There were plenty of memories and highlights from the West Metro 2016-17 athletic season. Here are three that stood out:
Two plays into the Class 4A championship game at the Prep Bowl last November and things were already looking bleak for Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
Ricky Floyd, the Red Knights’ star running back — the type of player that changes games — was headed to the bench because of a separated shoulder. He would not return.
Many people didn’t think Benilde-St. Margaret’s would beat Winona even with a healthy Floyd. With him gone, the Red Knights had no chance, right? Wrong.
Benilde-SM, stunned briefly, dug deep. changed its offensive strategy and got big games from unexpected sources to defeat Winona 31-28 in a seesaw game with nine lead changes.
“It takes about 10 minutes, because you’re feeling sorry for yourself and you wonder if you can do this,” Benilde-SM co-coach Jon Hanks said. “But then they settled down, grabbed the reins and said, ‘We can do this. Let’s go.’ ”
If the results of the state tournaments are an accurate barometer, the epicenter of high school basketball in the metro lies somewhere in Minneapolis and its western suburbs.
Four of the eight girls’ and boys’ champions reside in the west metro: Class 3A Orono on the girls’ side, 1A Minneapolis North, 2A Minnehaha Academy and 3A DeLaSalle on the boys’.
And that doesn’t include the Hopkins’ girls team losing in the Class 4A championship game for the second consecutive season or the Wayzata’s boys team qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 1959.
DeLaSalle’s championship was its state-record sixth in a row, but that streak could be in jeopardy next season as the Islanders lost the architect of their magnificent run. Head coach Dave Thorson resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Streak finally ends
It was one of those things that attached itself to the Edina girls’ tennis team and became an inextricable part of who it was. The Hornets went into the 2016 Class 2A state tournament with a streak of 19 consecutive team state championships. With that kind of history, a 20th was expected.
It never happened.
Mahtomedi upset Edina 4-3 in the team semifinals and went on to win the Class 2A title. The streak, which began before any of the players on Edina’s team were born, was over.
“I’m not surprised,” said Edina coach Steve Paulsen, who had been there for the entire run. “Mahtomedi deserved it. It was close and we had our chances, but we just got beat.”
Edina spent so many years on top, but the Hornets were always gracious and humble winners. That was something Paulsen stressed. So, when they finally lost, Paulsen emphasized the importance of remaining cordial.
“We’ve always tried to win with class,” Paulsen said at the time. “And it’s just as important that we go out and lose with class.”