John's Journal
Class 3A Boys Basketball Rankings2/14/2018
From Minnesota Basketball News.

CLASS 3A
1. DeLaSalle
2. Austin
3. Mankato East
4. Marshall
5. Orono
6. Willmar
7. Columbia Heights
8. St. Thomas Academy
9. Mahtomedi
10. Northfield
Class 2A Boys Basketball Rankings2/14/2018
From Minnesota Basketball News.

CLASS 2A
1. Minneapolis North
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. Perham
4. Caledonia
5. Brooklyn Center
6. Holy Family
7. Lake City
8. Melrose
9. St. Charles
10. Annandale
Class 1A Boys Basketball Rankings2/14/2018
From Minnesota Basketball News.

CLASS 1A
1. North Woods
2. Springfield
3. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton
4. Cass Lake-Bena
5. Mayer Lutheran
6. Hinckley-Finlayson
7. Minneota
8. Westbrook-Walnut Grove
9. Hancock
10. BOLD

North Woods Boys Basketball Wants To Head South Again 2/14/2018
COOK – On March 25 last year, these words appeared in this space…

The North Woods Grizzlies had a dream season, going 31-2 and playing at Williams Arena and Target Center at state. The word “amazing” was repeated after Saturday’s game.

“It’s been amazing,” said sophomore Cade Goggleye. “We weren’t even supposed to be here.”

Coach Will Kleppe said, “It’s been amazing for our community, our school and of course for our program.”

George Bibeau, a 6-foot-4 center, was the only senior on the North Woods team so we may see more of the Grizzlies in the future.


Those statements were made after the Grizzlies lost to Minneapolis North in the Class 1A state championship game. And “the future” is now for North Woods, which is playing this season like a team with big goals.

Minneapolis North won the last two Class 1A state championships and is now in Class 2A. North Woods has been atop the 1A statewide rankings all season and the Grizzlies moved to 20-0 Tuesday night with a 96-68 home-court victory over International Falls. The only other undefeated Class 1A team is Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (22-0).

Last season marked the Grizzlies’ first appearance at state. An issue this season is keeping their enthusiastic fans, who are looking forward to a return trip, under control.

“The expectations are so high, it’s unbelievable,” said Kleppe. “It’s been kind of surprising, all the talk of getting back to where we were. And there are a lot of stops to be able to get there.”

The North Woods gym was nearly filled to capacity for Tuesday’s game, in which the Grizzlies led 58-40 at halftime. They have scored 100 or more points five times, winning by an average margin of 86-42. Six North Woods players scored in double figures Tuesday, led by Trevor Morrison with 21 and Brendan Parson and Tate Olson with 15 each.

Goggleye, who scored 11 points on Tuesday, leads the team with a 21.8 scoring average. He became the king of highlight reels at last year’s state tournament when he hit a last-second half-court buzzer-beater to lift the Grizzlies past Central Minnesota Christian 54-51 in the quarterfinals at Williams Arena. How often has he been asked about that shot?

“Almost every day,” he said with a smile. “I just remember my teammates piling on me. It kinda hurt. It was a nice feeling.”

Offense grabs the headlines but defense is the Grizzlies’ priority. Their full-court pressure is a riddle for opposing teams, and they can transform turnovers into points at a dizzying pace.

“That’s our main focus in every practice. We have more defense time than offense,” said Parson. “It’s been a thing since (assistant coach) Jerry (Chiabotti) came and we strictly focus on that. Every game we set a defensive goal for what we want and we set a personal goal for what we want to hold our opponent to.”

Kleppe said of his team’s defense, “That is our strength. We get after the ball, we double well, we get a hand on a lot of passes. Coach Chiabotti does a great job with that.”

Despite the No. 1 ranking and unblemished record, there remains an underdog feeling on the team. Goggleye said that’s due to North Woods’ location in northern Minnesota, 226 miles from the Twin Cities and 73 miles from the Canadian border at International Falls.

“We don’t feel pressure because we think we’re still the underdog, because we’re from up north,” Goggleye said. “We’ve just got to get down there and play hard again.”

The Grizzlies’ path through the Section 7 playoffs could be challenging, with the likes of Wrenshall (18-1) and Ely (18-3) in the mix.

“There’s a lot of talk of this and that, as far as what’s coming down the pike,” Kleppe said. “We’ve got a tough section tournament ahead of us. Our job as coaches is not to look ahead and keep everybody focused.”

The memories of last year’s dream season are still fresh, and they provide inspiration for this year’s team.

“It was unreal,” Parson said. “Fans everywhere, big lights, big stage. It was cool. Even the hotel, the bus ride, hanging with the guys, everything was fun.”

And now, with six games remaining in the regular season, the Grizzlies know what needs to be done.

“There’s pressure from the community, but we keep our poise,” Parson said. “We come out and play every game like we did last year, as hard as we can, and the end goal is to get back to state.”

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Montevideo Dancer Kristin DeJong: Pure Inspiration 2/11/2018
MONTEVIDEO – Kristin DeJong is no different than any other teenager in this southwest Minnesota town. She’s a sophomore in high school who plays volleyball in the fall and is a member of the Montevideo Gold Dusters dance team in the winter.

The fact that she has a partially prosthetic left leg is an absolute afterthought. Absolutely.

“We’ve never doubted anything that she could do,” said her mother, Andrea.

The Gold Dusters did not quality for this weekend’s state dance tournament at Target Center. They made it to state last year and Kristin and the other non-seniors will have more chances to return. The Gold Dusters put on a great show in both categories – jazz and kick – at Saturday’s Class 1A Section 3 championships in the Montevideo gym, but it wasn’t enough to advance from an extremely strong section. Teams from Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Yellow Medicine East and BOLD will represent Section 3 in both categories at state.

Kristin was 4 years old when she lost her leg below the knee in a lawn mower accident. She was involved in dance before the accident, and it didn’t take very long for her to resume a very normal and active childhood

The accident took place on August 20, 2006, and she began going to Shriners Hospital for Children in Minneapolis in late September. Shriners does amazing work in prosthetics, and Kristin was walking with a prosthesis by late October. She has been routinely fitted with new prosthetics as she has grown.

“No one usually notices,” she said. “I walk normal, like everyone else. Usually people are surprised when I tell them about it.”

For unknowing people watching the Gold Dusters, it would be next to impossible to notice that one of the dancers was unlike the others.

“She does everything that the other dancers do,” said Montevideo coach Amanda Macziewski. “If we come across a move that she struggles with a little bit, she’s open to telling us and we adjust as needed. She’s an amazing dancer, amazing kicks.”

Kristin, who became a varsity dancer last season, isn’t afraid to have a little fun with her friends when the subject is her prosthetic leg.

“One time during softball I got hit (in the prosthetic) with a pitch and the (pitcher) was like, ‘Oooooh.’ But my team was laughing because I walking just fine. As a joke, one of my friends printed the word ‘bruise’ and taped it on my leg. It’s an ongoing joke.”

She has lost a prosthetic leg while tubing, watching it pop off and sink to the bottom of the lake. She has broken them, another sign of how active she is.

“When they’re more stiff on the ankle they don’t bend as much,” she said. “I wear them out pretty fast, jumping up and down and just running. My doctor tells me I wear them out faster than other people because I’m so active.”

Andrea said that after the accident it was difficult for her and her husband, Doug, to imagine what the future would hold. But Kristin can’t be kept down.

“We had no idea what was in store and what she’d be able to do,” Andrea said. “She handles things quite well and she’s a very good communicator. She lets us know how things are going and if anything is changing.” (Pictured are the Gold Dusters; Kristin is in the front row, fourth from right.)

Kristin gets fitted for a new prosthesis every six months to a year, depending on her growth rate. As a member of the Montevideo kick team, she and her teammates wear matching black shoes and leggings while performing. It’s possible to see the upper cuff of the prosthetic leg sticking out ever so slightly just under Kristin’s knee, but she has to be in the right position for it to be visible.

“People don’t notice it and they’re amazed when they do,” Andrea said. “Being from small communities, word of mouth gets around, and we have friends in other towns. People come up to us and say she’s an inspiration.”

Kristin looks exactly like everyone else on the floor because she is exactly like everyone else on the floor.

“She’s definitely given the girls something to push forward to,” said Macziewski. “She’s never used it as an excuse for not being able to do anything. The girls treat her just like anybody else.”

Which is exactly how Kristin wants it.

“I love going to competitions and competing,” she said. “And I like the family part, being part of the team.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn