Players on the Goodhue boys’ basketball team say they know what two victories could mean in the state tournament: a rematch with Minneapolis North in the Class 1A final.
Last season the Wildcats led the heavily favored Polars by one point at halftime in the state championship game. But dreams of an upset fizzled when they gave up 43 points in the second half and lost 68-45.
Once again this season, Goodhue (28-3) is seeded second and Minneapolis North first. That puts them in opposite brackets, creating the potential to meet again in the final.
“It could happen, and we obviously hope that it does happen,” Goodhue coach Matt Halverson said. “We’d be really excited to do it.”
Goodhue, in southeastern Minnesota, has become more of a basketball town recently. Last year, both the boys’ and girls’ teams reached their respective state championship games, with the girls’ team winning the state title. On Saturday, the girls’ team made it back-to-back titles with a 73-51 victory over Mountain Iron-Buhl.
Halverson said Goodhue has typically been a wrestling town, but lately the success between the basketball programs has generated a new interest in the sport.
“Basketball is at a high point right now,” Goodhue guard Ben Opsahl said. “We try to focus on all our sports, though.”
Said Halverson, “People get excited and go to the state tournament and realize basketball is a fun sport. That really helps out the youth and helps out our program.”
Halverson said he believes his team is better equipped this season versus last year, as more players have gone through the experience of playing in a state tournament.
Additionally, four of the team’s seniors — Jacob McNamara, Taylor Buck, Lucas and Nicholas Thomforde — had brothers who played in the state tournament in 2004 and 2011.
“It’s kind of a sibling rivalry,” Halverson said. “They trash talk to each other and it’s a fun thing for them to say, ‘Hey, we got to state just like you did.’ ”
Halverson said his main attention is on his team’s opening round matchup against Lake Park-Audubon, but still has an eye toward Minneapolis North.
Last year’s team had a strong group of juniors who are now seniors and have embraced the role of being one of the top teams in the state.
“That state tournament experience really made them hungry and drove them in the offseason,” Halverson said. “They wanted to do it again this year.”
Mike Hendrickson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.