The boys’ team, which practices in the morning before school, is at the state basketball tournament for the first time in 20 years.
When other teams are sleeping, Delano is practicing. And when other teams are practicing, Delano is, well, sleeping.
At least, part of the time.
There are plenty of reasons the Delano Tigers are set to make the second boys’ basketball state tournament appearance in school history, the first since 1993.
The Tigers could be held up as poster children for basketball in a tight-knit community. They are a group of close friends and gym rats who do nearly everything together. They are versatile and unselfish, true believers in a team-first mentality. Each has a role, but each can step into another’s role anytime it’s necessary.
“We’re all pretty even,” said senior forward Dalton Pulis, one of four Tigers who average between 11.5 and 16.5 points per game. “We distribute the ball pretty evenly, we shoot pretty much the same. We don’t stand out.”
Ah, but that’s where others might beg to differ. While the players themselves have an all-for-one mentality, the way the Tigers have gone about their business — they’re 26-3 after beating St. Cloud Apollo on Thursday for the Section 6, Class 3A championship — would make most high school students cringe.
Due to scheduling conflicts because their coach, Terry Teacham, works at Orono High School, the Tigers do most of their practicing before school. On non-game days, Delano begins practice at 5:45 a.m., winding up about 90 minutes later. Plenty of time to get ready for the start of the school day, which begins at 8:02 a.m.
“I usually wake up at 5 and I leave the house by 5:20,” Pulis said. “I’m used to it. I just hop right out of bed.”
It wasn’t always that way. Junior guard Toby Hanson, one of two 1,000-point scorers on the Tigers’ roster (the other is senior Zach Checkal), admitted he had second thoughts when he joined the varsity in ninth grade.
“I hated morning practices,” Hanson said. “When coach talked about it, I remember thinking ‘Is he serious?’ But now I’m used to it. I feel like we have a lot more energy in the mornings. And after school, when we’re dragging a little, we can go home and take a nap.”
Practicing before school has paid off in another way. Having time to kill before class, the Tigers routinely head to the school cafeteria together to await the day’s breakfast offerings. That time together has resulted in a bond that shows up on the court.
“We’re together all the time,” Pulis said. “When we lost in the section finals last year, we said that we were going to be in the state tournament this year. We worked out together every summer morning, of course, and we thought about this for 365 days.”
As Hanson said succinctly, “It’s like we’re not just a team, we’re a family.”
Delano is been one of those schools that stresses athletics. The football team is always among the top challengers for the league title in the rugged Wright County Conference. The baseball team has made eight trips to the state tournament, including three in a row.
By comparison, the boys’ basketball team hasn’t always shared the same spotlight in the community or enjoyed as much support. A nice diversion on a winters’ night, but nothing to get too excited about.
Until this year, that is.
As the victories began to mount, more and more fans began to turn out to see what the fuss was about. Delano’s run-and-gun style left them wanting more.
|Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick||2||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann||5|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||10||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: S. Nolin||6|
|Minnesota - LP: S. Deduno||0||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez||6|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: S. Feldman||4||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: B. Arroyo||7|
|Cleveland - LP: J. Masterson||1||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||8|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Phelps||9||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: R. Hernandez||4|
|Pittsburgh - LP: A. Burnett||1||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: M. Estrada||2|
|Miami - LP: R. Webb||3||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - WP: N. Jones||4|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Vargas||5||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: L. Hochevar||2|
|Oakland - WP: P. Neshek||6||FINAL|
|Houston - LP: J. Veras||5|
|San Diego - LP: E. Stults||2||FINAL|
|Arizona - WP: B. McCarthy||5|
|St. Louis - WP: L. Lynn||7||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - LP: C. Capuano||0|
|Texas - WP: J. Grimm||9||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: J. Saunders||5|
|Colorado - WP: T. Chatwood||5||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: T. Lincecum||0|
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