John's Journal
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)

*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
Coaches, Longtime Friends Will Meet For A State Title 3/23/2017
When the boys basketball teams from DeLaSalle and Austin meet at Target Center for the Class 3A state championship Saturday night, it will mark the latest chapter in a coaching relationship that goes back decades.

The coaches – Austin’s Kris Fadness and DeLaSalle’s Dave Thorson – have faced off against each other four times, with each winning twice. So Saturday’s game will give one of them a 3-2 edge in their coaching rivalry. But both of them would argue against using the term “rivals.” They are close friends.

“Dave and I go way back,” Fadness said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dave.”

“Kris is as good a high school coach as there is in the state,” Thorson said. “He’s a great teacher of the game. There’s a huge level of respect and I think the world of him.”

Their two most recent matchups came in the 2013 and 2014 3A state championship games, both won by DeLaSalle. Fadness’ first victory against Thorson’s Islanders came in 1997, when Fadness coached Caledonia to the Class 2A state championship with a victory over DeLaSalle in the title game. After Fadness left Caledonia for Austin, his Packers team defeated DeLaSalle in a regular-season game in Austin.

“We played in the old gym and there were 10 million people there,” Thorson said.

They met when Fadness, a native of Houston, Minnesota, was a student at Luther College in Iowa. He gave up on his playing career after his sophomore year to concentrate on becoming a coach. He and Thorson worked together at summer basketball camps at Luther and elsewhere and hit it off.

“We established a relationship, a friendship,” said Fadness, who spent a year coaching in Iceland after graduating from Luther.

Thorson, a native of Fargo, N.D., helped Fadness get hired as an assistant coach at Hamline University (Thorson is a 1989 Hamline grad) under head coach Tim Mieure. When Mieure resigned, Fadness was looking for work once more and Thorson – then working as an assistant under Clem Haskins at Minnesota – helped him get the job in Caledonia.

“When times were tough and I needed a job, Dave was there to help,” Fadness said. “And we’ve been friends forever.”

DeLaSalle is the five-time defending state champion and is trying to become the first team in Minnesota history to win six consecutive championships.

“The toughest games are against the guys you respect the most,” Fadness said, adding “But it’s about the kids.”

Saturday’s championship game could be a fun one, with two athletic teams that sprint up and down the court. DeLaSalle advanced with an 86-60 win over Columbia Heights on Thursday and Austin beat Marshall 73-53.

“To be honest, we’ve been thinking about them all year,” Fadness said of the Islanders. “We feel good. We know it’s going to be a tough battle. If we play like we did today, with this type of energy, we have a shot. The big thing is you have to believe you can beat them. You’re playing against an aura, a tradition, and we think we have some of that in Austin.”

Thorson, who has watched Austin play four times this season, jokes about putting on a baseball cap and Spam T-shirt when he’s scouting at games in Austin.

“We both know we’re going to do what we do and I’m stubborn, and he’s going to do what he does and he’s stubborn,” Thorson said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing you have no chance. The way they play is hard to simulate.

“It will be a chess match between friends.”

Multi-tasking teenagers

All but two of the 15 members of Marshall’s basketball team are multi-sport athletes, and many of them are also involved in activities outside sports.

While the Tigers are playing in the Class 3A state basketball tournament this weekend, sophomore Bryce Paulsen and junior Jake Hess are involved in the Business Professionals of America Spring Leadership Conference this weekend in Minneapolis.

Hess was Marshall’s nominee for the MSHSL ExCEL Award (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) and senior Mitchell Sueker was a member of the Marshall Math Team that competed at the state math team tournament last week in South St. Paul.

Motivational trophy

When Champlin Park meets Apple Valley on Saturday night for the Class 4A state championship, the Rebels may look to a piece of hardware as motivation. It’s their second-place trophy from state two years ago.

They lost that title game to Apple Valley 64-61, their only loss of the season. They have brought the runner-up trophy to practice on occasion as a way to remind themselves where they do not want to finish this season.

Blast from the past

Jack Thurnblad, 96, who coached the last Wayzata team at state in 1959, was at Target Center for Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals. He chatted with current Trojans coach Bryan Schnettler before the Trojans’ game with Champlin Park. The Rebels came out on top 70-62.

Thursday’s games

Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena

Minneapolis North 94, Red Lake 46
Springfield 73, Nevis 65
Goodhue 57, Lake Park-Audubon 37
North Woods 54, Central Minnesota Christian 51

Class 3A semifinals at Target Center
DeLaSalle 86, Columbia Heights 60
Austin 73, Marshall 53

Class 4A semifinals at Target Center
Champlin Park 70, Wayzata 62
Apple Valley 77, Maple Grove 54

Friday’s Games at Target Center

Class 1A semifinals

Noon/ Minneapolis North vs. Springfield
2 p.m./ Goodhue vs. North Woods

Class 2A semifinals
6 p.m./ Minnehaha Academy vs. Annandale
8 p.m./ St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Crosby-Ironton

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 555
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,307
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Champlin Park’s Dubois Joins The Hoffarber Miracle Club3/22/2017
Sometimes all it takes to win a basketball game is the right guy taking the right shot at the right time. And maybe get just a little bit lucky. Sam Dubois, welcome to the club.

The 5-foot-10 Champlin Park senior will long be remembered in state tournament lore for his game-winning heave in Wednesday’s opening game of the Class 4A tourney at Target Center.

“I wasn't really thinking,” he said. “I had to throw it up, and it went in. I was surprised.”

Wait. Those were not the words of Dubois. They were spoken late on the evening of March 19, 2005, when a Hopkins sophomore named Blake Hoffarber made a miracle shot from the seat of his pants to tie the 4A championship game with Eastview after one overtime. The Royals went on to win the title.

I was sitting in very nearly the same spot at Target Center for both of those shots, a dozen years apart. Both came on the same end of the court. Both were miraculous.

Sam’s shot Wednesday was just as big as Hoffarber’s in 2005. If he misses, the top-seeded Rebels go to overtime with unseeded Chaska and the rock-solid Hawks’ dream of pulling the mammoth upset has fresh oxygen. Sam’s shot was a slapdash thing, coming after the planned play for Rebels star McKinley Wright came up short.

Champlin Park killed most of the final 90 seconds of the game thusly: dribble, pass, repeat. The mission was clear: wait for the final seconds and let Wright (who finished with 30 points … duh) win the game. His final attempt missed, however, and the ball was tipped out beyond the three-point line.

That’s where Sam grabbed it and heaved it.

His teammates rushed him as he ran down the court, ending in a falling flash mob in front of the Chaska bench. It was wild.

“I’m speechless,” Sam said. “The ball just came to me and I didn’t know how much time was on the clock. I tried to get it off as fast as I could and it went in. I thought it was short. I honestly thought, ‘I missed it and we’re going to overtime.’ But it rolled in. I can’t tell you what happened after that because it was all a blur.”

Give the Hawks a high five for taking the unbeaten, top-ranked, top-seeded Rebels – the prohibitive favorite to win this tournament – to the ends of the earth. Champlin Park hardly ever held the lead. The Rebels were up once in the first half at 18-17 and trailed until Theo John scored with 4:25 to play, giving Champlin Park a 49-48 edge.

A free throw by Wright made it 50-48 before Chaska’s Ryan Rodriguez made a layup for a 50-50 score with 3:08 on the clock. Chaska didn’t get a shot off after that, while the Rebels missed three times. After the final miss, Dubois did his thing.

“I told a couple of their kids that I was proud of how they played,” Rebels coach Mark Tuchscherer said. “They played with a chip on their shoulder. We had to take a lot of good blows from them and we survived, we got it done.”

Making up for lost time
Lakeville North, last year’s Class 4A state runner-up, is making its sixth consecutive appearance at state. The Panthers’ opponent Wednesday was Wayzata, which was at state for the fourth time.

The story with the Trojans, however, did not consist of recent history. That’s because Wayzata’s previous appearances came in 1925, 1926 and most recently … 1959.

Final score: Wayzata 69, Lakeville North 66. The Trojans will meet Champlin Park in Thursday evening’s semifinals.

Play of the day

The Lake Park-Audubon boys basketball team will meet Goodhue in the Class 1A quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Williams Arena. Before the Raiders left town Wednesday, they made a stop at Sunnyside Care Center in Lake Park. One of the players, 6-foot-10 senior Jesse Bergh, had a nice chat with his grandma.

Wednesday’s games

Class 4A quarterfinals

Champlin Park 53, Chaska 50
Wayzata 69, Lakeville North 66
Maple Grove 73, Andover 50
Apple Valley 76, Cretin-Derham Hall 67

Class 3A quarterfinals
DeLaSalle 55, Big Lake 47
Columbia Heights 77, Fergus Falls 74
Austin 55, St. Thomas Academy 49
Marshall 83, Grand Rapids 63

Class 2A quarterfinals
Minnehaha Academy 77, Lake City 63
Annandale 66, Jackson County Central 61
St. Cloud Cathedral 70, New Richland Hartland-Ellendale Geneva 59 (OT)
Crosby-Ironton 67, Breckenridge 46

Thursday’s games
Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena

11 a.m/ Minneapolis North vs. Red Lake
1 p.m./ Nevis vs. Springfield
3 p.m./ Goodhue vs. Lake Park-Audubon
5 p.m./ Central Minnesota Christian vs. Northwoods

Class 3A semifinals at Target Center
Noon/ DeLaSalle vs. Columbia Heights
2 p.m./ Austin vs. Marshall

Class 4A semifinals at Target Center
6 p.m./ Champlin Park vs. Wayzata
8 p.m./ Maple Grove vs. Apple Valley

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 547
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,257
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Final Boys Basketball Rankings3/20/2017
Here are the final rankings of the boys basketball season (including regular-season records). Teams in ALL CAPS will play in this week's state tournament.

5. WAYZATA 23-3
6. Hopkins 21-5
7. East Ridge 21-5
8. Tartan 23-3
9. Robbinsdale Armstrong 18-8
10. Woodbury 19-7
11. Osseo 19-7
12. Park Center 20-6
13, New Prague 22-4
15. Eden Prairie 14-12
16. Edina 17-9
17. CHASKA 21-5
18. Bloomington Jefferson 21-4
19. Rogers 22-4
20. Rochester John Marshall 23-3

2. AUSTIN 24-2
3. Mahtomedi 22-3
4. Orono 21-5
5. Minneapolis Henry 19-6
6. MARSHALL 23-3
7. Waconia 15-11
10. Totino-Grace 14-12
11. Delano 19-7
13. Waseca 23-3
14. St. Paul Highland Park 22-4
15. Rocori 15-10
17. Alexandria 18-8
18. Zimmerman 18-8
19. Bemidji 18-7
20. BIG LAKE 17-9

2. Caledonia 22-4
3. Melrose 26-0
6. Esko 23-3
7. Perham 24-2
8. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 23-3
10. Watertown-Mayer 22-4
11. Holdingford 22-4
12. Eden Valley-Watkins 19-5
13. ANNANDALE 22-4
14. Jordan 22-3
17. Brooklyn Center 18-7
18. LAKE CITY 20-6
19. Pine Island 22-4
20. Minneapolis Roosevelt 17-8

2. NEVIS 24-1
4. GOODHUE 25-3
6. RED LAKE 22-4
7. Spring Grove 23-3
8. Ada-Borup 22-3
9. Red Rock Central 22-2
10. Heritage Christian 21-5
11. Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdahl 22-3
12. NORTH WOODS 25-1
13. Browerville-Eagle Valley 22-4
14. Cedar Mountain-Comfrey 24-2
15. Prairie Seeds Academy 21-4
16. Win-E-Mac 21-5
17. Wesbrook-Walnut Grove 21-4
19. Battle Lake 18-5
20. Stephen-Argyle 21-3
What A Difference From December To March3/18/2017
One hundred and five days apart, a 66-point swing. That was one of the subplots to Saturday’s Class 1A girls basketball state championship game at Williams Arena. Goodhue defeated Mountain Iron-Buhl 73-52 as the Wildcats claimed their second consecutive title, but let’s go back to very early in the season.

In the Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins High School on December 3, Mountain Iron-Buhl absolutely creamed Goodhue. The Rangers’ 78-34 victory gave them the No. 1 ranking for the rest of the season and the No. 1 seed at state, with Goodhue No. 2.

After both teams advanced with semifinal wins Friday, Goodhue coach Josh Wieme said, “I don’t think they’ll beat us by 44 again.”

That wasn’t the boldest of predictions, but the turnaround from their first meeting was quite momentous.

“We played more aggressively than they did in December, and they took it to us today,” said Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta “We couldn’t get that extra push that we needed. Goodhue had it and we didn’t.”

Goodhue’s three wins at state were by 13, 22 and 22 points. The Wildcats brought back lots of experience from the 2016 championship team and they showed what they can do when the pressure was the highest.

“I think it’s the best we’ve played, certainly for three consecutive games,” said Wieme. “They certainly rise to it. They can sense the moment, they’re not afraid of it.”

As for the game in December, Wieme said, “We certainly questioned ourselves a lot. It was also what happened, you couldn’t deny it, we didn’t make excuses. They just severely outplayed us that day. We say this a lot, but we just try to focus on the day to day, getting a little bit better.”

--Saturday’s game marked the end of stellar high school careers for Mountain Iron-Buhl seniors Mya Buffetta and Chelsea Mason. They both were on the varsity squad for six years, went to state every year, finished as state runner-up twice and played in 190 games.

2A: Roseau wins first basketball title

After falling in the state semifinals the last two years, Roseau captured its first girls basketball state title with a 75-64 victory over Sauk Centre. The Borowicz sisters combined for 48 points for the Rams, with senior Kiley getting 20, sophomore Kacie scoring 19 and eighth-grader Katie scoring nine.

“They have an awful lot of weapons and you kind of pick your poison,” said Sauk Centre coach Scott Bergman.

Roseau’s last state title came in boys hockey in 2007.

Orono tops Winona for 3A championship

The top-seeded Spartans won their first state title using only five players in the championship game. Tori Andrew scored 22 points and Mattea Rice had 19 for Orono. Winona, which lost in the championship game for the second year in a row, was led by Abby Winter with 14 points, Eden Nibbelink with 12 and Maria Appicelli with 11.

Elk River knocks off Hopkins in 4A

Elk River joins Roseau and Orono in winning the first girls basketball state championship in school history. The Elks finished the season with a 32-0 record, becoming only the fourth team to win 32 games. Hopkins, which finished 31-1, won state championships in 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. The Royals also were state runners-up one year ago, falling to Minnetonka.

Wells-Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A/ Brooklyn DeKam, Southwest Minnesota Christian; Chelsea Swatek, Bailey Gronner, Cromwell-Wright; Sami Payne, Maranatha Christian; Chelsea Mason, Mya Buffeta, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Sydney Lodermeier, Maddy Miller, Mckenzie Ryan, Emily Benrud, Goodhue.

Class 2A/ Marnie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva; Shea Oman, New London-Spicer; Claire Killian, Kirstin Klitzke, Watertown-Mayer; Tori Peschel, Maesyn Thiesen, Jill Klaphake, Sauk Centre; Kiley Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Victoria Johnson, Roseau.

Class 3A/ Kendall Kohler, Alexandria; Ayanna Gardner, DeLaSalle; Destinee Oberg, Holy Angels; Heaven Hamling, Grand Rapids; Danneka Voegeli, Eden Nibbelink, Winona; Tori Andrew, Natalie Smaron, Mattea Rice, Madeline Loder, Orono.

Class 4A/ Mikayla Hayes, Park Center; Temi Carda, Lakeville North; Megan Walstad, Rachel Ranke, Eastview; Gabi Haack, Kelsie Cox, Sidney Wentland, Elk River; Paige Bueckers, Raena Suggs, Angie Hammond, Hopkins.

Boys state basketball pairings

The boys tournament takes center stage beginning Wednesday and ending with the state championship games Saturday at Target Center. Pairings are set in three classes, with the 2A field awaiting one section final Saturday night; the 2A pairings will be announced Sunday.

Class 4A
Wednesday at Target Center

10 am/ #1 Champlin Park (29-0) vs. Chaska (24-5)
Noon/ #4 Lakeville North (27-2) vs. #5 Wayzata (26-3)
2 pm/ #2 Maple Grove (27-2) vs. Andover (11-18)
4 pm/ #3 Apple Valley (27-2) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (21-8)

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena

10 am #1 DeLaSalle (24-3) vs. Big Lake (20-9)
Noon #4 Fergus Falls (25-4) vs. #5 Columbia Heights (21-8)
2 pm #2 Austin (27-2) vs. St. Thomas Academy (23-6)
4 pm#3 Marshall (26-3) vs. Grand Rapids (24-5)

Class 1A
Thursday at Williams Arena

11 am/ #1 Minneapolis North (29-2) vs. Red Lake (25-4)
1 pm/ #4 Nevis (28-1) vs. #5 Springfield (28-2)
3 pm/ #2 Goodhue (28-3) vs. Lake Park-Audubon (22-6)
5 pm/ #3 Central Minnesota Christian (26-3) vs. Northwoods (29-1)

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 535
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,207
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn