Friday, February 3, 2012

100 Years of Minnesota High School Tournament Basketball: The Girls Teams

The MSHSL's weekly feature continues this week with the best girls teams to play in the state basketball tournament. Go to, then click on 100 Years of BB in the upper left. The top 5 teams as selected by the MSHSL are:

St. Paul Central 2007 (32-0)
Rochester Mayo 1997 (27-0)
Mpls. North  1998 (29-0)
Lakeville North 2010 (32-0)
Rochester Lourdes 1991 (30-0)

In the interest of full disclosure I (and others) helped MSHSL to pick their "best of" lists, so it wouldn't be very sporting of me to complain now. Still, like most "historical" lists, this one emphasizes the more recent  teams. Though, it's true that the post goes on to list a bunch of "Other Notable Teams," and some of them answer that objection.

But first, let me just mention that the MSHSL doesn't explicitly say that these are listed in any particular order. But the fact that Central is listed 1st means that, yes, they are the greatest girls team ever. From there it's hard to say. Many people say that Lakeville North is the best or 2nd best. Does the MSHSL mean to say that Mayo and Mpls. North were better? I'm not sure. I think they may mean to say that Mayo is #2, and I think they mean to say that Lourdes is #5. That leaves the relative ranking of the 2 Norths a bit murky. I guess I would say that, yes, they regard Mpls. North as better than Lakeville North. 

My personal opinion would be 1) Central, 2) Lakeville North, 3) Mayo, 4) Mpls. North, 5) probably somebody other than Rochester Lourdes. Lourdes is ranked 5th in recognition of their 8 titles, but I don't think anybody really believes they were the 5th best team ever. But who was? And where should Lourdes 1991 rank?

Now, I know for sure that the "Other Notable Teams" are listed in chronological order rather than in order of how good they were, so we can pick any of them for our #5. Here they are. 

New York Mills 1979 (25-1)
Albany 1980 (26-0)
Little Falls 1984 (26-0)
Burnsville 1992 (25-2)
Bloomington Jefferson 1993 (26-1)
Fosston 2001 (29-0)
Lakeville 2002 (28-0)
Marshall 2002 (29-0)
Hopkins 2004 (31-1)
Minneapolis South 2009 (31-2)

So who was the best of this bunch? To me there'd be no question that in a time machine league it's either Lakeville, with Liz Podominick, or Mpls. South, with Tayler Hill--the 2 and only 2 McDonald's all-Americans from Minnesota in this 21st century. I suppose South would win, while for their time and place, Lakeville was probably a more dominant team. 

But they don't play in a time machine league, and so therefore my #5 would be New York Mills, based simply on the impact they had on the tournament. Mills and Janet Karvonen really put girls basketball on the map. They proved that girls can play the game the right way. Attendance almost doubled over the 4-5 years that Mills played.

So then I would have Lakeville and Mpls. South #6 and #7, and Lourdes #8. Yeah, Lourdes is Class AA, but how many teams have had a 1-2 punch better than Lori Lawler and Stacy Sievers. St. Paul Central, Rochester Mayo, Mpls. North and Lakeville North, to name 4. Maybe Burnsville with Tricia Wakely and Chelsea Schwankl. Maybe Jefferson. Marshall with Shannon Bolden and Sascha Hanson? Hopkins with Leslie Knight and Kaitlyn Lillemoe? Or better yet, Knight and Jordan Barnes, except they didn't win the title. 

In picking these teams, there was conversation about whether we should honor repeat champions. The consensus was no, this was an award for a single season. I thought otherwise. Which also goes into my selection of New York Mills' three-peaters for the top 5. But you'll notice that the "Others" are almost all repeaters. I mean, how can you really compare champions from different years, much less different eras. I can't get away from the idea that, hey, if they're that good, they would have won it more than once or appeared in a couple of finals. Lakeville North 2010 is the exception that proves the rule.

So, in other words, my druthers would be to list Mpls. North 1997-2005 and leave it at that. It's a much more remarkable accomplishment to play in 9 of 10 state finals than it is to go unbeaten and win one.

But anyway, the above list of "Others" is the right list, but here are some other teams worthy of remembering.

St. Paul Central 1976-79 17-3 in 1976, 20-3 in 1979
Bloomington Jefferson 1978, 1998 25-1, 24-2

The consecutive unbeatens in Class A:
Heron Lake-Okabena 1981 26-0
Coon Rapids 1981 25-0
Moose Lake 1982 26-0
St. Cloud Apollo 1982 25-0
Henderson 1983 26-0
Chisholm 1984 27-0
Staples 1985 28-0

Storden-Jeffers 1989 27-0
Blake 1994 30-0
Woodbury 2003 29-0

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