Four for four

Okay, that’s just ridiculous. My high school didn’t just win its fourth consecutive state title in basketball last night, it demonstrated that it really should be playing in 4A.

Top-ranked Minnehaha Academy won its fourth state tournament championship in as many tries, besting Alexandria 80-29 on Saturday at the Target Center.

The Redhawks (20-1) ending the past three full seasons with Class 2A titles. They moved up to Class 3A last season and won the Section 4 title. But coronavirus canceled the state tournament. Winning Saturday makes Minnehaha the fourth program to win at least four consecutive titles.

Redhawks senior Chet Holmgren, a 7-1 matchup nightmare considered the top college recruit in the nation, made his share of plays. So did freshman Mercy Miller, who scored 15 points. Older brother Hercy poured in 24. Holmgren added 18.

The excellence of the basketball team seems utterly bizarre to me because back in my day, the only winter sport in which MA was even remotely competitive was the ski team, and Minneapolis North was the dominant basketball program. For example, if you remember when UConn won the NCAA title, they were led by a North player, Khalid El-Amin.

That being said, I’m glad that there weren’t so many different levels of competition when I was in high school, even though it prevented me from ever winning a state title. In track, I had no trouble consistently beating all the 1A state champions from Brooklyn Center and Mahtomedi in our conference, but came in third behind two North sprinters in the 2A Regional finals. And while my soccer team was unexpectedly – and unjustly – knocked out in the state semifinals in overtime, beating our archrivals at Minneapolis Washburn in the first round remains my absolute favorite out of all the hundreds of soccer games I’ve played.

Now that was a truly memorable game. It was the only time I can recall a high school soccer game making the 10 o’clock news, as the massive brawl that took place on the field immediately after the final whistle was one of the biggest disruptions to take place in Minneapolis prior to the George Floyd riots. As a result of the two games that season, there was so much bad blood between the teams that the school had to change the annual Super Soccer Day tradition where every team from the C-squads on up would play each other by replacing Washburn with Southwest.

If I’d wanted a state title, I suppose I should have stuck with tennis. The guys with whom I played JV as a freshman before switching to track won state our senior year. But I think titles are considerably less meaningful than the experience of the competition. That’s not sour grapes talking either, as I’ve won nine conference championships, both as a team member and as an individual, at the top high school and NCAA levels.

Anyhow, I think it’s always best to compete at the highest level available to you, even if that means you can’t walk away with a victory. Fortunately for the MA players of today, they’re getting the chance to play against – and even beat – the nation’s top teams outside of the state high school league.