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Les Knutson: Owen bounce pass televised on ESPN2

Les Knutson

Daily Globe sports columnist 

APPLE VALLEY — While my second son, Chad — who is the “ramrod” of the Heron Lake Lakers amateur baseball team in the summer and a high school basketball “junkie” in the winter — was not able to get an advanced ticket for last week’s nationally televised (ESPN 2) game between Apple Valley and Chicago’s Whitney Young High School, my good friend and former colleague, Tim Owen, was able to a good seat for the big event.

Owen, who guided the Southwestern United Wildcats to a third-place finish in the 2006 Class A state baseball tournament and coached the Southwest Star Concept Quasars to a 16-win season and advancement to the Section 2A South basketball championship game in March of 2012, is now teaching sixth-grade social studies in Austin’s huge school system — where his wife, Cindy, has become both the head softball and volleyball coach for the Packers.

Tim will be an assistant baseball coach at Austin this spring. But during the winter, he sees his share of high school basketball games — almost as many as Chad, who annually takes in both December “Breakdown Classics” and puts in a lot of miles traveling the state.

After being my assistant in the girls’ program for six years, Owen coached the Quasar boys for 13 seasons, highlighted by a 21-win campaign in 2006-07 and the strong tournament run two years ago. His diligence to scouting and stressing defense were among the keys to his progressive success.

Getting a second row seat — just behind the scorer’s table — at the sold-out Apple Valley gym last week Thursday (Dec. 12), Owen caught a ball which sailed out-of-bounds.

This happened with about 13 minutes to play in the second half and was witnessed by many of his friends watching the game on ESPN 2.

After faking a one-handed pass, Owen pounded the ball downward with a two-handed bounce pass and the basketball skipped over the Apple Valley bench and back to the court where it was caught by Eagles’ eighth-grader Tre Jones (Tyus’ younger brother), who handed the ball to an official and the game continued.

It should be pointed out that there was not a front row in the open area behind the score table, so Owen was actually in the first row with some open space — where he bounced the ball — between his seat and the player’s chairs.

“It was a great experience at a terrific game in an awesome atmosphere,” summed up Owen about his moment of fame at the televised classic. “Mike Krzyzewski (Duke’s famous head coach) was there and so was Sid Hartman (Minnesota’s most famous sports media personality), so I was in good company.”

Krzyzewski was there because he has recruited both Apple Valley’s ace guard Tyus Jones and Whitney Young’s mammoth post player Jahil Okafor to join the Blue Devils next year.

“Both guys played very well,” said Owen. “I was more impressed with Jones this time than when I have seen play before.”

Josh Dale makes CJ’s team even better Now that winter is here, another season of the Fulda Men’s Basketball League — so capably organized and operated by Randy Hein and Jacki Larson (Randy’s daughter) — is up and running again.

Heron Lake, managed by Mark Fest, has fielded a highly-competitive squad each winter and is one of eight teams participating this year.

But Worthington, managed by C.J. Nelson, has been the premier team for most of the recent years. With former Jackson star guard Ronnie Gasca and three-point shooting ace Eric “Stretch’ Murray complementing Nelson’s all-around talent, CJ’s has made Heron Lake the league and tournament runner-up more times than Fest and his friends like.

After all, “Pep” wants to win.

Heron Lake and Worthington played each other last Wednesday night (Dec. 11) and, as usual, it was a close game. With Gasca handling the ball, Murray dropping in long shots and a new player — Josh Dale, Worthington High School’s first-year activities director — displaying amazing versatility, Nelson’s team won again.

Dale scored often, in a variety of ways, and also rebounded, passed and defended. It’s obvious that the new AD has played organized basketball in the past.