The Black Thursday Trifecta

March 16

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[And a shout out to Jackson Grove!]

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[As the winter sports season draws to a close, we once again found ourselves in the Cities following a Cardinal team in a state tournament.]

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[The athletic department of the University of Minnesota welcomes you to Williams Arena.  ~  The late, great Jules Perlt

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[Our Cards were taking on the No. 1-ranked Orono Spartans in the state semi-finals after having dispatched the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks, 46 – 44, in the opening round game at the Target Center.]

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[Past Gopher greats . . . ]

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[More Gopher greats!]

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[Assigned to prevent total mayhem as the Cards take the floor.]

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[Lay-up drills begin in The Barn.]

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[Kendall Kohler (3) finishes followed by Kelby Olson-Rodel (13).]

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[Williams Arena is now officially referred to as “The Barn” (it’s printed on the floor) – in our day we just called it Bill’s Gym.]

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[Warm-ups continue . . . ]

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[And continue . . . ]

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[Following Kendall a bit around the horn here . . . ]

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[And congrats to her for making the all-tournament team.]

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[A meeting of the captains where once again we are obviously at a size disadvantage.  Their two guards were 5’10” – our tallest player is 5’11”.]

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[And our 4-year starting point and leading scorer, Macy Hatlestad (here in the leg brace), was rendered inoperative by an ACL injury in January.]

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[They even had a big height advantage at the head coaching position!  😉  ]

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[The bigger they are . . . ]

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[Forty-five (as in the TV channel that broadcast the games)!]

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[We were covered as usual by the Amazing Mr. Ripley . . . ]

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[Now I have not only “white lens envy,” but “pink armband envy!”

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[Coach Kohler and now student/assistant coach Macy ready the team for battle.]

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[Macy grins and bears it.]

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[Introductions:  Emma Ziegler (1), and her broken nose . . . ]

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[Kayla Feldhake (43)]

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[Kendall]

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[Kelby]

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[Kiyana Miller (21), completes an all-senior starting five.]

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[That Moari war chant thing again . . . ]

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[And the tip – 5’11” Kayla got the drop on their 6’2″ center.]

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[We could always use her leadership and 3-point shooting.]

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[Junior Emma Schmidt (25) gave us a little better size match-up at 5’11”.]

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[In the background, Kendall (who I always thought was generously list at 5’6″) guards their 5″10″ point guard, No. 22.]

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[Kendall plays catch with Kiyana, and with Kayla and Kelby form the “Special K’s.”]

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[Designated 3-point shooter Kara Thomson (23) (and another Special K) came in after a slow start by the team to drain a couple of long ones to get us in the game.]

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[Their forward, No. 45, is 6’1″, watched by our 5’11” sophomore center McKenzie Duwenhoegger (35).]

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[Kendall scraps with their 5’10” shooting guard (23), a candidate for state player of the year, who at one point made back-to-back 3’s from 10 feet (yes) beyond the line – you don’t even start guarding people that far out!]

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[Kendall works the ball with Kaye Paschke (45), 5’6″ sophomore, who made the winning shot at the buzzer against Grand Rapids.]

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[Kendall looks to pass over the trees.]

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[Schmidty screening for Kara.]

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[Kelby may have intercepted – but her eyes were shut!]

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[Kelby on the wing.  Our wing people seemed fearful of driving into their height, so we really didn’t take advantage of our speed and quickness.]

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[At the half:  Goodness, did you notice how big they are?  But we’re hanging in there]

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[Kaye tries to distract the inbounds.]

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[Kayla at the free throw line.  I yelled at the ref to move – guess he didn’t hear me?]

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[We played good defense the whole game but never discovered our shooting touch – and then became very hesitant because of that.  We lost a close game for 3rd place two days later against defending state champions, Academy of Holy Angels, who also had a big size advantage.  Our radio crew noted Alex was by far the smallest (height-wise) team in the class AAA field.  I mentioned to Coach Kohler later in St. Cloud that I would send a letter to the city council requesting they consider putting human growth hormone in the city water supply.  (OK, just kidding!)  But it was another terrific year, ending with a 26-5 record.]

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[After the game, we went to Whitey’s at 4th and E. Hennepin to drown our sorrows and wolf down a Reuben before . . . ]

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[Heading back home with an intermittent stop in St. Cloud, first at a local watering hole to watch the Gopher’s first round NCAA tournament game v. Middle Tennessee State – the Gopher’s shooting woes unfortunately matched those of our Cardinal girls – then on to Halenbeck Hall on St. Cloud State campus for our boy Cardinals section title match-up with Fergus Falls.]

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[We got there in time to see the last half of another section title game between Rocori and Big Lake.  Our Cardinals split with conference foe Rocori this year, and we beat Big Lake.]

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[It was a terrific game – Big Lake came back from a big deficit to win in front of full house of Alex and Fergus fans waiting for seats.]

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[Our Cards warm up while the team captains meet at center court.  I have issues with Halenbeck – just getting there, parking, sight-lines, seating, steps (on the upper level) are all wanting – but I guess it’s the only venue in the area large enough for such events.]

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[I have one request for next year . . . ]

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[30 pounds of muscle for junior Justin Balcome (43) and he’ll tear it up!]

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[Robert Anderson (3) launches a practice shot.]

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[The girls’ team came back from the Cities for fan support in this game.  I guess they went home before going back down on the last day of the tournament for the 3rd place game.]

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[This team was kind of an enigma all year.  When we were on, we were very good.  Fergus (22-4) was the No. 1-seed, the defending state runners-up, and we (19-7) , the No 2-seed, beat them both times in the regular season?  So, which team would show up?]

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[Anderson, at 6’1″ got the jump on their very good 6’5″ center.]

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[It’s hanging on the rim . . .  Fergus had a huge fan base at the game, I’m thinking ours may have been diluted by the girls playing the same day in the Cities?]

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[And it drops!]

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[Spencer Hockert (15) the free throw line.]

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[Justin attempts in the lane.]

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[The tone of this game was set early.  The Cards came out inexplicably flat?  It was the seniors last chance to make the state tournament in basketball – 4 of the 5 starters played on the state football team.  But Fergus hustled off to a big early lead, hitting open 3’s from all over the court, but we showed little urgency in trying to catch up?]

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[Jake Drew (33), for whom I’m going to name a future hustle award, is always in there battling.  But more often than not, it seemed the Otters were outmanning us in the offensive zone.]

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[But sheer number of chances through his offensive board work, Jake became a pretty good free throw shooter by the end of the year.]

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[Jaran Roste (31) was our one offensive threat the whole game.  He always presents match-up problems because of his size, and he was taking it to the hole all night.

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[And a free throw.]

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[He has good speed and quickness for his size and here he starts another drive.]

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[Am open lane . . . ]

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[And No. 3 is their best player, but we held him in check for the whole game.  It’s just that the rest of the team our clones of fast, good-shooting athletes.]

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[Mr. Anderson at the line.]

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[Jake applying the type of defense we brought out in the 2nd half.  We made life difficult for them for a good part of the half, we made a mini-run, but ultimately were starting from too far back and when the shots stopped falling again Fergus opened it up . . . ]

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[To the ultimate 64-48 win, the same score we beat them by the last time we played?]

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[Roste tries to get something going late.]

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[And we get one to drop.]

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[It’s too bad the season ended like this – but it was a good year.  Fergus is a very good team, I like their style, and will be pulling for them at state.]

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[Looking forward to next, the girls have to replace all five starters; the boys have to replace four starters.  It seems a daunting task, but . . . ]

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[We think that every year – how are we going to replace so-and-so?  But both JV teams had excellent years, actually better records than both varsities, I believe?  So, we’ll likely survive, if not thrive, again next year.]

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p.s.  You’ve heard of those days when a team can’t “throw the ball in the ocean?”  Well, that’s kinda what happened to all three teams on this Black Thursday.  The only conclusion I can draw is that Minnesota . . . must just be too far from the ocean!

I always laugh when people ask me about rebounding techniques.  I’ve got a technique.  It’s called just go get the damn ball.  ~ Charles Barkley

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