John's Journal
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
Some Things Are Bigger Than Basketball3/16/2015
As usual, this has been a very good season for the Hopkins girls basketball team. The Royals take a record of 27-1 and the No. 1 seed into Tuesday’s 10 a.m. Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal game against Rochester Mayo at Target Center.

Hopkins is one of the premier girls basketball programs in Minnesota, with state titles in 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Coach Brian Cosgriff is wary of the quarterfinal matchup, mostly because the coach on the other bench is Rick Decker, the former boys coach at Rochester Lourdes who is in the boys basketball coaches Hall of Fame and has the Mayo girls at state for the second time in three years.

“I’ve known Rich since college,” said Cosgriff, who is a 2015 inductee into the girls basketball coaches Hall of Fame. “I saw our draw and I thought this is the worst possible draw for us. His kids will play hard. We have our hands full.”

The Royals’ hands are full and their hearts are heavy for reasons that have less to do with basketball and more to do with family. The players, their parents and many Hopkins fans have rallied around Cosgriff’s brother Brad, who is dealing with brain cancer. (Pictured, left to right, are brothers Barry, Brad and Brian Cosgriff.)

“It’s pretty tough right now,” Brian Cosgriff said. “He’s home, on oxygen all the time.”

Brad was treated for lung cancer about a year ago and one lung was removed. He was cancer-free for more than a year. But one Saturday last fall, everything changed.

Brian Cosgriff is a member of the chain gang at University of Minnesota football games. While tailgating with his brother and others after a game at TCF Bank Stadium, something wasn’t right.

“He was as forgetful as all get out,” Cosgriff said of his brother. “He’s an attorney and always well-dressed, but he was a little disheveled.”

Brad’s wife took him to the emergency room. Test revealed a brain tumor in the front of his head and two in the back. The next day Brad was undergoing major surgery. The tumor in the front of Brad’s head was removed and the other two are being treated by CyberKnife radiation.

As news of Brad’s condition spread, the basketball team became involved in the efforts to support Brad, Brian and the Cosgriff family.

On March 6 the team was having a pasta party at school before playing Edina in the Section 6 semifinals the next day. Cosgriff was watching game films when he received a phone call from one of the parents saying “You better get down here.”

There was no emergency. The players and parents were unveiling t-shirts in support of Brad. The shirts bore a grey ribbon (in support of brain cancer awareness) and the words “We wear grey for Bradley Cosgriff. You Fight, We Fight, Let’s All Fight Against Cancer.”

Players, coaches, families and fans began wearing them at the game next day. Brad wasn’t able to attend, but he was on hand when the Royals defeated Minnetonka last Wednesday in the section title game.

“It’s really special,” Brian Cosgriff said. “He just turned 60, so he’s young. He couldn’t wait to have his picture taken with the whole team. It was very touching.”

The Hopkins student body and basketball team is very eclectic, with students from more affluent areas of western suburbs as well as from north Minneapolis. Standing together for Bradley Cosgriff has brought the team even closer together.

“We’ve really come together as a family,” Brian said. “The parents have come together, the coaches, the fans, everyone has come together.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,109
Two Small Towns Where Big Hoop Dreams Come True3/14/2015
Little kids shooting hoops on asphalt courts. Teenagers gathering inside the school gym to work on their skills when they could have their faces buried in electronic devices. Small towns filled with people who appreciate hard work and tradition and take great pride in their hometown teams.

Rushford-Peterson and Melrose, that’s what we’re talking about here. Those two teams took home boys basketball state championships Saturday, and if you listen close you can probably hear all the hoops and hollers still emanating from inside the borders of those communities.

The two stories are not identical. Both teams have won previous state titles, but the time frames are much different. Rushford won the Class 1A championship in 1989 and 2006, finished fourth at state in 2010 and third in both 2012 and 2013 before a runner-up finish last season.

Rushford-Peterson defeated Maranatha Christian Academy 51-44 Saturday at Target Center, handing the Mustangs their second Class 1A championship-game defeat in three years.

Melrose, on the other hand, has waited a long, long time. The Dutchmen last came to state (and won a championship) in 1974, when the great Mark Olberding was the star. Forty-one years later they held off Caledonia 63-51 to capture the Class 2A title.

Hard work and tradition are main ingredients for both teams.

“When I was a little kid we won a state championship,” said Rushford-Peterson senior Cole Kingsley, who played on an ankle that was injured in Thursday’s quarterfinals. He was talking about 2006, way back “when I was a younger kid, seeing them play up here, it was a dream of all of us.

“Growing up, that’s kind of all we’d do in Rushford. There’s not a whole lot to do, so we were usually always in the gym playing basketball. … We play a lot of basketball down there in Rushford and it’s good to see all the hard work pay off.”

Tom Vix has been the Rushford-Peterson coach for 30 years and this was the 15th time he brought a team to state. He knows as well as anyone that success breeds success, or as he put it Saturday, “Winning brings more winning.”

“Our gym is full all the time,” Vix said. “Any time there’s a night when the kids don’t have anything to do, they’re playing basketball; Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, little kids. I know with the nice weather all the blacktop will be full with little kids playing. They all want to be Cole Kingsley, they all want to be Alex Vix, they all want to be Noah Carlson or whoever. I saw a lot of our little kids with a number and name written on their foreheads today.”

For Melrose, the 41-year drought between state tournaments has been all the tougher because the Dutchmen have come close to many times. Assistant coach Daryl Oja, who was the head coach for 28 years, has seen a lot of near misses.

“This was the 10th time since 1974 we played in a section final game,” he said. “Something would happen and we wouldn’t win.”

He was talking while the Dutchmen were cutting down the net after the championship game. The Melrose fans roared each time a player climbed a ladder and took a snip with a scissors.

“Look at this,” Oja said. “The community and basketball, the pride is so awesome, it’s unbelievable.”


The Islanders became only the fourth team in the 103-year history of the tournament to win four consecutive state titles. They did so in convincing fashion against the Governors.

The other teams to complete the four-peat were Southwest Minnesota Christian (Class 1A, 1999-2002) and Minneapolis Patrick Henry (3A, 2000-03).


Apple Valley was strong down the stretch and held on for the win in a back-and-forth game between the top two seeds in the tournament. Top-seeded Champlin Park suffered it first loss after 31 victories and the Eagles finished the season with a 30-2 record. Apple Valley lost to Champlin Park in late December and to Eastview in February.

It was Apple Valley’s second state title in three years.


Class 1A/ Petric VanErp, Eric VanErp, Battle Lake; Austin Bulthuis, Taylor Slagter, Central Minnesota Christian; Damario Armstrong, Jeremiah Hanson, Jake Meyen, Maranatha Christian; Charlie Krambeer, Kyler Paulson, Alex Vix, Rushford-Peterson.

Class 2A/ Ade Lamu, Trenton Krueger, St. Croix Lutheran; Jonah Breiter, Jeff Lewis, Maple River; Owen King, Colton Lampert, Kyle Sorenson, Caledonia; Tyler Braegelmann, Dillon Haider, Drake Meyer, Melrose.

Class 3A/ Gorg Alhag, CJ Ayers, Mankato East; Joey Kortuem, Oliver Smith, Waconia; Eric Elliott, Jalen Mobley, Malik Jones, St. Paul Johnson; Sacar Anim, Joshua Collins, Jarvis Johnson, DeLaSalle.

Class 4A/ Steffon Mitchell, Booker Coplin, Shakopee; Carter Brooks, Drew Stewart, Lakeville North; Gary Trent Jr., Tre Jones, Brock Bertram, Apple Valley; Marty Hill, JT Gibson, McKinley Wright, Champlin Park.


Two people were honored at halftime of Saturday night’s games. During the Class 3A game, Dave Harris of Alexandria was honored as the inaugural recipient of the MSHSL Outstanding Media Service Award. Dave recently retired after a distinguished 48-year career as a sports broadcaster at KXRA radio in Alexandria.

At halftime of the Class 4A game, recently retired MSHSL director of information Howard Voigt was honored. Howard served the MSHSL and the students of Minnesota during a distinguished 25-year career.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 430
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,109