Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

100 Years of Basketball

Many of you will recall that last year was the 100th year of state tournament basketball and there was a whole bunch of stuff going on around the tournament to celebrate said milepost. Well, if last year was the 100th year, then that must mean that this is the 100th anniversary. It seems a shame to let such an event go unnoticed, even on the heels of last year's celebration. I mean who, on their birthday, says, Never mind, I just celebrated it last year!?

Nobody, that's who.

So, first, I have added the MSHSL's Web site info about the 100th year to my Blog List in the right hand column of this blog. It's called 100 Years of MN HS Basketball. But if you prefer, you can find it this way. Go the the MSHSL Web site, pull down the Activities menu at the top right/center of the page and click on Basketball, Boys. Then scroll down to find 100 Years of Basketball on the lower left and click on that. Now you've got a list of all their features from last year, stuff like:

History of Boys Basketball
Top 5 Boys Teams

And a bunch of other features.

And Now, the 100th Anniversary

Looking at the 2013 field brings back recollections of some big historical events in the tournament over the years. For example:

Class AAAA

Or, in this case, the absence thereof. There's not a single champion of the 21st century in the field. The most recent championship represented is Woodbury, which won its only title in 1983. Brainerd also won 1, that coming way back in 1954.

The only other winner is 1 of the iconic winners in tournament history, however, and that is the Edina Hornets, the only team to 3-peat in the single class era in 1966-1967-1968. Duane Baglien became the 1st coach to win 3 titles at the time, as Bob Zender led the way for the Hornets on the court. He came off the bench as a sophomore and, frankly, Edina skinned by, winning by 1, then in 3 OT, and then in OT in the final. Zender led the Hornets with 15 points in the semi, despite not yet being a starter. In 1967 and 1968, however, Zender was a beast and Edina just totally dominated in all 6 games. Unfortunately, both Baglien and Zender passed away in the past year or two.

Brainerd was a powerhouse in the late 1940s and 1950s under coach Rod Kellett, winning the 1954 title 49-47 over Bemidji, then finishing as runner-up to Austin in 1958. Brainerd also produced 1 of Minnesota's all-time greats in Whitey Skoog, a post in high school, who later became an all-American forward for the Minnesota Gophers and then averaged in double figures at guard for the world champion Minneapolis Lakers. Skoog did not play in the state tournament, but his brother Rod was the star of the 1954 champions.

Woodbury was unbeaten in 1983 but its title was a huge upset over equally unbeaten and heavily favored Coon Rapids, 56-50 in 2 OT.

Andover, Apple Valley, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North and Park Center are looking for their 1st state basketball titles, and the likelihood would have to be better than 50/50 that a 1st-time champion will be crowned. Edina would appear to be the biggest threat of preventing that from happening.

Class AAA

Class AAA is as loaded with recent history as AAAA is lacking in it. DeLaSalle has won 6 titles in the 4-class era in 1985, 1988, 1998, 1999, 2005 and last year, 2012. Prior to that it won 11 state Catholic championships between 1927 and 1962, and a national Catholic title in 1931.

St. Paul Johnson also has a recent championship in 2010, when it defeated Grand Rapids 59-55 in the final.

Other former state tournament opponents could renew rivalries this year. That would be Austin and Marshall, who faced off in the 1st round of a memorable 1963 tournament. Marshall won 65-63 en route to its only state title. Austin was favored in that game based on its history of state tournament success with titles in 1935, 1946 and 1958. That 1963 team was the 14th and last Austin team to play in the tournament under legendary coach Ove Berven. Austin defeated Brainerd for its most recent title in 1958 but these 2 rivals will not play this year, as they now are in different classes, a problem that was unheard of during their most successful days.

Blake also has 4 state titles to its name, also coming during the 1950s and 1960s. From the 1940s through the 1970s, not only did Catholic schools have their own state tournament, but so did the so-called Independent schools. They were the non-Catholic private schools such as Blake, Breck, Concordia, Minnehaha, Shattuck, and others.

Delano, Grand Rapids and Sartell-St. Stephen, in Class AAA, are looking for their 1st state basketball title of any kind.

Class AA

Here is another class without a whole lot of history. Perham won 1 title 2 years ago. Otherwise, you're talking about Litchfield really having any history in the MSHSL tournament. Litchfield won the Class AA title 3 times early in this century--in 2000, 2002 and 2003--behind coach John Carlson, Sr., and 6-7 post John Carlson, Jr., now an NFL tight end. Litchfield won 3 finals with a rugged defense and by an average score of 52-38. DeLaSalle was the 3rd and final victim, but these old rivals will not play this year as they are now in separate classes.

But once again, you've also got a so-called Independent school, Minnehaha, and the Redhawks were in fact the most successful of these schools, winning 11 state titles between 1948 and 1964. They split with Blake in 1953 and 1954, then won the rubber match in the 1963 final. Again, these 2 old rivals will not be playing this year. Again, they're now in different classes.

Annandale, Byron, Esko, Hayfield and Redwood Valley are all looking for their 1st state basketball title of any kind, though old-timers may remember Hayfield's tournament entry from 1968, when they lost to Edina. Those 2 old rivals will not...oh, never mind. You may also remember Hayfield's Class AA runners-up from 2001.

Class A

Ah, now here's some real history from Mountain Lake, who was the runner-up in the very 1st tournament 100 years ago, and again in 1915 and 1917, and who finally won a state title in 1939, beating Austin in the 1st round. These 2 teams will not, etc. etc. A year ago, Mountain Lake made its 1st tournament appearance since 1952, just in time for the 100th year (not anniversary) since that historic 1st runner-up. Now they're back to help celebrate the 100th anniversary as well.

Also in Class A and hailing from the same general part of the state is Southwest Minnesota Christian, which made history by being the 1st team ever to 4-peat at the state tournament in 1999-20000-2001 and 2003. Last year they made it all the way to the finals. They give every appearance of being a solid contender again this year. I should add that Eagles also won an Independent school title in 1967, beating Central Christian 61-51. They were runners-up in 1973 losing to Rochester Lourdes 47-46.

Then there's Rushford-Peterson who won the 2006 state title. Rushford also won the 1989 title. Both titles came under coach Tom Vix.

In Class A, Battle Lake, Lakeview, Maranatha, Upsala and Walker-Hackensack will be looking for their 1st basketball title ever.

100th Anniversary All-Stars

Here are some great players of the past whose teams will be playing in this 100th anniversary (101st) tournament.

C- Burdie Halldorson, Austin 1951. Went on to play college ball at Colorado, and won gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

F- Bob Zender, Edina 1966-1967-1968. Biggest star of the only team to 3-peat in the single class era. Played college ball at Nebraska.

F- Ben Johnson, DeLaSalle 1997-1998-1999. One of very few boys or girls to make all-tournament 3 times, and led the Islanders to back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. Played college ball at Northwestern and Minnesota.

G- Whitey Skoog, Brainerd 1946. Didn't play in the state tournament, but won all-America honors at Minnesota and averaged in double figures for the world champion Minneapolis Lakers.

G- Paul Lehman, DeLaSalle 1958. Described to me by someone who played against him as one of the quickest Minnesota guards ever until he blew out his knee as a starting guard at the U of M.

2nd Team

C-  Henry Epp, Mountain Lake 1939. Went to college after WWII, helped Mankato State to 2nd place among small colleges in 1948.

F- Ray Buffalo, DeLaSalle 1931. Star of DeLaSalle's national Catholic champions, then grew up to become a sandlot legend in Minneapolis softball.

F- Dusty Rychart, Grand Rapids. Went on to star for the Gophers.

G- Ruben Epps, Mountain Lake 1939. Started for the Minnesota Gophers in the early 1940s.

G- Jeff Wright, Edina 1966-1967. Went on to play football for the Minnesota Gophers and Vikings.

3rd Team

C- Bob Martin, Apple Valley. Played for the Minnesota Gophers in the 1990 Elite Eight.

F- John Carlson, Litchfield 2003. Helped his coach/dad and teammates to 3 state titles, then became an NBA tight end.

F- Jay Kiedrowski and Kurt Shellhas, Edina 1966-1967. Helped win the 1st 2 of 3 state titles.

G- Terry Porter, Marshall 1963. Won a state title, then starred at St. Cloud State.

G- Dana Grimsrud, Rushford 1989. Coach Vix told me that Grimsrud is the best player he's ever coached.

Honor Roll of Coaches

1. Duane Baglien, Edina
2. Fred Kellett, Brainerd
3. Del Schiffler, Woodbury
4. Dick Rinehart, DeLaSalle
5. Ove Berven, Austin
6. Tom Vix, Rushford-Peterson
7. John Carlson, Litchfield
8. Dave Cresap, Perham

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