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Les Knutson: Spies and Gehl making Fulda proud

Les Knutson

Daily Globe sports columnist 

FULDA — As the calendar turns to May, it’s time to catch up on a couple of recent athletic events involving Fulda girls and report on an area farmer’s trip to Madison Square Garden in early April.

Seeking to continue the excellence of Fulda High School girls’ basketball, Raider eighth-grader Brandi Spies claimed the state championship of the Knights of Columbus sponsored free throw shooting contest at St. Cloud Cathedral High School on Saturday, March 29.

A consistent winner in area free throw shooting competition over the past several winters, Spies earned her second trip to the state contest this year after winning the KC regional contest at Adrian.

Two years ago, Brandi placed third at St. Cloud as an 11-year-old, shooting from 12 feet away. In 2012, she made 19 of 25 free throws and tied for third best among the 12 regional champions. She then won the tiebreaker by sinking four of five, giving her a total of 23 out of 30.

Last year, Spies won her third straight local council shoot at Slayton and repeated her district championship at Tyler. But she was defeated at Adrian in her bid to advance back to the state finals in her first year shooting from the regulation 15-foot line.

This year, she had a challenge in the first round, needing to win a shoot-off at Slayton after making 13 of 15 free throws. Brandi won the tiebreaker, hitting four-of-five, as she earned advancement to the district contest. Spies sank 15 of 25 to again win at Tyler.

Utilizing her fine form — which she practices often with older brother Brady — Brandi won the regional title at Adrian by making 20 of 25. She had realized her goal and was going back to St. Cloud to compete against 11 other regional champions in the 13-year-old girls’ division.

Shooting second, Spies connected on 20 of 25, matching her regional best, and then watched as none of the other shooters were able to match her.

“I get nervous if I have to shoot first,” Spies mentioned. “So, going second was nice and I gained a little confidence after our warm-up shots. Then I started making most of my shots when they counted and my confidence continued.”

Spies ended up winning by a comfortable margin as the next best shooter made 16 of 25 and the 2014 state championship belonged to Brandi.

Brandi is the daughter of David and Lisa Spies of rural Dundee and also plays volleyball and golf, along with enjoying writing and art.

But basketball is her favorite.

“I love basketball,” she says. “I’ve been playing since I was 2 years old and I still practice my free throws a lot.”

Spies better keep practicing because she has an upcoming challenge — from her uncle Shawn Fury, a former Daily Globe sports reporter.

Shawn, who played basketball for Worthington Community College (now Minnesota West) in the mid-1990s, was also a Knights of Columbus state free throw shooting champion as a 13-year-old.

Fury, the nephew of long-time MW women’s basketball coach Mike Fury, grew up in Janesville and won a KC state title in 1989, making 23 of 25 free throws.

According to Pat Fury, a 1965 Fulda High School graduate and Brandi’s grandfather, his son Shawn has challenged Brandi to a free throw contest when he’s home from New York in a couple of weeks.

That may be an interesting family affair.

Gehl claims four

rebounds Saturday

Fulda senior Melissa Gehl, after competing well in both the 1,600-meter run and the high jump at a track and field meet in Worthington last Thursday, shifted gears and practiced basketball Friday at Carlton College in Northfield with 39 of Minnesota’s best high school senior girls.

Then on Saturday, Gehl became the fifth recent Raider to participate in the state coaches association sponsored All-Star game at Carlton.

Gehl, who roomed with New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva star Carlie Wagner, was drafted by Ada-Borup coach Dave Smart and played well before “tweaking” her injured knee and leaving the game early.

Prior to that, Melissa scored a basket, sank a free throw and pulled down four rebounds for her team, which competed well but ended up on the short end of an 11-point loss

Abby Oakland (2005), Kaitlyn Kramer (2007), Laura Kramer (2007) and Courtney Hulstein (2012) also played in the state’s All-Star games after their senior seasons.

Baumgard enjoys games

at Madison Square Garden

“It was a lot of fun,” Okabena farmer Brad Baumgard told me several times when I asked him if he went New York City’s fabled Madison Square Garden to watch the Minnesota Gophers win the NIT during the first week of April.

Baumgard, who has been a Gophers’ basketball fan for decades, seen every one of Minnesota’s Big 10 home games and also made the trip down to Lincoln for the Nebraska game.

“The best game of the year was the win over Wisconsin at home,” he declared. “The overall atmosphere was tremendous from start to finish.”

Baumgard didn’t go to any of the three NIT wins hosted by the Gophers at Williams Arena, but when they qualified to play in New York for the semifinals, he booked a flight.

His daughter Emily and her boyfriend flew in from Denver and joined Brad for what turned out to be two games and a national championship at Madison Square Garden.

“It was a lot of fun,” he concluded. “I flew out there with about 90 Gopher fans, about two-thirds of them whom I have come to know pretty well. The Gophers are playing well and may be even better next season.”

Baumgard had great seats at the Garden, sitting in the front row opposite the Gophers — behind the radio announcers — for the semifinal victory over Florida State, and right behind Minnesota’s bench for the championship win over SMU.

“We were down behind the end of the bench,” he noted. “Some of my friends say they saw quick glimpses of me on TV.”

Baumgard shook U of M coach Richard Pitino’s hand after the championship and enjoyed watching the Gophers cut down the net.

“The last time I saw that happen was in San Antonio in 1997 when the Gophers won a regional championship and advanced to the NCAA Final Four,” he concluded. “So that was really fun watching those nets come down.”