BLAST FROM THE PAST: 100 years of high school hoopsWORTHINGTON — Held as an invitational tournament in March of 1913 at Carleton College in Northfield, the event became known as the Minnesota State Boys’ Basketball Tournament and would later pick up annual sponsorship by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Held as an invitational tournament in March of 1913 at Carleton College in Northfield, the event became known as the Minnesota State Boys’ Basketball Tournament and would later pick up annual sponsorship by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).
Fosston defeated Mountain Lake, 29-27, in the first state championship game — while Woodrow Wilson was just completing his first month as the new U.S. President, having been inaugurated on March 4, 1913.
Both ends of the state — Fosston from the far north and Mountain Lake from the southwest — were represented in that first title clash.
Fosston was invited back and played in six of the next eight tournaments, missing only in the presidential election years — and leap years — of 1916 and 1920.
Fosston did not play in another state championship game and has not been back to the tournament since 1921.
Mountain Lake, meanwhile, became a perennial power during the first half of the 20th century, playing in the state tournament a total of 13 times during the event’s first 40 years, including its memorable state championship in 1939.
The Lakers were state runner-ups three times, also making it to the title game in both 1915 and 1917 — giving them a trio of second-place trophies in the first five years of the tournament.
After its ’39 state championship, Mountain Lake earned its way back in 1940 and then qualified by winning both District 7 and Region 2 five times (1946, ’47, 48, ’51, ’52) in a seven-year span during the presidency of Harry S. Truman in the years following the end of World War II.
That ’52 tournament run by the Lakers was the last time the school and community were represented in the prestigious event — which reached unprecedented state-wide popularity during the decades of the ‘50s and ‘60s as a one-class tournament, involving just eight teams.
As a kid growing up during those two decades, the state tournament was indeed a big deal.
I have mentioned several times in previous “Blasts From the Past” about how nine of the 11 games were televised and how intrigued our whole family was with the three days of watching the tournament on the tube.
Changing to a two-class system in 1971, the tournament has never quite been the same.
Sixteen teams rather than eight made the whole affair a bit harder to follow and some of the “luster” of the small school beating the big school — like Edgerton’s 1960 state championship victory over Austin or Sherburn’s 1970 state title over South St. Paul — was gone with the crowning of two state champions.
Of course, there was the playoff between the two champions during the first five years of the two-class system, from 1971-75.
In alternating fashion AA, A, AA, A and AA won those five overall titles as Duluth Central beat Melrose (54-43) in ’71; St. James defeated Mounds View (60-52) in ’72; Anoka topped Chisholm (63-56) in ’73; Melrose stunned Bemidji (58-42) in ’74 and Little Falls edged Chisholm (54-50) in the final playoff game in 1975.
Melrose and Chisholm each represented Class A twice during that span, with Melrose — led by future Minnesota Gopher and San Antonio Spur standout Mark Olberding — winning the overall championship in 1974.
Bob McDonald’s Chisholm Bluestreaks lost both playoff games, after winning a pair of Class A titles.
From 1976-1994 there were two champions each tournament.
Then in 1995 and 1996, the Sweet Sixteen format was tried, mixing all 16 teams into one tournament and coming up with a single champion.
Minneapolis North won both Super 16’s, nipping Staples-Motley (54-52) in ’95 and then really taking it to Fertile-Beltrami (80-47) in the ’96 championship game.
Since 1997, there have been four champions crowned as the four-class system expanded the tournament to 32 teams and eliminated the consolation round.
That’s a bit of history on the legendary tournament which simply does not carry the “clout” that it once did.
More than 19,000 fans jam-packed Williams Arena for the 1960 finals (19,018), the 1962 semifinals (record attendance of 19,213) and the ’62 finals (19,208).
Total attendance for the five sessions of the one-class tournament during the decade of the ‘60s had a low of 83,134 in 1969 and a high of 87,951 in 1962 — remarkable consistency, averaging about 17,000 fans per session over the entire 10 years.
Even the consolation-round games on Friday afternoon drew well, between 11,009 (’69) and 12,674 (’63), which brought the average down a bit.
Basketball fans went to the tournament for the “whole package” in those days.
The Friday afternoon consolation-round games were not televised, but we would have watched them — somehow — if we they would have been.
MSHSL Poll, six categories for each gender
The 2010 tournament honored Edgerton’s 1960 team featuring 11 pages of coverage in the official program and a special ceremony introducing the Edgerton and Austin players prior to Saturday night’s AAAA championship game.
Next year, the MSHSL wants to recognize the state tournament’s all-time greatest — in six categories, for both the boys and girls, making a total of 12 divisions.
