Two seconds and a third at state — not bad
RUFF:My hunch was that Section One would be celebrating a pair of state boys basketball championships over the weekend. Turned out Rushford-Peterson placed second and Caledonia third.
Certainly no shame there. Each lost to the top seed in the tournament, R-P to Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Class A finals and Caledonia to Annandale in the Class AA semifinals. Says a little bit about basketball among the smaller classes in this corner of the state, though, when you can have two teams from the same Three Rivers Conference that are this good.
But maybe the best story around here is in Austin, where the Packers landed runner-up for the second straight year in Class AAA to DeLaSalle, arguably the best team in the state, period. That Austin could graduate its two biggest players from a year ago — and among its two best talents — and still get to the finals says a lot.
BOESE: I was on record saying the Packers didn't have a chance against DeLaSalle...but I was on the edge of my couch Saturday night with every trey-turned-celebration by Ajuda Nywesh. The first 10 minutes were fantastic to watch, but it was just a matter of time before the Islanders took control.
That said, Austin had the best fan support in the whole tournament. Maybe in the *history* of the state tournament. The band director drove me nuts, but it's hard not to admire his enthusiasm. That environment will be something the Packers never forget.
RUFF: Looking ahead, Caledonia and Rushford-Peterson both will return state-tournament caliber teams next year. Caledonia had just two seniors on its roster and brings back one of the sweetest shooting young players around, eighth-grader Owen King. R-P graduates a pack of players, but also is loaded with young talent.
As for Class AAAA, any idea what happened in the finals of that event? I'm kidding, of course. I saw the last six minutes of Lakeville North's drama-packed comeback win over Hopkins. It was one of the best six minutes of high school basketball I've ever seen. Give me some closing thoughts about Lakeville North superstar J.P. Macura. A bit of a dazzler, would you say?
BOESE: A five-point possession to win the game in the closing seconds against the perennial powerhouse is iconic enough, but a small part of me wishes Macura would have channeled his inner El-Amin and run across the laptops on press row, too.
I've said my piece on Macura, and I'm out of superlatives. Quite simply, Minnesota hasn't seen a prep player more fun to watch in years. Pitino and the Gophers will rue the day they let him slip away.
Speaking of your not-so-golden bunch, they're the top overall seed in the NIT. Which is great, if you like kissing your sister.
RUFF:I'm going to continue to defend Pitino and the season Minnesota has had. Did anybody really expect it to make the NCAA Tournament when the season started? Don't think so. To then have been on the brink of Dancing automatically makes this season a resounding success.
The NIT doesn't capture anyone, including me. It's a nice chance to play more games and prepare for next year. And if you advance to its Final Four, there's a funny little trip to the Big Apple. Not bad. But back to Pitino. I will criticize him for this: He landed not one of what is now a resounding "Big Four" of in-state recruits. Yes, he got off to a late start in recruiting. But, none of them?!!
The girls state tournament begins this week. Goodhue has qualified in Class A, Kenyon-Wanamingo in AA and Kasson-Mantorville in AAA. Is there a state champion among them?
BOESE: That all depends on what you think of the HVL. Is it the best small-school conference in Minnesota this year, as some locals believe, or is it overrated like the state coaches apparently think?
Top-ranked Goodhue challenged itself against bigger schools all year and put up a sparkling record — yet it only received the No. 4 seed. That sets the Wildcats up for a daunting road to the title, including a potential second-round date with top-seeded Minneota, the defending state champ.
Kasson-Mantorville has the third-most wins in its class, but it's hard to see an unseeded squad running the table. Kenyon-Wanamingo has been ranked No. 2 all year and would probably love another shot at NRHEG, the defending champ who has won 58 straight.
It'd sure be fun to see the Wieme boys break out their sweater vests in back-to-back games on championship Saturday as chants of "HVL" fill the Barn. Hopefully Ryan Haraldson owns a blue one, just in case K-M joins the party.