John's Journal
Championship Saturday Schedule3/15/2013
Girls basketball at Target Center

Noon/ Minneota vs. Ada-Borup in Class 1A
2 p.m./ Braham vs. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in Class 2A
6 p.m./ Red Wing vs. DeLaSalle in Class 3A
8 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Bloomington Kennedy in Class 4A
Out Of Nowhere, A Shooting Star Is Born 3/14/2013
The first star of the Class 1A girls state basketball tournament was an unlikely candidate for a roar from the fans and a series of postgame interviews. But that’s part of the magic of these things, and Upsala junior Kaelin Smieja was exactly that – magic -- on Thursday at Williams Arena.

Here’s the setup: coming into the Upsala Cardinals’ first-ever trip to the girls state tournament, Kaelin – who is not a starter -- had not exactly been a pillar of offense. Her scoring average was 2.53 points per game and (key statement alert) she had made seven three-point shots all year.

So what happened in Upsala’s 66-51 loss to Bethlehem Academy? That’s right, the kid lit up the Barn. She finished with a game-high 23 points and she made seven of 10 three-point shots. Not only did she tie her three-point total from the previous 30 games, she also tied the state tournament record for the most three-point baskets in one game. She now shares that mark with Esko’s Angela Grussendorf, who hit seven bombs in 1988 against Kenyon.

Kaelin had heard an announcement about something or other – and saw a standing ovation from the giant Upsala crowd -- after she fouled out with a minute to play, but she wasn’t sure of the specifics until I went through the details with her after the game.

“That sounds pretty cool,” said the newest member of the state tournament record book. “I knew I could make threes. When the first one went in I thought, ‘Hey, this is pretty awesome.’ And they kept going in.”

Coach Paul Pelzer said he wasn’t as surprised by what Smieja did as where she did it.

“She’s a really good shooter. But for a bench player to do that in this atmosphere, that’s the surprising thing.”

The defeat put a mild damper on the Cardinals’ celebration, but there were still plenty of smiles.

“A few tears are falling,” Pelzer said outside the locker room. “But they know they gave it their all. They did what they could. I’m so proud of those girls; they will remember this for a lifetime.”

The coach’s daughter, senior Aimee Pelzer, had 16 points, seven assists and three rebounds in ending one of the finest careers in the history of Minnesota high school basketball.

Aimee came oh so close to becoming the first girls player to reach the 1,000-plateau in three categories. She finished with more than 2,600 points and more than 1,000 assists; had the Cardinals won Thursday (ensuring two more games) she might have cracked the 1,000-rebound mark, as well. She finished with 978.

The only boys player to reach 1,000 in those three categories was 2008 Ellsworth graduate Cody Schilling.

A GREAT YEAR FOR BETHLEHEM ACADEMY

Bethlehem Academy’s quarterfinal victory Thursday continued what has been a great year for the Faribault school. The Cardinals’ football team advanced to the Class 1A Prep Bowl last fall before losing to Mahnomen and the volleyball team won the 1A state championship.

Nine of the girls basketball players also played volleyball, and senior hoopster Jessie Mathews was an all-state and all-state tournament volleyball player last fall. She is the school’s career girls basketball leader with 1,679 points and also is the career leader in assists and steals. She will play basketball at St. Mary's University in Winona.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WIN?

The Minneota Vikings have played in three previous state tournaments, losing in the quarterfinals each time. So when they defeated Mountain Iron-Buhl 60-53 in Thursday’s 1A quarterfinala they found themselves in uncharted waters.

“Usually we’re moping around and figuring out where we’re supposed to go,” coach Chad Johnston said, smiling. “It feels good to get that monkey off our back.”

The Vikings will play Minneota in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center at noon, followed by Ada-Borup vs. Win-E-Mac. Ada-Borup defeated two-time defending state champ Maranatha Christian 70-53 and Win-E-Mac beat Mankato Loyola 59-49.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Bethlehem Academy coach Tammy Filzen has large cards that she holds up to call plays. My favorite was one that read: “2 Whales.”

Maranatha Christian also used signage, including “Box,” “Blitz” and “Motion High.” But nothin’ beats a pair of whales.

THREE AND OUT

--With Upsala’s loss, all three first-time entrants in the state tournament are finished. In Class 2A, Pine Island and BOLD were defeated Wednesday.

--To see photo galleries from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 8 for the tournament, 46 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)
Some Survive And Advance, While One Coach Says Farewell3/13/2013
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.

TRANSPORTATION 101

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.

MASCOT MANIA

Leo the Lion from the Hopkins Royals is one of the greats. And the St. Paul Central Minuteman is equally awesome.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--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)
Thursday's Games In Girls State Basketball Tournament3/13/2013
The girls state basketball tournament will continue Thursday with games in three classes; all except 2A. Check out the schedule by clicking here.
The Hockey Fans’ Take On The State Hockey Tournament3/11/2013
The history, the fans, the tradition, the spectacle ... the boys state hockey tournament has something for everyone. Brian Jerzak talks to the fans at the nation's premier high school tournament. Read his story by clicking here.