Here are the six categories:
1) Greatest state tournament games — boys and girls; 2) best state tournament finishes — boys and girls; 3) best state tournament shots — boys and girls; 4) best state tournament teams — boys and girls; 5) best state tournament players — boys and girls; and 6) best state tournament coaches — boys and girls.
The league is seeking public input in the selection process.
The poll deadline, however, is fast approaching — July 31.
The direct link to the online poll on the League’s website is http://www.mshsl.org/survey.
Voters may nominate as many as three choices in each of the 12 categories.
My nominations would be biased towards the ‘50s and ‘60s for boys’ basketball and probably slanted toward the ‘80s for girls’ basketball — which had its first official tournament in 1976.
The results of the poll will be compiled and reviewed by members of the MSHSL staff and a panel of basketball aficionadas — ardent supporter or devotee — who will release the final selections at the 2012 state tournaments.
Associate directors Lisa Lissimore and Kevin Merkle, along with media specialist John Millea and director of information Howard W. Voigt are the members of the MSHSL staff who are leading the survey.
The girls’ results will be announced during their 37th annual tournament which begins March 14 and concludes with four state titles on St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th.
A week later, the 100th annual boys’ tournament kicks off on March 21 with championship Saturday on the 24th.
Some of my choices
Last time, I indicated that I would list some of my choices. Here are a few worth considering:
Greatest boys’ games — 1963 championship, Marshall edges Cloquet, 75-74; 1970 championship, Sherburn rips South St. Paul, 78-62; 1997 Class A semifinals, Wabasso outscores Red Lake, 117-113.
How many overtimes were there in that Wabasso vs. Red Lake game?
I was a sixth-grader and cheering for Cloquet in 1963. The Lumberjacks had a pair of fast guards — Dave Meisner and Mike Forrest — who could really run and shoot.
My dad, a genuine basketball aficionado, was rooting for Marshall — because they were the most local team and represented the Southwest Conference.
I cried when Marshall won. But it was a great game.
I loved it in 1970 when Sherburn — paced by the M & M boys, Jeff McCarron and Tom Mulso — absolutely took it to the South St. Paul Packers and won the last one-class championship game.
There are some similarities between Edgerton (1960) and Sherburn (1970), including a victory over the Packers (also Austin’s mascot) in the title game.
Both undefeated teams from Region 2 had a town population of about 1,000 and each had a rich basketball tradition before “reaching the top.”
Sherburn, however, is not remembered with the same “legendary” distinction that basketball aficionados associate to Edgerton.
Danube’s Bob Bruggers (’61 and ’62) tops my list of all-time best boys’ players, while Mulso’s 39-point performance against South St. Paul ranks high in my memory banks.
Certainly, Rochester Lourdes’ Myron Glass and New London-Spicer’s Mike Drier top the list of the greatest girls’ coaches, while Bemidji’s Clarence “Bun” Fortier and Austin’s Ove Bervin would rank among the best of the boys’ coaches.
But Chisholm’s McDonald with 11 state tournament appearances, spanning five decades — including three of the last four years — has to be my choice for the No. 1 all-time boys’ state tournament coach.
There are so many other great players, teams, coaches, shots and finishes from state tournaments past.
You basketball aficionados (fourth time for that word, do you know its meaning by now?) get your own nominations into the league office by Sunday and wait until March to see if you picked a winner.
I am sure that there are lots of citizens in the southwest corner of Nobles County who could proudly nominate one of Ellsworth’s six teams which played in the boys’ state tournament in the past decade, including the Panthers’ fantastic finish in the 2007 title game, capped by Aaron Van Der Stoep’s game-winning 3-pointer — his 10th of the game — in a dramatic, 74-73, victory over Cass Lake-Bena.
That one will get votes for the best state tournament shot.
EHS standout Cody Schilling will be listed on numerous all-time best player lists.
My favorite all-time state tournament girls’ teams are the 1981 Heron Lake-Okabena Scarlet Knights, the 1977 Heron Lake Falcons and the 2008 Southwest Star Concept Quasars.
I had a good seat for those nine games, along with free admission — a dream come true.
What a summer for Luverne baseball
It’s been quite a summer for Luverne baseball, as both the VFW Post 2757 and American Legion Post 123 qualified their teams for state tournament competition after having won their respective district playoffs with exceptional all-around performances.
In the summer of 1990, Luverne won the one-class Second District American Legion baseball championship and competed favorably at the state tournament.
Basketball official Mark Lais was one of seven Luverne hitters who sported a batting average above .300 during the regular season that summer.
Mark was telling me about that team and its tournament run when I was in Luverne a couple of weeks ago.
I have begun my research and will tell the story of that 1990 Luverne Legion team in my next “Blast From the Past.”