John's Journal
Welcome To The Big Stage, Carlie Wagner and NRHEG3/14/2012
Since late January, I have been telling people to get ready to see the next wave of big-time talent strike Minnesota high school girls basketball. My eyes were opened on Jan. 28 when I ventured to Carleton College in Northfield to watch a game between teams ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and No. 2 in Class 1A.

The 2A team was New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, also known as NRHEG. That day in Northfield, the Panthers beat 1A No. 2 Goodhue 76-67 with a blonde, 5-foot-10 sophomore named Carlie Wagner (pictured here) scoring a career-high and school-record 39 points.

Which brings us to Wednesday’s 2A state tournament quarterfinal game at Target Center between NRHEG and Braham. Much of the pregame hype was centered on Braham junior Rebekah Dahlman, and rightfully so. She came into the game needing only 23 points to set a new girls basketball career scoring record. That mark of 3,888 points was set in 2009 by Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South.

And Dahlman indeed broke the record, scoring 29 points to push her career total to 3,895. Rebekah has another season to go at Braham, so that record will be into the stratosphere a year from now.

But the biggest story from the game was twofold: NRHEG knocked off the defending state champs from Braham 75-45 and Wagner scored 43 points. The state tournament single-game scoring record is 47, and Wagner came awfully close before coach John Schultz put in reserves and Carlie went to the bench with 90 seconds to play.

Late in the game, the score was NRHEG 64, Braham 39 … and Wagner had 39 points.

As the media waited outside the NRHEG locker room, the players began filing out and Carlie was trying to sneak past the reporters. But pretty quickly people began saying, “Carlie! Carlie!” She smiled, turned around and said, “Oh crap.”

Get used to it, young lady. University of Minnesota coach Pam Borton – who would love to have Dahlman and Wagner on her team -- watched the game from a floor-level seat just off one corner of the court. Borton, in fact, was in the NRHEG gym to watch the team’s first practice this season.

The state quarterfinal games are not televised or webcast. But the semifinals and finals are. The Panthers will meet Sauk Centre in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday. It would be worth tuning in.

THE FIRST FAMILY...

If there is a first family of winter sports in Minnesota, it might be the Thorns of St. Michael-Albertville. When senior Christine Thorn scored a game-high 19 points in the Knights’55-41 loss to Eastview in Wednesday’s Class 4A girls state basketball semifinals at Target Center, it marked the 29th state tournament appearance for the Thorn kids.

If you follow wrestling, you already know the name. Christine’s brothers Michael, David and Tommy (the first two have graduated and Tommy is a sophomore) all have won state wrestling championships. Christine (pictured here) has now played in two state basketball tournaments and has also participated in the state cross-country and track meets.

Here’s the rundown on the Thorn family’s trips to state…

--Michael four individual state wrestling appearances (three championships) and four team appearances (three championships).

--David: four individual state wrestling appearances (four championships) and five team appearances (three championships).

--Christine: One individual state appearances in cross-country, one in track, three trips to state basketball tournament (one state championship) and two appearances in state cross country.

--Tommy: two individual state wrestling appearances (two championships) and three team appearances.

I asked Christine, the only girl among the children, if she had ever wrestled. She smiled and said, “I asked my dad when I was in kindergarten and he said no.”

Conversely, her brothers have played basketball only on the driveway.

Christine, who played on the Knights’ 2009 3A state championship basketball team, was downcast after Wednesday’s loss but grateful for the experience.

“I’ve grown up with all these girls, and over the season we came to be such a close family,” she said. “Honestly, there’s nobody else I’d rather be sharing these experiences with. As much as this hurts, this last game, there’s nobody else I’d want to be here with.””

TOURNEY TIME TRAVEL: NEW VIKING JOHN CARLSON

The big news for Vikings fans Wednesday came when free-agent tight end John Carlson, a 2003 graduate of Litchfield High School, signed with the team.

Reading that news while sitting at the state basketball tournament brought back memories of when Carlson was a high school basketball star. He played football at Notre Dame and spent the last three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Here is an item I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune on March 23, 2003…

The most poignant moment after Litchfield's victory over DeLaSalle in Saturday's Class 2A title game came when John Carlson and John Carlson - coach and player, father and son - shared a teary-eyed embrace. The 51-33 victory was Litchfield's third state title in four years, and young John Carlson was a part of them all. He is headed to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, so Saturday's game was the final time he was coached by his dad.

"That was the toughest part, being done," the son said. "It's been unbelievable, the last four years. I can't describe how much fun it's been."

Coach Carlson said his son - one of five senior starters for the Dragons - has accomplished everything a high school athlete could, and it's time for him to move on.

"I'm just excited for him, because he's really done everything he can here," he said. "When he was a freshman and we won the state in 2000, he was our big guy and he was a good big guy. He continued to be our big guy for four years. You're hoping seniors at about this time of the year are ready to move on to college, and he's ready. And so are his teammates."

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

--The Eastview band was outstanding. My favorites were the Mighty Mighty Bosstones song “The Impression That I Get” (the Osseo band played the same tune very well later in the day) and the Kansas classic “Carry on My Wayward Son.”

--The Edina band performed a very fine rendition of “Hot Stuff,” which was made famous by Donna Summer in 1979.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“Fergus Falls pep band is the best around, and it’s not close!” That didn’t come from a fan in the stands at Williams Arena, but from one of the coaches. Minnehaha Academy coach Josh Thurow sent me that Tweet while watching Fergus Falls play Chisago Lakes in 3A and waiting for his team to meet Providence Academy in 2A.

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the tournament, 51 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 417
*Miles John has driven: 6,801

--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
Sportsmanship, Friendship Trump Winning And Losing3/12/2012
Basketball player Mackenzie Gerber of Worthington High School is pictured here assisting Tara Roelofs of Lake Crystal-Welcomme Memorial after Tara was injured during Friday's Section 3AA championship game in Marshall.

Mackenzie's mother, Julie Gerber, provided the photo and sent along this note…

"My daughter Mackenzie played AAU two years ago with Tara Roelofs. Tara tore her ACL about a month ago during a regular-season game. She was able to play the section playoff games wearing a brace. During the section final game she injured her knee again, she went down and tried to get up but could not so she was helped off of the court. My daughter Mackenzie rushed over to her and assisted her coach in getting her off of the court. I posted this picture on Facebook stating 'My daughter's character never ceases to amaze me.' I have had so many people comment and like this picture and several post on how impressed they were by this."

That is sportsmanship at its finest! Well done!

Mackenzie and her Worthington teammates will meet Sauk Centre in the Class 2A state tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Target Center.

The girls state tourney will begin Wednesday with games at Target Center and Williams Arena. One of the most anticipated quarterfinal games is in Class 2A, with Braham (29-1) and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0) meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Target Center.

Braham is led by junior Rebekah Dahlmann (who averages 35 points per game) and NRHEG’s star is sophomore Carlie Wagner (28).

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule for all four classes…

Class 1A
Thursday at Williams Arena
Mountain Iron-Buhl (29-1) vs. Sleepy Eye (19-10), 11 a.m.
Ada-Borup (26-2) vs. Minneota (29-1), 1 p.m.
Isle (25-5) vs. Maranatha Christian (25-5), 3 p.m.
Warren-Alvarado-Olso (26-4) vs. Spring Grove (27-3), 5 p.m.

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
Braham (29-1) vs. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0), 6 p.m.
Sauk Centre (25-4) vs. Worthington (20-7), 8 p.m.
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Providence Academy (24-4) vs. Minnehaha Academy (20-8), 6 p.m.
Pequot Lakes (19-11) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (17-11), 8 p.m.

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
#1 seed Richfield (25-4) vs. Red Wing (19-10), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Hill-Murray (22-7) vs. Hutchinson (25-3), noon
#2 seed Fergus Falls (28-1) vs. Chisago Lakes (24-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed DeLaSalle (25-3) vs. Monticello (17-12), 4 p.m.

Class 4A Pairings
Wednesday at Target Center
#1 seed Hopkins (28-1) vs. Lakeville North (21-8), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Eastview (24-5) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (22-7), noon
#2 seed Edina (25-4) vs. Duluth East (22-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed White Bear Lake (23-6) vs. Osseo (24-5), 4 p.m.
Girls State Basketball Tournament Pairings3/10/2012
Next week we will turn the tournament calendar to girls basketball. Four classes will compete for state titles, with games at Target Center and Williams Arena. Here are the pairings...

Class 1A
Thursday at Williams Arena
Mountain Iron-Buhl (29-1) vs. Sleepy Eye (19-10), 11 a.m.
Ada-Borup (26-2) vs. Minneota (29-1), 1 p.m.
Isle (25-5) vs. Maranatha Christian (25-5), 3 p.m.
Warren-Alvarado-Olso (26-4) vs. Spring Grove (27-3), 5 p.m.

Class 2A
Wednesday at Target Center
Braham (29-1) vs. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (30-0), 6 p.m.
Sauk Centre (25-4) vs. Worthington (20-7), 8 p.m.
Wednesday at Williams Arena
Providence Academy (24-4) vs. Minnehaha Academy (20-8), 6 p.m.
Pequot Lakes (19-11) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (17-11), 8 p.m.

Class 3A
Wednesday at Williams Arena
#1 seed Richfield (25-4) vs. Red Wing (19-10), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Hill-Murray (22-7) vs. Hutchinson (25-3), noon
#2 seed Fergus Falls (28-1) vs. Chisago Lakes (24-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed DeLaSalle (25-3) vs. Monticello (17-12), 4 p.m.

Class 4A Pairings
Wednesday at Target Center
#1 seed Hopkins (28-1) vs. Lakeville North (21-8), 10 a.m.
#4 seed Eastview (24-5) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (22-7), noon
#2 seed Edina (25-4) vs. Duluth East (22-5), 2 p.m.
#3 seed White Bear Lake (23-6) vs. Osseo (24-5), 4 p.m.
“Hey Jabbers, I’ve Got Somethin' For You!”3/10/2012
Two Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey players were not on the ice for the postgame celebration Saturday night after the Red Knights won the Class 2A state championship with a 5-0 victory over Hill-Murray.

One of them was Jake Horton, who had been given a five-minute major penalty for spearing and an additional 10 minutes for gross misconduct; that meant he was off the ice for the game’s final 7 minutes, 47 seconds. And under MSHSL rules, any player ejected from a game cannot participate in postgame awards ceremonies.

The other missing player was a sophomore who played in only seven varsity games this season, a youngster who scored no goals, had two assists, took five shots, was a plus-2 and was not called for a penalty.

That player is Jack Jablonski, who watched the game in his wheelchair from a suite at Xcel Energy Center. Jack, who suffered a severe spinal injury in late December, did not come on the ice afterwards because he was waiting in the locker room, waiting for a more private celebration.

By the time all the photos had been snapped and the Red Knights had whooped it up on the ice, the whooping continued down the tunnel and into the locker room. Horton was the first guy to walk to the locker room, and he was carrying two pretty special things: the state championship trophy and armfuls of love for his friend Jack.

As soon as he saw Jack, Horton yelled, “Hey Jabbers, I’ve got somethin' for you!”

There were hugs and tears as the players saw Jack. The last man to come off the ice was coach Ken Pauly, who yelled, “Jabby! Jabby baby! How ya doin’ 13?!”

On the ice, the headline was Benilde junior Grant Besse scoring all five of his team’s goals – three of them shorthanded -- in an astounding performance that will go down in history. But behind the scenes, the headline was the hugs and the tears and the special moments shared by the Red Knights.

“I think what’s gotten lost in all this is that this a very talented hockey team,” Pauly said in the interview room. “I didn’t imagine that (the season) would end here in this fashion, after everything that’s taken place.

“It’s been emotional, it’s been psychological, it’s been spiritual, it’s been life-changing. And those are things you can’t always say about a season.”

It was a remarkable night. Forget sports, forget winning and losing. Strip away all that and know this: Every soul who watched that game in person or on television will remember it for the rest of their lives.

1A: HERMANTOWN RUNNER-UP FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

The Hermantown Hawks didn’t want to stop playing hockey together. After 30 games this season, all they wanted to do was keep going until finally, finally, they took home a state championship.

It was not to be.

The Hawks finished as the Class 1A state runner-up for the third consecutive year Saturday afternoon, falling to St. Thomas Academy 5-1 in the title game at Xcel Energy Center. Their three season-ending losses have come against Breck in 2010 and St. Thomas Academy these last two years. Saturday’s defeat was their first loss of the season.

The postgame awards ceremony was well underway and most of the Hawks still had their helmets strapped on, their hands were still wearing their gloves and they were still holding their sticks. They just didn’t want it to end ... especially like this. Again.

It always hurts when family members know their time together is ending.

“We’ve been playing with each other all the way up,” senior Jared Kolquist said afterwards. “It’s kind of like our family, and this being the last game with our family, it kind of hurts. We wanted to go out as champions.”

Classmate Jared Thomas took some solace in knowing what the Hawks have accomplished.

“The last three years we’ve been the public school state champions,” he said.

St. Thomas Academy (26-5) now owns back-to-back state championships and four titles since 2006. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said after the semifinals that the Hawks would have to play their best game to have a chance against the Cadets, and on Friday and Saturday he spoke about the challenge for a non-metro school to compete with a team as strong as St. Thomas Academy.

“Your typical Class A team will have a hard time with them,” Plante said, “no matter what town you come from.”

RECORDS WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN

Two attendance records were set Friday at the state hockey tournament ...

--The crowd of 12,227 for the Class 1A semifinals was the largest in history for the 1A semis.

--The crowd of 19,893 for the 2A semifinals was the largest crowd for any hockey game at any level in Minnesota history.

Saturday night’s 2A attendance was 17,607. The total tournament attendance of 123,575 was the fourth-largest in history and the largest since 2008.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A: Alex Funk, Rochester Lourdes; Joey Hanowski, Little Falls; Grant Opperman, Jack Kenney, Breck; Chris Forney, Thief River Falls; Jared Kolquist, Jared Thomas, Zake Zeleznikar, Hermantown; David Zevnik, Andrew Commers, Tom Novak, Eric Schurhamer, St. Thomas Academy.

Class 2A: Dom Toninato, Nate Repensky, Duluth East; Michael Bitzer, Moorhead; Justin Kloos, Lakeville South; Conrad Sampair, Blake Heinrich, Sam Becker, Hill-Murray; Grant Besse, Christian Horn, Justin Quale, Dan Labosky, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

1A CONSOLATION GAMES

--Breck 4, Thief River Falls 3 (overtime): The Mustangs finished third on the strength of Nate Breitenfeldt’s goal at 3:50 of overtime. It was his first goal of the tournament.

--Little Falls 5, Rochester Lourdes 4: The Flyers led 4-0 in the third before Lourdes rallied to make it close in the fifth-place game. Joey Hanowski had a hat trick for the Flyers.

2A CONSOLATION GAMES

--Lakeville South 2, Moorhead 1: Patrick Lauderdale and Justin Kloos scored for the Cougars in the third-place victory.

--Duluth East 4, Eagan 1: Jake Randolph scored two goals as the Greyhounds won the fifth-place game.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 23 for the tournament, 49 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 405
*Miles John has driven: 6,775

--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
St. Thomas Academy Defeats Hermantown To Repeat As 1A Champion3/10/2012