John's Journal
A Late Night, An Injury And Lots Of Emotion3/19/2011
I have this theory about the state basketball tournaments, both girls and boys. To me, the toughest spot to be in is exactly where the girls team from Braham High School found itself this weekend.

The Bombers played in the final game of the day on Friday night at Target Center, and their 59-50 victory over Providence Academy didn’t end until around 10 p.m. That victory put them in Saturday’s title game against Minnehaha Academy, with tipoff scheduled for shortly after 2 p.m.

For teams that normally play two games -- maybe three -- in a week’s time, this short turnaround is a real challenge. The Bombers didn’t leave the arena until almost 11 p.m. Friday. My question to coach Tim Malone: What happened then?

“We got a little bit of a snack in them last night, filled up a whole bunch of bath tubs with ice and they just laid in that ice bath for a while, resting some of those legs. And then we got them to bed as quickly as we could.”

The Bombers met for breakfast at their hotel at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, had a team meeting at 11 and left for the arena at 11:30. There wasn’t need for much scouting, since they had met Minnehaha Academy in last year’s title game.

Minnehaha won the 2010 contest 64-46, and Braham turned the tables Saturday with a 68-61 victory.

“I had last year’s tape with us, in my back pocket, and we knew what to expect,” Malone said. “They have a great, great program over there. We knew it was going to take everything we had and then some.”

The key moment in the game came with 10 minutes left in the first half when Minnehaha senior guard Jana Halstensgard suffered a serious knee injury. She left the arena in an ambulance.

(Later Saturday, during the 4A game, I received this note from Minnehaha coach Josh Thurow via the MSHSL Facebook page: “John - Jana's knee was too swollen for an MRI today, we appreciate all the warm wishes we have received. She's at home and medicated right now. Thanks, Coach T.”)

Something to remember: Last year Halstensgard defended Braham’s dangerous Rebekah Dahlman,who scored just seven points in the title game. This time, Dahlman (now a sophomore) scored 23.

“The exact difference to me was last year Jana Halstensgard held Dahlman to seven points and kept her off the free throw line,” said Thurow. “But credit her, she used her body well and to get refs to call fouls for you, you’ve got to do things the right way. She’s a heady player.”

Hannah Dahlman, Rebekah’s senior sister, scored six points and ended her career with a gold medal. You surely recall the oldest Dahlmans, Isaiah and Noah, helping the Bombers boys win state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“We don’t take it as a (family) competition, we take it as a challenge to be the next one to do it,” Hannah said. “This experience is unbelievable. It’s what we’ve wanted since second grade. We’re on top of the world right now.”

Asked about winning a championship with her sister, Hannah said, “I have all these sisters; there’s not just one, there’s about 20. This is so emotional.”

HOPKINS WINS THIRD 4A CHAMPIONSHIP

Hopkins claimed its third state championship since 2004 with a 67-45 victory over Eden Prairie in the third meeting between the teams this season. During the Lake Conference season Eden Prairie beat Hopkins 71-65 and Hopkins won the rematch 49-44. Both won on their home courts.

The Royals also won titles in 2004 and 2006, finishing second in the state in 2005. Hopkins and Eden were the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams in the girls tournament, and their boys teams will fill those same roles next week.

DeLaSALLE WINS CLASS 3A TITLE

DeLaSalle claimed its first girls basketball state title with a 63-43 victory previously unbeaten Hill-Murray in the 3A final. DeLaSalle was the state runner-up in 2007 and 2008; that’s also where Hill-Murray finished last year.

BEHIND THE SCENES

All kinds of interesting, entertaining and enlightening things happen behind the scenes at Target Center. After Maranatha Christian Academy defeated Nicollet 59-52 in the Class 1A title game Saturday, I witnessed two very memorable scenes …

After leaving the court carrying the championship trophy and wearing gold medals around their necks, the Mustangs waited in the corridor while someone found the key to their locker room.

They grinned, they laughed, they hugged each other. And then they decided to do their favorite chant: “We Are ... Mus-Tangs! We Are … Mus-Tangs!”

Assistant coach John Carpentier leaned into the middle of the scrum and whispered something. Then, following the same cadence, the Mustangs inaugurated a brand new chant: “We Are … State Champs!”

A few steps down the hall, Mankato Free Press reporter Shane Frederick was interviewing Nicollet senior Kasslin Swenson,who had scored 15 points in the Raiders’ loss.

Here’s what Kasslin said about the experience: “To play in the state finals, no matter the outcome we all had fun.”

That right there is what it’s all about.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS/CONSOLATION GAMES

1A All-Tournament : Ashlynn Muhl, Minneota; Kendra Schmidgall, Hancock; Charlotte Overbye, Dakota Winans, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Kayla Wenner, Anna Skrien, Kasslin Swenson, Nicollet; Onye Osemenam, Alexis Long, Madison Lee, Maranatha Christian.

1A Consolation: Mountain Iron-Buhl 61, Hancock 45.

2A All-Tournament: AnnMarie Healy, Leah Szabla, Providence Academy; Kali Peschel, Macy Weller, Sauk Centre; Sarina Baker, Katelyn Adams, Gabbi Stienstra, Minnehaha Academy; Rebekah Dahlman, Kelsey Sorenson-Giffrow, Hannah Dahlman, Braham.

2A Consolation: Sauk Centre 58, Providence Academy 57.

3A All-Tournament: Lauren Trumm, Sam Trumm, Alexandria; Khadijah Shumpert, Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Tyseanna Johnson, Mariah Adanene, Allina Starr, DeLaSalle; Claire Van Dyk, Corrine McCallum, Bethany Doolittle, Hill-Murray.

3A Consolation: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 54, Alexandria 51

4A All-Tournament: Rachel Banham, Apiew Ojulu, Lakeville North; Alexis Foley, White Bear Lake; Shayne Mullaney, Morgan VanRiper-Rose, Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie; Ebony Livingston, Gracia Hutson, Brianna Williams, Hopkins.

4A Consolation: Lakeville North 68, White Bear Lake 50

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Best-Dressed Coach: Hopkins’ Brian Cosgriff is always nicely dressed on the sidelines, but he stepped it up a few notches Saturday. Coach Cos had on a very sharp double-breasted brownish suit, blue shirt and a tie that, uh, tied everything together. (No, I am not a fashion writer…)

--Pep Band Honors: There have been some dynamite musical performances during the tournament. Hill-Murray’s band grabbed the early frontrunner status, highlighted by “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hopkins brought its usual energetic, solid wall of sound, with “I’ve Gotta Feeling” setting the bar high. But the nod for this tournament goes to Hancock from Class 1A, the little band with the big sound. My favorite tune performed by the Owls band was The Offspring classic “Pretty Fly.” For a high school with only 74 students, this band is sensational.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 17 for the tournament, 61 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,711
Lost Keys, A Phone Call From A Cat, And A Special Request3/18/2011
Good morning from Target Center, where the small schools have taken over the girls state basketball tournament. Hancock and Maranatha Christian Academy just finished a double-overtime game, with Maranatha winning 60-57 in the first Class 1A semifinal. Mountain Iron-Buhl and Nicollet are getting ready to tee it up in the second 1A semifinal. In Class 2A, it will be Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy at 6 p.m. and Braham vs. Providence Academy at 8 p.m.

But first, a quick note about the everyday life of a media specialist. On my way out of the Target Center last night, I couldn’t find my car keys. Not in my jacket pocket, not in my camera bag, not in my briefcase. I figured I must have locked them in my car, so I called AAA to send a guy over and pick the lock on my car.

They said it might be an hour before help arrived. In the meantime, I retraced my steps … and found my keys. They had fallen out of my jacket pocket and were under a courtside table in the arena. Crisis averted.

On my way back to the arena this morning, I received a phone call from a cat. That is no joke. My cell phone rang and it said the call was from, and I quote, “Home.” I said “Hello” about seven times and got no response. My wife was at work and the only person in the house was our daughter, who is home from college on spring break. I hung up and phoned home.

Daughter answered. Obvious question: “Did you just call me?” She said no, and then she started to laugh. She said, “I think the cat was walking on the phone.”

Darn thing could at least have left a message. That’s just rude.

BY SPECIAL REQUEST...

This next item was posted on Thursday and it's back by popular demand. I'll explain in a post later today ... this is a great story.

--She Was Tempted: Basketballs occasionally roll underneath the courtside media tables at Target Center. While a referee was reaching under the table to retrieve a ball Thursday and Hill-Murray’s Tessa Cichy was standing ready to throw the inbounds pass, Tessa glanced at a small pile of Peanut M&Ms on the table. I had brought them out (from the MSHSL’s back-room secret stash…shhh) to share with Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno. I think Tessa would have liked to grab a couple.

