Minneapolis South boys basketball coach Joe Hyser was looking forward to the 2022-23 season. He was going to have his best team since taking over the program 27 years earlier.

Hyser was on the cusp of taking the Tigers to the state tournament for the first time under his tutelage. They were going to be favored to finally reach the pinnacle, a trip to high school basketball's marquee event.

His dream became a nightmare. His roster was decimated by transfers, eight in all, including all five starters. The Tigers, coming off their first winning season since the 2015-16 season, were starting over.

Hyser and his depleted group endured a 6-20 season.

A year later, much has changed. So much that Hyser, for his perseverance through a difficult situation is the All-Metro Sports Awards Boys Team Coach of the Year for 2023-24.

That overhauled Minneapolis South roster jelled last season, and the team won that long-sought spot in the state tournament.

"Together, we overcame many challenges, hardships and expectations to experience a special year," Hyser said. "Our players believed in themselves, sacrificed and played for each other. As a coach that is the ultimate goal. It was gratifying to see young men step into the role of leadership and lead. Winning the section and going to state was icing on the cake."

The Tigers won the Section 3 championship with a 62-61 victory over St. Thomas Academy to earn a berth in the Class 3A state tournament. That was part of a trend; a handful of their regular-season wins were by six points or fewer, as were the final two section games.

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"Winning the section and going to the state tournament was a dream only, especially with the enrollment at South and all the city schools declining," Hyser said.

South suffered a 72-70 loss to Alexandria in the quarterfinals of the state tournament with a strong contingent of Tigers fans looking on. It was their third loss by six or fewer points in a 22-7 season.

The Tigers didn't leave the state tournament without a victory. They edged Chisago Lakes 77-73 in the consolation bracket before falling to Stewartville in the fifth-place game.

Hyser came away grateful, about his team and the All-Metro Sports Awards honor.

"My thinking as a coach was that I/we had to get to state to be considered a good coach," Hyser said. "That thought is a trap that we coaches fall into sometimes because of the pressure we put on ourselves to win. There are so many fine coaches doing a great job of inspiring, equipping and leading our youth that do not get recognized for their efforts. I can't begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for winning this award. This is truly an honor."