Good Friday basketball is a Kenyon tradition

Many people spend the Friday night before Easter at church. Religion in Kenyon is on a different schedule.

For the 15th straight year, a group gathered at the Kenyon-Wanamingo High School gym looking to claim bragging rights at the Good Friday Basketball Tournament. The four-team, three-hour event closed with the team representing Milo Peterson Ford hoisting the highly coveted — albeit homemade — trophy for the third straight year.

 "There are few things we live for in Kenyon, but that's one of them," said Hans Sviggum, a dejected '99 K-W grad whose team finished 1-2 on the day.

The event was initially borne out of a trash-talking battle that needed to be settled on the court. The ball, after all, don't lie. Over the years, it's turned into a can't-miss day that people have circled on their calendars months in advance — even if it leaves them hobbling for days afterwards.

Brothers Steve and Dick Sviggum figured prominently in the early tournaments, though advancing years have reduced them to referee figureheads. But they still show up like clockwork, and Steve continues to decide the tournament awards as a committee of one.


"It really is a Top 10 day of the year," said Luke Peterson, a 15-year veteran who has hauled in his share of Steve's accolades.

Peterson's skills have evolved since he began competing as a mere high-schooler. While his head has become more aerodynamic sans hair, he maintains a smooth shooting stroke that earned him a spot on the all-tournament team. However, it's his general-manager skills that truly set him apart. He recruited a former Division II standout — who then recruited his sister, who also played Division II — that just became the tournament's first two-time MVP selection.

More than one opponent marveled at his ability to field a young roster while everyone else has aged "like rotten lutefisk," according to the tournament program.

"I come here for the friendship and the camaraderie of the event and to see guys I don't really stay in touch with as often as I'd like," Peterson said. "Win or lose, we still have fun — even though we win every time."

Winning and losing is a secondary concern for others. Many just want to get through the day without injury, knowing they'll burn the midnight oil with old friends while playing cards afterward. Two tournament regulars who are currently injured even showed up to watch, just so they wouldn't miss the late-night tradition.

The team called Bad News Bergen, who finished second this year, takes a different post-tournament approach. They've taped every game since 2003 and spend the weekend breaking down game film. Brothers Scott and Matt "Stick" Johnson take meticulous stats, in between guffaws at their numerous miscues, before sending them out to teammates in a spreadsheet format that highlights category leaders.

It creates weeks worth of online banter, which helps make the wait for the next edition a little easier to take.

 "It's so funny," Scott Johnson said of the film study. "We just sit back and wet ourselves."

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