John's Journal
State Tourney Trip Is A Long Time Coming3/18/2012
By Kurt Hildebrandt

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then forgive the players, coaches and fans of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin boys basketball team if they look a little love struck Thursday as they make their way to the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

At 1 p.m. that day, the Wolverines will take the floor at Williams Arena against Browerville in the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A boys state basketball tournament. That game will mark the end of a rather lengthy dry spell for state appearances by either of the schools which make up the MLBO pairing.

Until this year, the Wolverines had never made a trip to state in boys basketball in the 25 years the two schools have shared athletic programs. Butterfield-Odin made its one and only appearance in 1978 and while Mountain Lake has made 13 state appearances in its illustrious past, its last one came way back in 1952.

The Wolverines earned their 2012 trip to state courtesy of a 72-56 win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s in the Section 2 championship game Friday night at Minnesota State University-Mankato. Making the state trip even more noteworthy is that it comes in the last year of the MLBO sports pairing, as the schools will dissolve the arrangement after the 2011-12 school year.

Butterfield-Odin, with a combined population of around 900 at the time, made its one and only state tournament appearance in 1978. If not for the efforts of one particular state tourney legend -- Lake City’s Randy Breuer -- that school might be remembered fondly among the likes of Edgerton, Sherburn and some of the other small towns that experienced state tourney glory. As it was, Breuer scored 36 points in the semifinal round against B-O to force the Indians to settle for a third-place finish that year.

(In this photo: MLBO coach Shawn Naas, co-captains Beau Herrig and Kaleb Grev along with Willie Krahn, a member of the last Mountain Lake High School team that went to state in 1952, pose with Mt. Lake's 1939 state championship trophy in the balcony area of the school's "old gym" where the Lakers rose to prominence from 1922 to 1958.)

Mountain Lake’s state tournament history is a rather prominent one, although all of it took place during the early years of the event.

The Lakers, as they were known when the school was by itself, qualified for the state tournament on average about once every three years during the first 40 years of the event (1913-1952). The small town (population was around 1,800 at the time) not only “went to state” but the teams competed toe-to-toe many times against much bigger schools and more than held their own.

The Lakers won the state title in 1939, finished second in 1913, 1915 and 1917 and placed third in 1946 and 1947. In five appearances over a seven-year span (1946 to 1952) Mountain Lake was knocked out of the first or second round at state by the eventual state champion, with three of those losses coming by just a single point.

One could forgive some of this year’s players if they weren’t too up to date on the past successes their schools have had on the hardwood, given it has been such a long time since anyone from the boys basketball program has made the state trip other than as spectators.

However, these boys are more than aware of it.

“Oh, definitely. Our coaches, especially Mr. Metcalf (assistant coach Paul Metcalf), have made sure we don’t forget it,” MLBO senior co-captain Beau Herrig said when asked if he and his teammates know about the program’s illustrious past. “It’s great knowing we now get to be a part of that.”

“I know it has been long time since we’ve gotten this far, and it’s exciting for us,” said MLBO’s other senior co-captain, Kaleb Grev. “What makes it even better is all the people that have been coming to our games during the tournaments. To look up and see so many people cheering for you is such a great feeling and something we’ll always remember.”

During the 19 years that MLBO coach Shawn Naas has been at the helm of the Wolverine program, his teams have maintained a connection with the past just prior to each home game. As part of the team’s pregame ritual for home games, the varsity team will make its way from its locker room down a long hallway to what locals affectionately call the “old gym.” There the Wolverine players gather up in the balcony area of the cracker box gym that served as the home to the Lakers during their heyday – from around 1922 to 1958.

“It’s been a tradition, ever since around the time I became head coach, for the guys to go to the old gym at about the nine-minute mark of the B-squad game,” Naas said. “It’s great for them to be able to step away from the noise of the crowd and go to some place quiet to talk among themselves and think about the game a little bit before taking the floor.

A Mountain Lake legend has it that should any type of storm or natural disaster ever be predicted for the small town, people should head to the high school immediately and hang out by the 1939 state championship trophy. The reasoning: not even Mother Nature herself would bring harm to that piece of revered hardware.

One of MLBO’s current assistant coaches, Larry Hempeck, was a post player for Butterfield-Odin during that magical 1978 season and his son Andrew is a sophomore at Mountain Lake High School and starts at guard for the Wolverines this year. The two co-captains, Herrig and Grev, each has a parent who graduated from BOHS.

(In this photo: MLBO sophomore Andrew Hempeck and his father and current assistant coach Larry Hempeck hold up the state third-place trophy that Butterfield-Odin won in 1978. Larry was a starting player on that team.)

“I still remember our trip to state very well, and it’s exciting to know these guys will be able to experience that feeling we had back then,” the elder Hempeck said. “We’re just telling the guys to enjoy it as much as you can because it is so hard to get there.”

“My dad has shared stories with me about going to state in the past and it will be great now being able to play there myself,” Andrew said.

To know just how important it was for MLBO to end their state tournament drought for many, all one had to do was scan the stands Friday night to see the scores of former Mt. Lake, Butterfield-Odin and MLBO players who made the trek to Mankato on Friday. Their goal? To hopefully see that dry spell come to an end once and for all and to share in the excitement of something that had eluded most of them all those years in the past.

Willie Krahn, a member of the Lakers’ 1952 state tournament team that won the consolation title, was one of those former players attending Friday’s game. Krahn has worked the scoreboard at MLBO boys home games for several years and has run the school’s winter open gym program since the late 1970s.

“It’s been fun watching these kids progress and come together as a team,” Krahn said. “I’ve already talked to at least one of my former teammates (Pete Franz) who said he’ll meet me at the game on Thursday. It will be fun for us because Williams Arena is where we played our state games in 1952.”

Win or lose come Thursday afternoon, what this year’s Wolverine team has done has hopefully helped write a happy ending on the final chapter on the MLBO program and begin a new chapter for future successes.

--Kurt Hildebrandt is a 1984 Mountain Lake High School alum who earned two varsity letters in basketball for the Lakers playing sitting guard (sitting on the bench & guarding the water bottles). He returned to his hometown in 1996 and served as sports editor for the Mountain Lake Observer/Butterfield Advocate until 2004. He currently resides in St. Peter with his wife, Teresa, and his family, where he works as news editor for the St. Peter Herald.
Coming Back After “A Real Depressing, Tragic Deal”3/17/2012
To watch Kali Peschel playing in this year’s girls state basketball tournament was a testament to healing, to recovery, to hard work and gratitude. The Sauk Centre senior’s story is filled with ups and down, good times and bad, and to see her smile was one of the great tales of tournament week.

A little background: Kali is a 6-foot-1 guard who ranks among the top players in Minnesota. A year ago this week, while the Mainstreeters were finishing third at the Class 2A state tourney, she announced that she would play at the University of Iowa. But last June, everything went kablooey when Kali suffered a torn ACL in her left knee during a summer league game.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” said her father Don, who is an assistant coach at Sauk Centre. “It’s just a real depressing, tragic deal.”

First there was the injury, then the medical procedures, then crutches and rehab and healing. All in all, Kali was on the shelf for six and a half months. She is also a tremendous volleyball player, but she wore a knee brace and street clothes on the Mainstreeters bench at the state tournament, where the team finished fifth.

But what about her senior basketball season? What about her college career? Those were big, big questions during those six and a half months. The good news finally came in mid-February when Kali was cleared to return to basketball. She returned with four games left in the regular season.

“She’s struggled at times with her stamina,” Don said. “She’s not 100 percent yet but it’s coming.”

The thought of never returning to high school basketball and preparing for college crossed Kali’s mind, but not for long.

“I could save myself and just keep getting ready for the next level,” she said. “But I have no regrets about coming back. I’m thankful to be back and I’m really happy to be back and playing.”

Don said, “It was almost like trying to hold back a wild animal. But she wanted to try and get back. The coaches at Iowa gave her the blessing; they said, ‘You’re a senior. Go play.’ That was a big boost for us.”

Kali led the Mainstreeters with 14 points and six assists in a 65-51 quarterfinal win over Worthington, then had 18 points and 18 rebounds as Sauk Centre beat New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva 56-39 in the semifinals. Sauk Centre lost to Providence Academy 46-40 in Saturday’s championship game; Peschel had 12 points and Macy Weller led the Mainstreeters with 14.

“To be back is amazing and it’s a great team to be playing with; they were very accepting to having me back and adapting me into the game,” she said. “I’m very excited, very blessed to be back and humbled by everything that’s happening in this tournament.

“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been watching the state tournaments and dreamed of it. This year, honestly I was just happy to get back. I was hoping we could get to the state tournament, and that happened. And I hoped we’d win our first game so I’d get two more, and that happened. And now this is just a dream. I never thought it would happen but I’m happy it did.”

THE LEARNING CURVE

A year ago Mountain-Iron Buhl came to the state tournament for the first time since 1994 and finished third. On Saturday, the Rangers took one step further, losing to Maranatha Christian 49-37 in the Class 1A championship game.

The Rangers were one of the youngest teams in any class, with Dakotah Winans (who had 12 points and 14 rebounds Saturday) the only senior among the starters and first three players off the bench.

“They play hard and they play with heart, and we did that for 36 minutes today,” coach Jeff Buffetta said. “They gave it their all, they laid it all out on the floor and I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.

“I just know that we gave it our full effort. And if we make a few plays here and there in the second half, maybe the result’s reversed. But it’s hard to feel down when you know that everybody gave it their all.”

OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

3A/ DeLaSalle repeated as champion with a 65-45 victory over Richfield. Allina Starr led the Islanders with 24 points and Tyseanna Johnson had 16. Bryann Guyton led Richfield with 15 points.

4A/ Hopkins 77, Osseo 55. The Royals won their second consecutive state title as Nia Coffey (15), Sydney Coffey (15) and TT Starks (10) combined to score 40 points. Olivia Antilla led Osseo with 15 points.

THE RECORD BREAKER

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva sophomore Carlie Wagner set two tournament scoring records.

Wagner, who came four points from tying the state tournament single-game scoring record on Wednesday, broke that record on Saturday. She had 43 points in the quarterfinals vs. Braham and poured in 48 in Saturday’s third-place game, in which NRHEG beat Pequot Lakes 73-59. The previous record of 47 was held by Brittany Chambers of Jordan (vs. Crookston in 2008) and Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South (vs. Centennial in 2009).

Wagner’s three-game tournament total of 112 points topped the previous record of 106, set by Hill in 2009.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Ada-Borup 70, Spring Grove 59: Taylor Kujava made four of five three-point attempts and scored 25 points to lead the Cougars. Richell Mehus had 23 points for Spring Grove.

2A/ Wagner’s tournament-record boosted NHREG past Pequot Lakes. Mattie Lueck had 32 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Patriots.

3A/ Fergus Falls 65, Hutchinson 54: Mariah Monke (13), Anna Monke (12) and Sydney Schultz (12) provided a balanced scoring attack for the Otters. Kayle Kucera led Hutchinson with 19 points.

4A/ Edina 52, Eastview 43/ The Hornets used 60-percent shooting and 21 points from Katybeth Biewen to defeat the Lightning. Madison Guebert led Eastview with 13 points.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Taylor Elton, Richell Mehus, Spring Grove; Taylor Kujava, Megan Kolness, Ada-Borup; Kathy Ostman, Dakotah Winans, Sarah Overbye, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Madison Lee, Alexis Long, Onye Osemenam, Maranatha Christian.

2A/ Rebekah Dahlman, Braham; Mattie Lueck, Pequot Lakes; Anna Schlaak, Carlie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva; Taylor Finley, AnnMarie Healy, Nathalie Ratliff, Providence Academy; Kali Peschel, Macy Weller, Ashley Gruber, Sauk Centre.

3A/ Nichole Wittman, Hutchinson; Brianna Rasmusson, Mariah Monke, Fergus Falls; Jessica January, Sierra Ford Washington, Bryann Guyton, Richfield; Tyseanna Johnson, Mariah Adanene, Allina Starr, Mia Loyd, DeLaSalle.

4A/ Madison Guebert, Eastview; Katybeth Biewen, MC McGrory, Edina; Mikayla Bailey, Phillis Webb, Olivia Antilla, Osseo; Taylor Anderson, Nia Coffey, TT Starks, Sydney Coffey, Hopkins.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING

Best Irish Names on the Court During St. Patrick’s Day: Tie between Erin O’Toole and Molly O’Toole, both from O’Hopkins. (Last year’s contest was a tie between Erin O’Toole and Shannon O’Toole, also from O’Hopkins.) Honorable Mention: Madi Malone from O’sseo.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 66 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,877

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
For Spring Grove, A Date With School History 3/16/2012
When Spring Grove advanced to the girls state basketball tournament, the Lions accomplished two big things. No. 1: They made it to state as the smallest school in the tourney … the high school enrollment is only 86. No. 2: They made school history by becoming the first girls basketball team to reach state.

Spring Grove has come close before, playing in the Section 1 championship two of the previous three years. The Lions’ record over the last three seasons is 80-11, and getting to state this year out of a very strong section was huge.

“It was a great accomplishment,” coach Russell Larson said after the Lions lost to defending Class 1A champion Maranatha Christian 65-61 in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center.

“To get so close and not get there (before this year); this group of girls has worked so hard and they’ve been on these teams that have come so close. To actually get over the hump was very gratifying. We’ve had two great games up here and our girls are gritty, they play with a lot of heart and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’re a great bunch to be around.”

The Lions will graduate four seniors, but the returning players will make another run at state next season.

“You never want it to end,” Larson said.

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY IS SET

Here is the schedule for Saturday's girls basketball state championship games...

Class 1A/ Mountain Iron-Buhl (31-1) vs. Maranatha Christian (27-5), noon

Class 2A/ Sauk Centre (27-4) vs. Providence Academy (27-4), 2 p.m.

Class 3A/ Richfield (27-4) vs. DeLaSalle (27-3), 6 p.m.

Class 4A/ Hopkins (29-1) vs. Osseo (26-5), 8 p.m.

All games televised by Channel 45 and webcast at prep45.com

THE SEEDING DISCUSSION

The seeding systems for the girls and boys state basketball tournaments differ this year. The boys will seed the top four teams in each class for next week’s tournament, and their quarterfinal opponents will be determined by a blind draw.

The girls do the same thing for Class 3A and 4A, but 1A and 2A use a random, rotating system to match up section champions in the first round at state. The boys have seeded in 3A and 4A for years, and the boys coaches association pushed for seeding 1A and 2A beginning this season. The girls coaches association has not formally asked to do that.

Thursday’s 1A quarterfinal matchup between Ada-Borup (26-2) and Minneota (29-1) seemed like an opportune spot to ask the coaches about seeding.

“In Class A it’s so dang tough,” said Ada-Borup coach David Smart. “I’ve got a friend that coaches in Isle and I’ve got a friend that coaches at Mountain Iron-Buhl, but I didn’t know anything about Minneota other than from people I talked to. It’s tough. Obviously it would be nice if you were in the top four, then I’d be all for it.

“If the boys can do it, there’s no reason we can’t.”

Minneota coach Chad Johnston said, “I kind of go different ways on that. Both have their benefits and I know the whole purpose of seeding is hopefully you don’t get what you think will be two very good teams matched up right away. And Ada was a very tough team for us to match up against. That’s a good program, a very traditional program.

“We’ve got teams all over the place, so how seeding would work, there isn’t a whole lot of common denominators. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve stayed away from it. We can look at a team like Mountain Iron-Buhl and say, ‘What a great record.’ But we have no idea what type of competition they see, and they’ll probably say the same thing about us.

“Obviously it would be nice to come up here and not have to face one of the toughest teams in the tournament right away. But you’ve got to beat them all to win it, anyway. That’s kind of my mentality.”

YOUNG AND TALENTED

One of the great things about small-school basketball is seeing very young players on the court. And Mountain Iron-Buhl starting guard Mya Buffetta is as young as they come.

The Rangers will play in Saturday’s 1A state championship game, and the little seventh-grader will be in the starting lineup. She had seven points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in Thursday’s quarterfinal when MIB beat Sleepy Eye 50-31. In Friday’s 49-45 semifinal win over Ada-Borup, Buffetta (pictured) finished with six points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Mya’s dad, Brian, is an assistant coach and her uncle, Jeff Buffetta, is the head coach. The Rangers’ starting lineup consists of one senior, one junior, two sophomores and Mya.

