John's Journal
Menahga Basketball: Knee Braces, Mono And The State Semifinals3/14/2019
Megan Hendrickson and Timbr Berttunen have a few things in common. They both play basketball for the Menahga High School team; Megan is a senior and Timbr is a sophomore. Both would have been in the starting lineup on Thursday when the Braves faced BOLD in the Class 1A state quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion.

Another thing they have in common: season-ending knee surgery. Megan's right knee is in a brace and Timbr's left knee is in a similar brace; those braced knees were next to each other on the bench, as they have been since late February. Since they can't play, they have become de facto assistant coaches for the Braves, who won 65-54 Thursday and will take a record of 30-1 into Friday's 2 p.m. state semifinal against Goodhue (25-6) at Williams Arena.

Coach Cody Pulju explained. "When they both got hurt, we said, 'You’re not done with this team, you’re not going to feel bad, you’re going to sit next to me and you’re going to be part of the coaching staff.’ They have signs for our plays, they work in practice, they have a role."

Megan, who was last season’s Park Region Conference MVP, first suffered a knee injury last summer. Knowing surgery would take away her senior season, she opted for physical therapy and she was in the lineup until the knee went sideways again on Feb. 3. She had surgery 10 days later. Timbr suffered a similar injury (ACL, meniscus, etc.) on Feb. 11 and underwent surgery Feb. 25.

Oh, another starter, senior Cierra Ahlf, came down with mononucleosis with two games left in the regular season. She was hospitalized for a time, missed school for two weeks and didn’t return until a subsection game March 5. So the Braves made it through part of the postseason with three starters on the bench, and have continued to win with two in knee braces.

Cierra scored a game-high 21 points against BOLD on Thursday, making five of nine three-point shots while grabbing 12 rebounds.

Without Megan and Timbr, Pulju admitted that he thought the season might have gone down the drain. But the rest of the players responded. He saw hope when the Braves defeated Park Rapids in the regular-season finale, and then they swept through four Section 5 playoff games.

"We had players like Annika Aho (10 points Thursday), Martha Peterson hitting threes, Greta Hillukka is a freshman starter and she’s played great post defense." Alyssa Peterson had 18 points against BOLD and Tara Hendrickson had nine points and four steals.

The Braves made history by reaching the state tournament for the first time last year. They lost in the quarterfinals in 2018 so this year’s run to at least the state semifinals made more history.

"We have a strong team so I knew people would step up,” said Megan. “Just to see these girls working hard every day for us, it’s unbelievable. It’s much fun to be part of the team and making history.”

Tournament Tidbits

--This is a big weekend for the Kockelman family. Dale Kockelman is an assistant coach at Minneota (Class 1A) and he has two daughters and two brothers also involved in postseason basketball. His daughter Morgan is a senior starter for the Vikings and his daughter Taya Kockelman is the head coach at Redwood Valley, which is at state for the first time in five years (in Class 2A). Next week Dean and Duane Kockelman (Dale’s brothers) will be officials at the boys state basketball tournament.

“It’s been great, especially for our daughter and Redwood,” Dale said after Minneota defeated Red Lake 66-46 Thursday. “Obviously I want to win for Minneota but Redwood really wasn’t expected to do much this year, they’ve got a young team with a bunch of sophomores.

“We’re really enjoying this,” Dale said, mentioning his wife Melissa. “It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun.”

--The McDonald family basketball tree is well known, starting with former Chisholm boys coach Bob McDonald, a member of the National High School Hall of Fame. His granddaughter Abbey McDonald (daughter of Hibbing boys coach Joel McDonald) is playing with Hibbing at the girls state tournament this week. Next week, Bob’s son Mike, the boys coach at Cambridge-Isanti, will bring his team to the Class 4A state tournament, and Bob’s grandson Bryce Tesdahl, the boys coach at East Ridge, will also have his team in the 4A tourney. One of the assistant coaches with the Hopkins boys, who also will play in 4A next week, is Brock Tesdahl (brother of Bryce). The Hibbing boys came a game away from state, falling to Princeton in Thursday’s 3A Section 7 title game. Oh, Cambridge-Isanti beat Duluth East in the 4A Section 7 semifinals … East is coached by Rhett McDonald, son of Mike and grandson of Bob.

--The best officials in Minnesota are chosen to work games at state, and this year one of those officials is currently a non-Minnesotan. Ben Scheevel lives in Estherville, Iowa, where he is a police officer and member of the Mankato Area Officials Association. But he has strong Minnesota roots, because he was a talented high school athlete at Heron Lake-Okabena.

--Semifinals and championship games are televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast for free by prep45.com

Girls State Basketball Tournament

CLASS 1A
Quarterfinals

Minneota 66, Red Lake 46
Ada-Borup vs. Heritage Christian
Goodhue 50, Mountain Iron-Buhl 48
Menahga 65, BOLD 54

Friday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
Noon: Minneota vs. Heritage Christian
2 p.m.: Goodhue vs. Menahga

CLASS 2A
Quarterfinals

Roseau 75, Redwood Valley 74
Caledonia 56, Proctor 44
Albany 60, Holy Family 49
Minnehaha Academy 56, St. Peter 37

Friday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: Roseau vs. Caledonia
8 p.m.: Albany vs. Minnehaha Academy

CLASS 3A
Quarterfinals

DeLaSalle 61, Hibbing 53
Holy Angels 58, Fergus Falls 57
Cooper 72, Austin 40
Becker 68, Marshall 67

Thursday’s semifinals
DeLaSalle 61, Holy Angels 59
Becker 68, Cooper 66

Saturday’s championship game at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: DeLaSalle vs. Becker


CLASS 4A
Quarterfinals

Hopkins 68, Lakeville North 46
Centennial 74, Maple Grove 64
Stillwater 73, Shakopee 48
Eastview 48, Forest Lake 38

Semifinals
Hopkins 75, Centennial 51
Stillwater 65, Eastview 52

Saturday’s championship game at Williams Arena
8 p.m.: Hopkins vs. Stillwater

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
The Pride Of Marshall: Four Sports, Ten Trips To State 3/13/2019
The question was very straightforward, as was the answer from Marshall High School girls basketball coach Dan Westby: "No, no, no."

The question: Have you had any other athletes like Kaia Sueker in your coaching career?

No, no, no.

Kaia, a 5-foot-5 senior, is a rarity for several reasons. She's a four-sport athlete, competing in both volleyball and cross-country in the fall, basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring. She plays marimba in the school band and violin in the school orchestra. She's been involved in so many other school clubs and events that it’s hard to keep track.

And then there’s this: She has now competed in 10 state tournaments … or 11 if you count her stint as a basketball team manager when she was in eighth grade. And that number is likely to reach 11 (or 12) when her final track season rolls around this spring. That’s how it all began, when she qualified for the state track meet as an eighth-grader.

“I don’t know where she gets the energy,” said Westby – also the Tigers volleyball coach -- after Marshall lost to Becker 68-67 in Wednesday’s Class 3A state quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion. “She’s a pretty amazing kid.”

Kaia had 14 points, three assists and three steals in the game. It was a heartbreaking loss, coming in the final seconds, but she was all smiles afterwards.

“I think it’s really cool to be up here,” she said. “It’s such a great experience and I’ve enjoyed it with all my teammates. I’m really proud of everyone.”

Kaia is the only player who was also a member of Marshall’s last trip to the state basketball tournament in 2016. In the fall she’ll be a freshman on the cross-country and track teams at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. The end of her high school days will certainly be felt back in her hometown.

“There just aren’t kids like that anymore,” Westby said. “She’s quite a kid. It’ll be different in all sports, not having her. She’s been a part of it for so long.”

I asked Kaia to look ahead 10 years or so and predict what she will remember most about her high school career. Her answer said a lot about herself, her family, Marshall High School and how important school activities are everywhere.

“I think I’ll remember these moments with my team and how special they are,” she said with that big smile. “I’m never going to forget them. I’m going to miss it a lot, I know that, and I’m going to miss my teammates for sure. It’s just been a great experience.”

Tournament Tidbits

--Hibbing senior Abbey McDonald has a pretty strong basketball pedigree. Her father, Joel, is the Hibbing boys coach and former holder of the state scoring record, and her grandpa is Bob McDonald of Chishom coaching fame. Abbey will play at St. Cloud State, just like her dad.

--Play of the day: Becker sophomore Courtney Nuest took a pass from classmate Julia Bengston and made a three-point shot at the buzzer to lift the Bulldogs past Marshall. Marshall led by 16 points with 10:27 left in the first half before Becker came back to trail by three at halftime. The Bulldogs led by 14 in the second half before Albany roared back.

-- All quarterfinals are being webcast for free by prepspotlight.tv/MSHSL All semifinals and championship games are televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast for free by prep45.com

Girls State Basketball Tournament

CLASS 1A
Thursday at Maturi Pavilion

Red Lake vs. Minneota, 11 a.m.
Ada-Borup vs. Heritage Christian, 1 p.m.
Mountain. Iron-Buhl vs. Goodhue, 3 p.m.
BOLD vs. Menahga, 5 p.m.

CLASS 2A
Wednesday at Williams Arena

Roseau 75, Redwood Valley 74
Caledonia 56, Proctor 44
Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion
Albany 60, Holy Family 49
Minnehaha Academy 56, St. Peter 37

Friday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: Roseau vs. Caledonia
8 p.m.: Albany vs. Minnehaha Academy

CLASS 3A
Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion

DeLaSalle 61, Hibbing 53
Holy Angels 58, Fergus Falls 57
Cooper 72, Austin 40
Becker 68, Marshall 67

Thursday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
Noon: DeLaSalle vs. Holy Angels
2 p.m.: Cooper vs. Becker

CLASS 4A
Wednesday at Williams Arena

Hopkins 68, Lakeville North 46
Centennial 74, Maple Grove 64
Stillwater 73, Shakopee 48
Eastview 48, Forest Lake 38

Thursday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: Hopkins vs. Centennial
2 p.m.: Stillwater vs. Eastview

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Waseca High School Receives Hearts Of The Arts Award3/12/2019
INDIANAPOLIS ? The Waseca (Minnesota) High School Theatre Department has been selected as the 2019 Section 5 recipient of the "National High School Heart of the Arts Award? by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. This is the sixth year that the National High School Heart of the Arts Award has been offered.

?Booby Trap? ? which is the story of an American soldier who sits in a far-off combat zone trapped in place by a land mine ? has been performed by school groups around the country. However, perhaps none of them captured the emotions involved with it as well as the Waseca High School version, which contained a rare personal touch.

Waseca's presentation is dedicated to Caleb Erickson, a Waseca High School graduate and member of the United States Marine Corps who was killed while serving his nation. Adding to the emotions of the experience, Erickson?s family grew very close to the students who performed, and the play also raised money to assist area military veterans.

Erickson, who was only 20 years old when he died, was a member of the Waseca High School football and wrestling programs. He joined the Marines after graduation and was killed in combat in 2014 in Afghanistan when a line of military vehicles was attacked. He was a gunner on the final vehicle in the convoy.

After rehearsals had begun, Waseca High School theatre director Karen Pfarr Anderson came up with the idea of dedicating the play to Caleb. She contacted Caleb?s older sister, Rue Erickson, about it, and she approved the proposal.

What followed was nothing short of amazing, as people came to see the play in droves. While there are no admission fees for one-act plays at the school, thousands of dollars in donations were raised. More than mere monetary gain, the cast and crew of the production forged a very strong personal relationship with Caleb?s family.

About the Award
The NFHS divides the nation into eight geographical sections. The states in Section 5 are Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.
While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

Class 4A Girls State Basketball Tournament3/11/2019
Wednesday through Saturday at Williams Arena and Maturi Pavilion
(All semifinals and championship games at Williams Arena)

Quarterfinal pairings

Class 4A
Wednesday at Williams Arena

Lakeville North vs. Hopkins, 10 a.m.
Maple Grove vs. Centennial, noon
Shakopee vs. Stillwater, 2 p.m.
Forest Lake vs. Eastview, 4 p.m.


Class 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament3/11/2019
Wednesday through Saturday at Williams Arena and Maturi Pavilion
(All semifinals and championship games at Williams Arena)

Quarterfinal pairings

Class 3A
Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion

Hibbing vs. DeLaSalle, 10 a.m.
Fergus Falls vs. Holy Angels, noon
Austin vs. Cooper, 2 p.m.
Marshall vs. Becker, 4 p.m.