John's Journal
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.
Farmington Basketball: Like Mother, Like Daughter 12/6/2019
When Molly Mogenson made history in the first game of the basketball season on Nov. 23, the Farmington High School senior was offered hearty congratulations. She scored 25 points in a 92-79 win over St. Michael-Albertville to become the Tigers' career scoring leader.

The first person to congratulate her was the previous record holder ... her mom. And Molly had no idea that she had broken the record.

"After the game, my mom came up to me and gave me a hug," Molly said. "And she's like, 'You did it.' And I was like, 'I did what?' And she was tearing up. I said, 'What's going on?' She's like, 'You broke it. You broke my record.' And I started tearing up. It was so special."

Julie Mogenson, who was Julie Bauer when she graduated from Farmington in 1987, scored 1,438 points. Molly, who has been the Tigers' starting point guard since eighth grade, began the 2019-20 season with 1,418 career points but she was unaware of those point totals. That's because Tigers coach Liz Carpentier wants her players to concentrate on basketball, not statistics.

"I knew and the family knew," Carpentier said. "We just like the kids to focus on playing. She was surprised when she scored her 1,000th point, too, because she didn't know she was close."

Julie, her husband Glenn and their other kids (Brock, who plays football at the University of South Dakota, ninth-grader Ellie and second-grader Mark) knew Molly was on the cusp of Julie's record. But mum was the word.

Julie said, "Last year she averaged 13, 14 points per game so I thought she might do it in the second or third game. And she surprised me. We were going to make posters up for when she did it, but she surprised us all."

Molly knew long ago that her mother held the school scoring record. Julie recalls Molly, in fifth grade, saying, "I'm going to break your record, mom." Julie told her, "OK, you're going to have to work hard. And she was like, I'm doing it."

The Tigers, who finished 24-5 last season, are No. 3 behind Hopkins and Wayzata in the Minnesota Basketball News Class 4A rankings. Following their win over No. 4 St. Michael-Albertville in the opener, they beat No. 14 St. Louis Park and No. 6 Stillwater. They are hoping to make the school's first trip to the girls state basketball tournament.

Molly Mogenson has signed to play college basketball at Creighton. Sophie Hart, a 6-foot-4 Tigers junior, has been offered a scholarship by Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen. Carpentier, in her fifth season as Farmington's coach, said Molly has been crucial to the team's improvement.

"She's one of our best leaders," Carpentier said. "She's really the focal point of our team and our program. She understands the process and I think that's the best thing about her. She's been here when we have been not so good, and she's been here to see all of the growth and the improvement and the commitment from our coaches and the players, just the program as a whole.

"Shes been through everything, through ups and downs. And she's been so steady, so consistent through all of that. She's a coach on the floor, she's our team's hardest worker, and she just kind of embodies everything that Farmington basketball is about."

Molly also plays high school softball. Julie participated in basketball, softball, volleyball and cross-country at Farmington, then was a basketball and cross-country athlete at Southwest State University in Marshall. She works as an elementary special education teacher in Farmington.

"I used to take her one-on-one and beat her quite often," Julie said with a smile. "But then it became, 'OK you have to play someone else.' "

Molly responded by saying to her mother, "The other day, though, you said you could beat me in your prime."

That's a question that will never be settled.

Asked to describe her daughter on the basketball court, Julie said, "She's a leader who controls the floor. Unselfish, team-driven, unity. She'd rather do one more pass to get the better shot than to take an average shot. She's a fighter, she never quits."

Asked to describe herself, Molly replied, "I'd say I'm team-driven. I want to make the extra pass, I just do whatever I can for the team to help us win; whatever my role is, I'm going to do it. Play good defense. That's where my head is during the game."

Julie added, "There are a lot of people who have helped her along the way and we're thankful for them."

There are also a lot of young girls in Farmington who look up to Molly.

"She's a phenomenal role model," Carpentier said. "All the youth girls cheer for her and they want her to come to their practices. Everybody wants to be like Molly."

That includes Carpentier's daughter Gianna, a fifth-grader.

"Molly is my daughter's favorite player. She was five years old when I took this job and she's been with Molly for the last five years."

After the record was broken and the game had ended, Molly was occupied talking with her mom and other family members and friends. By the time she got on the bus, her teammates had learned the big news.

"Everybody started cheering and they all had their phones out and stuff," she said. "So yeah, that was pretty cool.

"It's cool that I broke a school record but beating my mom's record just makes it more special."

--See a photo of the Mogensons 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.

From Edgerton 1960 To Hancock 2019, Special Moments Abound11/30/2019
If you know the history of Minnesota high school sports, you know about little Edgerton's 1960 state basketball champions. A fellow who played on that team 59 years ago sat down next to me in the press box at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday morning and said, "John, I might have a story for you."

Dean Verdoes is well-known as a member of Edgerton's starting five, and he went on to a distinguished career as an educator. He is retired now but volunteers at many MSHSL events. His Prep Bowl duty was working as a band host, which takes us to the story he recommended.

He told me about the band from Hancock, which he helped direct to their seats before the Owls played Mountain Lake Area in the Nine-Man state championship game. He told me that band director Jeanine Rupp was a very nice young person, and that several Hancock alums had arrived to play with the band. Jeanine confirmed this when we chatted during the game.

Hancock's high school enrollment is 198, and 67 of those kids participate in band. That includes 16 football players. Jeanine, 24, said she reached out to alumni musicians.

"With 16 of those football players out there (on the field) we needed some help to fill out sections where we're a little bit low," she said.

Jeanine and I sat in the second row near one of the end zones, chatting for a few minutes before the second half of the championship game resumed. It was one of many unseen but important off-the-field moments during the Prep Bowl weekend.

One of my favorite places at the stadium is the postgame interview room, the same one used by the Vikings. After each game, coaches from both teams meet with the media. They talk about Xs and Os, for sure, but they also talk about their roles as coaches.

Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte was especially poignant after the Warriors captured their fifth consecutive Class 2A title. One of his players, a young man named Isaiah, had been ejected late in the game and the coach was asked about a private discussion he had with Isaiah afterwards.

"I think that's why you coach," he said. "If you just coach for football, I think you're wrong. We want to make a difference in their lives. And Isaiah is a great kid. He's a great, great kid. Sometimes I think as a society we're almost too hard on these guys. We are so proud of Isaiah. He's gone through a lot in his life. All his brothers will stick up with him, stick up for him. He's going to be a great human being and we're going to be really proud. And I think that connection has led to the success that we've had. Again, I don't think kids play the sport just to play. They want more out of the sport than just to win a football game or a basketball game, they want that relationship, they want to know that somebody's got their back, somebody they can trust in when the going gets tough."

Similar sentiments, going far beyond football and sports, were expressed by other coaches.

"They're great football players but better kids, and that's what makes it a lot of fun," said Chad Gimbel, whose Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms won the Class 1A championship in their first Prep Bowl appearance. "You come to practice every day, and it was hard yesterday when I talked about this being the last time we're going to practice. We've never had that before, where you know it's the last time that you're going to get together and be able to practice as a team. I got a little emotional, and it's hard because you really care about these kids and love these kids as your own."

James Herberg was promoted from assistant to head coach at Rocori prior to last season. The Spartans went 2-8 in 2018 before rolling to the Class 4A state title Friday with a 22-21 overtime win over SMB. That gave Herberg a career record of 13-10.

"This is an incredible group of guys. I just wish I really could put it into words," Hedberg said after the game. "I'm incredibly blessed to be their head football coach, but these guys truly play for each other. They want to be around each other. And it's just been an absolute pleasure. I'm so grateful for these guys. And it's not just on the field, it's off the field and their personal lives, as well. But if you're going to do something, you're going to make sure that you go all in, and you're going to go above and beyond what's asked of you, and credit to these guys for following that model. They're going to be incredible men after they leave Rocori High School."

Mountain Lake Area played in the Prep Bowl a year ago, falling to Spring Grove 40-18. The Wolverines were ranked No. 1 in Nine-Man throughout the 2019 season and had never trailed on the scoreboard until Saturday, when Hancock led 14-0 in the first half.

"We talked about it all season long, that sometimes we may not come out very strong and sometimes we may get behind but you have to face adversity and come out, play hard," Wolverines coach Tim Kirk said after his team rallied to top the Owls 22-14.

"When the whiteboard is full of junk, and orange markers, blue markers, gray markers, black markers, it looks like garbage on the whiteboard," he said. "But you clean it off and it's pure, as white as snow. And that's what we've been doing. I got a little nervous when we were down 14-0 because it was just bad; we did some good things but it was just costly turnovers and whatever else happened, but it shows the grit in these guys.

"What I really noticed today is when we were down 14-0 I think I said something about, 'Hey, this is awesome. Let's see what we've got.' And a few of them looked at me like I was crazy but a few looked up and knew, 'Let's see what we're made of.' And we showed it today."

One of the most uplifting stories of the 2019 football season was how the Dassel-Cokato Chargers kept Jacob MacDonald as part of the team. He died two years ago and his classmates are now seniors. The Chargers kept Jacob's No. 34 jersey with them at every game, including Saturday's Class 3A Prep Bowl contest against Pierz.

In a back-and-forth game that went down to the final moments, Pierz came away with a 28-27 victory. In the handshake line, Pierz coach Dan Saehr put an arm around Dassel-Cokato senior quarterback Sanders Asplin.

"I told him he was a tremendous football player, and I also said that I knew he and the rest of the team and the community were playing for a tremendous, tremendous cause, Jacob McDonald. That's a heck of a story and on their end they're hoping for the fairytale ending. That?s a very classy team over there and you respect those kids for how they play the game and how they go about it. He was nothing but a class act, as well as many of the other kids, and it's really cool when you can see a high school football game do that."

Yes indeed. That's the essence of high school sports and activities. Teamwork, service to teammates and others, everyone pulling together and giving it their all while respecting the opponent and the game.

It was that way when Dean Verdoes was playing basketball in 1960 and it's that way as Jeanine Rupp directs a band in 2019.

At U.S. Bank Stadium

Friday, November 29
Class 1A: Blooming Prairie 41, BOLD 15
Class 2A: Caledonia 26, Minneapolis North 0
Class 4A: Rocori 22, SMB 21 (overtime)
Class 6A: Wayzata 35, Champlin Park 20

Saturday, November 30
Nine-Man: Mountain Lake Area 22, Hancock 14
Class 3A: Pierz 28, Dassel-Cokato 27
Class 5A: Chaska 10, St. Thomas Academy 7

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea? wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Jackson County Central Football And A Viral Video11/25/2019
On a peaceful November Monday in Jackson County there was some measure of disappointment that the Jackson County Central Huskies would not be playing at the Prep Bowl later in the week. But those feelings were tempered by an immeasurable amount of pride in knowing what the world thought of the boys on the football team from the little southwest Minnesota town near the Iowa border.

In a tiny gym inside Pleasantview Elementary in Lakefield, 12 miles from Jackson, four of those boys were teaching. The senior team captains -- Nathaniel Post, Bradley Buhl Jr., Rudy Voss and Jack Brinkman – spent the day with fifth- and sixth-graders, playing games and talking about what's important. They emphasized words like respect, character, hard work. And love.

"The three things that I want you guys to take with you are things that I live by, that we all live by," Voss said to the kids sitting on the gym floor. "The first one is love. Love each other, respect each other, form a bond with each other. The second one is work hard. Work hard in anything you guys do, whether it's sports, the classroom, group projects, work hard. And the third one is respect. Respect each other, respect your teachers, respect your parents. Holding the door for someone, saying please and thank you, that's the kind of people we want you guys to be.”

If Rudy's name sounds familiar, it's probably because you’ve seen a viral video from the Nov. 16 Class 3A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. After the Huskies lost a heartbreaking 20-14 decision to Pierz in a game between unbeaten teams, Voss, Buhl and coach Tom Schuller spoke to the media in the Vikings’ postgame interview room.

The video is emotional and stirring. Rudy, through tears, talked about football being a blessing in his life, the bond among the 21 seniors, how wins and losses don’t define them. At one point, Rudy is unable to speak and Bradley takes over, putting a hand on his teammate’s back and talking about how at the start of the season each player was asked to do their job and trust each other.

At that point, no one knew the impact their words would have. Two days later, A.J. Feldman of Lakeland News in Brainerd and Bemidji (who was covering Pierz) Tweeted a video clip of Rudy and Bradley that lasted 2 minutes, 12 seconds. And that video went off like a rocket.

It was re-Tweeted by NFL Hall of Famers, posted on a social media platform called TikTok by the NFL, went viral on the MSHSL Facebook page and just about everywhere else. It’s safe to say that millions have seen it and countless numbers of young athletes have been inspired by it. People as far away as Australia and Ireland have liked it on Twitter, and Voss and Buhl have received private social media messages from Scotland and many other locations.

“I can't tell you how many DMs (direct messages) I've had and Brad's had,” Rudy said after the school day ended. “Just kids that have reached out to us and said, ‘You're an inspiration, you make me want to work harder’ and things like that. That’s probably the best thing. It’s awesome. It’s just crazy how worldwide it is.”

The background of the video includes a Vikings logo, and at least one viewer thought the two players were local NFLers.

“One of our favorite comments was a guy saying, ‘Can you believe these grown men, professionals, are crying. This is their job,’ ” Voss said, laughing.

As the video went wild, JCC activities director Shelly Hotzler came up with the idea of having the captains share their message with younger students. On Tuesday they spent the day in a similar fashion with middle schoolers.

At the elementary school Monday, Brinkman asked the younger kids if they had seen the video. Of course they had.

“Yeah, these guys are like famous now,” he said. “Isn’t that cool? So these two showed really good character. They went into that press conference and they talked. They were asked questions like, ‘What does football mean to you? What does your team mean to you?’ And these two came up with the best answers you could have asked for, and that's why they're famous. They said that it wasn't about the games that meant the most, it was being with the teammates, being with the coaches, the lifting, the bus rides, all that.

“Events are going to happen, sometimes bad things happen. It's how you respond, which is the biggest part, and they responded really well. Which is why something like 10 million people have seen the video. It’s how you respond. So if something bad happens in your life, respond well. Be kind.”

Schuller, who teaches special education, admits he isn’t well-versed in social media. But he knows about the character of students at his school and players on his team.

“You could have had eight to 10 guys who would have sounded like that,” he said. “That's the really crazy thing about it. I mean, we have a lot of very articulate kids that would have had the same thoughts. That's a special group, there's no doubt.”

Brinkman agreed, saying “Truly, I think what they said was perfect and if you asked any of the other seniors they would have had a similar response. I think our coaches have instilled that in us.”

Schuller said he was proud of his players, because they gave it everything they had against Pierz. Jackson County Central led 14-0 after the first quarter and was in front until Pierz took the lead on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter.

“One of our big things is we tell the guys if you do your best, that's got to be good enough,” Schuller said. “You have to make sure that kids trust you, that when they put it out there, it is good enough. And what they put out there that day was. And that's the first thing I said to the Pierz kids; we congratulated them and said it was everything we had, and they said that was everything they had, too.

“And we said ‘Good luck.’ I don't know if I'll watch the championship game (Pierz will meet Dassel-Cokato for the state title on Saturday) because that was a tough loss but we have a lot of respect for the Pierz team and their players. I don't think there was a cross word said out there between the players or coaches and officials and it was kind of what we're trying for in athletics.”

Still, it was a tough loss to take. And seeing the video remains difficult for some.

“That video is still hard to watch for all of us,” Post said. “I watched it the first time with my mom next to me and she couldn't finish watching it. But it just kind of explains the brotherhood we have going on here.”

Voss said, “I couldn’t even remember what I said. After I left the room I had a little idea but I had so many emotions. You could have asked me a couple hours later and I really couldn't remember what I even said.”

There’s no need to remember the details now. The world knows.

--See the video on the MSHSL Facebook page along with photos from Monday.

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