John's Journal
Tournament Time Is Over But The Fun Continues3/26/2012
What a weekend! The MSHSL winter state tournament season came to a fantastic finish during Saturday’s boys state basketball championship games at Target Center. The evening games ended in buzzer-beating fashion, with Class 3A DeLaSalle defeating Minneapolis Washburn on a last-second shot in overtime and Class 4A Osseo edging Lakeville North on a last-second shot in regulation.

Saturday’s crowds for the afternoon 1A and 2A title games -- won by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Plainview-Elgin-Millville – as well as the evening session were big and boisterious.

I left Target Center at midnight Saturday. In most years I would have taken Sunday off and gotten some rest after the five-week flurry of tournaments. But I was back at Target Center at 10:45 Sunday morning in order to be on hand for another fantastic day of basketball.

The Timberwolves played the Denver Nuggets in a 2:30 p.m. game Sunday. Long ago, I began working with the Timberwolves staff on creating a special day for youth involved in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. And a grand day it was.

The Timberwolves staff went above and beyond. Public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen organized a memorable day for the students and several Twin Cities media professionals met with the kids.

The students involved were (pictured, left to right) Katie Halter of Red Rock Central, Nick Wagner of Ada-Borup, Thomas Elness of Windom and Turner Blaufuss of Breckenridge. John's Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper, a University of Minnesota journalism student, also joined us.

The group of media professionals held an hour-long roundtable discussion with the students long before the game began. The topics ranged from their job duties and hours, their career paths, their advice for the students and much more. Here’s a great big thank you to those folks: Augsburg College sports information director Don Stoner, Timberwolves TV play-by-play veteran Tom Hanneman, Timberwolves public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen, Star Tribune Timberwolves reporter Jerry Zgoda, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski and KARE-11 sports anchor/reporter Dave Schwartz.

The students also were given a backstage tour of Target Center, visited the Timberwolves locker room, had lunch in the media dining room, observed coach Rick Adelman's pregame media briefing, watched the game from media seats and had a private postgame interview with Timberwolves player Anthony Tolliver (who is a great guy!). They also met legendary Star Tribune columnist and WCCO radio personality Sid Hartman.

A similar day with the Twins is in the planning stages, and we hope to expand the program to the Wild, Vikings and University of Minnesota athletic teams. (To see more photos from Sunday, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

The students who were involved Sunday will be writing about their experiences, and I will use their essays and photographs I shot to put together a package that administrators and students around the state will see. It will be a fabulous tool to publicize our program and continue its growth.

So with the winter tournaments and Sunday’s outing complete, things are a little quieter on the activities scene ... for now. But spring sports practices are already in full swing – with some favorable weather lending a helping hand – and the fun continues!

--Two major John’s Journal milestones were reached during the winter tournaments: A new Diet Coke record was established and my travels for the school year topped 7,000 miles…

--Diet Coke Count: *85 for the winter tournaments. (*All-time record. Previous record: 81 during 2011 winter tournaments.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 7,004

--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 Remarkable Championship Game … And Divine Guidance?3/24/2012
If you got a close look at the DeLaSalle basketball uniforms during the girls and boys state tournaments, you may have noticed a small patch worn by the Islanders. The patch carried the initials “BMC” in honor of Brother Michael Collins.

Collins, the DeLaSalle president, was 74 when he died Jan. 8 from complications related to lung cancer. The DeLaSalle coaches wore lapel pins that also carried Brother Michael’s initials. No one is saying that the late school president was responsible for the Islanders winning both girls and boys state titles … well, maybe somebody is. But we’ll get to that.

Saturday night at Target Center, the DeLaSalle boys defeated Minneapolis Washburn 57-56 in overtime. The winning points were scored by Ross Barker (right), who hit a long jump shot as time expired. Barker had scored only two points in the game before that shot.

Much of the game was racehorse basketball, and every player was exhausted at the end. Actually, they were pretty much spent long before the end.

“I thought the defensive intensity of both teams was phenomenal,” said DeLaSalle coach Dave Thorson. “At the 10-minute mark of the second half both teams were gassed. And it was all because of the defensive pressure. Defensive wins championships. Offense sells the tickets but defense wins the championships.”

A few days after Collins died, I talked with Thorson. He and Brother Michael were extremely close and his friend’s death was difficult for everyone at DeLaSalle. After Saturday’s game we talked again about Collins.

“I said I didn’t want (winning) to be about him,” Thorson said. “But I can tell you personally, for me, he was my best friend. He was the godfather to my daughter, he taught my daughter how to pray. And these kids got me through it.

“These kids got me through it because they gave me something to keep my mind off it. The day that he died, I had really the last conversation with him at about 6 in the morning. I said, ‘I’m going to go to practice’ and he rolled his eyes at me, like he always would. I told the kids after practice that day, ‘I don’t know how much longer Brother’s gonna make it.’ He ended up dying that night.

“They were really in some ways some relief for me. It’s special that way. I didn’t want to make this about him; he wouldn’t have wanted that. But in the back of my mind I’m wondering if there wasn’t some divine guidance on that ball.”

UPS AND DOWNS OF THE TOURNAMENT

There are two elevators in Edgerton, Minnesota. Two grain elevators. But the basketball team from Southwest Minnesota Christian had some interesting encounters with people-moving elevators during its time in Minneapolis at the state tournament.

On Thursday, a few hours before the Eagles played Fosston in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena, the entire team – players, coaches and athletic director Darrel Ulferts, 18 people in all – were stuck in an elevator at a YMCA.

“The question is, why were we in there all at the same time?,” Ulferts said. “Because nobody was thinking about getting stuck.”

And on Friday, after defeating Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals at Target Center, seven players found themselves stuck again, this time in an elevator at the downtown Marriott.

The Eagles needed some help from the fire department to escape from the YMCA elevator, where it grew so warm that one of the players took off everything except his pants.

After being rescued, the team took photos with the firefighters.

“Yeah, it was quite the experience,” senior Zach Huisken told the Worthington Daily Globe. “We had the fire trucks come out and we took pictures with them and we had a little fun. We were stuck in there for about 20 minutes. With 18 guys in there it started getting kind of hot, but they luckily got us out pretty quick.”

The Eagles’ stay in the Marriott elevator was shorter, 10 minutes or so.

The team was defeated by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 54-45 in Saturday’s state championship game, but they went home with lots of memories.

CONFERENCE PRIDE

A previous installment of John’s Journal mentioned the Red Rock Conference pride shared by Southwest Minnesota Christian and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (which finished fourth in 1A). Another conference – the Three Rivers – has a similar claim to fame this week.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Rushford-Peterson played in different classes at the state tournament. Rushford-Peterson finished third in Class 1A and Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the 2A title with a 55-39 victory over Litchfield.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville won the Three Rivers title this season and Rushford-Peterson was second. Plainview-Elgin-Millville coach Kirk Thompson was a student-teacher at Rushford-Peterson, as was P-E-M athletic director Scott Flattum. P-E-M assistant coach Andy Bernard is a Rushford-Peterson graduate and his mother is the official scorekeeper for the Rushford-Peterson basketball team.

--Here’s an amazing statistics: Before Litchfield’s loss to Plainvew-Elgin-Millville, the Dragons' record at state tournaments under coach John Carlson was 11-0. They won state titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003 under Carlson. Litchfield’s only other state appearance came in 1918.

HONORING TRIPLE A AWARD WINNERS

The annual MSHSL Triple A Awards banquet was held Saturday at the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis. The event honors high school seniors who excel in academics, arts and athletics. Thirty-two winners – a male and female from Class A and AA schools in each of the state’s eight sections – were honored at the banquet and brought onto the court at Target Center during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

Four of the 32 Triple A winners received an even higher honor, receiving $4,000 college scholarships. Those four are Katie Ellingworth of Redwood Valley and D.J. Cline of Battle Lake in Class A and Savannah Wunderlich of Owatonna and Kirk Busche of Rochester Century in Class AA.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Carter Kirk, Beau Herrig, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin; Nick Thompson, Trent Vix, Rushford-Peterson; Connor Goodwin, Brian Goodwin, Kirby Montbriand, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Andrew Top, Klint Knutson, Zach Huisken, Southwest Minnesota Christian.

2A/ Tyler Vaughan, Cameron Braund, Braham; Jordan Bruhn, Jordan Cresap, Perham; Mitch Wollin, Jon Terning, Zach Kinny, Litchfield; Cory Speer, Sam Ruth, Beau Nelson, Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

3A/ Austin Pohlen, Alex Illikainen, Grand Rapids; Marcus Marshall, Quashingm Smith-Pugh, St. Paul Johnson; Jarvis Johnson, Luke Scott, Reid Travis, DeLaSalle; Nick Anderson, Jerry Pratt, Joseph Doby, Washburn.

4A/ Sander Mohn, Grant Shaeffer, Eden Prairie; Siyani Chambers, Demitrius Martin, Hopkins; Ryan Saarela, Tyler Flack, Grant Erickson, Lakeville North; Ian Theisen, Bridge Tusler, DJ Hebert, Osseo.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 19 for the tournament,*85 for the winter tournaments. (*new all-time record)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,978

--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
DeLaSalle, Osseo Capture State Championships 3/24/2012
The Red Rock Conference Rules The World3/23/2012
All the basketball action is taking place in Minneapolis this week, but down in southwestern Minnesota, 12 basketball teams and their fans from 12 small schools are cheering for two of their own.

Southwest Minnesota Christian will play in Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin will meet Rushford-Peterson in the third-place game. Southwest and Mountain Lake are very familiar with each other, because they are both members of the Red Rock Conference.

Southwest Minnesota Christian won the conference championship with a 17-0 record this season and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin shared second place with Fulda at 13-4.

“We have a great relationship,” said Southwest Minnesota Christian Coach Jamie Pap after the Eagles beat Rushford-Peterson 46-44 in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center. “Our whole Red Rock Conference, all the coaches and all the players get along really well. We always rally around each other, whoever makes it up to the state tournament. If a team out of our conference gets up here, we’re going to rally around each other and cheer other on.”

That’s exactly what took place outside the Southwest locker room after their game Friday. The Mountain Lake team, which had lost to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa earlier, was leaving the building and the Eagles came out to wish them well. Players and coaches from both teams exchanged high fives and pats on the back.

“We wished them luck in the third-place game and they wished us luck in the championship,” Pap said. “We have a chance here to have two teams from the same conference end the year with wins. That says a lot about our conference.”

A GREAT WEEK FOR MUSIC

With one day remaining in the tournament, I am ready to declare these last two weeks the best gathering of pep band talent I have ever witnessed. We saw everything from traditional pep band to garage bands to guitar bands to singing and dancing. My favorites…

--Hopkins: I have watched the Lean Mean Performance Machine play often over the years, at home games and at state. They have always been solid, but things were ramped even higher this year. This is a traditional basketball pep band: dominated by fabulous brass. As I tweeted during the girls basketball tournament: “I love this band. This is what a lot of D1 colleges wish they had.”

--Ada-Borup: They are a state tournament tradition. Director Richard Tuttle – in black t-shirt and shaved head -- is famous for dancing and swaying as the kids play. The whole band sings, there are keyboards and strings and it’s always tremendous. Their run was short this year, with one performance at Williams Arena during the girls tournament. But I was there to see it, and it was well worth it.

--Perham: The best show of the tournaments took place before – yes, before – the Class 2A state semifinals Friday night. The Perham Garage Band (pictured) performed at full strength long before their team and Litchfield took the court, and the fans applauded after every song. This is the real deal for new-wave pep bands. They are the Stanford marching band but with better musicianship (one of my kids went to Stanford; I’ve seen that band in person). The Garage Band members wear marching band uniforms in a very non-conformist style, two guys dress as the Blues Brothers (and might be better singers), two young ladies wear black dresses and sing like pros. A guy asked me Friday night, “John, where do we get their albums?” Go to YouTube and search “Perham Garage Band.” You're welcome.

THE SOUNDS OF BASKETBALL HISTORY

This is the 100th state boys basketball tournament, and few media outlets have covered more action over these 100 years than KDHL AM in Faribault, “The Mighty 920.”

This is the 64th consecutive year that KDHL is broadcasting the tournament, and the station’s veteran combo of play-by-play pros combine for 68 years of state tournament coverage.

Mike Morrisey has been calling the tournament for 43 years and news/sports director Gordy Kosfeld has been behind the microphone at state for 25 years. (In this photo: Mike on left, Gordy on right.) They are not only outstanding broadcasters … they are great guys, too.

SOME HOPKINS PERSPECTIVE

When Osseo defeated Hopkins in three overtimes during Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinals, the result went beyond simply ending the Royals’ quest to win their fourth consecutive state title.

Any loss for Hopkins is a rarity, but how rare? Here are some facts: The Royals’ record over the last eight seasons is 235-12 and they have never lost more than two games in any of those seasons. They take a 29-2 record into Saturday’s third-place game against Eden Prairie.

TOURNEY TIDBITS

--One year ago tonight, we all watched in awe as Perham’s Zach Gabbard got up from his wheelchair and walked across the court during pregame introductions. Friday evening, he was back at Target Center … in uniform, back with his teammates. It’s one of the all-time great stories.

--Best National Anthem: We have heard some excellent performances during the tournaments, but Perham students Emily Peterson and Joe Alfs topped them all with a wonderful duet before Friday night’s games. They mixed in a bit of “America the Beautiful” with the anthem, and then got high fives from Perham coach Dave Cresap as they exited the court.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 81 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 439
*Miles John has driven: 6,952

--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
Litchfield, Plainview Advance To 2A Title Game3/23/2012