John's Journal
Boys Basketball Rankings 12/31/2019
From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Eden Prairie (2) 5-0
2. Cretin-Derham Hall (4) 6-1
3. Prior Lake (2) 3-1
4. East Ridge (4) 4-1
5. Park Center (5) 5-1
6. Shakopee (2) 4-0
7. Hopkins (6) 4-2
8. Eastview (3) 4-1
9. Tartan (4) 5-0
10. Spring Lake Park (5) 4-1
11. Rochester Mayo (1) 4-0
12. Lakeville South (1) 5-0
13. Chaska (2) 4-1
14. Lakeville North (3) 4-1
15. Robbinsdale Armstrong (6) 4-1
16. Edina (2) 4-2
17. Maple Grove (8) 4-0
18. Rosemount (3) 5-1
19. Blaine (7) 1-2
20. Osseo (5) 3-3

1. Minnehaha Academy (4) 3-2
2. DeLaSalle (6) 4-0
3. Mankato East (2) 5-1
4. Totino-Grace (4) 3-2
5. Marshall (2) 5-0
6. Austin (1) 4-1
7. Waconia (6) 4-2
8. St. Peter (2) 7-1
9. St. Cloud Apollo (8) 6-0
10. Mound Westonka (6) 5-1
11. St. Croix Lutheran (3) 3-2
12. Delano (5) 5-1
13. South St. Paul (3) 5-0
14. Columbia Heights (4) 4-0
15. Bloomington Kennedy (3) 5-1
16. Alexandria (8) 4-1
17. Holy Angels (3) 3-2
18. Grand Rapids (7) 4-1
19. Princeton (7) 3-2
20. Hermantown (7) 3-1

1. Waseca (2) 3-2
2. Caledonia (1) 6-0
3. Lake City (1) 5-1
4. St. Croix Prep (4) 5-0
5. Perham (6) 4-0
6. Minneapolis North (5) 3-2
7. Esko (7) 3-2
8. Cristo Rey Jesuit (4) 2-1
9. Pine City (6) 4-0
10. Osakis (6) 6-0
11. Minnesota Valley Lutheran (2) 7-0
12. Maranatha Christian (5) 4-1
13. Jordan (2) 2-2
14. East Grand Forks (8) 4-0
15. Stewartville (1) 4-1
16. Rockford (5) 7-0
17. Fergus Falls (8) 4-1
18. Eden Valley-Watkins (6) 4-1
19. Holy Family (5) 4-2
20. Moose Lake-Willow River (7) 6-0

1. Henning (6) 6-0
2. BOLD (2) 3-0
3. Ada-Borup (8) 4-0
4. Southwest MN Christian (3) 5-0
5. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2) 6-0
6. North Woods (7) 4-1
7. Hayfield (1) 3-1
8. West Central Area (6) 4-0
9. New Ulm Cathedral (2) 6-0
10. Cromwell-Wright (5) 4-0
11. Springfield (2) 3-1
12. Parkers Prairie (6) 3-0
13. Red Lake (8) 4-0
14. Randolph (1) 5-2
15. Mountain Lake-Comfrey (2) 3-0
16. Christ's Household of Faith (4) 4-1
17. Nashwauk-Keewatin (7) 4-1
18. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (5) 5-0
19. Clearbrook-Gonvick (8) 5-0
20. Blackduck (8) 4-1
One Coach, Two Teams: A Busy Season At Mountain Iron-Buhl12/17/2019
MOUNTAIN IRON – Last spring, the basketball season ended with the girls team from Mountain Iron-Buhl High School playing at state for the ninth year in a row. The Rangers are one of the premier Class 1A teams in Minnesota, with coach Jeff Buffetta in charge for two decades.

A group of coaches and their families, embarking on an Easter weekend vacation in San Diego, were car-pooling to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. During the three-hour-plus drive from the Iron Range, Buffetta turned to assistant coach John Villebrun and said, "I want to run something past you."

