John's Journal
The Memories, The Photos, The Greatness Of State 3/21/2015
It’s pretty amazing what happens away from the action at a state tournament. Once the games are played and the reaction begins, some pretty neat things develop.

Case in point was a tremendous photographed issued via Twitter on Saturday afternoon by Reid Olson, the athletic director at Lyle High School. Lyle and Austin Pacelli have a cooperative girls basketball team, and the Athletics made history by getting to state for the very first time. They played three games in three days, finished fourth in Class 1A and were a worn-out bunch by the time it was all over.

The photo Tweeted by Olson showed the interior of a school bus with very few heads visible. You see one girl holding the fourth-place trophy on her lap and most everybody else is down for the count, sleeping on the ride home where the team would be welcomed by both school communities.

Another photo was issued from the Twitter account of the Norman County Fair. Ada-Borup is in Norman County, and those who have been there (as I have) know that the county fairgrounds are right across the road from the school.

Ada-Borup won the Class 1A state title with an 82-65 win over Maranatha Christian at Williams Arena, giving the Cougars a 32-0 record and the honor of being the only undefeated girls or boys basketball team in Minnesota this season.

The photo was of the sign outside the fairgrounds, reading “Congratulations Lady Cougars/ State Champs 32-0/The Fun Never Ends.”

A welcome home celebration was also held in Ada on Saturday night, and you can be sure there will be some basketball players having their picture taken with that sign.

And the cutest photo in the Twitter/state tournament category was of a one-day-old little girl. I wrote yesterday about Ada-Borup coach David Smart becoming a grandfather a few hours before the state semifinals, and how he had jokingly wanted the baby to be named “Swish.”

I don’t know who took the photo, but it was Tweeted by Ada-Borup athletic director Kelly Anderson, showing the baby wearing a knit cap that looked like a basketball and this caption: “Baby Swish is peacefully sleeping after Grandpa Smart's Cougars captured the trophy!”


The Cougars won their third girls basketball championship behind a balanced offensive attack and a strong defense. Miki Lee scored 22 points, Elizabeth Birkemeyer had 20, Lexi Merkens 17 and Haley Poehler 10. Maranatha’s Lexi Lee scored 32 points, the highest total in the tournament.


The Eagles won their first state title in their first trip to state and broke two tournament rebounding records. They set a new single-game record with 71 rebounds Saturday, breaking the mark of 67 set by Archbishop Brady in a 1979 game against Redwood Falls. Dover-Eyota also set a three-game tournament record with 171 rebounds, breaking the mark of 156 set by St. Paul Central in 2007.

Trailing 55-51 with 5:44 left, the Eagles outscored the Mainstreeters 20-3 down the stretch. Brandi Blattner led Dover-Eyota with 25 points, Megan Hintz had 24 and Madison Nelson 15. Sauk Centre’s Maesyn Thiesen scored 23 and Mauren Thiesen had 14.


The Pirated defeated the Tigers in the championship game for the second year in a row, not needing three overtimes as in last year’s contest.

Mikayla Hayes led the Pirates with 13 points while Hannah Schaub and Feyisayo Ayobamidele each scored 11. Marshall’s Marah Mulso scored 15 points, and Sarah Buysse and Morgan Saugstad scored 10 points each.


The Royals closed a 30-1 season by beating the defending state champion Lightning. Nia Hollie led the way with 26 points for Hopkins, TT Starks had 16 and Ashley Bates 15. Eastview was led by Madison Guebert with 19 points, Samantha Trammel with 12 and Erika Schlosser with 11.


Class 1A/ Brooke Walter, Sarah Holtz, Lyle/Austin Pacelli; Emily Stienessen, Taylor Reiss, Minneota; Alaina Jarnot, Lexi Lee, Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Haley Poehler, Miki Lee, Lexi Merkens, Ada-Borup.

Class 2A/ Kiley Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Roseau; Sarah Kaminski, Gracia Gilreath, Minnehaha Academy; Madison Nelson, Brandi Blattner, Megan Hintz, Dover-Eyota; Madison Moritz, Mauren Thiesen, Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre.

Class 3A/ Kristin Scott, Kasson-Mantorville; Rachel Heussner, Meghan Mandel, Orono; Sarah Buysse, Morgan Saugstad, Marah Mulso, Marshall; Mikayla Hayes, Hannah Schaub, Ann Simonet, Feyisayo Ayobamidele, Park Center.

Class 4A/ Taylor Koenen, Shakopee; Bobbi Brendefur, St. Michael-Albertville; TT Starks, Nia Hollie, Ashley Bates, Viria Livingston, Hopkins; Madison Guebert, Samantha Trammel, Rachel Ranke, Hana Metoxen, Eastview.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,309
What A Day: A Last-Second Victory And A New Grandchild 3/20/2015
The biggest moment of the day Friday for Ada-Borup girls basketball coach David Smart didn’t come when senior Miki Lee scored the go-ahead basket in the lane with seven seconds to play. The biggest moment didn’t come when Austin/Lyle Pacelli junior Courtney Walter narrowly missed a three-point shot with one second to play. It didn’t come when the horn sounded on Ada-Borup’s 54-52 fingernail-grinding victory over the Athletics in the Class 1A state semifinals at Williams Arena.

As exciting as all that was, the big moment for Smart came early Friday morning, when his daughter Kelli and her husband, Steve Trudeau, became parents of a little girl. Alexis Nicole Trudeau, who was born in Fargo, N.D., is David and Becky Smart’s first grandchild.

“We’ve been up since about 4 this morning,” the coach (pictured) said after Friday’s game. “It was well worth it.”

The plan was a normal delivery but the Smarts received an early-morning text from their son-in-law that a caesarean section was in the works.

“Once they decided that, we knew it was just going to be a matter of time,” David said.

The team learned the news during breakfast at their hotel when Becky showed everyone a photo of the baby on her phone.

“Becky showed us her screensaver,” Lee said, “and we were all like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ”

Kelli played basketball for her dad, as did the Smart’s other child, Nicole. Kelli is a teacher and coach at Northern Cass High School in Hunter, N.D.

A Facebook page about the impending birth gave family and friends the opportunity to predict when the baby would be born along with guessing the height, weight and name. Grandpa Smart predicted that the baby would be named “Swish.”

“I was a pound off, I got the inches right but I got the name wrong,” said the very happy coach/father/grandfather.


It’s a good thing teams are told to bring both sets of uniforms to every game at the state tournament. Maranatha Christian came out for warm-ups in the Class 1A semifinals wearing their black home uniforms while Minneota was wearing its blue home uniforms.

Maranatha was the visiting team, however, and should have been wearing white. So the Mustangs interrupted their warm-ups, returned to the locker room for a quick change, came out in their white uniforms and resumed warming up. Crisis averted.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done that,” said senior Lexi Lee, who scored a game-high 28 points in the Mustangs’ 76-69 victory. “We kind of just put them on because we didn’t know. We felt like if we put on the wrong ones our coaches would say something, but I don’t even think they realized it. I didn’t even notice until one of the coaches came out on the court and told us.”

Maranatha coach Chris Buerman said nothing rattles his team.

“We’ve worn those so many times, they put them on and away we went,” he said.

“I joke all the time that this is the only team I’ve ever had where we have absolutely no routine. We can get here two minutes before game time or three hours before game time, it’s going to be exactly the same either way. They just kind of roll through whatever is in front of them.”


Lyle/Austin Pacelli, a cooperative team with students from both schools, made history by advancing to the Class 1A state tournament for the first time since the coop was formed in 2000.

The Athletics came into the tournament unseeded, defeated third-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl 66-47 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and gave Ada-Borup (at 31-0 the only undefeated girls or boys team in the state) all it could handle Friday.

Lyle/Pacelli’s record over the last three seasons is 73-9 (23-4, 24-1, 26-4).

Friday’s Games
Class 1A semifinals
Maranatha Christian 76, Minneota 69
Ada-Borup 54, Lyle/Austin Pacelli 52

Class 2A semifinals
Sauk Centre 54, Minnehaha Academy 49
Dover-Eyota 94, Roseau 61

Saturday’s Championship Games
Noon/ 1A championship game: Maranatha Christian vs. Ada-Borup
2 p.m./ 2A championship game: Sauk Centre vs. Dover-Eyota
6 p.m./ 3A championship game: Marshall vs. Park Center
8 p.m./ 4A championship game: Hopkins vs. Eastview

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,269
3,000 Points Is Big, But Not Bigger Than A Team Victory3/19/2015
Minneota senior Taylor Reiss reached a big career milestone Thursday at Mariucci Arena, but becoming only the 13th girls basketball player in Minnesota history to score 3,000 points barely registered on the scale of what was important to her.

The fifth-seeded Vikings opened the Class 1A state tournament with a harrowing 69-68 victory over fourth-seeded Browerville. Reiss – who came in with 2,989 points -- had six points at halftime and reached 3,000 with two free throws early in the second half. She finished with 13 points in the game and 3,002 in her career with two games to go.

Actually, she finished the game on the bench after fouling out. But thanks to some hustle and sharpshooting by the rest of the Vikings, they moved on to Friday’s semifinals against Lyle/Austin Pacelli at Williams Arena.

“I believed in my teammates and I knew they could do it, even with me sitting on the bench,” she said.

The 5-foot-10 Reiss (pictured) joins a list of some of the top scorers in history, including Rebekah Dahlman, Carlie Wagner, Tayler Hill, Katie Ohm and Janet Karvonen.

“Obviously we were excited to get to the state tournament and give her that opportunity,” Minneota coach Chad Johnston said. “That’s just a huge milestone. Like I told the team, credit goes to the team because I’m pretty sure that 3,000 feels a heck of a lot better when you got a win. It doesn’t feel so good when you’re one and done.”

Minneota was very nearly one and done Thursday. Browerville led by 11 with 13:53 to go before an 18-1 Vikings run gave them a seven-point lead. Browerville led again with 2:25 remaining but Minneota held on down the stretch and LeAnn Jerzak secured the victory with two free throws with 15 seconds left.

The 5-foot-5 Jerzak, who averages less than four points a game, scored 14 on 5-for-7 shooting.

“She sparked us,” Johnston said of Jerzak. “She controlled the game a little bit, she hit key shots. We always know she’s going to play defense and that’s why she gets out there. Girls come off the bench and spark us at times, and you need those in big games. Especially when people get in foul trouble.”

Reiss – who will play volleyball at South Dakota State -- said the only other time she fouled out of a big game was in last season’s state championship game; in that case she fouled out in the final minute of a 61-53 loss to Win-E-Mac, when the outcome had already been decided.

“I haven’t had to do that a lot,” she said. “But I believed in my teammates and I knew they could do it, even with me sitting on the bench.

“I think we gave a lot of people some scares out there. We let them get a lead on us but we never gave up. That’s one of the things we talked about before the game, never give up and always work as a team. Some key players hit some really key shots when we needed it, even people who came off the bench.”

When the horn sounded, no one was more excited than Reiss. She sprinted off the bench and began hugging her teammates. Not in celebration of 3,000 points, either.

“Not a lot of people can say they scored 3,000 points,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment but the win was much more important to me.”

Reiss was a varsity player in eighth grade and has been a starter since ninth grade. This is the fifth trip to the state basketball tournament for her and teammates Emily Stienessen and Payton Boerboom.

“She’s meant a lot to us, obviously,” Johnston said of Reiss. “She’s been a big key, core part of this. She’s had some great surrounding players, but she’s a very unselfish player. She’s really matured over the years.

“She wants to win basketball games. She is just so competitive, that stuff is the bonus stuff. She wants to win. Nobody is more excited about what her teammates did at the end of this game than Taylor Reiss.”


--Just like on Wednesday, we had more sumo sightings at Mariucci Arena on Thursday. This time it was four students from Ada-Borup in the stands all pumped up.

--Springfield coach Paul Arnoldi suffered a torn Achilles tendon in his right leg seven weeks ago. Doctors recently cleared him to start putting weight on his leg, but he wears a “boot” and has a scooter on which to rest his leg and move around.

Class 3A semifinals
Marshall 55, Orono 48
Park Center 47, Kasson-Mantorville 37

Class 4A semifinals
Hopkins 64, Shakopee 33
Eastview 48, St. Michael-Albertville 30

Class 1A quarterfinals
Maranatha Christian 65, Stephen-Argyle 50
Minneota 69, Browerville 68
Ada-Borup 71, Springfield 53
Lyle/Austin Pacelli 66, Mountain Iron-Buhl 47

Class 1A semifinals
Noon/ Maranatha Christian vs. Minneota
2 p.m./ Ada-Borup vs. Lyle/Austin Pacelli

Class 2A semifinals
6 p.m./ Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy
8 p.m./ Dover-Eyota vs. Roseau

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,229
Picking It Up When “Heart And Soul” Goes Down 3/18/2015
It’s never a good sign when you see two people in an emotional embrace and one of them is in tears and on crutches. Kasson-Mantorville girls basketball coach Ryan Haraldson leaned down and wrapped 5-foot-4 senior guard Cori Kennedy in a bear hug outside the KoMets’ locker room Wednesday afternoon, crushed that the player he called “our heart and our soul” will not be able to play any more in the Class 3A state tournament.

The good news for Kasson-Mantorville? The unseeded KoMets defeated third-seeded New Prague 62-55 at Mariucci Arena in the state quarterfinals, guaranteeing themselves two more games. The horrible news? Kennedy will be on the sidelines.

Cori went down 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the game, was helped to the bench and then given assistance leaving the arena floor. She returned later with her knee tightly wrapped and using the crutches to ambulate. She sat behind the bench; a few times late in the game she managed to hop up on her good leg and cheer for her teammates.

But make no mistake, this was a big loss for the KoMets. Kennedy is the second-leading scorer in school history, the No. 2 scorer on this year’s team and she leads the KoMets in three-point scoring. This is her sixth trip to a state tournament: two in basketball, three in softball and one in volleyball. She will play collegiate softball at Minnesota State Mankato.

“She’s our leader, she’s our all-state point guard,” Haraldson said. “There was nothing we could do to get ready for that in practice, I’ll tell you that right now.”

Senior Kari Pingel took over for Kennedy and did an outstanding job. Pingel played 30 minutes, scoring six points with four rebounds and four assists.

“It was pretty awesome that we had a kid like Kari Pingel come off the bench as a senior,” said Haraldson. “She’s backed up Cori all of her life, just waiting for her time. Her time came today and she stepped up and did the job. Big-time players step up in big games.”

Kennedy has never missed a game in her varsity career. She’s so tough that when she had an injured right shoulder as a sophomore she shot lefthanded during one game.

“That’s why this is crazy,” KoMets senior Taylor Weibke said of seeing Kennedy go down. “I was in shock, my mind just kind of shut down for a second. I think all of us were worried, of course, because she’s one of our strongest players and leaders on the court.

“We knew she was rooting for us and cheering for us, and I think we kind of turned it around, doing it for her. She couldn’t play and we wanted to show her that we could do it for her.”

Kasson-Mantorville will face a big test in Thursday’s 2 p.m. semifinals at Williams Arena, when they face defending champion and second-seeded Park Center. The Pirates defeated Richfield 72-57 Wednesday.

“We’ll adjust,” Haraldson said. “We’ve been about nine deep all year and we’ll be ready to go. We’ll go forward. We’ll get the scouting report ready and we’ll battle again.”


--After Park Center’s victory over Richfield, Pirates coach Chris VanderHyde was asked about the differences between last year (when the team was at state for the first time) and this year. A year ago the team’s star was Cayla McMorris, who now plays at the University of Wisconsin.

“I keep telling the girls to treat this one like it’s new, like it’s something different,” he said. “Because last year was last year, that’s over, we’re a different team. We had Cayla McMorris and all that kind of stuff. This year is a different group in terms of the way they’ve forged themselves as a group. To be here is a special thing and you’ve got to treat it that way. Not everybody gets to come to the state tournament. Just because you’ve been here twice doesn’t mean you can be, ‘Oh, we come here every year.’ You can’t be like that. It’s got to be new, it’s got to be special.”

--My favorite band members of the day: Two horn players from Fairmont performed while wearing inflated black sumo suits. I’m not sure if there was a message there, but the look was outstanding.


Class 3A
Park Center 72, Richfield 57
Kasson-Mantorville 62, New Prague 55

Class 2A
Sauk Centre 67, Norwood-Young America 45
Minnehaha Academy 49, Annandale 38
Dover-Eyota 62, Fairmont 53
Roseau 50, Esko 37

Class 3A semifinals at Williams Arena
Noon/ Orono vs. Marshall
2 p.m./ Park Center vs. Kasson-Mantorville

Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Shakopee
8 p.m./ Eastview vs. St. Michael-Albertville

Class 1A quarterfinals at Mariucci Arena
11 a.m./ Stephen-Argyle vs. Maranatha Christian
1 p.m./ Minneota vs. Browerville
3 p.m./ Springfield vs. Ada-Borup
5 p.m./ Lyle/Austin Pacelli vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl

*Schools/teams John has visited: 452
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,189
Same Nickname, Same Colors And Teacher vs. Student 3/17/2015
When Princeton and Marshall squared off in Tuesday night’s Class 3A girls state basketball quarterfinals at Target Center, there were a few similarities. Both teams are the Tigers, for example. And the colors of both schools are orange and black.

The familiarities, however, went much deeper. Third-year Princeton coach Andy Fenske, 27, is a 2006 graduate of Marshall, where girls basketball coach Dan Westby was his physical education and health teacher in seventh and eighth grade.

One of the hurdles for Fenske was what to call Westby, 55, who has been a coach (he also coaches Marshall’s volleyball team) for 26 years.

“No way can I ever call him Dan,” Fenske said with a laugh earlier this week. “Maybe Mr. Westby, out of sheer respect.”

Westby confirmed that fact.

“I called him the other day about exchanging film. I said, ‘Andy, Dan Westby calling.’ He said, ‘I’m not comfortable calling you that.’ He’s a nice kid.”

Fenske (pictured with Westby) has done a marvelous job at Princeton. The Tigers were 12-15 in each of the last two seasons and finished this season with a record of 20-9 after losing to Marshall 65-30 Tuesday. A year ago, with no seniors on the team, Princeton lost to North Branch by two points in the Section 7 playoffs. That defeat has driven them since last season ended.

“The big thing throughout the offseason was, ‘Remember that feeling. We don’t want that to happen again,’ ” Fenske said. “The girls had 6:30 a.m. workouts in the summer and they showed real dedication and heart. We have six seniors on the team and they’ve been pushing us the whole way.

“We started the season 5-0 and we started to realize they were a good team and they could play with anybody. We went from a team that was very little-known to hopefully a team that can make an impact.”

An impact has certainly been made this season. Tuesday’s game was Princeton’s inaugural trip to the girls state basketball tournament; the Tigers boys’ last appearance was in 1932.

Fesnke is familiar with the Marshall players as well as the coach. When he was a student at Gustavus Adolphus College he coached many of the current basketball players in summer tee ball. His father, Mike, is an elementary physical education teacher in Marshall, and many of the basketball players had Mike as a teacher.

Fenske calls Westby “absolutely one of my favorite teachers. He would quote-unquote pick on me a little bit and have me demonstrate skills, different weightlifting techniques. He’d always select me in everything. I thought the world of Mr. Westby. I thought he was the coolest guy in the world.”

Westby said, “The thing I remember about Andy was that he was always hard-working and very respectful. I remember Andy as a high school football player; he was maybe a little undersized but he was asked to play on the offensive line and he got everything he could out of himself. He was a great, great kid. I always enjoyed him as a student.

“His team is a reflection of him. Andy was a hard-working kid and he coaches with a lot of energy. I’m not surprised to see his team at the state tournament. They’re a good team and that’s a tough draw. We’re really impressed with him.”


--Coaches Rich Decker of Rochester Mayo and Brian Cosgriff of Hopkins entered their teams’ Class 4A quarterfinal matchup Tuesday with a combined total of exactly 1,000 career victories. Decker had won 584 games, most of them as the boys coach at Rochester Lourdes, and Cosgriff came in with 416 wins. Cosgriff’s total is 417 after the Royals’ 62-35 victory over the Spartans.


Class 4A
Hopkins 62, Rochester Mayo 35
Shakopee 62, White Bear Lake 56
Eastview 62, Andover 28
St. Michael-Albertville 66, Centennial 53

Class 3A
Orono 70, Thief River Falls 42
Marshall 65, Princeton 30

*Schools/teams John has visited: 440
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,149