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BLAST FROM THE PAST: Springfield gives southwestern Minnesota another state title

MINNEAPOLIS -- Practices across the state started in the third week of November for high school boys' basketball teams -- a total of 470 of them, according to Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) figures -- involving a grand total of 13,491...

MINNEAPOLIS -- Practices across the state started in the third week of November for high school boys' basketball teams -- a total of 470 of them, according to Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) figures -- involving a grand total of 13,491 participants.

Last week, at both Williams Arena and Target Center, 32 of those teams capped their seasons by competing in the 99th annual Minnesota State Boys' Basketball Tournament -- a storied event to say the least.

While the tournament certainly does not have the glitter and glory which made it the state's biggest sporting event of the year -- back in the days of the ever popular one-class tournament prior to 1971 -- it's still a captivating affair with lots of atmosphere and excitement.

I was able to watch nine of the games this year, including a Class AA quarterfinal contest, all four Class A quarterfinal games and an exciting day of four semifinal clashes (two in A and two in AA) on Friday.

I had to come home Saturday for another commitment and missed all four of the state championship games.

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But, three of my sons were able to stay in Minneapolis and watch all of the action at Target Center. One son took my place and was able to "take in" the four title games, while two others saw a total of 17 and 13 games, respectively.

That's a lot of basketball.

The first game that I saw was a 70-65 victory by Section 3AA champion Redwood Valley over Minnehaha Academy at Target Center. The Cardinals were impressive and represented our section well.

Thursday, it was to the place where most of the legendary state tournament history was made -- Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

What a thrill to play a tournament game there -- where the likes of Ron Johnson (New Prague), Bob Bruggers (Danube), Bob Zender (Edina) and Mark Olberding (Melrose) -- performed. The same place which packed frenzied fans in to see Edgerton, Marshall, Luverne, Sherburn and St. James win five state titles in a 13-year span (from 1960 to 1972), showcasing the exceptional teams from southwestern Minnesota.

The same place that totally captivated me as a youth when we could watch nine games over three days on television. During the 1960s, all four quarterfinal games, both semifinal games and all three games -- the consolation championship, the third-place game, and the state championship game -- were all televised on Saturday night.

Those were great days. Only the two consolation-round games on Friday afternoon were not on TV.

It's a shame there is not a consolation round for teams now. A team loses its first round and does not get to play another game. That's too bad.

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I remember well, Windom and Luverne winning back-to-back consolation championships in 1966 and 1967 after losing hard-fought first-round games. In both cases, the Eagles and Cardinals were able to finish their seasons with a pair of victories and bring home a big trophy.

A memorable experience -- the state tournament consolation round.

But with the expansion from eight teams to 16 to 32 as the state changed from one class to two classes to four classes, the consolation round has become a "blast-from-the-past."

That's too bad.

Springfield wins Class A, Perham claims AA title

Springfield was a bit of a surprise champion, coming out of Section 2A and representing the Tomahawk Conference. The Tigers had to claw their way to a victory over a scrappy and aggressive Upsala squad on Thursday, then defeated perennial power Chisholm -- coached by legendary Bob McDonald (56 seasons, 968 wins) -- in a semifinal overtime thriller on Friday.

Then, Springfield opened Championship Saturday by knocking off undefeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, 70-58, in an impressive performance to give southwestern Minnesota another state title.

Ellsworth claimed back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.

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Russell-Tyler-Ruthton did the same in 2004 and 2005,

And Southwest Christian did the remarkable -- a four-peat, winning in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Add Springfield's 2011 title and the southwestern part of the state has captured nine of the last 13 Class A titles.

Actually, it's a bit higher than that. Mankato Loyola (2003) and Granda-Huntley-East Chain (2009) are both from Section 2A, giving 11 of the past 13 championships to teams from either Section 2A or 3A.

Rushford-Peterson (2006) is from Section 1A, while Minnesota Transitions Charter School of Minneapolis (2010) represented Section 4A.

MACCRAY, this year's Section 3A champion, did well, bringing home the third-place trophy. The Wolverines defeated Marantha Christian Academy in a sparkling performance Thursday, getting the nod from many observers as the tournament favorite.

But, B-B-E showed why the Jaguars (Section 6A) were undefeated by outplaying MACCRAY in the semifinals, sending the Section 3A champs to the third-place game. The Wolverines finished a 28-4 campaign with a 72-53 victory over Chisholm to claim the bronze medals.

In Class AA action, there were a total of six overtimes in Friday night's two semifinal games.

For the second time in a week, Redwood Valley played 16 extra minutes. The Cardinals had managed a victory over Windom in a four-overtime thriller in the Section 3AA finals at Marshall March 17.

At Target Center, Redwood was outlasted by Rochester Lourdes in four overtimes and played in Saturday's third-place game.

Perham rallied for a double-overtime victory over a very aggressive Waterville-Elysian-Morristown squad in the night cap, completing a day which featured seven overtimes (the Springfield vs. Chisholm game had one overtime earlier Friday).

W-E-M held off Redwood Valley in Saturday's third-place game at Concordia University in St. Paul.

Then Perham, which impressively won the Daily Globe/Trojan Classic in Worthington in late December, pulled away from Lourdes with a strong second half and claimed its first-ever state title.

The Yellowjackets, which have fielded solid teams for years, were inspired by the tragic cardiac arrest incident which happened to junior forward Zach Gabbard -- one of the team's best all-around players -- in a game at Dilworth Jan. 20. Gabbard was at the game Friday night and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Target Center crowd.

Perham, no doubt, resembled Edgerton in 1960 -- the Yellowjackets became an overwhelming neutral fan's favorite.

While I saw none of the Class AAA or Class AAAA games, I understand that Orono -- coached by Bird Island-Lake Lillian legend Barry Wohler (who coached several years at Marshall) -- defeated Columbia Heights in the AAA championship and recruit-skilled Hopkins made it three straight AAAA titles with a championship game victory over perennial football power Eden Prairie.

Mountain Lake played 13 times from 1913-1952

Mountain Lake, which was the state tournament runner-up three times in the event's first five years (1913, 1915 and 1917), played in 13 state tournaments from 1913-1952, including winning the 1939 state title.

The Lakers went back six times after that, including 1940, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1951 and 1952.

Luverne has the next most total trips among area schools, participating in 11 tournaments, including its remarkable 1964 state title. The Cardinals have also been there in 1913, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1965, 1967, 1971, 1983, 2005 and 2007.

Ellsworth's recent run of six state tournament trips (2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) puts the Panthers in a tie with Windom (1918, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1980, 2010) and Southwest Christian (1986, 1988, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) for third among area teams.

Edgerton (1960), Marshall (1963), Luverne (1964) and Sherburn (1970) won four of the last 11 one-class tournaments.

St. James won the 1972 Class A title and then defeated Mounds View to win the overall state title in the second of the five years that a playoff system was held between the two champions.

The two-class system was in effect from 1971-1994. The "Sweet Sixteen" format was tried for two years ('95 and '96) before the current four-class system was adopted in 1997.

Schilling, Wall were multiple scoring leaders

An interesting item in the state tournament program is a list of the individual scoring leaders for each year of the tournament, dating all the way back to 1913.

Mountain Lake has had the scoring leader a total of six times, while Ellsworth has had the honor three consecutive years.

Ellworth's Cody Schilling was the overall scoring leader (all classes) in each of his final three seasons as a Panther, topping the field in 2006, 2007 and 2008. His 32.0 points per game average (96 points) in 2007 ranks among the all-time leaders.

Mountain Lake's Ray Wall was also a multiple winner, capturing tournament scoring honors in both 1946 and 1947, averaging 18.7 ppg in '47.

Other Lakers who were the tournament's top scorer included Peter Guenter, 1913, 17.8; Gerhard Hiebert, 1915, 16.5; Everett Hanson, 1933, 14.3; and Maynard Meyers,1952,17.3.

Among the other tournament scoring leaders from the area is Windom's Dan Carpenter, who averaged 24.0 ppg during the 1976 tourney when the Eagles finished third. Carpenter also set a tournament record -- which still stands -- by making 11 consecutive field goals during that '76 tournament.

Randy Breuer (Lake City, 1978) sports the all-time high scoring average with a 37.7 mark, followed by Ron Johnson (New Prague, 1956) at 36.3.

The 11 scoring leaders during the last "golden decade" of the one-class tournament are as follows;

1960, Bill Davis, Richfield, 29.3; 1961, Chet Anderson, Duluth Central, 22.3; 1962, Bob Bruggers, Danube, 31.0; 1963, Mike Forrest, Cloquet, 27.3; 1964, Bryan Grohnke, Edina-Morningside, 29.0; 1965, Tom Weaver, Faribault, 26.3; 1966, Dick Peterson, Henning, 23.7; 1967, Jim Hill, St. Paul Central, 31.3; 1968, Bill Gross, Hayfield, 27.0; 1969, Craig Jensen, Rochester John Marshall, 21.3; and 1970, Tom Mulso, Sherburn, 27.7.

Can you imagine how many points Mulso would have averaged had the 3-point shot been part of the game in 1970?

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