Willie Braziel was informed by his Columbia Heights boys' basketball assistant coaches that he started this season with 90 career victories.

The century mark was imminent for coach Braziel, who got there with a 68-59 victory against North Branch on Jan. 18. But recognition came a day later.

"[Assistant coach] Dedrick Jenkins called me the next morning and said, 'You realize what last night was?'" Braziel said. "There wasn't any fanfare but that's OK."

There was some vindication, however. Braziel took over the Hylanders in 2007 after a 4-21 season and elevated their profile. His first four teams increased their victories each year, culminating in 2011 with the program's first state tournament appearance in 81 years. Columbia Heights lost in the Class 3A title game.

Dynamic players such as Jacob Thomas and Zach Lofton carried their teams and brought Braziel some unwelcome criticism.

"People took their shots and said I could only coach talent," Braziel said.

Columbia Heights started this week ranked No. 6 in Class 3A despite "no Division I or Division II guys getting regular minutes," Braziel said.

"You just hope coaches would say we play hard," Braziel said. "I hope that's what people say when they play us."

Foesch on fire

St. Francis forward Zach Foesch led the Saints to three consecutive victories with eight goals and six assists during that span.

Foesch started hot, bagging four goals and one assist in a 6-2 victory against St. Michael-Albertville. He followed up with one goal and two assists against Cambridge-Isanti and completed the surge with a hat trick and three assists against Irondale.

The three victories pushed St. Francis to 11-6, its most victories since 2009-10.

Saints' coach Tyler Schaff said Foesch and fellow captain Cam Kaehler -- players who give maximum effort with minimal ego -- are at the forefront of the program's evolution.

True Team qualifiers

Three north metro programs qualified for the boys' swimming and diving True Team state meet to be held Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Spring Lake Park won the Section 4 title in Class 1A while Anoka (Section 7) and Maple Grove (Section 8) will compete in the Class 2A bracket.

The True Team section and state meets are unique because every entrant on each team counts toward the team score. By comparison, the Minnesota State High School League state meets can be won by a handful of top-end swimmers.

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574