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 TournamentCLASS 1A
Minneota 66, Red Lake 46
Ada-Borup vs. Heritage Christian
Goodhue 50, Mountain Iron-Buhl 48
Menahga 65, BOLD 54Friday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
Noon: Minneota vs. Heritage Christian
2 p.m.: Goodhue vs. MenahgaCLASS 2A
Roseau 75, Redwood Valley 74
Caledonia 56, Proctor 44
Albany 60, Holy Family 49
Minnehaha Academy 56, St. Peter 37Friday’s semifinals at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: Roseau vs. Caledonia
8 p.m.: Albany vs. Minnehaha Academy CLASS 3A
DeLaSalle 61, Hibbing 53
Holy Angels 58, Fergus Falls 57
Cooper 72, Austin 40
Becker 68, Marshall 67Thursday’s semifinals
DeLaSalle 61, Holy Angels 59
Becker 68, Cooper 66Saturday’s championship game at Williams Arena
6 p.m.: DeLaSalle vs. BeckerCLASS 4A
Hopkins 68, Lakeville North 46
Centennial 74, Maple Grove 64
Stillwater 73, Shakopee 48
Eastview 48, Forest Lake 38Semifinals
Hopkins 75, Centennial 51
Stillwater 65, Eastview 52Saturday’s championship game at Williams Arena
8 p.m.: Hopkins vs. Stillwater--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.