John's Journal
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.

TWO SPORTS, TWO SCHOOLS, TWO STATE TOURNAMENTS

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.

OTHER CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS

-- 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.

CLASS 3A STATE SEMIFINALS

--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.

CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINALS

--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.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--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.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

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.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*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.

OTHER CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS

--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.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

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.”

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

--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.

THURSDAY’S GAMES AT WILLIAMS ARENA

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

THURSDAY’S CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS AT MARIUCCI ARENA
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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 391
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,974
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Different Schedule, Different Venues, Same Great Tournament 3/18/2014
The girls state basketball tournament began Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday. I know that sounds odd, because the boys and girls basketball tournaments traditionally begin on Wednesday. But this year, tradition has changed.

It has to do with the availability of arenas. We are blessed to have such basketball venues as Target Center, Williams Arena and even Mariucci Arena, which is the home of the Gophers men’s hockey team. All three arenas will be used during the girls basketball tournament, but after Tuesday we say goodbye to Target Center and move the tournament to the two venues at the University of Minnesota.

It all goes back to college hockey. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference has contracted with Target Center to hold its inaugural conference tournament there later this week. Thus, Target Center is not available to the MSHSL. So we head to the U of M.

Since the Gophers men’s basketball team is playing an NIT game at Williams Arena on Tuesday night and the women’s team will do the same on Wednesday, the MSHSL games will be played at Mariucci Arena on those days. We have used Mariucci for basketball in the past, and it is a great venue for hoops.

The Class 4A quarterfinals were completed at Target Center on Tuesday, along with two Class 3A quarterfinals. The other two 3A games will be played Wednesday at Mariucci, along with all four 2A quarterfinals. The 1A quarterfinals will be played at Mariucci on Thursday.

Semifinals and championship games in all four classes will be played at Williams Arena; 3A and 4A semifinals on Thursday and 1A and 2A semis on Friday. All four title games will be played Saturday, as is tradition.

It’s different from what we are used to, but it will work out just fine.

The format will be the same in 2015 and 2016, with the boys basketball season beginning before the girls and the boys state tournament being played first. In 2017 and 2018, the girls tournament will be played before the boys. Through 2018 (that’s the length of the NCHC contract with Target Center), the girls tournament will use Target Center only on Tuesday, with the rest of the tournament being played at the U of M.

Remember, all these changes are due to the hockey tournament being held at Target Center; most of the the boys state tournament games through 2018 will be played at Target Center, while the girls tournament will be largely played at the U of M.

CLASS 4A QUARTERFINALS

--Eastview 63, St. Paul Central 58: Madison Guebert (29) and Laro Opatz (26) combined for 55 points for the Lightning. Rayna Sherow had 16 and Chelcie Kizart 14 for Central.

--Eden Prairie 67, Anoka 57: Martha Kuderer led the Eagles with 19 points and Jayla Mayes-Jackson had 18. Ashley Bray and Kyrah Fredenburg each scored 14 for Anoka.

--Lakeville North 69, Centennial 52: North used a 37-18 first half to hold off the Cougars. MacKenzie Denk led North with 21 points and Temi Carda had 18. Centennial’s Jill Conrad had 18 points.

--Bloomington Kennedy 71, St. Michael-Albertville 57: Kenisha Bell led the Eagles with 29 points. Sydney Tracy scored 19 for St. Michael-Albertville.

--Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena will feature three teams from the South Suburban Conference. Eastview will meet Eden Prairie (Lake Conference) at 6 p.m., followed by Lakeville North vs. Bloomington Kennedy.

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

--Park Center 68, Simley 53: Calya McMorris led the Pirates with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Kylie Brown scored 14 points for Simley.

--Minneapolis Washburn 62, Monticello 53: Chase Coley led the Millers with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Emily Gruber scored 24 for Monticello.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--St. Paul Central coach Marta Waalen is in her first year coaching the Minutemen but she is no stranger to the tradition at the school. Waalen played at Central, graduated in 2004 and played collegiately at Missouri-Kansas City. She was an assistant under former coach Willie Taylor for two years before taking the reins this season.

--Interesting sight in a Target Center hallway: While members of the Eastview pep band waited for their bus to arrive after the game, they gazed up as the Timberwolves' 6-foot-11, 291-pound Nikola Pekovic walked past on his way to practice.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,924
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Moments To Remember On Championship Saturday3/15/2014
The final day of any season is special for lots of reasons. Yes, state champions are crowned, but many other great things take place. This was certainly the case Saturday at Target Center, where the boys basketball season came to a glorious conclusion.

We had typical storylines …

--Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa winning its second Class 1A title in three years with a victory over Rushford-Peterson.

--Esko defeating Annandale for the 2A championship in the first boys basketball state title game for either school.

--Lakeville North, in a miracle finish, defeating Hopkins to take home the 4A title.

But there was more to see and enjoy. Example: Before their teams took the court for the Class 3A championship game, the bands from Austin and DeLaSalle joined forces and played the Ozzy Osbourne classic “Crazy Train.” Solid stuff.

One of my favorite moments came at halftime of the 2A title game, when statewide recipients of the MSHSL Triple-A Award (Academics, Arts, Athletics) were recognized on the court and on TV.

Thirty-two students from around Minnesota are honored at a luncheon as Triple-A finalists, and four of them receive four-year $1,000 college scholarships from the MSHSL. The four winners this year are Taylor Kraemer of Osakis, Dillon John of Adrian, Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan and William Dudley of Worthington.

After the on-court awards ceremony, Annandale recipient Matthew Fliegel dashed to his spot in the pep band. That is the epitome of the Triple-A Award!

--After the Esko fans finished celebrating their boys’ state title, they had to scoot north to Duluth to watch their girls basketball team play Barnum in the Class 2A Section 7 title game.

--My favorite quote Saturday came from Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix. After losing to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Vix was philosophical, saying “That’s the way basketball is.”

--DeLaSalle and Austin met in Saturday night’s 3A title game. It's 99.9 miles from Austin High School to Target Center. From DeLaSalle to Target Center ... 1.1 miles.

CLASS 1A: BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA 52, RUSHFORD-PETERSON 40

The Jaguars were severely tested by Rushford-Peterson, which relied on a strong defense. The only lower offensive total of the season for B-B-E came in an 83-47 loss to Class 4A Apple Valley.

B-B-E was the state runnerup in 2011 and won the title in 2012. Rushford-Peterson reached the title game for the second time in history; the Trojans were the champions in 2006.

Brian Goodwin led B-B-E with 24 points and 10 rebounds and James Kuefler had 10 points. Rushford-Peterson was led by Alex Vix with 12 points and Cole Kingsley with 11.

B-B-E had 42 rebounds to 20 for the Trojans, to which Vix said, “I just think we were vertically challenged.”

CLASS 2A: ESKO 60, ANNANDALE 41

The Eskomos shot 54 percent for the game (68 percent in the second half) and made six of 12 three-point shots in beating the Cardinals. Marc Peterson led the Eskomos with 16 points, Kory Deadrick had 14 and Casey Staniger 13. Annandale was led by Matt Miller with 10 points.

The game was a rematch of last year’s third-place game, where Annandale beat Esko 59-58.

CLASS 3A: DELASALLE 60, AUSTIN 40

The Islanders won their third consecutive state championship with a dominating performance. DeLaSalle jumped out to an early lead and was in front 33-20 at halftime. Reid Travis led the Islanders with 16 points and Sacar Anim had 13. Ajuda Nywesh scored 24 points for Austin. DeLaSalle finished with a 32-17 rebound edge.

CLASS 4A: LAKEVILLE NORTH 84, HOPKINS 82

J.P. Macura had 43 points and 10 rebounds for Lakeville North, which came from behind in the final minute to win the state championship. Macura made 15 of 30 field-goal attempts, five of 13 three-point shots and eight of 11 free throws. Bronson Bruneau added 16 points for the Panthers. Hopkins was led by Kamali Chambers with 24 points.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Davonte Williamson, Trevontae Brown, Fond du Lac Ojibwe; Jeremiah Hanson, Josh Goldschmidt, Maranatha Christian; Brian Goodwin, Billy Borgerding, James Kuefler, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Cole Kingsley, Austin O’Hare, Alex Vix, Rushford-Peterson.

2A/ Mitch Pfingsten, Josh Eversman, Fairmont; Austin Bauer, Kyle Sorenson, Caledonia; Chase Knickerbocker, Matt Miller, Andrew Fort, Annandale; Casey Staniger, Kory Deadrick, Marc Peterson, Esko.

3A/ Cole Hennings, Orono; Justin Dahl, Brent Hentges, Holy Family Catholic; Zach Wessels, Ajuda Nywesh, Bret Lukes, Austin; Sacar Anim, Reid Travis, Geno Crandall, Jarvis Johnson, DeLaSalle.

4A/ Joe Rosga, Donnell Gresham, Cretin-Derham Hall; Tyler Weiss, Steffon Mitchell, Shakopee; J.P. Macura, Connor Flack, Bronson Bruneau, Lakeville North; Jacob Wright, Kamali Chambers, Amir Coffey, Hopkins.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Maranatha Christian 103, Fond du Lac Ojibwe 87: Josh Goldschmidt led Maranatha with 45 points. Fond du Lac Ojibwe set a tournament record by making 19 three-point shots and Trevontae Brown tied the single-game record with 10 made threes.

2A/ Caledonia 79, Fairmont 65: Caledonia’s Austin Bauer had a game-high 21 points, and Kyle Sorenson added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors. Fairmont was led by Mitch Pfingsten with 16 points, Jay Ruen with 15 and Josh Eversman with14.

3A/ Holy Family Catholic 56, Orono 35: Brent Hentges led Holy Family with 13 points and Justin Dahl had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Orono’s Ethan Larson had 10 points.

4A/ Shakopee 62, Cretin-Derham Hall 56: Tyler Weiss led Shakopee with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Joe Rosga had 22 points for Cretin-Derham Hall.

GIRLS STATE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The girls tournament will begin Tuesday at Target Center, and beginning Wednesday all game will be played at Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena. The pairings are set in all classes except 2A; because of the Esko-Barnum section final Saturday night, that field will be finalized Sunday.

CLASS 1A
#1 seed Minneota vs. Browerville
#4 seed Goodhue vs. #5 seed Ada-Borup
#2 seed Maranatha Christian vs. Mankato Loyola
#3 seed Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Win-E-Mac

CLASS 3A
#1 seed Park Center vs. Simley
#4 seed Minneapolis Washburn vs. #5 seed Monticello
#2 seed Fergus Falls vs. Kasson-Mantorville
#3 seed Marshall vs. Chisago Lakes

CLASS 4A
#1 seed Eastview vs. St Paul Central
#4 seed Eden Prairie vs. #5 seed Anoka
#2 seed Centennial vs. Lakeville North
#3 seed Bloomington Kennedy vs. St. Michael-Albertville

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,879
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Familiar Teams In Class 1A Basketball Championship Game 3/14/2014
When the Class 1A boys basketball state championship game tips off Saturday at noon at Target Center, the teams will be very familiar to fans who have been paying attention in recent years. The pedigrees of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Rushford-Peterson are flush with state tournament experience, making Saturday’s matchup intriguing.

B-B-E was the 1A runner-up in 2011 and state champ in 2012; Rushford-Peterson has played in the state semifinals three of the last four years. The teams advanced with semifinal victories Friday: B-B-E beating Fond du Lac Ojibwe 76-58 and Rush-Pete defeating Maranatha Christian Academy 53-51.

The motivations are similar, with a slight twist. B-B-E didn’t make it to state last year, leaving a foul taste that has lingered throughout this season.

“A state championship was our goal from the start,” said Jaguars senior James Kuefler.

Rushford-Peterson, meanwhile, is tired of playing in third-place games at Concordia University in St. Paul. The Trojans (celebrating in this photo) finished third at state last year, losing to Maranatha in the semifinals. Two years ago they also were third, losing to Southwest Minnesota Christian in the semis. They also played at Concordia in 2010, losing to Ellsworth in the third-place game.

The Trojans are 31-1 this season, losing only to Class 2A state semifinalist Caledonia. Rushford-Peterson’s last appearance in the state championship game was in 2006, when the Trojans beat Ellsworth 55-52.

“One of this team’s goals was to be in the state championship game,” said Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix. “Our message was we don’t want to play at Concordia.”

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa is an experienced team, with three starters and a sixth man who played on the 2012 state championship team. The Jaguars have won 71 home games in a row (one short of the state record), 69 consecutive Central Minnesota Conference games and six conference championships. They are 30-1 this season, with their only loss against Class 4A power Apple Valley.

“We’ve been super-motivated all year,” said Jaguars coach Dave Montbriand. “We just kept playing really, really hard.”

Asked if this year’s team is the best B-B-E has had in this lengthy run of success, Montbriand smiled and said, “This team could be our best. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

Brian Goodwin led B-B-E with 25 points Friday, and Vix specifically mentioned the 6-foot-4 senior when asked about playing the Jaguars.

“They’re very good. I don’t know how we’re going to stop Goodwin.”

Let’s see what happens.

73 VARSITY SEASONS AND COUNTING

Annandale coach Skip Dolan has been around the block, coaching much more than boys basketball for the Cardinals. He has also coached girls basketball, football and softball, and this is his 73rd varsity season in Annandale. His teams have won conference titles in all four sports.

The Cardinals defeated Caledonia 81-76 Friday night in the Class 2A semifinals, and will meet Esko in Saturday’s 2 p.m. state championship game. The Eskomos beat Fairmont 56-43 in Friday's second semifinal.

It will be the first time in a boys basketball title game for Annandale. Dolan (pictured) played in the state tournament for Renville in 1971 and 1972 at Williams Arena.

“That’s kind of where I get the drive, from Renville,” he said. “I love what I do.”

Almost a year ago, Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after a video surfaced of him hitting, shoving and berating players. A few days after Rice was fired, Dolan spoke at a Kiwanis luncheon. He was asked about Rice and what he did in his practices. His comments included …

“Coaches getting intense is part of the nature of the beast, but what made me truly sick about the Rutgers situation is that I truly believe one of the best classrooms in our schools is the athletic fields and courts. Mike Rice did not take advantage of the opportunity to teach these young men of our future so many things that are going to help them be successful in life. Instead he destroyed a golden opportunity to be a quality teacher which had nothing to do with coaching.

“Many of you sitting out in the audience listening to me either have hired young people or will be hiring them in the future. Wouldn't you like to hire a young man or woman that was taught the following qualities every day while they were in school?

* You need to show up every day
* You need to be on time.
* You need to be accountable.
* You need to work even harder today, to be better than you were the day before.
* You need to learn to work with a group of people and tolerate all of the differences. Be a team!
* You need to learn to be confident, and yet be humble.
* You will learn to respect authority.
* You will learn how to show gratitude.

“I tell you and my players, if these traits are instilled, whether a young person goes on to college or joins the work force, they will be successful. That player will have pride in themselves and their life.

“Shame on Rutgers for destroying such a classroom. It makes me sick that we have people who don’t get the real meaning of what we are trying to accomplish in the coaching profession.”

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY SCHEDULE
Noon/ Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. Rushford-Peterson, 1A title game
2 p.m./ Annandale vs. Esko, 2A title game
6 p.m./ DeLaSalle vs. Austin, 3A title game
9 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Lakeville North, 4A title game.

--And let’s end the day with a note about something very special that took place a couple weeks ago at the state wrestling tournament. St. Michael-Albertville wrestler Mitchell McKee, whose father Steve is dealing with cancer, won a state championship. But the story goes much further.

During Friday’s CBS Evening News, an “On The Road” segment with Steve Hartman focused on the McKees. It’s very touching and emotional. I have posted links to the story on the MSHSL Facebook page and my Twitter profile (@MSHSLjohn). You can also find it by Googling “Teen wrestler sets sights on championship win for dad.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 379
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,837
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn