The girls state basketball tournament is a four-day affair that is always filled with stories of personal and team triumphs, and every so often someone says goodbye to the game.
On Wednesday at Target Center, St. Paul Central coach Willie Taylor (pictured) coached his final game with the Minutemen. Taylor, who has been a high school coach for 20 years (the last 15 at Central), announced before the tournament that he was stepping down to pursue college coaching opportunities. And the end came when the Minutemen lost to Osseo 63-56 in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Asked what he will remember most from his time at Central, Taylor, 53, didn’t talk about basketball. He talked about young people getting an education.
“The big thing for me is every year I’ve been at Central, we’ve had kids going to college,” he said. “Not all of them played college basketball but they went on to college.”
Taylor coached Mounds View to the state tournament in 1994, and at Central his teams played at state in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and this year. Central won state titles in 2007 and 2008. He leaves the game with a 336-84 record.
“Central is me,” he said. “It’s part of my life. I love Central. I just think it’s time for me to try something else.”
IT WAS UGLY, BUT A WIN IS A WIN
Hopkins, the top-seeded team in Class 4A and the two-time defending state champion, rolled past St. Michael-Albertville 77-58 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The first word out of Royals coach Brian Cosgriff’s mouth when meeting the media afterwards was “ugly.”
He talked about how his team didn’t shoot overly well (40 percent), had too many turnovers (27, the same number as the Knights) and made less than half their free throws (23 of 28).
“But the bottom line is you’ve got to survive and advance,” he said. Hopkins will face Osseo in Thursday’s semifinals at Target Center. The Orioes beat St. Paul Central 63-56 Wednesday.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
When Bloomington Kennedy and Eastview meet in Thursday’s 4A semifinals at Target Center, there will be secrets. The teams met twice in South Suburban Conference play, with Kennedy winning 57-49 on Jan. 2 and Eastview evening the score 66-46 on Feb. 15.
“There’s no doubt about it,” said Kennedy coach Quintin Johnson, whose team beat Anoka 66-48 Wednesday. “Eastview is sitting there waiting for us for the third time.”
After Eastview defeated Rochester Mayo 54-40, Lightning coach Melissa Guebert said there will be no surprised in the rematch.
“We really respect each other,” she said. “Our kids enjoy playing against them and they enjoy playing us. It will be a really good matchup.”
STAR OF THE DAY
Braham senior Rebekah Dahlman already was the state’s all-time career scoring leader, but she added another big number Wednesday in a 79-42 victory over BOLD in Class 2A. Dahlman had 40 points, which gives her 5,003 for her career.
OLD FRIENDS REUNITE
After Mayo lost to Eastview at Target Center, the next game was between Pine Island and Providence Academy in Class 2A. Mayo coach Rich Decker and Pine Island coach Rick Canton go way back; Canton played for Decker when Decker was starting his coaching career at Kenyon in the late 1970s. Canton also was an assistant under Decker Bethlehem Academy in Faribault for one year.
Decker is no stranger to state tournament, at least on the boys side, having brought Kenyon to state in 1980 and Rochester Lourdes in 1999 and 2000. He was inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 and resigned from coaching and retired from teaching at Lourdes in 2004 after 20 years there and a career record of 527-203. Until taking over the Mayo girls team this season, he had spent eight years as coaching B squad boys at St. Charles.
“There’s a great deal of satisfaction to see the team be successful and see the school be successful,” Decker said. “You’ve got to be really proud of our kids. They got a lot better as the year went on, and that’s what you want.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
When I asked St. Michael-Albertville coach Kent Hamre how this year’s Hopkins team compared to past Hopkins teams and the great teams in recent memory, his answer was, as they say, outside the box.
“You’d have a better chance of comparing them to NSIC teams,” he said, referring to the NCAA Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. “They would be a top five team in the NSIC.”
OOPS OF THE DAY
Two teams Wednesday forgot to read the pre-tournament information packet, which spells out that each team must bring its own basketballs for warmups. So if you noticed teams using only three balls (borrowed balls) to loosen up, you know which teams were guilty.
In the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena, top-seeded Richfield had plenty of fans cheering for the Spartans. Thirty-eight buses carrying 1,800 K-12 students made the trip to see the Spartans defeat Hill-Murray 54-35.
Pine Island, which lost to Providence Academy 33-22 at Target Center Wednesday evening in 2A, brought the whole town on nine school buses for fans, three charter buses and another bus for the band. And in 2A at Williams Arena, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva fans filled seven coach buses and four school buses. The Panthers defeated Pelican Rapids 62-49.
Leo the Lion from the Hopkins Royals is one of the greats. And the St. Paul Central Minuteman is equally awesome.
--Defending state champions: 4A Hopkins (two-time), 3A DeLaSalle (two-time), 2A Providence Academy, 1A Maranatha Christian (two-time).
--Faith Patterson was the coach of the last team to win three consecutive titles; Minneapolis North in 2003, 2004 and 2005. She now coaches DeLaSalle, which is seeking to match that three-year championship run.
--Upsala in Class 1A and Pine Island and BOLD in 2A are making their appearances in the state tournament.
--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 42 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 528
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,489
(*During the 2012-13 school year)