The state basketball tournaments are always held under bright lights and in front of a statewide television audience that extends around the world thanks to KSTC Channel 45's streaming service, prep45.com.
Basketball is a sport played with no helmets and no facemasks, and the emotions of the players can be seen pretty clearly on television and in person at the venues. This week's girls state basketball tournament, with televised semifinals and championship games at Williams Arena, has offered high emotions of champions and lows of teams that fell short, and it all was on display under the bright lights of The Barn.
There are, however, scenes that play out in quieter settings with almost no one watching. And they can be just as special as the things that take place in front of the TV cameras.
A couple hours after Friday's Class 1A semifinal game between Goodhue and Menahga, I received an email from Goodhue coach Josh Wieme, whose team had won a very narrow four-point victory. He's as high-quality a person as I know, and the subject of his email didn't surprise me. He wanted to tell me about a great act of sportsmanship. Here's his email…John-
You probably have no shortage of stories from the tourney, but I wanted to share something about the two Menagha players today as they left the postgame press conference. Cierra Ahlf and Alyssa Peterson had obviously just played their guts out and lost a heartbreaking game. They then had to gather themselves and talk about it to media. Our players were waiting to come in, so we went to the next hallway so to give these two space when they left. When they came out, instead of putting their heads down and hustling out, they stopped for three seconds and sincerely wished our players good luck in the championship. They wished us good luck in the game they were so close to making. What amazing character these two showed, at a time when no extra display of sportsmanship would be expected. I am just so impressed by Cierra and Alyssa, and if nothing else I wanted to share it with at least one person who would appreciate it like I did.
If ever a guy needed a reminder for why he/she coaches in small-school girls basketball, this was it. Thanks for listening!
Goodhue came up short in Saturday’s championship game, falling to Minneota 40-31. Josh was joined by seniors Kate Opsahl and Lexie Lodermeier in the postgame press conference (held in the same room that the University of Minnesota teams use). He made a great point about athletics and competition when he said, "The farther you go in this tournament, the more this loss hurts."
Josh is a busy person. He’s the father of young kids, he coaches basketball, he’s the activities director at Goodhue and teaches English and social studies. This was his 11th year coaching the Wildcats, so he’s seen a few things, good and bad. And he has a wonderful perspective on what’s important.
--There was another behind-the-scenes moment, also at a postgame press conference, that displayed how much these athletes put into their teams and their dreams.
Roseau senior Kacie Borowicz is one of the top players in the state. She and her sisters Kiley (now a sophomore player at Moorhead State) and Katie (a sophomore for the Rams) have been integral parts of basketball success in Roseau. The Rams have now gone to state for five years in a row, winning the 2A title in 2017 and placing second a year ago.
Kacie became her school’s career scoring leader this season, bypassing the record of 3,300 points set by Megan Taylor in 1997 (when Taylor’s career ended she was Minnesota’s all-time scoring leader). But Kacie is about individual goals; she wanted to help her team win another first-place trophy, a quest that ended Friday with a 65-55 semifinal loss to Caledonia.
In the postgame press conference, Kacie tried to answer a question about what her high school career has meant to her. It wasn’t easy, because tears were flowing. She wiped her eyes and managed to say softly, "The best years of my life." Then more tears and sniffles. "I’m sorry, this is hard. This is not the way I wanted it to end," she said.
Kacie, who will play basketball next season at the University of North Dakota, came back with her teammates on Saturday and finished strong. The Rams placed third with an 81-43 win over Albany at Concordia University in St. Paul, and Kacie scored a game-high 37 points. In three games at state she scored a total of 102 points and was joined by Katie on the Wells Fargo All-Tournament team.
After the final game of her Roseau career, Kacie smiled as she held the third-place trophy. As the All-Tournament players posed for a photo after the championshop game at Williams Arena, she wore a big, beautiful smile. It was a great look.
--Katie Borowicz broke a 40-year-old tournament record with 20 assists in the Rams’ victory over Albany. The previous record was 17, set by Albany’s Kelly Skalicky in 1979. Tournament Tidbits
--Fans at Williams Arena heard a wonderful national anthem Friday, performed on the violin by Willmar High School’s Ashley Guse. Saturday afternoon’s session was preceded by another special anthem performance, this time on the cello by Makayla Thomas of Northfield High School. And the streak of great performances continued into Saturday’s evening session when Faith Robinson of Minnetonka High School sang a perfect rendition of the anthem.
--Winners of MSHSL ExCEL Awards from around the state were recognized on the court at halftime of the Class 2A championship game. ExCeL is shorthand for Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership.Adapted Floor Hockey State Tournament
The adapted floor hockey state tournament was held Friday and Saturday at Bloomington Jefferson High School. In the championship contests, Brainerd defeated Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka 13-1 to capture its third consecutive PI Division title, and St. Cloud Area defeated South Washington 16-5 to win the CI Division crown for the second year in a row. Girls State Basketball Tournament
Fifth-place game: Mountain Iron-Buhl 53, Ada-Borup 45
Third-place game: Heritage Christian 60, Menahga 52
Championship game: Minneota 40, Goodhue 31
Fifth-place game: Holy Family Catholic 47, Proctor 33
Third-place game: Roseau 81, Albany 43
Championship game: Minnehaha Academy 72, Caledonia 63
Fifth-place game: Marshall 75, Hibbing 60
Third-place game: Holy Angels 78, Cooper 69
Championship game: DeLaSalle 56, Becker 40
Fifth-place game: Forest Lake 64, Maple Grove 56
Third-place game: Centennial 68, Eastview 53
Championship game: Hopkins 74, Stillwater 45--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.