OK, back to today's action … and great pep bands. Hancock is the smallest school in the tournament with only 74 students, but a whole bunch of those kids are in the band. Their first tune of the day was the Offspring classic “Pretty Fly.” You can see video of the band on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 54 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,661

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
The Hancock Owls Know How To Get The Message Across3/18/2011
Hancock coach Jodi Holleman is the first to admit that her voice doesn’t have much volume when it comes to being heard over the roar of the crowd. So the Owls have developed a visual system that helps relay strategy.

Holleman holds up different colored plastic pucks, and sometimes a few fingers, to let the Owls know which play to run. It is especially helpful for senior guard Illissa Koehl, who has some hearing loss, but all the players rely on the system.

“In playoffs it’s really hard to hear and I don’t have a loud voice,” Holleman said after the Owls lost a 60-57 double-overtime thriller to Maranatha Christian Academy on Friday in the Class 1A semifinals at Target Center. “It’s good for all the players to hold up the pucks and numbers. We have 50-some quick-hit plays and we use the colored pucks.”

The Owls’ last trip to state was in 2007, and back then the coaches help up color-coded signs to relay the plays.

“The pucks are easier to hold on to,” Holleman said. During Friday’s game she set the collection of pucks on the Target Center scorer’s table, and they were within easy reach. It was a little more difficult to manage the pucks during Thursday’s quarterfinals at Williams Arena, where most coaches stand on the elevated court.

“It didn’t work so well at Williams Arena yesterday,” Holleman said. “We had them tied together and it was kind of tough, and there was really no place to put them.”

31 YEARS LATER, NICOLLET IS BACK

Nicollet’s last trip to state was way back in 1980. Kevin Christenson, who has been the coach there for 15 years, knows very well that it’s been 31 years since the last appearance.

“We’ve had pretty good success over the years, but it takes a little luck, it takes whatever; you’ve got to win a few games at crunch time and this team’s been able to do that,” he said after the Raiders beat Mountain Iron-Buhl 53-22 in Friday’s Class 1A semifinals.

“We’ve had years when we were the No. 1 seed in the subsection and we got upset in the finals. That’s happened a couple times. And we had a couple groups that probably weren’t picked to get to the section finals, but got that far and lost at that level. We’ve been close a few times.”

The Raiders will take a record of 18-8 into Saturday’s title game against Maranatha Christian. Before the season began, the Nicollet coaching staff figured they would have a good unit, but getting to the state championship game was not on the radar.

“We looked at it and said, ‘We’re as good as anybody in the section.’ ” Christenson said. “We weren’t a dominant team but we thought we could match up with anybody. We said, ‘If we keep working at it, let’s see where we get to.’ And I thought maybe we could win the subsection, and then you’re looking at those one-game-at-a -time things if you get hot at the right time. But no way were expecting to get to the state finals. No way

--In the 2A semifinals Friday night, Minnehaha Academy and Braham advanced to today’s title game, and it will be a gold-medal rematch from one year ago. In the 2010 championship game, Minnehaha defeated Braham 64-46.

Minnehaha overcame an eight-point deficit to defeat Sauk Centre 50-43 and Braham held off Providence Academy 59-50.

EMAIL OF THE DAY

Hello Mr. Millea: This is Tessa Cichy’s mom. We read a quick blurb on your blog Thursday night about the Hill-Murray vs. Alexandria game where you said Tessa Cichy was eyeing your stash of M&Ms. We wanted to share it with some people and can’t seem to find it today. Do you archive your blogs or can you help us find it? By the way, Tessa said you were completely right about her coveting your candy (smiley face).
Thank you! We enjoy your writings!
Lisa Cichy

My reply: Hi Lisa. You are too nice. I had that item on my blog earlier in the day yesterday, but replaced it with something else later because the post was getting waaaay too long. I wrestled with that decision, and hated to take it down. And now I know I shouldn't have … And tell Tessa (that's her with the ball in the photo) I'll try to have some fresh M&Ms sitting here tomorrow night. She is more than welcome to grab a few!

Here’s that blurb, which I am absolutely more than happy to resurrect …

--She Was Tempted: Basketballs occasionally roll underneath the courtside media tables at Target Center. While a referee was reaching under the table to retrieve a ball Thursday and Hill-Murray’s Tessa Cichy was standing ready to throw the inbounds pass, Tessa glanced at a small pile of Peanut M&Ms on the table. I had brought them out (from the MSHSL’s back-room secret stash…shhh) to share with Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno. I think Tessa would have liked to grab a couple.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Strength of schedule is one reason for the success of the team from Maranatha Christian Academy. The Mustangs (22-9) faced three 4A opponents and four from 3A during the regular season. Among that group is Hopkins (4A) and DeLaSalle (3A), which will also play for state titles Saturday. Maranatha also also played Providence Academy, which met Braham in Friday night’s 2A semifinals.

Reunion, Day Three: Kelly Roysland … Megan Nipe …and Joe Schwei. Joe, who is the ticket sales manager for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, waved me down in a Target Center corridor Friday. I met Joe several years ago; he was and is the owner and president of the Mankato Moondogs baseball team in the Northwoods League. While writing about the Northwoods League in – I want to say it was 2004 – I spent some time at Moondogs games and Joe was a great host. So the reunion string continued for a third day. What will Saturday hold?

--Hancock’s Illissa Koehl is the youngest of nine kids, whose first names are alphabetical: Annette, Brenda, Connie, Dawn, Emily, Fonda, Gwen, Harlan (the only boy) and Illissa. After I posted this fact on the MSHSL Facebook page Friday, it was followed by this comment: “That poor boy. Wonder if he gets to use the bathroom?”

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 57 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 542
*Miles John has driven: 8,661

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
A Dozen Trips To State Later, DeLaSalle’s Patterson Knows The Territory3/17/2011
Few girls basketball coaches have more state tournament experience than Faith Johnson Patterson of DeLaSalle. This year is her 12th appearance at state, ranking third all-time behind Myron Glass of Rochester Lourdes (15) and Mike Dreier of New London-Spicer (14).

Patterson had a record of 302-78 in 14 years at Minneapolis North and took 10 teams to state; the Lady Polars won five state championships and finished second four times. She took over at DeLaSalle last season and – no surprise – brought the Islanders to state right out of the chute. They finished third in Class 3A a year ago, losing to Hill-Murray in the semifinals.

The third-seeded Islanders defeated defending state champion and second-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret’s 55-46 in Thursday’s Class 3A semifinals at Target Center. They will meet top-seeded Hill-Murray, the only undefeated team in Minnesota, in Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game. The Pioneers beat Alexandria 68-41 Thursday.

Patterson is never afraid to let her emotions show, and after Thursday’s victory she was her usual ebullient self. After leaving the Target Center court, she stood in a corridor outside the Islanders locker room and high-fived every cheerleader and school band member she could reach as they passed by.

My line of postgame questioning was of an historical bent. I asked Faith what all her state tournament experience means when she brings another team to the big show. She said she tries to make sure her players know how difficult the road can be at state.

“It really is a fight,” she said. “With these teams here, it’s very competitive when you get to this point and it’s really a battle. The officials kind of let people play and you just kind of have to go for it, give it your all, because it could be your last game.

“With my experience, I’ve won, I’ve lost, but the bottom line for me is that I’m so happy every year because you get a new group of kids and they’re so ecstatic. It’s so more rewarding to see them get here than it is for myself. I am so thrilled for them.”

Every season means some new varsity players, and preparing a team for state is much different than getting ready for the regular season, Patterson said.

“You have to spend a whole lot of time educating, because they don’t know what it’s like. You’ve got to just prepare them to just play basketball and not to worry. Obviously you can’t replace experience with knowledge or someone telling somebody something, so the only thing I can do as a coach is do my best to prepare them for this.”

I asked Faith what she remembers from her very first trip to state with Minneapolis North in 1997.

“I wasn’t prepared,” she said simply. “I just had kids who played hard and I knew the teams would be competitive. Looking back at that first experience, number one, I was proud to get them there. And as a coach I was fortunate because I knew at that point what I needed to do to get better, and each year I try to get better myself so I can lead these guys.”

CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS ARE SET

The 4A championship game should be a good one, based on the semifinals. Top-seeded Hopkins defeated White Bear Lake 52-34 in Thursday’s first 4A game at Target Center, and Eden Prairie knocked off defending state champ Lakeville North 49-32 in the nightcap.

Lakeville North led 22-19 at halftime but Eden Prairie outscored the Panthers 30-10 in the second half.

Hopkins and Eden Prairie, which split two games during the Lake Conference season, will decide the state title Saturday night at 8 o’clock.

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE
The Class 1A and 2A teams take over Target Center on Friday for their semifinal games. Here’s the lineup …

Class 1A
Noon: Hancock vs. Maranatha Christian Academy
2 p.m. Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Nicollet

Class 2A
6 p.m.: Sauk Centre vs. Minnehaha Academy
8 p.m.: Braham vs. Providence Academy

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Reunion, Day Two: Wednesday’s Williams Arena chat with Kelly Roysland (noted in previous post) was followed by another meeting with a former prep star on Thursday at Target Center. This time it was Megan Nipe, an all-stater who helped lead Centennial to a 4A runner-up finish in 2009 and now is a sophomore basketball player at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Megan has had two knee surgeries and redshirted this past season. She’s majoring in journalism, is home for spring break and was spending some time visiting my old haunt, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Assistant sports editor Dennis Brackin and Megan spent some time sitting courtside at Target Center on Thursday.

--Smiling Amid the Action: During the first TV timeout of the 3A semifinal between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and DeLaSalle, Benilde ninth-grade guard Grace Coughlin was in position to defend an inbounds pass near midcour t. There were a few seconds of dead time as the officials waited for the go-ahead to resume the game. Grace relaxed ever so briefly, looked up into the crowd and saw some familiar faces cheering for her. She couldn’t help but smile. It was one of the great unseen moments of the tournament.

--Best Irish Names on the Court During St. Patrick’s Day: Tie between Erin O’Toole and Shannon O’Toole, both from O’Hopkins. Honorable Mention: Kristen O’Brien and Shayne Mullaney, both from O’Eden O’Prairie.

--Sharpest Uniforms Seen So Far: DeLaSalle’s black with gold trim are outstanding. Islanders sophomore Tyseanna Johnson gets extra points for her black and gold shoes.

--Best Vertical: When the net became tangled after a basket, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 6-foot junior Khadijah Shumpert rose to the occasion, leaping up and performing the untangling. The crowd cheered.

--Wow Factor: As the team from Alexandria was escorted to their locker room at Target Center, the players noticed that they were across the corridor from the Timberwolves locker room. One of the Cardinals asked me, “Is that their actual locker room?” Upon confirmation, another player said, “This is so sweet!” Another asked me, “Is KLove here?” Sorry, no sightings; the Timberwolves will play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night.

--Day’s First Photo: At 10:15 a.m., with the Target Center lights not yet at full steam and the Hill-Murray team not yet in uniform, the Pioneers posed for a team photo.

--Cool Tunes: The Hill-Murray band’s version of “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Hopkins knocking out a splendid version of “I’ve Gotta Feeling.”

--Only Coach Wearing Open-Toed Shoes: Alexandria’s Wendy Kohler.

--Uh-Oh: I received this troubling email notification Thursday evening: Weight Loss (@WeightLoss70) is now following your tweets (@MSHSLjohn) on Twitter.

--After one of Friday’s games, a coach asked me what has become an everyday question: “What’s the count today?” I explained that throughout the girls hockey, wrestling and boys hockey state tournaments, the count was four every day with two exceptions; once it was three, but the next day it was five. So the daily average is a very solid four. Which takes us to…

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 9 for the tournament, 53 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,636

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
A Busy Day As Girls State Basketball Begins3/16/2011
Good morning and welcome to the girls state basketball tournament. I have parked my carcass courtside at Williams Arena, where the 3A quarterfinals and two 2A quarterfinals will be held today. Target Center is the site today of the 4A quarterfinals and the other 2A games. The 1A teams will kick off their games Thursday here at Williams.

The first 3A game here today features the only undefeated team in the tournament: top-seeded Hill Murray. The Pioneers are taking on Red Wing. I’m planning to split my day between the two sites, with lots of updates and photos being posted on Twitter and Facebook.

And speaking of girls hoops, here are the finalists for Miss Minnesota Basketball 2011:

Rachel Banham, Lakeville North
Bethany Doolittle, Hill Murray
Kayla Hirt, Bemidji
Jessica Newman, Barnum
Sattoria Rule, Minneapolis South
Brianna Williams, Hopkins
Michelle Young, Woodbury

The Miss Minnesota Basketball banquet will be held in conjunction with the All-Star Series banquet at the Depot Hotel in Minneapolis on April 16th.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 47 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 512
*Miles John has driven: 8,564

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn