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Sports seasons overlap for longtime JM coach

By Donny Henn

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Monday was the first day of practice for high school baseball and softball teams, an unmistakable sign of spring that Terry Heiderscheit has always looked forward to.

But for the first time in 25 years, Heiderscheit didn’t spend opening day pitching batting practice or hitting fungoes to outfielders.

It might’ve felt like baseball weather, but Heiderscheit and his Rochester John Marshall girls basketball team still have some unfinished business this week at the Class AAAA state tournament.

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"This is the first time the seasons have ever overlapped on me," said Heiderscheit, who has been coaching both winter and spring sports at John Marshall for nearly 20 years.

This is Heiderscheit’s 19th season as the girls basketball coach. This will be his eighth season as the JM head baseball coach, and he guided the JM softball program for 17 seasons before that.

"The weather was nice, too. But I’m not tempted (by baseball) yet," said Heiderscheit, who worked with his basketball team Monday, while assistant baseball coach Darren Thompson ran JM’s first baseball practice.

Unseeded and unranked JM (23-5) is the underdog on paper against third seeded and No. 9-ranked Eden Prairie (20-9) in a state quarterfinal game at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Target Center in Minneapolis.

"What we know about (Eden Prairie) is that they like to score a lot of points," Heiderscheit said, giving the short scouting report.

Eden Prairie has averaged a head-spinning 67.6 points per game in its last 13 games with two games over 80. The Eagles scored 61, 79 and 64 en route to their first Section 2AAAA championship, and upset No. 5 ranked Chaska in the section final.

It’ll be an interesting matchup because JM’s strength has been tough defense. The Rockets have held opponents to an average of 38.6 points per game, the lowest in Heiderscheit’s years as coach, and only one JM opponent in the last 10 has reached 40.

"They’re one of the better offenses that we’ve faced," Heiderscheit said. "I don’t think we’re going to beat them if they score 67, but I don’t know if we can hold them to 38. We’ll probably have to score more than we have been, or we’ll have a tough time up there."

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JM’s other strengths are veteran leadership and exceptional size. Senior forward Alyssa Rushton is a third-year starter, and seniors Nytor Longar and Jasmine Dittrich are second-year starters.

The 6-foot-2 Longar and 6-foot-1 sophomore Apiew Ojulu are both athletic and long-armed and present matchup challenges for opponents.

But Eden Prairie also has a senior-led team and starts a pair of 6-foot-1 players, Michelle Tobin and Carly Rothfusz. Tobin leads the Eagles in scoring (13 ppg) and rebounding (8.1).

There is no consolation round for teams that lose in the state quarterfinals, so JM will need a win against Eden Prairie to extend its season to Saturday.

"It would be nice to get the first one and be able to keep playing," Heiderscheit said. "It would feel a little more like we’ve gone to state."

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