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Windom rolled to state boys basketball tourney in 1980

Oldgame-Windom.jpg
Windom Eagles boys basketball players celebrate after receiving the Region 2 trophy in 1980. (file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: In February of 1980, the Windom High School boys basketball team defeated Janesville for that year’s Region 2 trophy. The Globe is reprinting selected articles from great sports moments of the past. Today’s story, reprinted from the Daily Globe, celebrates the Eagles’ state tournament berth. Head coach Jack Kelly, a member of the Minnesota basketball and baseball coaches Halls of Fame, died in March.

BY RUSS VOGEL

Staff Writer

It took Windom’s Eagles almost two quarters of play in their Region 2A championship game with Janesville to figure out just what they wanted to do on defense, but once they did, the Eagles stopped the Bears dead and rolled to a 59-43 win Friday at Mankato. With the win, Windom earns a berth in the state Class A tournament.

“We knew from the start which shooters we wanted to cover,” said Eagle head coach Jack Kelly, “and we were finally able to get to them.”

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The two Janesville “shooters” the Eagles needed to stop were Jeff and Rich Johnson, the Bears’ two top scorers in the game. The hot-handed duo sparked Janesville’s offense, mostly from the top of the key and the corners, enough that the Bears stayed within a couple of points of Windom throughout the first half.

The teams traded baskets through the first quarter with Windom able to build no more than a four-point lead midway through the quarter. Even then, the Johnsons brought Janesville back to within one point by the quarter break.

At the outset of the second quarter, the game tone remained much the same, with Windom mostly working the ball inside and Janesville hitting well from the outside. Windom’s Joel Holm sparked the Eagles to their greatest lead of the half with a pair of field goals that put them ahead 22-15.

With about two and one-half minutes left in the half, Windom began to show the defensive dominance they’d hold in the following half, but the Bears battled back nonetheless to trail by only three points at halftime.

With the halftime’s break to more fully talk their defense over, Windom came out in the third quarter and began to wholly dominate play for the first time. The Eagles all but owned the boards in the early going and defensively held the Bears well out of scoring range. Cold Windom shooting held the game close, however, until halfway through the third quarter.

It was with about four minutes to play in that period and Windom ahead 30-29, that the Eagles shut down Janesville scoring for the rest of the quarter. The Eagles stole Bear possessions no less than six times during that period and found their own basket once again to pull away 44-29 at the end of the quarter.

Janesville attempted to strengthen their own defensive attack midway through the fourth quarter but with heavy fouling, managed only to set off Windom’s powerful free throw shooting. David Miller, who shot six of six from the line, paced Windom to leads as great as 21 points with more than five minutes left to play, and the game effectively was over. Windom began to sub heavily just past the three-minute mark.

Miller had a fine offensive evening for the Eagles scoring 22 points in the game, followed by Stephen Thor with 14. Between Miller and Holm, who shot four of four from the line, Windom dropped in 11 of 14 free throws attempted for a hot 78 percent. Rich Johnson led Bear scoring with 18 points followed by Jeff Johnson with 14.

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Windom substitute Bob Elness had one of the Eagles’ finest defensive nights, sparking his team on several occasions with steals and corresponding breakaway baskets.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Kelly said after the awards presentation and between a barrage of congratulatory handshakes. “We haven’t been to the state tournament since 1976 and it’ll be good to be there again.”

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