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.
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.
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
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