MADELIA, MINN. — This was the second meeting with Mankato Loyola of Jeff Van Hee's ninth season as the boys' basketball coach of the Madelia Blackhawks.
"We've never beaten them," Van Hee said. "And I think it's four straight years that Loyola has knocked us out in the sub-sectional."
Paul Carpenter, Madelia's athletic director and Van Hee's predecessor as basketball coach, said: "When have we beaten Loyola? I can't remember it happening."
Thus it was explainable last Saturday night in Madelia's gym (circa 1958), when Ja'Sean Glover blocked a three-point attempt, retrieved the ball before midcourt, sped away and dunked at the final buzzer, that the Blackhawks bench erupted in jubilation.
That made the final 69-59, so it wasn't a game-winner, but when you haven't beaten a conference rival in forever … a closing dunk and exuberant celebration are permitted.
The losses have been as frequent as victories again this season for the Blackhawks, and they are expected to land at a No. 6 or 7 when the seeding is announced later this week for the rugged 11-team north subsection of Class 1A, Section 2.
Yet, this has been a wonderful winter to gather the family and head for the Madelia gym to enjoy the final evenings of hoops entertainment provided by Glover.
Ja'Sean came to town with his mother, Jacquisha, and sister, Ollieah, in the summer of 2014. He was entering the fifth grade and, by the middle of his seventh-grade year in the winter of 2016-17, he was a varsity starter.
"Seventh-grader, and about 5-foot-8, but there was no one on the court with a higher basketball IQ than Ja'Sean," Van Hee said. "His family moved in across the street from the outdoor basketball court and, if you were looking for him, that's where he was."
Glover is now listed at 6-5, perhaps generous by an inch, but he has a great basketball frame, solid but not too thick, and these exceptional talents:
Quickness with the ball, on defense and when rising to high-point rebounds. Tremendous body control that allows him to split defenders and avoid charges on drives. Playing fast while also seeing teammates.
"Some people say that's my Kryptonite — being too unselfish," Glover said, with a slight laugh. "I love to draw defenders, get my teammates open and find them with a pass."
The true question that Glover has heard from Division I recruiters, both directly and secondhand, concerns his jump shot.
"It's not that I can't shoot from the outside," Glover said. "It's that they haven't seen me do a lot of it. We're trying to win games, and if I can, my first move is to blow by [my] defender."
As a witness last Saturday, let me offer this: Ja'Sean "can."
He had 45 points, with a couple of threes, against Loyola. He also had 18 rebounds, eight assists (seemed like more), four blocks and three steals.
No team has been Ja'Sean'ed to a higher degree than the Cleveland High Clippers this winter. On Dec. 20, in a 78-45 road victory, he had a quadruple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 11 steals and 10 assists. On Jan. 31, he scored 60 points at home in an 88-50 victory over the Clippers to break his school record.
Glover's career scoring total is 2,929 points. There are two games left — one home, one road — in the regular season and, at a minimum, a probable home game in subsection.
That means, barring a fluke, Glover will become Minnesota's 13th boys' basketball player to reach 3,000 points.
Which would be another reward for Mom's decision in 2014, when living in a Minneapolis shelter with her two kids — Ja'Sean in fourth grade and Ollieah in third — and looking at subsidized-housing possibilities, asked about a listing in Madelia, a small town (pop. 2,600) a couple of hours to the south.
"I had never heard of Madelia, and I knew it would be a dramatic change, but I wanted to get my kids somewhere quiet," said Jacquisha, who works in town. "I went out there, took a look and said, 'This is for us.'"
So quiet that about all Ja'Sean had to do when he first arrived was go to the outdoor court.
"I heard there was this new kid in town," Van Hee said. "I didn't really know him until Ja'Sean started hanging out with us, the people running the youth program, between his fifth and sixth grade.
"We had an early tournament — in Fulda, with [coach] Colby Pack — for those ages. I asked Ja'Sean if he wanted to play, giving us seven kids, and his eyes lit up.
"We picked him up and he didn't have basketball shoes … just his street sneakers that he wore every day.
"There were a bunch of teams at the tournament that weekend and no one had seen Ja'Sean previously. Colby called me Monday and said, 'Nobody who was here failed to say that Ja'Sean was the best player on the court.'"
Win or lose, that hasn't changed much when Glover has been on a court for Madelia.
"This is a great community," Ja'Sean said. "For instance, we had the big fire in 2016 that wiped out one block of Main Street, and the next day, all you heard was, 'Madelia Strong; we're going to rebuild.' And downtown is better than ever.
"You know we have the La Plaza [Fiesta], right? The best Mexican restaurant you're going to find."
Van Hee added several more items to Glover's basketball résumé, and then said:
"Wait. I forgot to tell you that he might be as good an actor as he is a basketball player. His debut was this year as the Jack of All Trades from '[The] Canterbury Tales' in the school's one-act play, and he was terrific."