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
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