“She never makes me nervous,” Jeff Buffetta said. “I know that she’s ready to play. She’s been gearing up for this her whole life. I don’t think anybody expected it to be this early, but she doesn’t make me nervous. We have full faith in her.”

Mya said, “I just like playing with the older girls. It’s exciting and it’s fun.”

I asked Mya’s dad if she is really 5-foot-3. His reply: “On a good day.”

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The Ada-Borup band was not at Target Center for the Cougars’ game because they were playing at Concordia College in Moorhead, where the Ada-Borup boys team met Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the Section 6A title. But that didn’t stop the Ada-Borup fans, who sang a fine a cappella version of the school song before tipoff.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--There’s a new twist on this category today. A Maranatha Christian student named Zachary Goldschmidt apparently wanted to attract some new Twitter followers while his school’s team was playing Spring Grove in the 1A semifinals. So young Zachary brought a very nice sign: one side read “Follow Me On Twitter” and the other side had his Twitter address: @zgoldy32. Zachary indeed picked up some new followers … some who saw his sign from inside the arena and others who saw him on TV.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--Maranatha Christian set a state tournament record by making 12 three-point field goals in its victory over Spring Grove. The previous record was 11, set by Parkers Prairie vs. Northern Freeze in 2010. Maranatha’s Madison Lee made six three-point shots, one short of the record of seven set by Esko’s Angela Grussendorf vs. Kenyon in 1988.

--Hutchinson lost to Richfield in the 3A semifinals on Thursday, but Hutchinson coach Bill Carlson made some history in that game. He is one of the rare coaches whose teams have played in both girls and boys state semifinals. In 1996 Carlson’s Minnehaha Academy boys team also got to the semifinals.

--Seven schools made their first appearances in the girls state basketball tournament this week, and their record in the opening round was 2-5. In Class 3A, Richfield won while Monticello and Chisago Lakes lost; in 2A, Zumbrota-Mazeppa lost; and in 1A, Spring Grove won while Sleepy Eye and Isle lost.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 11 for the tournament, 61 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,851

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
A Look Ahead: Boys State Tourney Preview3/16/2012
Here’s the field for next week’s Class 1A boys state basketball tournament: Rushford-Peterson, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, Southwest Minnesota Christian, Prairie Seeds, Browerville, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Lakeview Christian and Fosston.

--2A teams: Plainview-Elgin-Millville, St. Peter, Worthington, St. Croix Lutheran, Watertown-Mayer, Litchfield, Perham, Braham or Esko (they play Saturday)

--3A teams: Austin, Mankato East, DeLaSalle, St. Paul Johnson, Rocori, Minneapolis Washburn, Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes.

--4A teams: Lakeville North, Eden Prairie, Eastview, Woodbury, Osseo, Hopkins, Duluth East and Moorhead.
A Toothy Smile And Love For Her Teammates3/15/2012
Fergus Falls senior Haylie Zenner was emotional after the Otters lost to DeLaSalle in Thursday’s Class 3A state basketball semifinals at Target Center, but she still managed to flash a smile … despite a missing front tooth.

The tooth was knocked out in the second game of the season, when a player from Providence Academy swung an elbow that landed on Haylie’s face.

“I know, right?,” Hayle said with a smile as we chatted outside the locker room. “It fits my personality, to be honest.”

She’s right about that. I have interviewed Haylie several times, usually during the track season, and she is a real treat. She also is one of the top runners in Minnesota history, winning state championships in the 800 meters as an eighth-grader, ninth-grader and junior (she was the state runner-up as a sophomore).

She has one more track season left before she begins her collegiate running career at the University of Minnesota. But first, she will play her final basketball game against Hutchinson on Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul. The winning team will take home a third-place trophy.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Haylie (she is No. 30 in this photo). “We’re going to bring some heart, play for the lord, give it all we’ve got. If we play together and win together, it’s going to be so much more than just a third-place title. It’s going to be super fun.”

Track is an individual sport and basketball is a team sport, so I asked Haylie about the differences.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “First my girls; I might cry because I’m so proud of them. We are a team and we’re all friends off and on the court. We get along so well, track included. But basketball’s so different. Basketball has something special that I’ve been blessed to be a part of. And these girls are all amazing athletes.

“In basketball it’s a whole different level of, like, love and team spirit and togetherness; in school, after school, sleepovers, all that jazz. It’s definitely really fun. I absolutely love this.”

BACK FOR MORE

When Ada-Borup meets Mountain Iron-Buhl Friday in the Class 1A semifinals, a familiar coach will be on the Ada-Borup sideline. David Smart coached the Cougars to state appearances in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 (including state titles in 2008 and 2009) before resigning as coach in order to watch his two daughters play college basketball. He intended to remain a non-coach, but he only stayed away for one year.

When he stepped down, his daughter Kelli was playing at Mayville (N.D.) State and Nicole was at North Dakota. Kelli has now finished her college career and Nicole is a junior.

“I chased Nicole and Kelli around for a year and had every intention to stay out,” David Smart said. But school officials wanted him back.

“They said, ‘What would it take to get you back?’ I said I didn’t want to miss my kids’ games. And they said, ‘How about if we let you go to your kids’ games whenever you want to go?’ That intrigued me and conversations went back and forth.”

Smart has been able to watch most of his daughters’ games, but he was too busy with the state tournament Thursday and unable to get to Seattle, where North Dakota played at Seattle University in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

HURRAH FOR OUR PRINCIPAL!

Richfield coach LeeAnn Wise is not just a basketball coach, she’s also the principal at Centennial Elementary in Richfield. When the Spartans defeated Red Wing in the Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday at Williams Arena, the place was packed with kids from the high school, the coach’s school and tons of other fans. In fact, 40 buses were needed to transport Spartans fans.

The outing was treated like a field trip. Students from each classroom wore matching t-shirts, so teachers and staff could keep track of them. They cheered wildly for the Spartans and for Mrs. Wise.

Two field trips in two days was a stretch, so the Centennial students were unable to go to Target Center on Friday for Richfield’s semifinal game against Hutchinson. But the students still had a fun day: A big-screen television was placed in the school gym, a popcorn popper was brought in for the occasion, and the kids cheered for the Spartans just like they were at the game. And the Spartans won 45-28 to advance to Saturday’s 6 p.m. state championship game against DeLaSalle.

YOUNG JOURNALIST ON THE RISE

Nick Wagner, a student at Ada-Borup, is a member of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. When I joined the MSHSL staff, I started the program as a way to give students opportunities to gain journalism experience.

Nick is one of many outstanding students who are involved in the program. He is skilled and learning more every day. He is the go-to media person for coverage of activities at Ada-Borup and his horizons are expanding. He also is making some money as a journalist; the Fargo Forum hired him as a freelancer to shoot photos and write about Ada-Borup’s state tournament appearance.

Once the winter state tournaments have been completed, Nick and several other members of the Student SID program will join me for a trip to a Timberwolves game. The students will receive media credentials, sit in media seats at Target Center, chat with media professionals and have a great experience.

PLAYER OF THE DAY

--Ada-Borup junior Megan Kolness was absolutely perfect in the Cougars’ 67-63 victory over Minneota in the 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. Kolness was 7-for-7 from the floor, including 4-for-4 from three-point range, and she made all seven of her free throws for a team-high 25 points.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“Could I get the password for the (wireless network) please?” That Tweet came to me from a media member who was trying to get online at Target Center. I was happy to provide him with the password … from my courtside seat at Williams Arena.

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The first pep band songs of the day were “Crazy Train” by the Sleepy Eye Symphony Orchestra, followed by the Mountain Iron-Buhl band knocking out “Smoke on the Water.” Mighty fine.

--The Ada-Borup band, which has a unique sound that is unlike any other, put on a great show at Williams Arena. Years ago at a state tournament, I handed band director Richard Tuttle one of my business cards. I had written on it “Best band ever.” I have since visited the band room in Ada and I always look forward to seeing the students perform. Tuttle told me Thursday that he still has that old business card.

--During the evening session at Williams Arena, the Hopkins Orchestra played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” about as well as it can be played.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--Every so often a friendly person will hand me a Diet Coke. Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch sports writer Josh Doughty did just that Thursday morning at Williams Arena, starting my day out right.

--Thursday marked my second anniversary as an employee of the MSHSL. Very cool deal.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 6 for the tournament, 56 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven: 6,826

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn