Mild winters of ‘68 and ‘73 produced quality area basketball teamsWORTHINGTON — My last “Blast” referred back to several severe “old-fashioned” winters like 1936, 1969 and 1975.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — My last “Blast” referred back to several severe “old-fashioned” winters like 1936, 1969 and 1975.
Since then, I have been researching my upcoming feature about the 1973 Windom Eagles. I was student teaching in Chester, S.D. when that tall and talented boys’ basketball team won Southwest Conference, District 7 and Region 2 championships, before finishing sixth at the state tournament, capping an incredible 25-3 season.
That research and phone-calling is in the process and the story should be ready to be retold next week.
But for this week, I will flash readers back to that ‘72-73 season, and also take you back to the very mild winter of ‘67-68.
Book on Halstad is fascinating!
Before I mention several of the top area teams from both of those seasons, I want to tell about the recently published book “Pirates on the Prairie,” which is about Halstad’s remarkable athletic success in 1952.
Located in northwest Minnesota, very close to the Red River (and the North Dakota border), on Highway 75, Halstad is about 35 miles north of Moorhead.
This small town (current population, 622) became Minnesota’s state tournament “sweetheart” in 1952 — six years after Lynd and eight years before Edgerton — by earning the Region 8 championship and then winning two games at Williams Arena. After finishing third in the ‘52 state basketball tournament, this same group of boys won the state championship in baseball that spring.
The book, like the story about Edgerton, is fascinating, absolutely fascinating.
District 7 was loaded in 1968
It’s too bad that four-class basketball, which did not begin until the ‘96-97 season, was not initiated decades earlier in Minnesota. If it had been, I believe that Hills-Beaver Creek would have represented our area in Class A in 1968.
The Patriots, coached by legendary mentor Hugo Goehle, were undefeated (20-0) before a loss to perennial tournament power Luverne in the District 8 finals. Luverne, the defending Region 2 champion, lost to Mankato in the regional championship game. Had there been four classes, like now, I think that H-BC (Class A), Luverne (Class AA) and Mankato (Class AAA) all would have played in the state tourney.
While H-BC and Luverne were the best teams in District 8 that season, District 7 was loaded with quality squads.
Defending district champion Lakefield, representing the Seven Star Conference, had another great team, as did the Storden Tigers, from the Red Rock Conference, and the Heron Lake Falcons, from the Southern Star Conference.
As good as those three teams were that season, it was Southwest Conference schools Windom and Jackson that battled for the District 7 title, with the Eagles claiming a one-point, 60-59, victory before a typical jam-packed crowd at the nine-year old Worthington High School gym.
An indicator of how strong the Southwest Conference was in those days was shown two years later, in 1970, when Jackson and Redwood Falls finished seventh and eighth in the eight-team league, but both won district championships.
The Bluejays won District 7 and played eventual state champion Sherburn (the District 5 champions) to a 10-point game in the Region 2 tournament. Redwood Falls won the District 10 championship, knocking off the top three seeded teams to accomplish that task.
Fulda, Sioux Valley were ‘73 powers
Five years later, both the Fulda Raiders and the Sioux Valley Warriors had outstanding seasons.
Fulda rolled through a 19-1 regular season, being ranked as high as fourth in the state when the Raiders were 10-0 in early January. But a loss to Pipestone dropped Fulda in the rankings and then a loss to the Arrows in the District 8 semifinals ended a great campaign for the Raiders, who two years later won Region 2A.
Sioux Valley advanced to the District 7 championship game for the second year in a row, but a 73-59 loss to Windom ended the Warriors’ season at 22-1.
Jasper upset top-seeded Luverne in the semifinals and then beat Pipestone in the championship game to claim the District 8 title.
The Quartz-siters were defeated by Sherburn in the Region 2 semifinals, while Windom edged St. James in the semis and won the regional title with a 76-65 victory over Sherburn.
Again, if there had been four classes rather than two, a Jasper vs. Sioux Valley clash for a state tournament trip would have been an interesting game.
Coming next week, the story of those 1973 Windom Eagles.
Burmeister, Handzus follow mothers’ success
It must be in the genes for Jackson County Central girls’ basketball players Brooke Burmeister, Whitney Burmeister and Leslie Handzus.
The Burmeister sisters’ mother, Lonna Palmer, along with Handzus’ mom, Shirley Hummel, were the ace players on an outstanding 1980 Lakefield Panther team that won District 7, nipped undefeated Pipestone in the Region 2 semifinals and challenged East Chain for the Region 2 championship.
That Lakefield team was outstanding, as Palmer (inside) and Hummel (outside) were exceptional players, and now their daughters are having success for the JCC Huskies.
Look for more on those 1980 Lakefield Panthers in March.