Luke Winans, the school's longtime athletic director, had stepped away from coaching the boys basketball team at the end of the 2018-19 season. Buffetta's proposal to Villebrun was simple: Would it be possible for Buffetta to coach both the girls and boys teams at the same time?

Villebrun told him, “You might be nuts. But you’re the only one who could pull it off.”

So here was Buffetta on Monday, directing the Rangers boys during practice from 3:20 until 5:15 p.m., watching the Rangers girls junior varsity play a home game against Esko, then resuming his coaching duties for the MIB-Esko girls varsity game. That was all after a full day of teaching fifth- and sixth-grade social studies and never leaving the school.

It was all in a long day’s work for the 1994 Mountain Iron-Buhl graduate who also has been on the coaching staffs for volleyball, football, softball, and track and field.

“I get to school early in the morning, and if I'm not coaching I’m usually here watching somebody else or scouting,” Buffetta said after the Rangers girls improved to 3-1 with a 70-42 win over the Eskomos.

Indeed, Buffetta and the girls team were back in the gym at 6 a.m. Tuesday for practice. The boys took a record of 5-1 into a game at Virginia that night, so having the girls practice before school allowed Buffetta – and Byron Negen, an assistant coach for both teams – to be there for the boys.

Scheduling was the main marker for deciding if coaching two teams was possible, said the 44-year-old Buffetta. The girls and boys play only one same-site doubleheader this season, and several games were rescheduled thanks to cooperation from other schools. The two teams hold separate practices.

There were no doubts regarding Buffetta’s coaching skills; he’s taken those nine girls teams to state tournaments, with Class 1A runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2017, he had a 457-136 career record coming into this season and was a 2017 inductee into the Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

When Buffetta’s dual coaching job was announced, there was some skepticism but lots of excitement, especially among the players.

“I was pretty excited, to be honest,” said ninth-grader Asher Zubich, who led the boys team in scoring as an eighth-grader. “They made the schedules balance out, so we were getting just as much time and effort as the girls were. I just thought it was going to be great, and it’s been great. He pushes us hard in practice to make sure we're on top of our game.”

Buffetta had thought about coaching the boys at some point in his career. He has a daughter in fourth grade and a son in second grade, and the thought of coaching his son had some appeal. When Winans resigned, Buffetta considered simply moving over to the boys team, but he didn’t want to leave the girls program he had helped build.

“Mr. Winans did such a good job here and had such a good program,” Buffetta said. “I always knew that if he ever decided not to (coach), I knew I’d take a look at it and consider it. Making the complete switch from girls to boys really was hard to do right now in the middle of what our girls are doing.

“We have a good relationship with all these girls, they all work hard, I think it's been something special that we've done here and you just want to keep it going. And I hate to see somebody else come in and take the blame for not keeping it going. So if we were going to end up losing, it was going to be on my time and not somebody else's.”

Coaching two teams simultaneously does make for a hectic season. Practices and games make it busy enough, and Buffetta also is in the gym Saturdays for elementary basketball.

“It's just time management, that's all it is,” he said. “It’s scheduling for practices and games and away games and early morning practices and all that stuff. Once I figured I could do it, it was time to do it. I think I appreciate Sundays a little bit more, though.”

Both Rangers teams are young. Nels Parentau is the only senior on the boys squad and there are three seniors (Laney Ryan, Miah Gellerstedt and Mia Ganyo) on the girls team.

“I was kind of worried because it was new,” Parenteau said of the coaching change. “It’s my senior year and I thought having a new coaching staff might be stressful because I was so used to one coaching staff for my entire basketball career. But it was exciting because I know how good they were with the girls and I knew that Mr. Buffetta could handle it.”

He can easily handle it, said Ganyo.

“I was excited when I heard that he was coaching both boys and girls,” she said. “He gets this excitement in his eyes and in his voice when he's coaching us. It's just the best thing because he's doing it with all his heart and he's doing it for us.”

During the boys practice Monday, Buffetta and Negen led the team through drills, followed by cross-court sprints and time in the weight room. A few minutes later on the same court, Negen was coaching the junior varsity girls and was on the bench during the varsity contest.

“It's a time commitment, but it's something we both enjoy doing,” Negen said. “We love being involved with basketball and we enjoy working together and teaching kids a game that we love. And I think that's what makes it so much fun for the two of us.

“He came to me and said, ‘What do you think about doing the girls and the boys program?’ And right away I said, ‘Let's do it. I think it'd be fun.’ There was no hesitation. It’s worked out great so far. There are some long days, but the good thing is we both have wives that are pretty committed to what we do and if they're happy, we're happy.”

Buffetta said he is aware of two other coaches, one in Florida and one in North Carolina, who are pulling similar double coaching duty.

If both Rangers teams go deep into the postseason, there is one possible glitch in the scheduling magic. Should the Rangers girls advance to state, they could play a Class 1A semifinal game in Minneapolis on March 13. That same day, the boys could be playing in the Section 7 championship game in Hibbing.

In no surprise at all, Buffetta is optimistic that they could make it work.

“The way I look at it is, if we ever get to a girls state semifinal on the same day as a boys section championship, it would be doable. I mean, I thought about that ahead of time. It could easily get done.”

In the meantime, the two Rangers teams have one head coach and everything is working out just fine.

“I love being here,” Buffetta said. “Everybody knows that I grew up here, we have a lot of pride in our school. And we just want to help the kids out and be the best that we can.”

--See photos from Mountain Iron-Buhl on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

High Schools In Spotlight At Minnesota Sports Awards 12/12/2019
During an evening dedicated to celebrating Minnesota sports on all levels, awards and honors went to professional and college athletes and coaches, and six legends became Hall of Fame members. One of the biggest awards of the night went to a high school basketball team.

The event Wednesday at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis was the annual Minnesota Sports Awards, organized by Meet Minneapolis/Sports Minneapolis, which was named the National Sports Commission of the Year. The ceremony, hosted by Lea B. Olsen and Anthony LaPanta, will be broadcast by Fox North Sports on Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

One of the biggest awards was for the Sports Moment of the Year. The finalists included St. John's defeating St. Thomas in football shortly after the death of former Johnnies coach John Gagliardi; the Twins setting a Major League Baseball home run record; and Minnesota Duluth repeating as NCAA men's hockey champion.

The award, however, went to the Henning High School boys basketball team. The Hornets honored teammate Jacob Quam – who had died two years earlier – throughout the season, keeping his No. 33 jersey with them. Their emotional season ended in the school's first trip to state in more than 50 years along with the Class 1A state championship, Henning's first state title in any sport.

Head coach Randy Misegades and assistant coach Marc Oscarson took to the stage and accepted the award. Photos from the state tournament were shown on large screens behind the stage (see photos from the event on the MSHSL Facebook page).

"It just kind of adds to everything that went on,” said Misegades, who became emotional talking about Jacob and his teammates. “It’s just amazing, and that's what high school athletics are about and that's why you do it, because of the kids and because of the people.”

Awards also went to two individual high school athletes.

The Boys High School Athlete of the Year was David Roddy of Breck. He was a Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball finalist as well as a state champion in the discus. He’s now playing basketball at Colorado State and was unable to attend the event. On a recorded video message, David said, “First and foremost, I want to thank my family, coaches and teammates for their everlasting support, I wouldn't be here without them. I want to thank the committee for selecting me for this prestigious award. I'm very humbled and honored to accept the award. And again, I just want to thank everyone for supporting me along the years, and everyone have a good night.”

The Girls High School Athlete of the Year is Erika Bute of Alden-Conger. She was a six-year starter in volleyball, a five-year starter in basketball, a four-year softball starter, valedictorian and student council president. She’s now playing volleyball at Augustana University.

