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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Pap leaps for joy as second state title comes true

Joe Brown/Red Wing Republican Eagle Southwest Minnesota Christian head coach Jamie Pap celebrates on the sidelines as time winds down in Saturday's Class 1A championship game Saturday at the Target Center.

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the final seconds ticked down Saturday at Target Center and it became apparent that Southwest Christian's comeback was complete, Eagles' eighth-year head coach Jamie Pap leaped skyward in jubilation celebrating the tremendous accomplishment of a state basketball championship.

For Pap, who has a career record of 158-49, the feeling was special as the Eagles' were so close to claiming a title last March.

After winning state-tournament games over Fosston (59-41) and Rushford-Peterson (46-44), Southwest was defeated by Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (54-45) in the championship clash.

Pap, who was Southwest Christian's starting point guard as a senior in 1999, helped the Eagles win their first state championship as a key player 14 years ago.

"That was really a special time," recalled Pap about playing in the state tournament. "It was such a great experience and I feel so blessed to be able to come back as a coach and help these kids experience the same thing."

The Eagles capped a 24-1 season with a 63-50 victory over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy (of Fergus Falls) in that '99 title game.

Pap graduated that spring and began farming -- which is still his main career today.

"I have the best of both worlds right now," he said after Saturday's victory. "I love farming and I love the chance to teach basketball the way I learned it when I played."

Cal Hoekstra, a 2007 selection to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was Pap's high school coach and guided the Eagles to a repeat state title in 2000, defeating Win-E-Mac (Erskine) in the finals, 72-61.

Southwest made it four in a row by winning again in 2001 and 2002, under head coach Dan Broekhuis, who had been Hoekstra's assistant.

The Eagles defeated Christ's Household of Faith (St. Paul), 65-55, in the 2001 state title game and claimed a 66-56 championship game victory over Ortonville to win the 2002 crown.

Ellsworth and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton became Section 3's dominant teams over most of the next decade, but last year -- after an 11-year absence -- the Eagles soared back to Minneapolis with Pap as their coach.

After winning two games, the Eagles were unable to win a third.

This year -- despite graduating four of its top seven players from last season -- Southwest did what it had done four times straight, win all three games at the state tournament.

And that's why Pap jumped as high as did when the Eagles had clinched Saturday's victory.

"These kids have worked so hard and done everything that we (assistant coach John Top) have asked them," concluded Pap, who noted how great of a job Top does with scouting opponents and coaching the Eagles' B-squad. "It's been a wonderful experience for the whole school and community. Wow, do we have great fans."