Mankato State defeated Franklin Pierce 103-94 to win the NCAA D2 national title over Franklin Pierce in what was described in at least one report as a "track meet." The 197 points scored were the most ever in a women's D2 final. Heather Johnson was named tournament MVP, while Alex Andrews and Joanne Noreen also won all-tournament honors. The Mavericks, who were ranked #1 nationally throughout most of the season, won the NSIC regular season title, but they were upset by Concordia (St. Paul) in the NSIC post-season tourney and dropped to #2. Mankato State then won three NCAA central regional games on their home floor, and another three at the Elite Eight in San Antonio, TX. This marks the third national championship won by NSIC teams this school year--Concordia in volleyball, and Minnesota-Duluth in football, along with the Mavs basketball championship.
Story #2--Three boys champions finish undefeated
In twelve years of four-class play, only four of 48 boys state champions have emerged undefeated. But in 2009 alone, three of four champions can claim undefeated records.
In AAAA, Hopkins has been widely acclaimed the greatest Minnesota high school team ever. One poll has them rated #4 in the nation. Yet the Royals only escaped Osseo in the final by a score of 69-59, as Royce White led the way with 20 points.
In AA, Pelican Rapids defeated St. Bernard's 80-68 as Tyden Storrestun scored 34 points and added seven assists.
In A, Granada-Huntley-East Chain won a pair of classic games. In the first round, they edged Minnesota Transitions 64-61 on a three by sophomore Tanner Nawrocki at 0:31. In the final, the Mustangs overcame a ten-point half-time deficit to force overtime, in which they pulled away from two-time defending champion Ellsworth to win 62-54.
Story #3--Tayler Hill breaks records and hearts
Mpls. South guard Tayler Hill set an all-time Minnesota high school scoring record with 3,894 career points, including a record 106 in 2009 girls state tournament. Her South team squelched Centennial's dream of a state title 68-61 as Hill poured in a record-tying 47 points. There was some unfortunate confusion about Hill's career record due to some sloppy record-keeping at South High but the MSHSL ultimately stepped in to clarify her record. Then, Hill broke the hearts of Gopher women's basketball fans by announcing that she will play college ball at Ohio State.
Story #4--St. Thomas men ranked #1 most of the year
The St. Thomas men came through the regular season undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation, then romped through the MIAC post-season tournament and three NCAA D3 games. Ultimately, however, the Tommies were defeated in the Elite Eight by the eventual runners-up, Washington U. (St. Louis) 79-64 to finish 30-1. Joe Scott was named MIAC player of the year, and coach Steve Fritz MIAC coach of the year honors.
Story #5--Gophers are up-and-down in Tubby's second season
The Minnesota Gopher men under coach Tubby Smith started out 12-0 and 16-1 and briefly were rated among the top 20 teams in the nation, but finished up on a 6-10 run. Their stay in the NCAA tournament was brief, ending in a loss to the Texas Longhorns 76-62. But with all but two players back--and local heroes Royce White and John Williams coming in--optimism abounds.
Players of the Year
1. Tayler Hill, Mpls. South
2. Heather Johnson, Mankato State
3. Anne Breland, Rochester CTC
4. Zach Johnson, Carleton
5. Brittany Chambers, Jordan
Team of the Year
1. Mankato State women 32-2, NCAA D2 champions
2. Hopkins boys 31-0, state AAAA champions, perhaps the "best ever"
3. Mpls. South girls 31-2, state AAAA champions
4. St. Thomas men 30-1, MIAC regular and post-season champions
5. Rochester CTC women 34-0, national NJCAA D3 champions
Coach of the Year
1. Pam Gohl, Mankato State women, interim head coach
2. Steve Fritz, St. Thomas men
3. David Smart, Ada-Borup girls
4. Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men
5. Kenny Novak, Jr., Hopkins boys
Games of the Year
1. Mankato State women 103 Franklin Pierce 94, NCAA D2 championship game
2. Granada-Huntley-East Chain 64 Minnesota Transitions 61, boys Class A 1st round
3. Minnesota Gopher women surprise Notre Dame 79-71 at South Bend in NCAA play
4. Minnesota Gopher men beat Louisville, the eventual #1 NCAA seed, 70-64 in December
5. St. Michael-Albertville girls come back from 20-5 deficit to win girls AAA title