On stage, Erika talked about her busy high school career, saying “I loved it. People would ask, ‘Do you ever get sick of it?’ I’m like, ‘No, I would do it again. I love it.' ”

The most emotional moment of the evening came when the late Gabe Grunewald, a runner at Perham High School, the University of Minnesota and professionally, was honored with the Courage Award. Gabe's husband Justin accepted the award.

Inducted into the Star Tribune Minnesota Sports Hall Of Fame were Willard Ikola, John Gagliardi, John Randle, Randall McDaniel, Randy Moss and Lindsay Whalen.

Other award winners were …

Female College Athlete of the Year: Amber Fiser, University of Minnesota softball

Male College Athlete of the Year: Parker Mackay, University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey

Professional Athlete of the Year: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Coach of the Year: Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins

Trailblazer Award: Kevin Warren, Minnesota Vikings/Big Ten Conference

--See photos from the Minnesota Sports Awards on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Paige Bueckers Receives USA Basketball’s Top Honor12/10/2019
Hopkins senior basketball player Paige Bueckers is accustomed to awards and honors, but today she received something that tops them all. She was named USA Basketball's Female Athlete of the Year, becoming only the second high school player to receive the award, which has been presented since 1980.

The list of past winners is packed with WNBA and college stars, including Diana Taurusi, Maya Moore, Katie Smith, Candace Wiggins, Dawn Staley, Seimone Augustus, Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller. The only other high school athlete to receive the award was Janelle Bailey in 2017; she is a native of North Caroline who is now playing at North Carolina State.
"It means a lot,” said Bueckers, who has extensive international basketball experience and will play collegiately at Connecticut. “I was kind of amazed, seeing all the people who have won it before. Me being one of the youngest to get it, it just means a lot to me. To be able to represent my country, alone, and then to get this award, it meant even more.”

Bueckers was in Storrs, Connecticut, on Sunday for UConn’s 81-57 victory over Notre Dame. UConn coach Geno Auriemma talked about Bueckers with Doug Bonsour of the Connecticut Post.

“The thing that is impressive to me about Paige is how unselfish she is and her ability to get everyone involved in the game and her knack of getting to the basket,” Auriemma said. “She’s going to add, to us, a bigger guard that can impact the game, whether she’s shooting it or passing it. It’s important for us to get kids that are talented and unselfish and can score, and Paige has been able to do all those things.

“This kid was meant to be a basketball player. She was born to be a basketball player. She just plays like this is my personal playground; ‘When I get the ball, I can do whatever I want with it, and you can’t stop me. And I just have fun with it.’ She makes the game fun for herself. And when she is not playing basketball, she is shooting baskets. There are kids who play basketball, and then there are basketball players. She is a basketball player. Born to be a basketball player. Everything she does, she’s a natural.”

Bueckers participated in four USA Basketball events in 2019, including being named tournament MVP while helping to lead the USA to a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup. Bueckers also suited up for the USA 3x3 team that finished 3-1 in the inaugural World Beach Games from Oct. 13-16 in Doha, Qatar; she led her team to a second-place finish at the 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship; and she took part in the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team training camp that included the 2019 NCAA Next Generation Event at the NCAA Final Four in Tampa, Florida.

Recipients of USA Basketball's Female and Male Athlete of the Year awards automatically become eligible for consideration for the annual U.S. Olympic Committee Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year awards.

USA Basketball is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA national teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored five-on-five and 3x3 international competitions, as well as for some national competitions and for the development of youth basketball.

“In 2019, Paige represented the best of USA Basketball in winning gold medals and in her dedication to representing her country at multiple events,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball chief executive officer. “She not only helped USA Basketball win the FIBA U19 World Cup, she was recognized as the most valuable player at that tournament, which is further testament to the tremendous performances she turned in this past year.”

Bueckers started in all seven games at the FIBA U19 World Cup, and on her way to being named MVP, averaged a tournament-best 5.4 assists per game to go along with 11.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

“I really appreciated her competitiveness, how hard she competes,” said Jeff Walz, head coach of the 2019 USA U19 team and a 2019 USA Basketball Co-National Coach of the Year. “She’s definitely a special talent. She is able to score in all three phases of the game; she hits threes, has a pull-up jump shot and can get to the rim. But I just appreciate how she competes. She definitely has that competitive fire within her.”

The 2018 and 2019 Minnesota Gatorade State Player of the Year and Naismith and MaxPreps All-America first-team member, Bueckers averaged 24.4 points and 5.5 assists per game to lead her high school team to the 2019 Minnesota Class 4A state title and a 32-0 record.

The Royals take a 6-0 record into Tuesday night’s home game against DeLaSalle. Bueckers will be recognized for the USA Basketball award prior to tipoff.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
From The Prep Bowl To Basketball 12/8/2019
Following the first game of the boys basketball season, BOLD junior Drew Sagedahl thought back to the last game of the football season. Those two events took place exactly eight days apart.

The BOLD Warriors were defeated by Blooming Prairie 41-15 in the Class 1A football state championship game on Dec. 29 at U.S. Bank Stadium. A week and a day later, they opened the basketball season with a 78-53 victory over Minneota in one of 16 games Saturday in the Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins High School.

Sagedahl and some of his fellow multi-sport athletes wasted little time in transitioning from one sport to the other. After returning home to southwest Minnesota following the Prep Bowl, they asked basketball coach Jake Brustuen to unlock the gym. They were basketball players again that same evening.

"I was tired, but yeah, I was already in the gym,” Drew said. “Basketball shape is different than football shape.”

BOLD was one of six schools at the Tipoff Classic that also had football teams play in the Prep Bowl. The others were Class 2A state champ and runner-up Caledonia and Minneapolis North, Class 6A champ Wayzata and runner-up Champlin Park, and Minnehaha Academy, which finished second in Class 4A as part of the cooperative SMB team along with Blake and St. Paul Academy.

It's no surprise that the smaller schools have more multi-sport athletes. For BOLD and Caledonia, all but two of the basketball players also played football.

“It's a really good problem to have,” Caledonia basketball coach Brad King said about the quick turnaround. “I hope we have it every year.”

Caledonia opened the basketball season Friday night with a 92-63 win at Lewiston-Altura and on Saturday the Warriors defeated Maranatha Christian 81-62.

During the two weeks between the state football semifinals and the Prep Bowl, the Caledonia players had football and basketball practice on the same days. Football came first, clearly, but they found time to get in the gym.

“It's a little bit of a challenge just making sure that they're getting their rest and sleep and all that stuff for football, but I think we had every kid that was out for basketball come to every practice during the course of those two weeks,” King said. “They at least came and shot and hung out with the guys, so it's really nice to see that they're committed in both directions, basketball and football.”

Caledonia senior Noah King, who passed for 138 yards and three touchdowns in the Prep Bowl, said getting in condition for basketball is the biggest challenge when football ends.

“You're used to taking a beating (in football) and your legs aren't used to running nonstop, they're just different sports,” he said.

If not for the extended football season, Saturday’s game would have been the third of the basketball season for BOLD instead of the first. But they were able to reschedule those first two games for later in the season.

“It's kind of a little more of a balancing act if you try to ease them back into it,” Brustuen said. “But at the same time you've got to push them and get in shape, especially with our (rapid) style of play. So it's kind of a balancing act but these guys have been motivated and we had a great week of practice.”

Sagedahl and senior Gavin Vosika combined to catch nine passes for 122 yards (with Drew scoring a touchdown) in the Prep Bowl. Senior quarterback Jordan Sagedahl, who completed 15 of 37 passes for 219 yards in the loss to Blooming Prairie, sat out Saturday’s basketball game with an injury.

Despite the limited preparation time, Drew Sagedahl and Vosika certainly appeared to be basketball ready vs. Minneota. Drew had 33 points and seven rebounds and Gavin finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“It's been good,” Vosika said. “Obviously we made it far in football, even though it didn't end the way we wanted it to. But I'm happy to get back into basketball.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.