John's Journal
Timberwolves Honor Bob McDonald, Welcome MSHSL Student Media3/25/2014
When the Timberwolves played host to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon, a high school basketball coaching legend and the MSHSL Student Media program were part of the NBA day.

The Timberwolves honored retired Chisholm coach Bob McDonald at center court during halftime, presenting him with a basketball that was autographed by the Timberwolves players and a Timberwolves jersey with the number 1,012 on the back, representing how many games McDonald’s teams won during his 59-year coaching career.

Prior to the game, McDonald and three of his sons (Tom, Mike and Joel are all high school boys basketball coaches) posed for a photo at center court. After the halftime ceremony McDonald spent a few minutes chatting with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Bob McDonald is of Croatian ancestry, travels to Croatio every summer and speaks Serbo-Croation. Before the second half began he and the Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic chatted briefly in Serbo-Croation.

The McDonald family watched the game from a Target Center suite.

This weekend, Bob McDonald will serve as a head coach for one of the teams during the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association boys all-star series. His son Joel, the coach at Hibbing, will be one of his all-star assistant coaches. All-star games will be held Friday at St. Cloud State and Saturday at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Two hours before game time Sunday, four high school students who are members of the MSHL Student Media program met me at Target Center for an afternoon filled with behind-the-scenes experiences. This is the third year in a row that the Timberwolves have hosted Student Media members for a game, and the students always have a great time. The Timberwolves also provided free tickets to the game for the students’ family members.

The students invited to the game were (pictured, left to right) JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Nathan Jones of Jackson County Central, Matt Hoffman of Lakeville North and Nick Kelly of Lakeville North.

Before the game began, the students met in the Timberwolves conference room with Minneapolis Star Tribune Timberwolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda and Timberwolves radio broadcaster Alan Horton. The media pros talked about their career paths, offered advice to the student journalists and answered questions.

The students received media credentials, meaning they had access to everything that professional media members do on a daily basis. The students visited the Wolves locker room before and after the game and watched the game from media seats. They also watched Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman’s pregame press briefing and his more formal postgame news conference.

All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to the Timberwolves!

--To see more photos of Bob McDonald as well as the Student Media experience, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,194
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Chip On The Shoulder Leads To A State Championship Trophy 3/22/2014
Sometimes, a chip on the shoulder is very good thing. Just ask the girls basketball team from Win-E-Mac.

The Patriots carried a chip throughout the state tournament, and it began when votes by the participating coaches left Win-E-Mac among the three unseeded teams in Class 1A. This was despite the fact that the Patriots had been the fourth-place team at state last year and came into the tournament with a record of 28-2.

Saturday’s title game at Williams Arena against defending champ Minneota seemed like a tough task for a team playing in its first championship game, but the Patriots (pictured taking a picture) never wavered … despite carrying that chip on their shoulder.

They took the lead for good when Korbyn Ross hit a three-point shot with seven minutes left in the first half. They stretched the margin to 15 points in the second half and held off the Vikings down the stretch.

Coming in unseeded had an impact on how the Patriots approached the tournament, said coach Ian Hanson.

“Absolutely it did,” he said. “In our locker room the pep talk was, ‘We are number one.’ We were fourth last year and we had everybody back. We knew from the get-go we could be state champions.”

Madison McKeever led Win-E-Mac with 27 points and Ross had 17. Taylor Reiss had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Minneota and Emily Stienessen had 17 points.


Carlie Wagner was in tears as her high school career ended with a second consecutive state title. The tears began as soon as the horn blew on New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s victory over Kenyon-Wanamingo, they continued as Carlie was joined on the all-tournament team by ninth-grade twin sisters Maddie and Marnie, and they were still rolling down her cheeks as she talked to the media.

Wagner (pictured) – who will continue her basketball career at Williams Arena with the Minnesota Gophers next season -- capped a spectacular high school career by scoring 36 points and continuing her assault on the state tournament record book.

She finished with 130 points in the tournament, breaking her record of 129 from a year ago. NRHEG also scored 248 points in three tournament games, breaking the record of 241 set by Rochester Mayo in 1997.

Megan Quam scored 22 points for Kenyon-Wanamingo; the Knights’ only two losses this season were against NRHEG.


Park Center, playing at state for the first time in school history, survived triple overtime and held off the Tigers. Marshall won state titles in 2001 and 2002 and was the runner-up in 2006.

Ann Simonet led the Pirates with 26 points and Cayla McMorris had 21. Kenzie Beekman scored 20 for Marshall. Marshall has only two seniors on the roster and Park Center has just one.


