This weekend was remarkable for several reasons, most of them – but not all of them -- having to do with high school girls basketball in Minnesota. Let’s start, however, with what took place Friday evening far away in Charlotte, North Carolina.
That’s where the University of Virginia, a top seed in the NCAA men’s tournament, lost by 20 points to No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County, becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed in the tournament. Virginia coach Tony Bennett said all the right things afterwards…
“I told the guys, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.”
Now, let’s delve into what took place Saturday at Target Center, where the MSHSL girls basketball state championship games were held. One possible headline could read like this: “Three Teams Win First State Titles.” Indeed, Lyle-Pacelli in Class 1A, Sauk Centre in 2A and Cooper in 3A took home first-place hardware for the first time. In Class 4A, Eastview added to its previous championship collection.
The games are televised and everyone sees what happens on the court in the big NBA arena. Behind the scenes are quieter moments, and they can be heartbreaking as well as inspiring. Such as …
--In a corridor, members of the Roseau band quietly saying, “You guys were great” and “We’re so proud of you” as athletes, exiting the court after coming up short in the championship game, sob, their shoulders heaving.
--A few hours later, players from Northfield applauding for their band members as they cross paths backstage after the Raiders lost to Cooper.
And then there are moments that make you smile in appreciation for kids who understand that being part of a team is a special thing, and when that experience comes to an end – whether in victory or defeat – it can hit them hard.
Madi Heiderscheidt, a senior from Sleepy Eye, and Abigail Bollinberg, a junior from Lyle-Pacelli, exemplified that sense of loss following Lyle-Pacelli’s 57-33 victory over Sleepy Eye in the 1A title game.
Both girls wiped tears from their eyes as they talked about the season, and the team, and the journey, coming to an end.
Madi, who will play basketball at the College of Saint Benedict, said, “I’m not as upset about second place as I am that my career is over.”
Lyle-Pacelli coach Justin Morris (who lives in Omaha, as noted previously in John’s Journal) coached his final game with the Athletics Saturday, and that added to Abigail’s feelings, despite the gold medal hanging around her neck.
“I’m kind of sad,” she said as the tears flowed. “I won’t get to play with these seniors again. I won’t get to play for our coach again.”
Kristi Fett, Lyle-Pacelli’s 6-foot-5 center who has signed with Minnesota State Mankato, had 30 points and 16 rebounds against Sleepy Eye. After three games in three days facing defenders who tried to outmuscle her under the basket, Kristi said, “We always talk about bumps and bruises being temporary but memories like these last a lifetime. You’ll remember the faces when you look around the team circle for the rest of your life.”
Following the Class 3A game, senior Annika Hoff of Northfield (who will play in the Ivy League at Cornell) was asked about the experience of wearing the Raiders uniform. She began to speak, saying “It’s been awesome,” and then broke down in tears.
The team? The experience? It’s everything. That’s the job.Familiar Foes, New Final Result In Class 2A
Sauk Centre and Roseau have faced off at state for three years in a row now; in 2016 Roseau beat the Mainstreeters 94-82 in the third-place game and last season the Rams beat Sauk Centre 75-64 in the championship game. This time, the Mainstreeters came out on top 63-52.
Sauk Centre, making its eighth trip to state, ended a string of second-place finishes from 2012, 2015 and 2017. Cooper Makes History In Class 3A
The Cooper Hawks capped their state tournament debut in grand style, defeating Northfield 49-37 for the school’s first team state title since 1985, when the softball team won the Class 2A championship.
Northfield also was seeking its first title in its third trip to state. The Raiders received flowers earlier in the week from the 1979 team, which also was a state runner-up. The Raiders’ most recent state appearance came in 2010.In Class 4A, Eastview Stays Unbeaten
Eastview closed its season with a 32-0 record, joining Sauk Centre (33-0) as the state’s only undefeated teams. The Lightning, who won their first state title in 2014, defeated Hopkins 68-63 in the championship game. Hopkins, which has won six titles and finished second three times since 2004, was led by sophomore Paige Bueckers with a tournament-high 37 points.Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams
Kora Kritzberger, Ada-Borup/Norman County West; Mary Burke, Mountain Iron-Buhl; Lydia Sussner, Abby Hennen, Minneota; Madi Heiderscheidt, Sarah Ibarra, Brianna Polesky, Sleepy Eye; Olivia Christianson, Kristi Fett, Brooke Walter, Lyle-Pacelli.Class 2A
Kaylee Kirk, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton; Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Bren Fox, Abby Mackenthun, Norwood-Young America; Katie Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Victoria Johnson, Roseau; Kelsey Peschel, Tori Peschel, Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre. Class 3A
Destinee Oberg, Holy Angels; Cayle Hovland, Willmar; Heaven Hamling, Hannah DeMars, Grand Rapids; Annika Hoff, Grace Touchette, Rachel Kelly, Northfield; Aja Wheeler, Kierra Wheeler, Andrea Tribble, Cooper. Class 4A
Frannie Hottinger, Cretin-Derham Hall; Jayda Johnston, Roseville; Lauren Jensen, Ke James, Lakeville North; Paige Bueckers, Dlayla Chakolis, Raena Suggs, Hopkins; Megan Walstad, Mariah Alipate, Andrea Abrams, Eastview. Girls State Basketball Tournament
Fifth place: Ada-Borup/Norman County West 63, Heritage Christian 47
Third place: Minneota 74, Mountain Iron-Buhl 56
Championship: Lyle-Pacelli 57, Sleepy Eye 33Class 2A
Fifth place: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 64, Byron 32
Third place: Norwood-Young America 64, Maranatha Christian 54
Championship: Sauk Centre 63, Roseau 52Class 3A
Fifth place: Holy Angels 56, Alexandria 46
Third place: Grand Rapids 51, Willmar 42
Championship: Cooper 49, Northfield 37Class 4A
Fifth place: Cretin-Derham Hall 64, Maple Grove 57
Third place: Lakeville North 51, Roseville 46
Championship: Eastview 68, Hopkins 63Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn