What a weekend for basketball

By Chuck Kajer

There was a time from the early 1980s through the mid-90s when you would find me at the St. Paul Civic Center for at least one session of the state basketball tournament each year.

As boys basketball coach in the mid-1980s, I was part of a group that would show up each year and watch the best the state could offer in terms of basketball. Our athletic director at Wykoff, Pete Boelter, was high on the seniority list for tickets, so we had great seats for the Class A tournament. I remember sitting three rows behind the Le Sueur bench when Tim Dittberner, now the principal at New Prague Middle School, took the Giants to the state tournament for the first time.

It's been four years since I last went to a boys state tournament game, and I wasn't at the Target Center this past weekend. But from what I saw of Saturday's games on TV, I'm not sure there has ever been a day of basketball like this one.

Start with Ellsworth hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the Class A championship. Then, Holy Family Catholic of Victoria went into overtime before claiming the school's first state championship in any sport. In the evening session, St. Thomas Academy proved to be the top team in the Class AAA with a convincing win over Benilde-St. Margaret's. Keep in mind, our New Prague Trojans will have to contend with the Cadets beginning next season, as St. Thomas has been reassigned to Section 1AAA. Finally, Buffalo, making its first tournament appearance since 1931, won the title on a layup with two seconds left against Robbinsdale Armstrong.

Add to that a number of other close games and exciting performances, and it was as good a tournament as the state has seen since going to the four-class format in 1997. As noted in the Times Capsules on this page, that was the year New Prague finished second in Class AAA.

Add to that all the college games on TV this weekend, including Winona State's last second loss in the NCAA Division II championship game, and it was a great weekend to be a hoops fand.

I'm wondering how this weekend's Final Four will be able to top it.

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