John's Journal
State: It Never Gets Old, And It’s Always Special 3/19/2016
State tournaments are special. That’s no secret, certainly. They come along every year in every sport and it may be easy to take them for granted just a bit. I hope that never happens to me or you.

I was reminded again of how awesome our tournaments are while sitting courtside at Williams Arena on Saturday. It was Championship Saturday for girls basketball, with big crowds and talented teams giving it everything they had. In the midst of all this, I had an exchange of online messages with a young friend of mine.

His name is Colin Nelson. He’s a senior and an Honor Roll student at New Ulm Cathedral High School. Colin and I have known each for a while now; he keeps me updated on what’s happening in the New Ulm area and we check in with each other online on a regular basis.

Colin isn’t an athlete but he’s a team manager, a scorekeeper, loves sports and does a lot of things to stay involved. He’s always upbeat and he often sends positive messages to his friends on Twitter. I like that young man a lot.

That’s how Colin and I chatted Saturday, via Twitter. This was our exchange…

Colin: “You're doing an impressive job covering these games. You have a dream job!”

Me: “Thanks Colin. I'm having fun!”

Colin: “5 years as a student manager and didn't make it to the state tournament once... It must be an electric experience.”

Me: “It's pretty cool. Never gets old.”

I cannot be more honest in making that statement. It never gets old. To hear a band strike up the school song as the fans clap along (which is happening as I write this … the teams from Winona and Holy Angels have just taken the court for the Class 3A championship game), well, how can you beat that?

Which brings us to some postgame comments made after the championship games. It’s easy for winning players and coaches to talk after these affairs; when you come out on the short end of the stick, well, it’s not so simple to sit in front of reporters and talk about it.

However, some of the most memorable postgame words came from those on the losing end Saturday.

Maranatha Christian senior guard Alaina Jarnot has played in the last five Class 1A state tournaments; her sister Jaclyn is a sophomore on the team. Alaina will play Division I basketball at Monmouth University in New Jersey. The Mustangs lost in the state championship game last year and this year, which one might think would be a bitter pill for a graduating senior. Not Alaina.

”I’m so blessed to play here,” she said. “I’ve had an amazing coach. My sister, I’m going to miss playing with her so much and all my other teammates. I’ve been to the state tournament since eighth grade. I’m just so happy to be part of this program.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Winona senior Hallee Hoeppner, who led the Winhawks in scoring this season and had a team-high 15 points in the Winhawks’ 51-43 loss to Holy Angels in the 3A title game.

“I’m just really proud to be a part of this team,” Hallee said after fighting back tears (of gratitude, not sadness). “I just had such a fun time playing with these girls. I told them in the locker room not to be hard on themselves. I have so many memories on and off the court and they have become my best friends. Even if we didn’t get a state title, I’m so happy to have been a part of this team.”

And then there was Mike Dreier, coach at New London-Spicer. Mike is as legendary as they come; in 38 years with the Wildcats, he is Minnesota girls basketball’s all-time leader in victories (863) and trips to state (16). His teams have played in eight state championship games, winning titles in 1997 and 2002.

On Saturday, unseeded New London-Spicer lost to a powerful top-seeded team from Plainview-Elgin-Millville 72-42 in the Class 2A championship game. And coach Dreier couldn’t have been more positive afterwards.

“It wasn’t the way we’d like it to end, but what a dream to be where we are,” he said. “We finished third in our conference and it was really a treat to get here. It was a great tournament for us, a great year. I am totally upbeat about what we did.”

Dreier also spoke very highly of Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

“Teams like that usually win state tournaments,” he said. “They’re tough, a well-coached team, good athletes and good size. They were the real deal, the total package and I salute them.”

That is true sportsmanship and total class. Let’s never take those things for granted, either.


The top-seeded Wildcats won their first state championship in six trips to the tournament. They were the state runner-up in 2010. Maddy Miller led Goodhue with 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Sydney Lodermeier had 24 and 12. Third-seeded Maranatha was led by Alaina Jarnot and Elise Moore with 18 points each,


The top-seeded Bulldogs captured their first title since Plainview merged with Elgin-Millville in 2006. (Elgin-Millville won the 2005 championship). P-E-M was led by Emmaline Polsin with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Sarah Hart had 13 points. Megan Thorson scored 13 for New London-Spicer.


The fifth-seeded Stars overcame 30-percent shooting to defeat the second-seeded Winhawks. Holy Angels won the game at the free throw line, making 20 of 26 attempts to Winona’s 2 of 4. Laura Bagwell-Katalinich led the Stars with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Hallee Hoeppner scored 15 for the Winhawks.


The third-seeded Skippers won their first state championship, leading 34-26 at halftime and never trailing in the second half. Top-seeded Hopkins was aiming for its sixth title since 2006. Lizzie Odegard led Minnetonka with 17 points and 23 rebounds, followed by Courtney Fredrickson with 13 points and Chrissy Carr with 10. Ashley Bates led Hopkins with 28 points and Nia Hollie had 18.


--A total of 49 fouls were called in the Goodhue-Maranatha Christian game, 28 on Maranatha. Asked about the officiating, Mustangs coach Chris Buerman said, “I don’t ever believe an official is going to determine the game. At your best you’re going to be 50 percent right. I know if I did the job I would be probably 25 percent right. I complain to officials and then I go back and watch the tape and see that they were usually right.”

--After Sauk Centre lost to New London-Spicer 49-46 in Friday night’s semifinals, two sisters embraced in an emotional hug in a hallway at Williams Arena. Sauk Centre sophomore Kelsey Peschel was wrapped up in the arms of big sister Kali, a senior captain at the University of Iowa who helped the Mainstreeters reach three state tournaments.

--As noted previously in John’s Journal, the Goodhue band and many other students missed Friday’s and Saturday’s games at state because they were in Florida on a school trip. The band from Plainview-Elgin-Millville filled in admirably, playing the Goodhue school song as the Wildcats won the 1A title. That's what you call teamwork.


1A/ Mountain Iron-Buhl 65, Wheaton/Herman-Norcross 37
2A/ Roseau 94, Sauk Centre 82
3A/ Thief River Falls 56, Becker 42
4A/ Eagan 53, White Bear Lake 48

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 9,020

What A Crazy Game: Maranatha Christian Wins In The End 3/18/2016
“It was like the most crazy.”

That statement right there, out of the mouth of Maranatha Christian Academy senior guard Alaina Jarnot, is a very apt description of what transpired at Williams Arena on Friday afternoon.

The third-seeded Mustangs defied the odds and somehow, some way, came out on the top end of a 75-74 overtime decision against Mountain-Iron-Buhl. With three seconds to play in overtime, it looked for all the world like second-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl would win the game and advance to Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game against top-seeded Goodhue.

But … stuff happens.

Four starters fouled out, two from each team. The score was tied 10 times. The Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers held a nine-point lead with 6:29 to play in the second half, but after that everything got tossed in a dryer and tumbled around until the outcome was decided.

“It was crazy but I’m so happy we won this game,” said Jarnot, who made eight field goals (half of them from three-point range) in scoring a game-high 21 points.

The crazy train really slipped off the tracks at the end of overtime. The Rangers, trailing by two, were working the ball around the perimeter, looking to make something happen as the clock ticked under 10 seconds. Ninth-grader Allie Negen put up a three-point attempt and was fouled by Maranatha sophomore Jayzryn Thompson. Uh oh.

That foul gave Negen three free throws and she hit them all, putting Mountain Iron-Buhl ahead 74-73. Game over, right?

Wrong. The crazy continued on the other end of the court. After a Ranger foul, Maranatha’s Kylie Post stood at the line with three seconds left in overtime. And she missed ‘em both. And then came the Crazy with a Capital C. Thompson, fresh off the foul that gave the Rangers three free throws and the lead, stood tall.

Jayzryn, who is all of 5 feet, 8 inches and was the third and last player off the bench for the Mustangs, wiggled between the Rangers, grabbed the rebound and returned it skyward.

Basket. Horn. Game over. Pandemonium.

“Incredibly, this is the type of emotion we’ve been playing with for about a month now,” said Maranatha coach Chris Buerman, whose team will take a 26-6 record into the title game with Goodhue (29-4).

Chelsea Mason led Mountain Iron-Buhl with 17 points before fouling out with 35 seconds left in overtime. She wears No. 14 and the Mustangs – especially Jarnot -- will not soon forget her.

“It was really tiring,” Jarnot said. “Fourteen is an amazing player. She can knock down any shots. She’s so phenomenal, she made me really tired.”

Mountain Iron-Buhl had won at Maranatha Christian (in Brooklyn Park) 69-53 in mid-December. Facts like that, of course, go out the window in the state tournament.

“These girls gave it their all,” Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta said. “It was an emotional game with a lot of energy. They did everything we could ask of them. The game came down to somebody making the last play, and they had the last play and we didn’t.”

One year ago, Maranatha Christian lost to Ada-Borup 82-65 in the Class 1A state championship game. The Mustangs have not forgotten about that result, especially the way Ada-Borup piled on the points.

“To reverse last year we’ve got to play some defense,” Buerman said. “We packed it. We’re going to play some defense.”


The Wildcats took the game to running time for the second time in as many games in the tournament. In the quarterfinals, Goodhue beat East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 77-46. Against Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, Maddy Miller scored 24 points for Goodhue and Sydney Lodermeier had 18. Jordan Stafford led the Warriors with 12 points.



The top-seeded Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s title game by holding off the fourth-seeded Rams. Chloe Holtz led P-E-M with 20 points, Sarah Hart had 14 and Emmaline Polson 12. Roseau was led by the Borowicz sisters, who combined for 62 points: junior Kiley had 35, ninth-grader Kacie had 23 and seventh-grader Katie had four.


The unseeded Wildcats (25-6) overcame a three-point halftime deficit and will play in their first state championship game since 2002. Shea Oman scored the winning points with 4.5 seconds to play when she drove the lane, hit the layup, was fouled and made the free throw to make it 49-46. She finished with 10 points and teammates Megan Thorson and Kabrie Weber each had 12. Maesyn Thiesen scored 20 for second-seeded Sauk Centre (30-2).


1A/ Goodhue vs. Maranatha Christian, noon
2A/ Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. New London-Spicer, 2 p.m.
3A/ Holy Angels vs. Winona, 6 p.m.
4A/ Hopkins vs. Minnetonka, 8 p.m.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,968
Cheering For Goodhue … From Far, Far Away3/17/2016
When top-seeded Goodhue rolled to a girls basketball state quarterfinal victory on Thursday at Mariucci Arena, everybody was there. The band sounded fantastic and the student section was filled with kids wearing the school colors, with faces painted, homemade signs displayed and enjoyment all around.

The top-seeded Wildcats’ 77-46 victory over East Grand Forks Sacred Heart moved them into Friday’s Class 1A semifinals against Wheaton/Herman-Norcross. That game will be played at noon at Williams Arena.

The contingent of Goodhue supporters, however, will be much smaller. That’s because the tournament conflicts with a school trip to Florida involving students from grades nine through 12 involved in band and choir. Those kids will board buses at 5 a.m. Friday and head to Florida.

That means the Wildcats will have no band at Williams Arena and the student fans will be much smaller in number, if not enthusiasm.

Goodhue music and band students take such a trip every four years. Fourteen of the 15 girls on the basketball roster are also involved in band and/or music, so they will fly to Florida on Sunday morning.

“It’s going to be a little weird tomorrow,” Goodhue coach Josh Wieme said. “Our whole high school’s going to be gone. It’s too bad but it’s another great thing that’s happening in our school. They just happen to overlap. There are only so many days in the year.”

The girls basketball tournament caps a wild winter season for the Wildcats. Three wrestlers qualified for state and Bailee O’Reilly won a state championship in Class 1A at 152 pounds, Goodhue’s first title in wrestling since 1998. Last week the Goodhue boys basketball team placed second in the state in Class 1A; their semifinal victory at Target Center was played the same day the girls team won the Section 1 championship in Rochester.

All in all, Goodhue has been a very busy place in recent weeks.

“It seems like we don’t have school anymore,” joked senior Taylor Larson, who scored 11 points for the Wildcats on Thursday. “We’re to the point that we don’t learn anymore (she was smiling and kidding). The boys went to state, we had a state champion wrestler, football went to state. It’s crazy, we’ve got a good group here.”

Wieme, who also is Goodhue’s athletic director, said the environment at school and around the community is special.

“It’s such a buzz. It’s really neat,” he said. “What’s special is that no one’s overlooked and one (team) is not more important or more valued than another. The fans come out for everything. It’s really, really neat. There’s just a buzz and an energy around the whole community.”


The Mountain Iron-Buhl girls basketball team is no stranger to the state tournament, qualifying for the big show six consecutive years. The second-seeded Rangers defeated Sleepy Eye 70-37 on Thursday to advance to Friday’s Class 1A semifinals against Maranatha Christian.

Mountain Iron-Buhl finished third at state in 2011, lost to Maranatha Christian in the 2012 championship game and bowed out in the quarterfinals the last three years.

Thursday’s starting lineup included only one senior (Tatum Primeau) alongside juniors Mya Buffetta, Patty Overbye and Chelsea Mason, and sophomore Mary Burke. So the prospects for the future are bright, although the Rangers are not looking past the next game.

“We needed to act like the veteran team and I think we did that today,” coach Jeff Buffetta said.

“I’d like to think (experience at state) helps but we lost here the last three times. We just needed to play like we’ve been playing in the section tournament. Everybody thinks it’s different when you get down here. It’s not different; we have five, they have five. We’ve just got to play the same way we play at home. And I think we did that today.”

Mountain Iron-Buhl had defeated Sleepy Eye 92-70 in a holiday tournament, and that may have been a factor in Thursday’s rematch.

“I think our girls have more confidence when they play people they’ve already seen,” Buffetta said. “But you’ve got to be ready for anybody.”


Holy Angels 55, Thief River Falls 42
Winona 37, Becker 33

Hopkins 85, Eastview 67
Minnetonka 70, White Bear Lake 55


Goodhue 77, East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 46
Wheaton/Herman-Norcross 70, Cromwell-Wright 55
Mountain Iron-Buhl 70, Sleepy Eye 37
Maranatha Christian 91, Southwest Minnesota Christian 79


Noon/ Goodhue vs. Wheaton/Herman-Norcross
2 p.m./ Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Maranatha Christian

6 p.m./ Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. Roseau
8 p.m./ Sauk Centre vs. New London-Spicer

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,924
Marshall Basketball: Winning Off The Court, Too3/16/2016
Every member of the Marshall High School girls basketball team will tell you the same thing: Tuesday night’s opening-round loss in the Class 3A state tournament was a real bummer. The fourth-seeded Tigers lost to fifth-seeded Holy Angels 69-47 at Target Center, shooting only 33 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers as their season came to an end.

Marshall is accustomed to deep tournament runs; the Tigers were 3A state runners-up the last two years. But the team members also know that there is much more to life than basketball.

Which takes us to the morning after … Wednesday morning at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The entire Marshall team spent a couple of hours with young patients, delivering smiles and love.

“We went there to give back and it was really fun,” said senior Lexi Saugstad.

There are personal connections at work, as well. Saugstad’s sister Morgan, who was a senior on last year’s Marshall team, was treated at Children’s Hospital and has been cancer-free for six years.

The Tigers brought autographed basketballs to the hospital, which will be used for prizes. They hung out with “The Dude” … he hosts an in-house television program, geared for patients and their families, who can win prizes. Two dozen Marshall Tigers basketballs will be used as prizes.

“When we were sitting in the studio room, there was a little girl who was really shy,” senior Emily Buysse said. “She didn’t want to take (a basketball), but she said she would give it to a friend, for later.”

No one will mind at all if that little girl keeps it for herself.


Before the state tournament begins, coaches of the participating teams use an electronic process to seed five teams, with the remaining three teams drawn at random to determine the pairings. In Class 3A this year, the seedings were basically thrown out in the first round.

On Tuesday evening at Target Center, unseeded Thief River Falls beat top-seeded Hutchinson 61-59 and fifth-seeded Holy Angels defeated fourth-seeded Marshall 69-47. On Wednesday at Mariucci Arena, second-seeded Winona held firm with a 76-56 win over unseeded Grand Rapids, and unseeded Becker beat third-seeded St. Paul Como Park 62-57.

Thursday’s semifinals pairings at Williams Arena will be interesting: unseeded Thief River Falls vs. fifth-seeded Holy Angels, followed by second-seeded Winona vs. unseeded Becker.


Plainview-Elgin-Millville is the top seed in the Class 2A tournament, and the Bulldogs rolled past Holy Family 59-38 in Wednesday’s first round at Mariucci Arena.

Other than the first poll of the season, P-E-M has been ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. Defending 2A state champion Dover-Eyota, which was top-ranked at the start of the season, lost to P-E-M in the Section 1 championship game.

“Well, there is (pressure),” Bulldogs coach Jason Melbostad said. “We’ve been ranked No. 1 the whole season, so they kind of know the feeling. But up here, I think there’s less pressure.
Everyone’s good.”


Winona 76, Grand Rapids 56
Becker 62, St. Paul Como Park 57

Plainview-Elgin-Millville 59, Holy Family 38S
Roseau 78, Pequot Lakes 65
Sauk Centre 70, Norwood-Young America 51
New London-Spicer 58, Minnehaha Academy 44


Noon/ Thief River Falls vs. Holy Angels
2 p.m./ Winona vs. Becker

6 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Eastview
8 p.m./ White Bear Lake vs. Minnetonka


11 a.m./ East Grand Forks Sacred Heart vs. Goodhue
1 p.m./ Wheaton/Herman-Norcross vs. Cromwell-Wright
3 p.m./ Sleepy Eye vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
5 p.m./ Southwest Minnesota Christian vs. Maranatha Christian

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 588
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,880
Experience At State Can Be A Great Teacher3/15/2016
In the biggest surprise of Tuesday’s first-day Class 4A action at the girls state basketball tournament, unseeded White Bear Lake upset second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville 72-69 in overtime. The Bears came to state with a record of 22-7, compared to the Knights’ 27-2.

White Bear Lake’s seven losses included defeats to the teams seeded second, third, fourth and fifth in the 4A state tournament. So the fact that the Bears were unseeded was probably no shock. But they did come to state with some important experience gained a year ago.

In the 2015 state tourney, a young White Bear Lake team lost to Shakopee 62-56 in the quarterfinals. With six seniors among 10 players who saw action Tuesday at Target Center, the Bears were not going to be surprised.

“It’s huge,” Bears coach Jeremy Post said of having experience under the bright lights of state. “The first time it’s like an event. It becomes a game the second time. And the second time, you understand the event and you play the game. So it’s huge.”

Last year the Bears were seeded fourth and lost to fifth-seeded Shakopee. They shot only 38 percent from the field last year at Target Center; they shot 51 percent against St. Michael-Albertville on Tuesday.

Five players scored in double figures for the Bears on Tuesday, including senior Kate Brabenec with 13.

“Last year we were kind of just happy to get here, because none of us had ever done it before,” Brabenec said. “I feel like we got a little satisfied. This year we definitely really didn’t want to be done any time soon, so that helped calm the nerves a little bit for most of us, because most of us were on the team last year. Already knowing what to expect is helpful.”

Post said, “We talked about today just being a second chance. We got a second chance to show what we think we are. We think we’re pretty good. They’re great, and we think we’re pretty good. They were just determined today.

“These kids just didn’t get rattled. They’ve been here before, and they’ve been through a lot of adversity this year.”

--Unseeded Thief River Falls pulled off the first day’s biggest shocker in Class 3A, defeating top-seeded Hutchinson 61-59. The Prowlers came to state with a 25-3 record, with fewer losses than any of the five seeded teams. Hutchinson ended its season with a 23-6 record.


After conducting several rounds of one-on-one interviews following his team’s quarterfinal victory Tuesday, Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff (pictured) noticed something on the floor. It was a penny.

“I’m going to take this,” he said, looking at the coin. Noticing that it was a Canadian penny, he wondered what the quotient of good or bad luck may be with such an object. He pondered that for a second and then stuck the penny in his pocket. The message from the coach? Better safe than sorry.

Cosgriff is admittedly superstitious. (Which brings to mind a quote from Michael Scott -- played by Steve Carell -- on The Office: “I'm not superstitious, but I'm a little stitious.”

Cosgriff is more than a little stitious. He never wears the same shirt twice while coaching. He always hands out Life Savers mints to his assistants, stat crew and athletic trainer before games. He has done so for a long time and he really has no definitive explanation for it.

“I don’t know what it is, but here’s the thing,” he said, smiling. “We’ve done it, we’ve done it, we’ve done it.”

Cosgriff works as the announcer at Hopkins baseball games, and the mints have become a staple there, too. Although the timing of the mint distribution is crucial

“They were down 5-3 to Edina,” Cosgriff said, “and you don’t want to give them out too early. I gave them to the coach and the kid who was about to bat. He cranked out a home run, they won 6-5. It’s the power of the mint, I’m telling you.”

With Tuesday’s 81-69 victory over Park Center, top-seeded Hopkins advanced to Thursday’s Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena against White Bear Lake. This is not new ground for the Royals, who have played in seven state championship games since 2004 and own six state titles (including last year’s).

Cosgriff's career record is 447-61 (25-3 at state) in 17 years at Hopkins and this is his 10th state tournament appearance as a head coach.


St. Michael-Albertville was attempting to become the first school to win state titles in three different classes. The Knights won the Class 2A crown in 2001, Class 3A in 2009 and are now in 4A. In 2006 the graduating class consisted of approximately 240 students; the class of 2016 has 427.

--Hopkins 81, Park Center 69
--Eastview 52, Lakeville North 35
--White Bear Lake 72, St. Michael-Albertville 69 (overtime)
--Minnetonka 71, Anoka 40

--Thief River Falls 61, Hutchinson 59
--Holy Angels 69, Marshall 47


10 a.m./ Grand Rapids vs. Winona
Noon/ Becker vs. St. Paul Como Park

2 p.m./ Holy Family vs. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
4 p.m/ Pequot Lakes vs. Roseau
6 p.m./ Norwood-Young America vs. Sauk Centre
8 p.m./ New London-Spicer vs. Minnehaha Academy

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 578
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,838