It doesn’t seem like 10 years, but when the Braham boys basketball team won the Class 2A state championship Saturday, it ended a 10-year period between titles for the Bombers.
This year’s team finished 31-2, defeating Jackson County Central 96-90 in the gold-medal game at Target Center. If you were following the sport a decade ago, you remember Braham’s dominance.
The Bombers won state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006, stringing together a three-year record of 95-4 that included 65 consecutive wins. That’s the second-longest winning streak in Minnesota boys basketball history; Edina (1965-68) and Hopkins (1951-54) share the top spot at 69.
The coach of those teams was Bob Vaughan, who retired after the 2014-15 season. He was the coach for 30 years. Among the stars of that 2004-2006 championship run were Vaughan’s son Josh and the Dahlman brothers, Isaiah and Noah.
Josh Vaughan played basketball at North Dakota State and is now an assistant coach at the University of Mary in North Dakota. Isaiah Dahlman was the state’s career scoring leader when he graduated. He played at Michigan State and now lives in Michigan. Noah Dahlman played collegiately at Wofford and currently plays professional basketball in Romania.
Current Bombers coach Jeff Eklund, a 1995 Braham grad who played under Bob Vaughan and was an assistant before being hired as the head coach, said he heard from some of those former players during the state tournament, including an email from a world away.
“Noah sent me an email this morning from Romania, saying how proud he was of the team and wishing them luck,” Eklund said. “He said, ‘Bring one back to Braham. The tradition’s alive.’ ”
Indeed it is. Four Bombers scored in double figures Saturday, led by Chris Olson with 33 and Ryan Larson with 28. Fourth-seeded Braham led 50-29 at halftime and held off a frantic finish by unseeded Jackson County Central (25-6) as the Huskies scored 61 second-half points.
The Braham players don’t need to be reminded of their school’s basketball tradition, Eklund said.
“We walk in the gym every day and we see those three banners hanging up there on the wall,” he said. “And this group, they’ve been playing together for a long time. Some of them are four-year starters.
“They’ve been building for this. They’ve put an incredible amount of time into the game, in the gym in the summer. They work so hard.
“I’m a first-year coach, but I’ve known them for a long time because I’ve been in the program,” said Eklund, the Braham elementary principal. “From seventh grade up, practice ends with one word: ‘Family.’ ”
CLASS 2A: MINNEAPOLIS NORTH 68, GOODHUE 45
The top-seeded Polars (29-5) broke open a close, low-scoring game in the second half to defeat third-seeded Goodhue. The Wildcats (24-10) led 26-25 at halftime before North outscored them 43-19 in the second half. Isaac Johnson had 15 points for North and Ben Opsahl led Goodhue with 12.
CLASS 3A: DeLaSALLE 79, FERGUS FALLS 65
Top-seeded DeLaSalle became the first boys basketball team to win five consecutive state championships, ending their season with a 24-4 record. Minneapolis Henry (2000-03) and Southwest Minnesota Christian (1999-2002) each won four titles in a row. Gabe Kalscheur led the Islanders with 27 points. Harrison Christensen scored 22 for the third-seeded Otters (28-4).
CLASS 4A: HOPKINS 64, LAKEVILLE NORTH 55
The second-seeded Royals completed a 31-1 season by holding off the fifth-seeded Panthers (26-6). Amir Coffey led Hopkins with 19 points. Nathan Reuvers had 16 for Lakeville North.
BEST “TEAM” MOMENT OF THE TOURNAMENT
As the Jackson County Central Huskies were posing for a team photo after their loss to Braham, junior Jacob Christopher held up the proceedings for just a moment. He stepped out of the picture, placed his All-Tournament team trophy out of range and returned to his spot. The lesson: The team is more important than individual accomplishments.
BEST QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT
Goodhue coach Matt Halverson on his undersized team facing Minneapolis North: “I think we should have dunked it more on them.”
CLASS 1A/ Central Minnesota Christian 79, Red Lake 45
CLASS 2A/ St. Croix Lutheran 81, Annandale 45
CLASS 3A/ Red Wing 75, Monticello 59
CLASS 4A/ Apple Valley 93, Osseo 82
CLASS 1A/ Will Morrison, Rob McClain, Red Lake; Ethan Brouwer, Taylor Slagter, Central Minnesota Christian; Ben Opsahl, Jacob McNamara, Jacob Pasch, Goodhue; Tyler Johnson, Jamil Jackson Jr., ODell Wilson IV, Minneapolis North.
CLASS 2A/ Jarod Wilken, Annandale; Trenton Krueger, Aage Rovney, Ade Murkey, St. Croix Lutheran; Matt Ringkob, Bodey Behrends, Jacob Christopher, Jackson County Central; John Larson, Chris Olson, Ryan Larson, Braham.
CLASS 3A/ Matt Todd, Monticello; Travis Toivonen, Joe Sevlie, Ben Munson, Red Wing; Nathan Rund, Matthew Monke, Harrison Christensen, Fergus Falls; Gabe Kalscheur, Goanar Mar, Samm Jones, DeLaSalle.
CLASS 4A/ Allan Anderson, Osseo; Tre Jones, Gary Trent Jr., Cameron Kirksey, Apple Valley; Carter Brooks, Nathan Reuvers, Nick Fossey, Lakeville North; Xavier Johnson, Amir Coffey, Vinnie Shahid, Hopkins.
ADAPTED FLOOR HOCKEY STATE TOURNAMENT
North Suburban captured the CI division state title with a 6-5 victory over Anoka-Hennepin in the championship game at Bloomington Jefferson. Josh Hamann had a hat trick for North Suburban and Anthony Bengtson had two goals. Cole Denny scored all five goals for the Mustangs.
In the PI division, Dakota United won the state championship with a 3-2 win over Anoka-Hennepin. Grayson Nicolay led the way for the winners with two goals (including the game-winner) and goaltender Johnathan Lyons made 26 stops. Scoring for Anoka-Hennepin were Joey Manion and Tyler Ezell.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 566
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,838