Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Greatest Games

Greatest Games by Decade

If you could get into your time machine and go back in time to see some great basketball games of the past, we would suggest the following.

2010s So Far

1. St. Thomas men 78 Wooster 54, 2011 NCAA D3 national championship
2. St. Paul Johnson boys 86 Hopkins 78, 2009 holiday tournament
3. Hopkins boys 90 Henry Sibley 82 (2OT), 2010 state AAAA semi-finals
4. Minnesota Gopher men 69 Purdue 42, 2010 Big Ten tournament semi-finals
5. Minnesota Timberwolves 112 New York Knicks 103, November 9, 2010, as Kevin Love gets the NBA's 1st 30/30 game in 30 years


1. The Minnesota Aggies, from the U of M Ag School, now referred to as the St. Paul Campus, defeated Hamline 9-3 in the first intercollegiate game ever played, anywhere, on February 9, 1895.

2. The Minnesota Gophers beat the Aggies for the first time in 1899 after losing ten straight games to their country cousins. This win, by a score of 20-9, finally established the Gophers as the state's premiere college team.

3. Red Wing Company G finally defeated the Mpls. YMCA 22-18 in 1898 as the YMCA, once Minnesota's finest basketball team, fell from the ranks of the elite teams.


1. In 1902, the Minnesota Gophers, the best team in the western United States, was matched up against Yale, the best in the east, and prevailed 32-23. Based on this victory and their 15-0 record, the Helms Foundation named the Gophers the 1902 national champs.

2. The Red Men from Red Wing toured the western U.S. in 1906, winning 33 games while losing six, and claimed the championship of the west. Their biggest win was at Stockton, California, regarded as the best team in that state, 20-14.

3. The Minnesota Gophers beat Wisconsin by six points in 1905 to clinch the first Big Ten title.


1. Fosston defeated Mountain Lake 29-27 for the first Minnesota state high school basketball championship. The Jack Pine Savages, as they fancied themselves, were the smallest school in the field and their win was regarded as a "complete surprise."

2. Carleton defeats Pillsbury 29-11 in 1910 in the first game played in the Sayles-Hill Gymnasium, then the finest basketball facility in the state.

3. The Gopher men clobbered Illinois 26-9 in 1919 to complete an unbeaten season, and winning the Big Ten as well as the mythical national championships.


1. Carleton's 1924 win at Michigan State was one of five victories over Big Ten opponents for the Carleton program between 1913 and 1935.

2. Indiana 24 Carleton 23 in 1921 in the only visit ever to the Sayles-Hill Gym by a Big Ten team. Former Carleton coach Everett Dean was at the helm at Indiana at the time.

3. Gaylord 13 Gilbert 9 in the 1927 state high school championship game. Gaylord was regarded as one of the prototypical Cinderella, small town high school champions. Fans passed a hat around after the game to help raise money for Gaylord's trip to the national high school tournament.


1. DeLaSalle defeated Jasper, Indiana, 23-21 to win the national Catholic championship in 1931. Center Ray Buffalo was the star for the Islanders.

2. The Gophers edged Northwestern 34-33 in 1937 to clinch their first Big Ten title in 18 years.

3. Buhl shocked Mpls. Edison 41-32 in a 1936 first round game in the high school tournament. Buhl shot 50 percent at a time when 20 percent was considered to be a good shooting percentage.


1. Most Minnesotans had never seen a fast break until Lynd shocked #1 rated Crosby-Ironton 58-47 in the first round of the state tournament in 1946. Lynd ran Purdue coach Piggy Lambert's fast break, and forced C-I to take three timeouts in the first half to catch their breath. Most observers agreed it was the greatest game in state tournament history.

2. The Washington Bears hammered the Rock Spring Sparklers from Shakopee, MN, 42-21 in the second round of the world professional basketball tournament in 1943. The Sparklers were mostly made up of former Gopher and former Minneapolis City Conference players.

3. The Harlem Globetrotters edged the league champion Minneapolis Lakers 61-59 in an exhibition game in 1948.


1. The Minnesota Gophers defeated Purdue in 1955 in a six overtime game, 59-56.

2. Gilbert upset Austin 67-56 in the first round of the 1951 state high school tournament, in a match-up of 6-10 centers Bill Simonovich and Burdie Halldorson.

3. Unbeaten, defending state champion Mpls. Roosevelt edged Bemidji 73-70 in overtime in the first round of the 1957 state high school tournament.


1. The Flying Dutchmen of Edgerton became the smallest school ever to win a Minnesota state high school basketball championship by beating Austin 72-61 in the 1960 final. But their semi-final win over Richfield, 63-60 in overtime, was the game fans remembered best. It was also the first state tournament game ever to match two 1,000 point scorers--Bill Davis of Richfield, and Dean Veenhof of Edgerton.

2. Some old-timers still argue, however, that Marshall's 75-74 upset win over Cloquet in the 1963 final was the greatest state tournament game ever.

3. Edina edged Henning 62-55 in 3 overtimes in a 1966 semi-final game, en route to its first of three straight state championships.


1. You've got your basket-brawl, and you've got Lingenfelter vs. McHale. But the New York Mills-Albany Class A final of 1979 really put girls basketball on the map. The Mills prevailed 61-52 as Janet Karvonen scored 38 points and added 13 rebounds.

2. The Minnesota Gophers lost 50-44 to Ohio State in 1972 at Williams Arena in a game that was called off with 36 seconds remaining because of an ugly brawl that cost two Gophers their eligibility for the remainder of the season.

3. Bloomington Jefferson and Steve Lingenfelter defeated Hibbing and Kevin McHale 60-51 in the Class AA final in 1976.


1. The Minnesota Gopher men went to Iowa in 1983 trailing the Hawkeyes by one game in the Big Ten. The Gophers' 57-55 victory, in three overtimes, no less, made the cover of Sports Illustrated. A week later, the Hawkeyes lost again and the Gophers had won their only untainted Big Ten title since 1937.

2. The Concordia (Moorhead) women beat St. John Fisher 65-57 to win the 1988 NCAA D3 national championship.

3. The White Bear Lake Bears and the Mpls. North Polars squared off for the boys AA state title in 1984 and again in 1985. Both teams came into the game undefeated both years, and both years White Bear Lake emerged victorious 51-47 and 67-62.


1. Wabasso led Red Lake by 19 after three periods in a 1997 Class A semi, and still led 102-92 with 1:15 to go. Red Lake's Gerald Kingbird then scored 14 points in 57 seconds to force a tie at 105. In overtime, Red Lake took their first lead since 10-8 at 111-109, but Wabasso then pulled away to win 117-113. Exhausted, they lost the final to Hancock the next day.

2. The Minnesota Gophers shocked Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen 82-75 in 1990 before losing to Georgia Tech in the Elite Eight in 1990.

3. Mpls. North won a pair of heart-stopping two point victories en route to their three-peat as boys high school champions. In 1995 they beat Staples 54-52 in the championship final on a put-back with 2 seconds left on the clock. Then in 1996 Khalid El-Amin hit a pair of 3 pointers inside of 10 seconds to defeat St. Thomas 67-65.


1. A win at #5 Wisconsin in 2002 put the Gopher women on the map. A win a year later at #9 Stanford in the NCAA tournament won them new respect. But a shocking 82-75 win over #1 Duke in 2004 got them to the Final Four. Lindsay Whalen scored 27 points, and Janel McCarville scored 20 with 18 rebounds. But the difference in the game was Shannon Bolden who held Duke All-American Alana Beard to 10 points and scored 10 of her own on 11 fewer field goal attempts.

2. Hopkins' Blake Hoffarber hits a shot at the end of the first overtime while sitting on the court to force a second overtime in the 2005 boys AAAA final. The "butt shot" became ESPN's play of the year, as Hoffarber was asked to recreate the shot on numerous TV talk shows. The shot forced a second overtime in which Hopkins emerged victorious over Eastview 71-60.

3. Jordan upset Crookston 79-74 in a girls AA semi in 2008 as Brittney Chambers torched Crookston for a record 47 points.

The Big Five

The envelope, please. The five greatest basketball games in Minnesota history--the five games I would visit in my time machine if I could--are:

5. Minnesota 32 Yale 23 in 1902 match game for national championships
4. New York Mills 61 Albany 52 in 1979 puts the girls on the map
3. Lynd 58 Crosby-Ironton 47 in the first round of the 1946 state tournament
2. Fosston 29 Mountain Lake 27 in the first state championship final in 1913
1. Minnesota 82 Duke 75 to get to the 2004 Final Four

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