In 1997, Tom Critchley’s Roseville team trailed Mounds View by double digits in a section game it needed to win to keep its state tournament hopes alive.
Then the court turned dark. The only thing Critchley’s son, Ted, could hear, as maintenance workers toiled in the shadows trying to get the lights back on, was his father’s voice giving orders to players. When the court was illuminated once more, Ted Critchley and his infant son, Kobe, watched the Raiders right the ship before later advancing to the state tournament.
“We wound up beating them by 10 or 11,” Tom Critchley said. “It was a great comeback.”
But since that bizarre night punctuated a memorable season, Roseville has never been past the section final. That will change Wednesday night when Kobe suits up at point guard, Ted Critchley mans the bench as head coach and Tom Critchley as assistant coach for Roseville against Shakopee in the Class 4A boys’ basketball state tournament at Target Center.
“It’s just awesome. I get to see them every day,” Kobe Critchley said of playing for his father and grandfather. “It’s really strengthened that relationship.”
When a young Kobe lived in Waseca, his grandfather gave him a secret to being an elite ball-handler. Kids these days don’t dribble as well as they used to, Tom Critchley told him, because they play on hardwood early on.
“When old guys like me were growing up we were dribbling the ball off of tree roots and rocks and broken pavement,” the head-coach-turned-assistant-coach said.
Despite puzzled looks from neighbors, Kobe then started dribbling up and down what his grandfather called the “broken sidewalks” of Waseca, preparing for his first season of AAU basketball in second grade.
While Kobe honed his skills to later become his team’s leading scorer, Mike Muscala was Roseville’s main attraction. He averaged a double-double his senior year, but never won more than one section game in his career.
“I think we made some progress,” Muscala, 23, said. “I never had success in terms of getting to state, but ever since then it’s been fun to watch them continue to get better.”
A few summers ago, the current Atlanta Hawks forward returned to Roseville from college at Bucknell to help with team camps. While there, Muscala said he saw a team with a lot of “young talent” on it. Now Kobe, Jesper Horsted, Mitch Poss and co. are all grown up — ready to build on the foundation Muscala helped lay.
“I thought he was the coolest thing,” Horsted said of Muscala. “I’ve always looked up to him.”
For fourth-seeded Roseville, winning the program’s first state game ever won’t be easy. Fifth-seed Shakopee is led by prolific scorer Steffon Mitchell.
“He’s just the perfect basketball player,” Ted Critchley said.
The three generations of Critchleys likely will do everything short of turning the lights off to slow Mitchell down Wednesday. Stopping him and advancing further into the tournament would just add another piece to the program players like Muscala left behind.
“For these kids to pull it through … it’s good for all those players who have come through before them as well because they laid the foundation,” Ted Critchley said. “This is a testament of bringing all those teams together.”
Jack Satzinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.