The Lightning rallied in the final minute to capture the state title. Their first lead of the game came with 48 seconds remaining. Madison Guebert led Eastview with 29 points and Kenisha Bell had 24 for Kennedy.


--Three of the eight coaches leading their teams Saturday are graduates of Southwest Minnesota State University: Chad Johnston (1995) of Minneota in Class 1A, John Schultz (1986) of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in Class 2A and Dan Westby (1989) of Marshall in Class 3A.


1A/ Megan Schroeder, Lindsey Theuninck, Mankato Loyola; Mikayla Miller, Shelby Hinsch, Goodhue; Madison McKeever, Shelby Kaster, Korbyn Ross, Win-E-Mac; Emily Stienessen, Taylor Reiss, Shelby Corbin, Minneota.

2A/Abby Miller, Gabby Gruenhagen, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted; Bailey Mudek, Ava Gonsorowski, Esko; Siri Sviggum, Brittney Flom, Megan Quam, Kenyon-Wanamingo; Maddie Wagner, Carlie Wagner, Marnie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.

3A/ Chase Coley, Lucia Renikoff, Minneapolis Washburn; Bailey Strand, Brianna Rasmusson, Fergus Falls; Kenzie Beekman, Hannah Bennett, Sarah Buysse, Marshall; Cayla McMorris, Mikayla Hayes, Ann Simonet, Park Center.

4A/ Emma Boehm, Jayla Mayes-Jackson, Eden Prairie; MacKenzie Denk, Temi Carda, Lakeville North; Hana Metoxen, Madison Guebert, Kari Opatz, Eastview; Kenisha Bell, Tonoia Wade, Lashayla Wright-Ponder, Bloomington Kennedy.


1A/ Goodhue 74, Mankato Loyola 62: Mikayla Miller had 30 points for the Wildcats Shelby Hinsch had 24. Lindsey Theuninck led Loyola with 19 points.

2A/ Esko 53, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 44: Bailey Mudek led the Eskomos with 16 points and Abby Miller and Gabby Gruenhagen each had 17 for Howard Lake. Miller set a state tournament record by making 16 three-point baskets this week. The previous record was 13, set by Sara Schoenrock of Christ’s Household of Faith in 1997.

3A/ Fergus Falls 72, Minneapolis Washburn 62: Bailey Strand scored 45 points for the Otters and Chase Coley had 18 for Washburn.

4A/ Eden Prairie 48, Lakeville North 44: Martha Kuderer led the Eagles with 18 points and MacKenzie Denk had 10 for North.

--Photos by See photo galleries from Saturday’s championship games on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,154
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Tough Decision For Howard Lake Hoopsters: Europe Or State Tourney? 3/21/2014
Long before the girls basketball team from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted won the Class 2A Section 5 championship, and long before they reached the state semifinals this week, important decisions had to be made by some of the players.

They revolved around basketball, yes. As in, “Do we want to commit to playing at state … even if we don’t get there, or is a school trip to Europe more important.”

That was the quandary some of the Lakers faced. Long ago, a National Honor Society trip to Europe was planned over spring break, which is next week. About 20 students flew to Amsterdam on Thursday, including several girls basketball players. Four other players, all starters, stayed behind to play at state.

Mikayla Kittock, Abby Wenniger and Kassandra Scherping went on the trip, and all three got to play in the Lakers’ quarterfinal victory over Minnehaha Academy on Wednesday. Abby Miller, the Lakers’ scoring leader this season, is president of the school’s NHS chapter. She and starting teammates Mackenzie Uter, Marissa Reed and Gabby Gruenhagen (pictured) are all missing the European trip.

Gruenhagen said she was unaware of a possible conflict until she was at a graduation party last year. “I was talking to our boys head basketball coach (Chad Gagnon). He said, ‘You better check up on that trip, because I think it’s the same weekend as the state tournament.’ ”

Gabby cancelled her travel reservation in December. “That way I could get all my money back, and I was pretty confident our team could get here,” she said.

Had the girls state tournament not traded dates with the boys tourney this year and been held last week, there would have been no conflict. But …

“We kind of had a pretty strong inkling probably from the Christmas break on (about the possible conflict),” said coach Jason Kuehn. “I asked the girls to let me know when they made a final decision.”

Reed cancelled a month ago. She said she looked into flying to Europe and joining the group after the tournament, “but that was a bigger mess than just cancelling.”

The players have already communicated with their teammates and friends who are in Europe. The travelers were planning to watch Friday night’s game between the Lakers and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva online.

Meanwhile, the players who stayed are happy they did.

Playing at state is “Awesome, like a dream come true,” Miller said. “It’s definitely life-changing and something you’ll never forget.”

The Lakers lost to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 87-58 Friday and will meet Esko in Saturday’s third-place game at Concordia University in St. Paul.


New York Mills legend Janet Karvonen set one of the longest-standing records in state tournament history, scoring a total of 329 points in four tourneys from 1977 through 1980. That record stood for all these years until Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva broke it on Friday.

Karvonen’s yearly totals were 59 points in the 1977 tournament, 76 in 1978, 98 in 1979 and 96 in 1980. New York Mills won state titles in 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Wagner, a senior who has signed with the University of Minnesota, scored 112 points in the 2012 tournament, 129 last year and had 41 in Friday’s game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, for a total of 335. She scored a tourney-record 53 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Pequot Lakes (in this photo, she is awarded the game ball by tournament director Lisa Lissimore).

Wagner will have a chance to add to her total in Saturday’s championship game vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo at Williams Arena.

Wagner also broke another state record Friday, becoming the leading scorer in girls basketball history. She has a total of 3,921, breaking the mark of 3,888 set by Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South in 2009.

--One more record was tied in the NRHEG-Howard Lake game. Howard Lake’s Abby Miller, who made six three-point shots in the quarterfinals, made seven more Friday, giving her 13 for the tournament. That ties the tournament record set by Sara Schoenrock of Christ’s Household of Faith in 1997. Miller will have a chance to break the record Saturday.

--Kenyon-Wanamingo 60, Esko 36: Siri Sviggum led K-W with 18 points and Judy Wagemaker had 15 for the Eskomos.


--Minneota 45, Goodhue 43: In a game that included six lead changes and five ties, the defending state champs from Minneota came out on top. With the score tied 41-41 and 12 seconds to play, Minneota’s Taylor Reiss stole the ball, made a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw but teammate Megan Larson put in the rebound to make it 45-41. Meredith Watson scored for Goodhue as the game ended.

Reiss, who scored 40 points in the quarterfinals against Browerville, was held to 16 by Goodhue’s stout defense. Emily Steinessen also scored 16 for Minneota. Goodhue was led by Mikayla Miller with 25 points.

--Win-E-Mac 62, Mankato Loyola 61: Win-E-Mac sophomore Madison McKeever (pictured) led the Patriots with 32 points, broke one state tournament record and tied another. She broke the single-game record for free throw attemps with 25 and tied the record for made free throws with 20. Tayler Hill of Minneapolis set both marks in 2009. Megan Schroeder led Loyola with 21 points.

Win-E-Mac and Minneota will meet in the title game at noon Saturday at Williams Arena. Last year at state, Win-E-Mac beat Mankato Loyola in the quarterfinals, lost to Ada-Borup in the semifinals and lost to Bethlehem Academy in the third-place game. Saturday’s game will be their first appearance in a state championship game.

At Williams Arena
Noon, Class 1A/ Minneota vs. Win-E-Mac
2 p.m., Class 2A/ NRHEG vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo
6 p.m., Class 3A/ Park Center vs. Marshall
8 p.m., Class 4A/ Eastview vs. Bloomington Kennedy

*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,114
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
There’s No Way To Mask The Toughness of Monica Vega3/20/2014
Seeing Ada-Borup play in the girls state basketball tournament is nothing new. Since 2006, the Cougars have been to state every year but two, they won Class 1A championships in 2008 and 2009 and were the state runner-up last year.

And yet, when the Cougars stepped on the court at Mariucci Arena for Thursday’s state quarterfinal against Goodhue, something looked different: Senior guard Monica Vega was wearing a see-through mask to protect a newly broken nose.

Vega, who stands only 5-foot-3, is a scrappy little cookie who reached the 1,000-point milestone Thursday. After Goodhue defeated the Cougars 65-58, Ada-Borup coach David Smart said, “Even at her height, I’d take 10 Monicas. She’s a tough kid but we weren’t sure she would be able to play.”

Vega, who scored 13 points Thursday (as did 5-foot-1 teammate Shaina Stevenson), suffered a broken nose – a compound fracture, to be exact – in practice two days ago. Smart didn’t offer too many specifics about what happened, other than saying Monica caught somebody’s elbow as that somebody was going up for a layup.

Thursday’s loss was a tough one for the Cougars. Losing in the first game at state is no fun, especially for a team that’s accustomed to spending the weekend competing for a state title. But Smart gave plenty of credit to Goodhue, a team whose most recent state tourney experience came in 2011, when the current seniors were in ninth grade.

Mikalya Miller, Goodhue’s senior scoring leader, had 25 points and 11 rebounds Thursday. She came off the bench at state four years ago, scoring 12 points when Goodhue lost to Hancock in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t even know how much she remembers from that,” joked Goodhue coach Josh Wieme.

Ada-Borup held a seven-point lead over the Wildcats with 12:56 remaining in the second half, but Goodhue chipped away.

“We felt if we could hang around and hang around, eventually our team would get rolling,” Wieme said. “Ada-Borup plays fantastic defense and they know how to play at the state tournament.”

Yes they do, even if one of the Cougars’ key players is wearing a facemask. During the game, I Tweeted a photo (the one you see here) of Vega with the caption “Ada-Borup 1,000-point scorer Monica Vega suffered a broken nose two days ago in practice.”

A few minutes later I received a Tweet that said simply, “My bad.” That Tweet was also sent to Monica Vega’s Twitter account.

So … the identity of the person who owns the elbow that broke Monica’s nose? The girls team sometimes practices against local males, and the elbow belongs to a senior on the Ada-Borup boys basketball team. A stand-up guy named Garrett Gunderson.


When Minneota beat Browerville 77-50 in Thursday’s first Class 1A quarterfinal, it was reminiscent of Marshall in 3A. In both cases, volleyball and basketball are highly successful behind athletes who compete in both sports.

Four of Minneota’s five starters Thursday were members of the Vikings’ third-place Class 1A volleyball team last fall. Marshall, which will meet Park Center for the 3A state title Saturday, is the three-time defending champion of 2A volleyball. Minneota and Marshall are only 12 miles apart.

Junior Taylor Reiss scored 40 points Thursday for Minneota. She also plays volleyball for the Vikings and plans to play volleyball in college. She has made her college choice but is keeping it to herself for now.

“We have a lot of athletes and we go into practice and work really hard,” Reiss said.

Marshall volleyball/basketball coach Dan Westby said Wednesday that his two-sport athletes spend time in the summer practicing one sport in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Reiss said the program is a bit different in Minneota, with basketball the focus early in the summer and volleyball workouts taking over as autumn nears.


-- Mankato Loyola 93, Maranatha Christian 91 (overtime): Loyola trailed by six with 3:10 to play but rallied to win. Lindsey Theuninck led Loyola with 37 points and Mikayla Payne had 24 for Maranatha. The teams broke the day-old tournament record for total points with 184; on Wednesday NRHEG and Pequot Lakes scored 168. Another tournament record fell: most points by a losing team.

--Win-E-Mac 73, Mountain Iron-Buhl 62: Win-E-Mac led by 11 at halftime and went on to advance to the semifinals. Shelby Kaster led the Patriots with 25 points and Mya Buffetta led Mountain Iron-Buhl with 21.

In the 1A semifinals, Minneota and Goodhue will meet at noon Friday at Williams Arena, with Mankato Loyola facing Win-E-Mac in the second game.


--Park Center 63, Minneapolis Washburn 59: Cayla McMorris led the Pirates with 23 points. Chase Coley had 25 for Washburn.

--Marshall 52, Fergus Falls 51: Sarah Buysse and Hannah Bennett led the Tigers with 13 points each. Fergus Falls was led by Bailey Strand with 22 points. Park Center and Marshall will meet in the title game at Williams Arena at 6 p.m. Saturday.


--Eastview 62, Eden Prairie 51: Emee Udo had 17 points for the Lightning, who made 33 of 44 free throws. Emma Boehm scored 22 points for Eden Prairie.

-- Bloomington Kennedy 61, Lakeville North 51: Tonoia Wade scored 19 points and Kenisha Bell had 18 for the Eagles. North was led by MacKenzie Denk with 17 points.


--We were treated to a fantastic national anthem performance Thursday at Mariucci Arena, thanks to talented 13-year-old Lauren Senden (pictured), a seventh-grader at Mankato East Junior High.

--Browerville is one of the youngest teams in the tournament, with Candra Gould the only senior on the roster. The Tigers’ starters in their loss to Minneota were four sophomores and a ninth-grader. I would love to tell you more about the Tigers but Browerville is the only school in the tournament that provided no information about their team and no statistics.


Mankato Loyola coach Rick Theuninck after his team rallied to beat Maranatha Christian: “It shows what happens when kids play for each other and care about each other.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 399
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,019
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Another Record-Smashing Day For NRHEG, Carlie Wagner 3/19/2014
Every time Carlie Wagner plays in the girls state basketball tournament, you better be ready to see something special. And a big crowd at Mariucci Arena on Wednesday saw something spectacular.

Wagner, the senior from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva who has signed with the University of Minnesota, broke her own state tournament record by scoring 53 points in the Panthers’ 100-68 Class 2A quarterfinal victory over Pequot Lakes. Last year she set the record by scoring 50 against Braham in the state championship game.

Three other tournament records fell in Wednesday’s game:

--NRHEG’s 100 points topped the previous record of 88 set by Eden Valley-Watkins vs. Cass Lake in 1984.

--The combined total of 168 points broke the record of 157 set by Monticello (79) and Fergus Falls (78) in two overtimes last year.

--NRHEG made 13 three-point shots, breaking the record of 12 set by Maranatha Christian vs. Spring Grove in 2012.

NRHEG will play two more games at state, and Wagner needs 76 points to tie the tourney record for total points (129) she set last year.

In Wednesday’s game, Wagner made 17 of 34 field-goal attempts, six of 16 three-point attempts, 13 of 15 free throws with six rebounds, seven assists, six steals and two fouls. She went to the bench with 2:59 remaining in the game.

“Her ability to score from anywhere on the court at any time against anybody. That’s what makes her special,” said NRHEG coach John Schultz.

Kayla Miller led Pequot Lakes with 25 points and Vanessa Lane had 19.

NRHEG’s semifinal opponent on Friday at Williams Arena will be Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, which defeated Minnehaha Academy 62-43. Abby Miller led HL-W-W with 23 points and Sarah Kaminski scored 13 for Minnehaha Academy.


--Kenyon-Wanamingo 64, Redwood Falls 31: Siri Sviggum led K-W with 23 and Tara Sandgren had 13 for Redwood Falls.

--Esko 39, New London-Spicer 35: Ava Gonsorowski led the Eskomos with 14 points and Taylor Thunstedt had 24 for New London-Spicer.


Mariucci Arena, normally home to the Gophers men’s hockey team, was transformed into a great basketball arena for the girls tournament. The ice had been removed, a process that took several days, and the basketball court sat on the arena’s concrete floor. The court is one that was used in the final year of the old St. Paul Civic Center, is owned by Xcel Energy Center and is being rented for this week’s tournament.

Written on each end of the court is “SAINT PAUL MINNESOTA” and Xcel Energy Center logos are painted on the floor.

From the coaches involved in Wednesday’s six games, the reviews were positive.

“The ball went in the basket so we loved it,” said Marshall coach Dan Westby after the Tigers defeated Chisago Lakes 68-44 in the Class 3A quarterfinals. “I don’t think it would have mattered where we played, the kids just wanted to get this thing started.”

Fergus Falls coach Brad Strand (pictured), whose team beat Kasson-Mantorville 61-52 in 3A, said simply, “I loved it.”

Fergus Falls and Marshall will meet in Thursday’s 2 p.m. semifinal at Williams Arena, and both coaches are very familiar with winning state titles.

Strand coached the Pelican Rapids boys team to state in 2003, 2006 and 2009. He was the Pelican Rapids boys coach for 15 years and won the Class 2A state championship in 2009. Strand could become the first coach to win state titles in girls and boys basketball.

Marshall has won the past three Class 2A volleyball state titles, and Westby also coaches the volleyball team.

Nine of Marshall’s 16 basketball players also play volleyball, and Westby said it’s impossible to have two-sport success without commitment from the athletes.

“On a typical summer day they’ll practice volleyball for two hours in the morning and basketball for two hours in the afternoon,” he said. “And now our volleyball kids won’t pick up a volleyball until the basketball season is over.”


--Fergus Falls 61, Kasson-Mantorville 52: Bailey Strand had 23 points for the Otters and Taylor Miller scored 13 for Kasson-Mantorville.

--Marshall 68, Chisago Lakes 44: Hannah Bennett scored 13 points for the Tigers. Bryanna Fernstrom scored 24 for the Wildcats.


Noon/ Park Center vs. Minneapolis Washburn, 3A semifinals
2 p.m./ Fergus Falls vs. Marshall, 3A semifinals
6 p.m./ Eastview vs. Eden Prairie, 4A semifinals
8 p.m./ Lakeville North vs. Bloomington Kennedy, 4A semifinals

11 a.m./ Browerville vs. Minneota
1 p.m./ Ada-Borup vs. Goodhue
3 p.m./ Mankato Loyola vs. Maranatha Christian
5 .m./ Win-E-Mac vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl

*Schools/teams John has visited: 391
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,974
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn