John's Journal
Lessons From Winona: Why We Play, What We Learn4/4/2016
Spring sports are upon us as the weather warms and playing fields become green. But I want to go back a bit to something that took place during the girls state basketball tournament. It’s important stuff, offering important lessons.

What I witnessed centers on the team from Winona. The Winhawks played in the state tournament for the first time since 2003 and played in their first state championship game, where they lost to Holy Angels 51-43 for the Class 3A title. The last time a basketball team from Winona played in a state championship game was 1914, so this was history that was 102 years in the making.

My favorite moments came immediately after the Winhawks played, at Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena. Following handshakes between the teams, the Winona players gathered in front of their fans and band, wrapped their arms around each other and swayed back and forth as the band played a song titled “Varsity” (the alma mater of the University of Wisconsin).

That scene says something about a special connection between the athletes, their fellow students, families and fans from the community. The Winhawks’ basketball season epitomized that connection.

“It was just magical,” Winona coach Tim Gleason said to me during a Sunday afternoon telephone chat, two weeks after the tournament ended. “Even now, around town people come up and say hi and offer congratulations on such a great run by the girls. It was so neat to see so many people come together. And I really feel music is so important. We’re always going to need music, we’re always going to need athletics, because they bring people together. That was so much fun to be a part of.

“Winona is no different than any other town in Minnesota or anywhere else in the nation. There are so many things that people look at that divide us. And it’s so much fun to be part of something that brings people together. I told the girls that they were part of something bigger than basketball, and they should always remember that.”

After their loss in the championship game, Gleason and his players were as sad as you might expect. But the Winhawks also were proud. In the locker room, Gleason told me, senior and leading scorer Hallee Hoeppner talked to her teammates about how proud she was, saying she wasn’t going to let one loss cloud how she felt about what they had learned and accomplished together.

Hallee said the same thing in the postgame news conference: “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.”

This takes us to Why We Play, an MSHSL initiative that is used to assist coaches in creating the best possible experiences for their athletes and themselves. Why We Play is based largely on a book by Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL player and longtime high school football coach. His book is “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives.”

All high school coaches in Minnesota have access to Why We Play training. I can summarize Why We Play with this: Teams and athletes strive to be successful and win, but the true purpose of high school athletics is education. Winning is a goal, but education is the purpose.

Why We Play training talks about two types of coaching: transactional and transformational. Transactional coaches view winning as the bottom line. All practices, drills, strategies and techniques are geared toward that result. The means to achieve the win, however necessary, are secondary to winning.

For transformational coaches, however, individual consideration is given to developing athletes as a whole, while understanding that the team is only as strong as its weakest member.

Winona’s Gleason has gone through Why We Play training and has heard Ehrmann speak. After the state title game, he talked about what he has learned.

“(This season has) been full of memories,” he said. “The State High School League has done a lot of work on transformational coaching, the Joe Ehrmann-type mindset. This season with these ladies has typified that and it has probably been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

“Whatever happens in these kinds of events, and this goes back to the transformational things, these are things that change lives. I hope it changed their lives because it changed mine.”

Winona athletic director Casey Indra is in his second year in that job. He has been instrumental in bringing Why We Play training to his school’s coaches. That process began by informing local school board members about Why We Play and what Indra hoped it would bring to Winona.

“I said at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, if we were going to go in front of our school board and show our plan, we weren’t just going to say that and be done with it,” Indra said. “And I made the comment at the welcome home for our basketball team that (the state tournament) was a perfect Why We Play moment.”

As part of the Why We Play curriculum, coaches are asked to create their own individual purpose statements. Here is Gleason’s: “With the cornerstones of empathy and love, collaboratively, I will provide opportunities for young men and women to pursue excellence in all that they do.”

Tim also is Winona’s head coach for boys and girls track, so he impacts a lot of students as a coach. He is a band teacher, too, adding to that number and his impact.

He has been the Winhawks’ head girls basketball coach for 10 years, and he was an assistant for 11 years before that. His father, Jerry Gleason, a Winona graduate who also was a band teacher, passed away during the basketball season.

Tim said Why We Play training has been instrumental in how he coaches.

“It caused me to think about things more intentionally. Friends help you get through so many things. It’s probably something that I revisited in the last month or so of the season, with trials in my personal life. There were many days and many times I had to lean on the people I coach with and also on the team to get through the day and keep me in a position where I was helping them as much as they were helping me.”

Nine school buses filled with band members and other students traveled from Winona to Minneapolis for the state tournament. Winhawks fans displayed great sportsmanship and cheered their team until the final whistle.

“They came out in full force and I felt our kids cheered with respect to the other team,” Indra said. “They held true to what we believe in. I told them I wasn’t going to remember the score of the game, but I will remember everyone who put together this run. It was the community.”

Gleason said, “To see the MSHSL go to those kinds of training for their coaches, and to kind of see it lived out ... it was not only transformational for the girls but also for me.”

Well done, Winhawks.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 604
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 9,195
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