plate there are players who may be plugged in at several positions.

“We bring back a little pitching, catching, we’ve got to find a shortstop,” Fehrman said. “These kids nowadays, they love to play the game and it’s fun to be with them.”

One of the lessons of last season is that you never know what might happen when you stick together and play the game one pitch, one out at a time.

“Last year was unbelievable, crazy,” said senior outfielder Sam Gantman. “But it’s in the past. It’s a new team this year, a lot of young guys.”

There should be little reason for overconfidence, Fehrman said.

“You’ve always got to guard against kids hanging on to yesterday,” he said. “We talk about it. We make sure that for the kids who had a role in playing the game last year, they have to understand they need to extend themselves from that point. And for the kids filling in, they have to be contributing.”

If all goes well this spring, the Warriors seniors will finish their high school career with an overall winning record. They’re not there yet.

“We’re two games under .500, ” Irhke said, smiling. “We still have a losing record in our high school career but we’re state champs.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 560
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,443
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Long Days, Hard Work, Another State Title 3/25/2017
After Minneapolis North won its second consecutive Class 1A boys basketball state championship on Saturday, coach Larry McKenzie talked about the condition of the school several years ago as well as the basketball program when he was hired four years ago.

Back in 2010, district administrators proposed closing North due to declining enrollment and other factors. Community members fought to keep the school alive and the efforts were successful.

Before McKenzie took over as coach, the Polars were struggling much as their school had struggled. The team was 3-22 in the 2011-12 season and 6-15 in 2012-13. McKenzie’s first season in 2013-14 resulted in a 19-11 record and the Polars were on track.

The changes extended beyond the basketball court. There were 6 a.m. practices and mandatory study halls on a regular basis.

“Some days these guys would be at school from 6 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night,” McKenzie said after the Polars defeated North Woods 96-49 at Target Center.

The Polars finished this season with a record of 32-2, losing to Class 4A teams Apple Valley and Hopkins. North defeated Minnehaha Academy, which beat Crosby-Ironton in Saturday’s Class 2A title game. Apple Valley won the 4A state title later Saturday.

North, whose enrollment has risen from 139 in 2011-12 to 199 this year, will move up to Class 2A beginning next season.

“This team will forever ever be so special for me,” McKenzie said. “I’ve had lots more talented individuals but I don’t think I’ve had a better team. … these are the guys who believed in me four years ago when I took the job.”

The North Woods Grizzlies had a dream season, going 31-2 and playing at Williams Arena and Target Center at state. The word “amazing” was repeated after Saturday’s game.

“It’s been amazing,” said sophomore Cade Goggleye. “We weren’t even supposed to be here.”

Coach Will Kleppe said, “It’s been amazing for our community, our school and of course for our program.”

George Bibeau, a 6-foot-4 center, was the only senior on the North Woods team so we may see more of the Grizzlies in the future.

Media Service Awards

Two members of the media who have been longtime supporters of high school activities were honored at halftime of the 3A championship game with the MSHSL Media Service Award. Congratulations to longtime Fergus Falls radio personality Craig Olson and Brainerd Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka (pictured).

The young and the experienced

Minnehaha Academy won the Class 2A state title with a 47-36 win over Crosby-Ironton. It was a contrast in ages, with Minnehaha led in scoring by two ninth-graders and the Rangers led by two seniors.

Jalen Suggs scored 19 points and Terry Lockett had 12 for the Redhawks. Noah Gindorff (19) and Jack Silgen (10) led Crosby-Ironton.

Rangers coach Dave Galovich was asked about facing Suggs, who at 6-foot-3 is a highly recruited quarterback as well as basketball player.

“He’s very talented,” Galovich said. “When you play them the first time you don’t realize how quick he is and the length he has. The adjustment to his game just doesn’t happen in a couple possessions. He can do some things that no one else we have played this year can do. Very good player, outstanding.”

Galovich said he and his team had no regrets after finishing second.

“From the beginning I said, ‘Put forth the effort, we’ll take the results.’ And they did not disappoint. I thought their effort tonight was outstanding. We came up a little bit short. When that happens, sometimes you’ve got to look at your opponent and tip your hat to them.”

Another milestone for DeLaSalle

DeLaSalle won its sixth consecutive Class 3A state title with a 72-44 victory over Austin. Last year the Islanders became the first team to win five championships in a row, and Saturday’s win made them the first to win six straight.

Apple Valley wins 4A title

In a rematch from the 2015 championship game, Apple Valley held off Champlin Park 60-54 to win the big-school title. Two years ago, Apple Valley defeated the Rebels 64-61 in the title game. That was Champlin Park’s only defeat of that season, as was Saturday’s loss.

Apple Valley junior guard Tre Jones finished the season in style, with 24 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. Apple Valley had a 45-25 edge in rebounds.

The total attendance for Saturday’s Class 3A/4A session was 13,893.

Wells-Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A/
Ethan Brouwer, Central Minnesota Christian; Rob McClain Jr., Red Lake; Isaac Fink, Springfield; Jacob McNamara, Goodhue; Cade Goggleye, Tate Olson, North Woods; Tayler Johnson, Isaac Johnson, JaQuan Sanders-Smith, ODell Wilson IV, Minneapolis North.

Class 2A/ Marc Kjos, Lake City; Oakley Baker, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva; Michael Schaefer, St. Cloud Cathedral; Jarod Wilken, Annandale; Trey Jacobs, Noah Gindorff, Jack Silgen, Crosby-Ironton; Jalen Suggs, JaVonni Bickham, Terry Lockett, Minnehaha Academy.

Class 3A/ Sam Vascellaro, St. Thomas Academy; Matthew Monke, Fergus Falls; Wendell Matthews, Columbia Heights; Mitchell Sueker, Marshall; Both Gach, Oman Oman, Duoth Gach, Austin; Tyrell Terry, Gabe Kalscheur, Goanar Mar, DeLaSalle.

Class 4A/ Nathan Reuvers, Lakeville North; Dan Oturu, Cretin-Derham Hall; Brad Davison, Maple Grove; Gavin Baumgartner, Wayzata; Tre Jones, Mohamed Kone, Luke Martens, Apple Valley; McKinley Wright IV, Theo John, Marcus Hill, Champlin Park.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 559
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,407
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
It’s No Miracle: North Woods Wins Again3/24/2017
Don’t call the boys basketball team from North Woods a Cinderalla outfit. Don’t call them the miracle five. Call them the Grizzlies because they know how to play some grizzly-style basketball down to the wire.

If you own a television and happened to watch ESPN this week, you saw what happened at the end of the Grizzlies’ 54-51 quarterfinal victory Thursday over Central Minnesota Christian at Williams Arena. North Woods sophomore Cade Goggleye heaved a half-court shot at the buzzer to win the game.

The drama wasn’t quite as intense during Friday’s quarterfinals at Target Center. Goggleye again scored the winning points, this time on two free throws with four seconds left as the unseeded Grizzlies (31-1) beat second-seeded Goodhue 51-49.

Gabe, a man of few words, said after the game, “I was thinking either we go to the state championship or we go to the third-place game.”

The Grizzlies, first-timers at the state tournament, found themselves in a whirlwind of attention following Thursday’s game. That made it even more improbable that they would knock off once-beaten Goodhue, which was the state runner-up last year and seeded second this year. But momentum matters.

“I think any time you have a team that’s going to their first state tournament and only has one loss on the year, it’s no slouch,” said Goodhue coach Matt Halverson. “You get a buzzer beater and your team’s feeling pretty good about themselves. This whole basketball deal is a lot about momentum and they had momentum coming into the game, they had momentum during the game.”

North Woods coach Will Kleppe said, “There were certainly a lot of emotions that went with yesterday’s game and a lot of attention afterwards. Not too often do you turn on basically any TV station and see that play replayed again and again. The boys handled it really well.

“We went back to the hotel and got something to eat and there was talk of everything but basketball. Then we started getting phone messages about being on ESPN. It was pretty exciting. We went to shoot around this morning to prepare for today’s game and there was very little talk about it. They were very focused.”

A big cheer for Alex

Memories are made at state tournaments, and Springfield fans will long smile about something that happened late in the Tigers’ 100-56 loss to Minneapolis North in the Class 1A semifinals.

The game was out of hand, it was being played under running time and the benches had been emptied. The score was 98-53 with less than two minutes to go when Springfield senior Alex Quesenberry found himself behind the three-point line with the ball in his hands. Alex had seen action in 14 of the Tigers’ 29 games prior to the state tournament. He had scored 19 points on the year, averaging 1.36 points per game. And he fired away.

The ball went through the hoop and the crowd went wild. The Springfield fans whooped and hollered and the players and coaches on the bench stood, applauded and smiled.

Championship experience

Minneapolis North, attempting to repeat as 1A state champ, will meet North Woods on Saturday. North coach Larry McKenzie is no stranger to championship games. He coached Minneapolis Patrick Henry to Class 3A titles four consecutive years from 2000 to 2003.

Best message of the tournament

Crosby-Ironton met St. Cloud Cathedral in the Class 2A semifinals Friday evening. Several hours before tipoff, this message was sent via the C-I Ranger Activities Twitter account:

“A reminder that we are representing our school and community tonight with the eyes of Minnesota watching. Emotions tend to run high but that is no excuse for profanity, taunting, or badgering of officials. Be loud, cheer with pride, and be supportive of our team in a positive manner. Let’s show everyone how much we love our boys, our school, and our community! Go C-I Go!”

A note of gratitude

I was invited to a meeting in St. Paul on Friday morning, and it was a group I highly respect: the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association. Its membership includes coaches from all MSHSL sports and it does a terrific job of representing athletes, coaches and our schools.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a surprise afoot: I was made an honorary lifetime member of the MSHSCA (with the laminated membership card to prove it). My heroes have always been teachers and coaches, and to receive this honor is one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Thank you MSHSCA.

Friday’s Games at Target Center

Class 1A semifinals

Minneapolis North 100, Springfield 56
North Woods 51, Goodhue 49

Class 2A semifinals
Minnehaha Academy 76, Annandale 44
Crosby-Ironton 53, St. Cloud Cathedral 42

Saturday’s state championship games

Class 1A

11 a.m./ Minneapolis North (31-2) vs. North Woods (31-1)

Class 2A

1 p.m./ Minnehaha Academy (25-5) vs. Crosby-Ironton (30-2)

Class 3A

5 p.m./ DeLaSalle (26-3) vs. Austin (29-1)

Class 4A

8 p.m./ Champlin Park (31-0) vs. Apple Valley (29-1)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 559
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,357
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn