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Doug Wolter: Tough breaks for Section 3 in state tournament seedings

WORTHINGTON -- Conspiracy theories are afoot in southwest Minnesota. I don't normally buy into such things, but now I'm thinking ... well ... can we really be so sure?...

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Members of the Southwest Minnesota Christian girls basketball team display the hardware they won at the Section 3A tournament. The Eagles open state tournament action on Thursday at 11 a.m. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Conspiracy theories are afoot in southwest Minnesota. I don’t normally buy into such things, but now I’m thinking … well … can we really be so sure?

About a week ago I traveled to Luverne to speak to members of the Cardinals boys hockey team just before they were to take off for the Twin Cities to participate in the Class A tournament. One of the fine young men I interviewed, Andrew Reisch, said something that I disregarded. And I didn’t include it in my preview story.

Yesterday I went back to the quote and re-read it.

“They say it’s random draw, but I don’t think it is because it has happened both times we went to state,” he said. “I feel that they do that because they don’t like us -- probably thinking we’re all farm kids who don’t know how to play hockey.”

Hmmm. Andrew is right, of course, regarding the way the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) handles the draw for state tournaments. The top four teams are ranked 1, 2, 3, 4, and the remaining four teams are thrown into a hat (so to speak) and randomly drawn for matchup reasons. This happens for other state tournaments, too.

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In 2014 -- the only previous year Luverne qualified for the boys state tournament -- the Cardinals were randomly picked to open against Hermantown, which was actually the No. 2 seed. Hermantown won. In 2017, the Cards were made to go against Hermantown again, which this time was indeed the No. 1 seed.

The Cardinals, God bless ‘em, were suitably unimpressed in the rematch. They took the heavy favorites into overtime before losing, 3-2. Hermantown went on to win the state title.

Now, I don’t blame anyone in Section 3 for complaining that the rest of the Minnesota hockey world doesn’t take them seriously. It’s been that way for years, in fact. Hockey in this little corner of the state has seldom been able to play competitively in state tournaments.

Fortunately for all of us, however, Luverne is doing its best to change that. This year’s state tournament performance has to help a lot.

But we now turn to other sports. In this year’s state Class AA wrestling tournament, Section 3 champion Worthington was randomly drawn to face the state’s No. 1 team, Kasson-Mantorville. K-M won, 64-3.

To be fair, Section 3A champion Pipestone Area was put up against the third-ranked team in that class, West Central Area/Ashby-Brandon-Evansville. This fact, of course, seems to challenge the idea that southwest Minnesota is being unfairly targeted. But a conspiracy theorist might argue that the powers that be just don’t hate Pipestone Area quite as much as other schools in the section.

PA lost that opener, by the way, by a single point.

So now we come to the Minnesota state Class A girls basketball tournament. Southwest Christian is the Section 3A representative. The Eagles, despite their convincing 64-53 section-clinching victory Friday over Lac qui Parle Valley, have been rewarded by having to play (wait for it …) No. 1 Mountain Iron-Buhl in the first round Thursday at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota.

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Of course the Eagles are unranked. They are 25-3 on the season and because they don’t have the budget to travel long distances for non-conference games, they play the bulk of their games against southwest Minnesota opponents. Non-southwest corner athletic officials aren’t always impressed with the competition we have in these here parts (just ask the Worthington Trojans girls basketball team, if you need more evidence).

So there it is. Conspiracy? You be the judge.

As for me, I’m sticking with my original theory that random drawings can sometimes happen like that. That’s the breaks.

But I can’t wait to see how the seedings and matchups play out for the state boys basketball tournaments. We’ve got two teams from Section 3 (Jackson County Central in Class AA and Westbrook-Walnut Grove in Class A) who will play for state berths on Thursday -- seedings to follow.

Yeah. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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