Pat Ruff state tournament memories
On March 23, 1997, Aaron Middendorf and the Caledonia boys basketball team took Class AA hoops by storm.
They did it by taking apart ballyhooed DeLaSalle and its coach Dave Thorson in the state championship game, shaking and rattling the Islanders behind Aaron Middendorf's 45 points and their vaunted full-court press.
The game was virtually over by the end of the first quarter. Caledonia forced DeLaSalle into seven turnovers in its first seven possessions and 11 total in that quarter.
Still, when the contest was done and Caledonia had put a cap on its unbeaten season with a 69-47 win, Thorson couldn't help but talk especially about Middendorf, the Warriors' athletic 6-foot-5 guard.
"If he's not a Division I (college) kid, then I don't know what one is," Thorson said of Middendorf.
Thorson was right. Middendorf went on to play Division I basketball at the University of Northern Iowa.
• Longar Longar had been hair-rising some nights during the 2002-03 season, other nights he'd disappear.
But as the playoffs drew nearer and then hit, the 6-foot-11 Rochester John Marshall senior was putting on one show after another. They featured oodles of alley-oop dunks out of the long and athletic Longar, as well as one blocked shot after another.
Well, on March 18, it seemed that Longar might meet his match as JM was taking on Minneapolis North and its star 7-footer James Davis in the quarterfinals of the state Class AAAA state tournament.
But instead of finding his equal, Longar left Davis looking completely outmatched. With it, he had everyone in the audience — JM and North fans alike — shaking their heads at what they'd just witnessed.
Yes, North won the game 56-41, but it was Longar's best high school show ever. He finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Mixed in were a swarm of dunks, one of them off a pass cast to him from half-court. Longar grabbed it out of midair and hammered it down.
The North coach, former Minnesota Mr. Basketball player Brett McNeal, came away talking about how he'd never seen a Minnesota high school center look so dynamic.
Longar would later take his act to the University of Oklahoma, where he was a starter his final two seasons.