Wednesday, February 15, 2012

100 Years of Minnesota High School Tournament Basketball: The Best Boys Teams

The MSHSL continues its series celebrating the 100th year of tournament basketball. This week it's the best boys' teams, and this is a dandy list. I'm a little late in getting to it and the info is coming down today, so here's what you missed.

Top Five Boys’ Teams

Minneapolis North 1995 (30-0)

The first of the Polars’ three-peat champions, and the best based on their unbeaten season record overall. Point guard Khalid El-Amin and forward Jabbar Washington led the Polars to all three titles in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

North defeated White Bear Lake 84-63 and Cretin-Derham Hall 51-48 as Washington scored 45 points. Duluth East was the semi-final victim 48-41, and in the final a last-second put-back by Kavon Westberry gave the Polars a 54-52 win over Staples-Motley. Three North players, including two starters, were declared ineligible for the championship game for academic reasons. For Westberry, the championship-winning score was just his third of the tournament.

Hopkins 2009 (31-0)

The Royals won their fourth of what would soon become six state titles in ten years in 2009, and the 2009 edition was generally regarded as the best of the lot. Their entire starting lineup went on to play Division 1 college ball, as did several more players who came off the bench. In the tournament itself, three opponents were beaten by a 64-40 margin. Center Mike Broghammer led all scorers in the first round with 12 points, while Royce White scored 20 points in the final, a 69-59 win over Osseo. One poll had the Royals rated as high as #4 in the nation.

Edina 1967 (27-0)

Edina was the first three-peat champion in tournament history. The undefeated 1966 team won three tournament games by one point, in triple OT and in OT. The 1968 team won three tournament games by an average of 23 points, but lost one game during the regular season.

The 1967 team won three tournament games by an average of 20 points, and finished the season undefeated. It also placed four players on the all-tournament team—forwards Kurt Shellhas and Jay Kiedrowski, and guard Jeff Wright, all for the second time, and center Bob Zender, who would return to gain all-tournament honors a second time in 1968.

Edgerton 1960 (27-0)

Perhaps the most famous of all Minnesota state champions, Edgerton represents the now-lost tradition of the small town Cinderella. As such, they defeated traditional power Chisholm 65-54 in the first round, favored Richfield of the powerful Lake Conference 63-60 in OT in the semi-final, and perennial power Austin 72-61 in the final. Edgerton is another of the very few teams ever to land four players on the all-tournament team—Leroy Graphenteen, Darrell Kreun. Dean Veenhof and Dean Verdoes. In addition to being the smallest school from the smallest town ever to win the single class tournament, Edgerton also set free throw shooting records, making 82 free throws out of 116 attempts, that still stand to this day.

Minneapolis Edison 1937 (15-1)

Edison was generally regarded as the greatest team from before World War II. They had lost in the 1929 finals, the 1935 semis and, in a huge upset, in the 1936 quarter-finals. There would be no losses in 1937, as the Tommies defeated Crosby-Ironton 38-27 in the quarter-finals. They then set a single game scoring record in beating New Ulm 62-23 in the semis, as Joe Mernik scored 18 points. In the final, Edison beat Virginia 37-24 as Walt Andrewski scored 12 points.

Mernik and Andrewski were joined by guard and defensive specialist Willie Warhol on the all-tournament team. Warhol went on to play basketball at the University of Minnesota, while Mernik became a prominent player on Minnesota’s 1940 national championship football team. A fourth player, Don “Swede” Carlson, would later play for the Minnesota Gophers and the Minneapolis Lakers.

Other Notable Teams in chronological order

Red Wing 1922 (19-0). The Wingers won the 1920 state title. In 1921, two starters were left  home with the flu. Guard Butsie Maetzold, later coach of two Hopkins state champions, always claimed that Red Wing would otherwise have won three straight state titles. In any event, they repeated in 1922 as only the second unbeaten champion to that time.

Hopkins 1952 (25-1) and 1953 (23-0). The Royals lost by two points in the quarter-finals in 1951, then swept six straight games and two titles by an average margin of ten points. Forward Dave Tschimperle was the second of two boys to earn all-tournament honors three times.

Mpls. Roosevelt 1956 (20-3) and 1957 (27-0). The 1956 Teddies lost three times, but swept three tournament games by the ridiculous margin of 27 points per game. They are the only team ever to break the century mark in a state final, obliterating Blue Earth 101-54 in the final. The 1957 Teddies needed OT to defeat Bemidji in the quarter-final, and beat Red Wing 59-51 in the final.

Duluth Central 1961 (27-0). Central was led by coach Jim Hastings and a classic inside-out combination of guard Terry Kunze and forward Chet Anderson. They easily won two games by 22 points each, then survived an upset bid by Bemidji before winning the title 51-50.

St. James 1972 (27-0). The Saints boasted one of the great guard pairs to play in the tournament. Jim Chalin scored 19 points in the Class A final, though it was Jeff Nessler’s half court shot at the final buzzer that defeated Melrose 57-55 in the Class A final. Nessler then scored 22 points as the Saints then defeated Mounds View 60-53 in the overall championship game.

Melrose 1974 (27-0). Mark Olberding was one of the most dominant big men ever to play in the state tournament, scoring 203 points in seven games in 1973 and 1974. The Flying Dutchmen took 5th place in the last single-class tournament in 1970, then played for the Class A title four straight times from 1971 through 1974.

Minneapolis Marshall-University 1976 (28-0). The only team, boys or girls, ever to place all five starters on the all-tournament team. They included Ronnie Hadley, Rodney Hargest, point guard Ronnie Henderson, Jim Ludgate and Steve Newby.

White Bear Lake 1984-1985 (both 26-0). Never before had two unbeaten teams played for a boys’ state title. But it happened in both 1984 and 1985, with Minneapolis North and White Bear Lake facing off each time. The Bears defeated the Polars each time, 51-47 and 67-62.

Minneapolis Patrick Henry 2000-2003. The Patriots and coach Larry McKenzie won 112 games and four straight state championships while losing just 13 games from 2000 to 2003. The 2000 Patriots were the best of the four, coming into the tournament at 25-1, its only loss to national power Oak Hill (Va.) Academy. Three tournament wins followed by the ridiculous margin of 74-46.

Braham 2004 (31-2), 2005 (33-0) and 2006 (31-2). The Bombers won three straight Class AA championships, winning nine straight tournament games, all by double-digit margins. Isaiah Dahlman led all tournament scorers in 2004 and 2005, and finished with 236 points in the tournament, two short of Khalid El-Amin’s record (since broken by Cody Schilling).


This is the commentary that appeared on the MSHSL Web site. Again, I'm including it because it will be coming down today. In the interest of full disclosure, I helped MSHSL to select these teams so it's hard--but not impossible--for me to disagree with the list. 

• I thought Mpls. North's best team was 1997, despite 3 regular season losses. I mean, were Khalid El-Amin and Jabbar Washington better as sophomores than as seniors? Doesn't make sense.

• Edgerton 1960 is one of the 5 most famous teams, but not one of the 5 best. They returned to the tournament in 1961 with pretty much the entire team back and finished in 6th place, losing to Bemidji and Mahtomedi.

• Other notables not on the list, but coulda/shoulda/woulda been, would include:

Stillwater 1914
Albert Lea 1919, the 2 best teams of the '10s
Moorhead 1928-29, the first repeat champions
Thief River Falls 1932 and 1938, the next best teams of the '30s
Buhl 1941-42, the 2nd repeat champions
Gilbert 1951, next best team of the '50s
Rochester John Marshall 1969, next best team of the '60s
Bloomington Jefferson 1976, next best team of the '70s and the one really big oversight
Lake City 1979, the 2nd biggest oversight
Jefferson 1986-87
Minnetonka 1998
Litchfield 2000
Hopkins 2005
St. Paul Johnson 2010


  1. Hey Marc, Looks like you are having fun and keeping up to date. Thanks for keeping us all informed. Cheers Tom

  2. Why did they ever get rid of the sweet sixteen great format, now who cares too many classes it's meaningless. Leave to the experts to ruin it what a bunch of idiots.

  3. Edgerton only had three starters back in 1961 (Veenhof, Kreun, and Graphenteen) as both Verdoes and Wiarda graduated in 1960. "Pretty much the entire team back" is a little exaggerated as they basically only used six players in 1960. To make it back a second consecutive year was a terrific feat, especially for a small school. You have to also remember that Edgerton was a town of about a 1000 people with two high schools, one public and one parochial. The parochial school was also very good at this same time. Just think what Edgerton might have been like if the two schools had been combined!