PREP BOYS' BASKETBALL: Wolverines looking to make one last memory at state
MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Shawn Naas visited the local Mountain Lake nursing home earlier in the week and was warmly welcomed by the residents. The Mountain Lake basketball team used to be a regular at the state tournament, making an appearance 13 times b...
MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Shawn Naas visited the local Mountain Lake nursing home earlier in the week and was warmly welcomed by the residents.
The Mountain Lake basketball team used to be a regular at the state tournament, making an appearance 13 times between 1913 and 1952. And the Mountain Lake residents are well aware of that.
One woman at the nursing home sat down with Naas and told the coach that the boys in her graduating class (1952) went to the state tournament five of the seven years they played for the team.
So after a 60-year absence from the tournament, there is no doubt the Mountain Lake community is excited to see a local team make a run at the title this year.
The Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin boys' basketball team will play No. 4 seeded Browerville at 1 p.m. at Williams Arena Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.
"It's so great," ML/B-O senior Beau Herrig said. "Everywhere we go we get asked about our games or wished good luck by people. It's really fun because the team hasn't been overly successful for awhile. This is so huge for not only us, but for the entire community."
The Wolverines (24-5) are coming off one of their best games of the season, when they beat Sleepy Eye Saint Mary's 72-56 in the section championship Friday -- a game where four ML/B-O players scored in double figures and the team held SESM to its fewest points of the season.
ML/B-O is on a 10-game winning streak dating back to Feb. 10 and the boys are feeling confident heading into the state tournament.
"You'd hope they're confident in themselves after what they've been doing lately," Naas said. "Each game presents its own challenges, so you don't want to bottle too much excitment up and carry it with you to each new game. But at the same time they should be proud of themselves and know that they are where they are for a reason."
Browerville (27-2) is a big, physical team.
The Tigers' starting five consists of guys between 6-foot-2-inches and 6-foot-6-inches. They like to pound the ball inside and the team has a lot of strength.
The Tigers provide a differnet style than SESM showed ML/B-O last week, but with the variety of teams and playing styles in the Red Rock Conference, Naas isn't getting his team worked up about the change of pace.
"With how many different styles and levels of competition there are in the Red Rock, there are no surprises for us anymore," Naas said. "Our regular season has gotten us ready for this. We're so excited to have achieved this accomplishment and we want to continue to survive each round. We want to make sure we keep giving ourselves another chance."
The trip to the state tournament is a first for all members of the ML/B-O squad -- even the coaches.
Naas has been the head coach for 19 seasons, and prior to this year he has never had a team make it past the sub-section championship.
He is quick to admit he is just as excited about traveling to Minneapolis as anybody else.
But he wants to keep his team grounded, so in turn, he is trying to mask his enthusiasm and prepare the Wolverines for their next task.
"It's tough to keep your emotions in check for games like this," Naas said. "We just want them to leave all of the outside stuff at the door when they walk into each game and focus on the task at hand. It's going to be a challenge. There's no weak link anymore. All of these teams are great and it's time to show everyone how great we are too."
Advancing to the state tournament has been something ML/B-O has been talking about since the beginning of the season, so they aren't planning on slowing down anytime soon.
And with the buses all packed and ready to go to Minneapolis, the Wolverines hope the vehicles don't have to turn around too quickly.
"Our main goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to where we are now," Herrig said. "It's our choice now as to whether we're satisfied to have made it this far or if we're going to make some noise while we're here.
"I think we've made the decision that we want to stick around. We want to prove ourselves to everyone. Not very many people expected us to make it here. So we've made the choice that we're here to play three games, not one."
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.