After adding two to the list Saturday, 28 teams have finished their season without a loss since the first girls’ basketball state tournament in 1974. That includes Elk River, 32-0 after beating Hopkins in the Class 4A final Saturday, and Roseau, 32-0 after defeating Sauk Centre in the Class 2A final.
The matchup between Elk River and Hopkins, each 31-0 going into the game, was rare for teams in the state’s large-school class. It hadn’t happened in the 20 previous seasons of four-class basketball. Only six Class 4A teams have gone undefeated, most recently Lakeville North in 2010.
Several factors contribute to the rare feat. Basketball players get better training today, leading to a much deeper talent base. Even the best teams run up against talented foes capable of defeating them.
Coaches today also put greater emphasis on playing tougher schedules. It’s somewhat surprising that Hopkins and Elk River didn’t play each other at some point this season.
Getting through a season without a significant injury, illness or off-game is tough. “Things go your way,” Elk River coach Jeremy Digiovanni said after the Elks edged Lakeville North 57-56 in the semifinals.
Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff’s impressive record shows how difficult it is to go through a season without losing. He’s won six state championships with the Royals but has never had an undefeated season.
Winona coach Tim Gleason lauded Orono for winning Saturday’s game inside, but the Spartans didn’t mind the air cavalry provided by senior guard Tori Andrew’s four three-pointers in the first half, some from afar.
“It’s always great having her out there shooting from the four-point line,” Spartans senior Mattea Rice said.
“On that first one she should have gotten a parking ticket shooting from Timbuktu,” Orono coach Lavesa Glover said.
Elusive state title
Mountain Iron-Buhl senior point guard Mya Buffetta walked off the Williams Arena elevated floor one last time, tears in her eyes. Buffetta started on six consecutive Class 1A state tournament teams, none of which was able to hoist the championship trophy.
“We’ve been trying to win this for six years,” said Buffetta, whose team was also the runner-up in her seventh-grade season in 2012. “It’s hard to win it.”
Fellow senior guard Chelsea Mason, who first as an eighth-grader, scored more than 3,000 points in her career. She also became the state’s all-time leader in steals.
“Today isn’t going to diminish what these two have done,” said Mountain Iron-Buhl coach Jeff Buffetta. “We have more kids who want to be like these two.”
Cromwell-Wright made 10 three-pointers in a 78-51 victory over Maranatha in the Class 1A third-place game, giving it 29 three-pointers in the tournament and tying the record set in 2014. Seniors Bailey Gronner and Chelsea Swatek each had 10.
JIM PAULSEN, DAVID LA VAQUE, RON HAGGSTROM