Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hopkins: Best Ever?

Hopkins is Minnesota's best boys high school basketball team ever, or so they said.

The year was 1953, as the Royals became only the third team ever to win back-to-back state championships. In fact, Hopkins came within a few points of the first three-peat, losing to the eventual runner-up Canby 45-43 in the first round in 1951. Two wins and a consolation title followed, and then six more wins and the Lake Conference's first two state titles. Hopkins beat South St. Paul 42-29 and Hibbing 58-49 in the two finals. Forward Dave Tschimperle became only the second boy to earn all-tournament honors three times and also the third to lead the tournament in scoring twice (in 1951 and 1953).

Hopkins' accomplishment was all the more remarkable because they had to come through the toughest region in the state, old Region Five, to do it. From its establishment in 1933 through 1949, only one non-Minneapolis school had ever won a Region Five title and that was Hopkins in 1942 and again in 1948. In 1950 Robbinsdale won it, and then Hopkins came back in 1951 through 1953. Hopkins had become an athletic powerhouse in basketball and football under legendary coach Butsie Maetzold. Maetzold himself had won two state basketball titles at Red Wing in 1920 and 1922, and was all-MIAC all four years at Hamline. At Hopkins, his football teams went 88-6-5 over 18 years. They won ten conference titles, were unbeaten nine times and unscored upon in 1933 and 1937. 

Maetzold's basketball teams went 508-62 over 29 seasons, with 19 conference, five region and two state titles. His 1952-1954 teams had a then-record 65 straight wins, with the two losses that bracketed the streak both coming in overtime. His other star players included brothers Junior ("Spike") and Stewart Skoglund in the early 1940s, both of whom went on to play at Gustavus Adolphus; Virgil Miller of that 1948 state runner-up; and guard Jerry Porter, who won all-tournament honors in the two state championship seasons. 

Mpls. Edison's 1937 state champions had long been regarded as legendary--as the greatest team to have played in the state tournament. But the game had changed dramatically in the years during and after World War II, with the introduction of the fast break, the jump shot and low post play. So, finally, in 1955, at least one newspaper columnist opined that Mpls. Washburn's state champs were the best ever. "What previous champions could do more things well?" he asked, "could beat you so many different ways?" Then, the very next year Mpls. Roosevelt demolished Blue Earth in the state final 101-54, and in 1957 the Teddies repeated as state champs with an unbeaten record, and the consensus was that Roosevelt was "the best ever."

Then in 1961, the same fans and reporters christened Duluth Central the best except, some said, for Hopkins in 1953. The Royals had now surpassed Washburn and Roosevelt in tournament legend. 

Since 1961 the state tournament has seen its first three- and four-peats. The two greatest teams are probably those two that have won three straight state titles at the very highest level. Those would be the Edina Hornets of 1966-1967-1968 and the Mpls. North Polars of 1995-1996-1997. There are, of course, a couple of four-peaters--Southwest Minnesota Christian of Edgerton 1999-2002 in Class A, and Minneapolis Patrick Henry 2000-2003 in Class AAA--but neither played at the very highest level. 

But, now, the Hopkins Royals, rated number four in the nation, are again regarded at least by some as the best high school basketball team ever to come out of the Gopher state. 

1 comment:

  1. So cool to read this. Stuart was my father and Junior(spike aka jay) was my uncle. Neat to read about the other classes as well.