Thank you for checking out Basketball Across Minnesota, my weekly look at some of the state's top hoops stories, from preps to pros. — Marcus Fuller

Tamara Moore's historic hire at Mesabi Range College two years ago brought national attention to Minnesota's junior college ranks, as she became the first Black woman to be named head coach of a men's college basketball team.

Moore, 41, seems destined for a bright coaching future, but even when other possible jobs came into view, the Norsemen were still her priority. She didn't get to coach them until this season after last season was canceled during the pandemic.

"I had a couple of jobs that showed interest in me," Moore said. "But knowing we didn't play last year, I didn't want there to be an asterisk that I got hired but didn't coach a season."

The former WNBA player and Minneapolis North star dreams of leading a Division I program. She also studied analytics, scouting and networked at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas through the NBA G League coaches program last summer.

"I know I can go higher, but I want to make sure I'm doing it at the right time," Moore said. "I tell my players all the time, 'My success is based off your success.' But I'm not in a rush."

Mesabi Range, a 1,200-student two-year public institution in Virginia, Minn., made the Minnesota College Athletic Conference men's basketball playoffs for the first time since 2017.

After breaking barriers to get hired in a sport dominated by men's coaches, Moore was disappointed she was unable to take the sidelines to coach last year. The MCAC's North Division decided to shut down because of COVID-19 concerns while others played.

"It was hard because the high schools and other college teams played with no fans and wearing masks," said Moore, who coached girls basketball at Minneapolis Edison and the TC Elite semi-pro team previously. "We could've followed those guidelines."

But Moore accepted the decision and worked even harder in recruiting and retention. She persuaded 11 players to return for the 2021-22 season, including this year's leading scorer, freshman guard Mark Campbell from Patrick Henry.

The Norsemen men went 6-19 before Moore was hired in April 2020, but they already picked up win No. 8 overall and their sixth in conference with Wednesday's 59-56 upset over first-place Rainy River Community College, which had been undefeated in league play.

"We're in our last week of the regular season," said Moore, also the school's softball coach. "So I'm just excited about the little goals that we set and have a chance at this season."

Mesabi Range players traveled with Moore to Madison, Wis., earlier this season when she was honored by her alma mater. Already part of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, her name was added to the prestigious Legends Walk at the Kohl Center.

Moore, who won Miss Basketball after leading Minneapolis North to a state title in 1998, finished her college career as the Badgers' all-time leader in steals and assists, and helped them win the 2000 NIT title. She went on to play six seasons in the WNBA, including for the Minnesota Lynx in 2002.

"It was exciting to see my name encrusted into the floor [in Madison]," Moore said. "But to see my guys' faces light up when they shot on a Division I court made me know that's my goal for this team and for my players to be able to experience that in the future. Our slogan this season was 'Destination D-I.'"

Moore would make history if she reaches D-I — or even D-II or D-III — as a head coach. Despite the achievements of women such as former San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon (now in the WNBA as Las Vegas Aces coach) and New Orleans Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon, there still has never been a woman head coach for a Division I men's hoops program. Nor has there been one at the Division II or Division III level, according to the NCAA.

The staff of Gophers men's coach Ben Johnson includes quality control coach Kelsey Steinhagen, who sits on the bench and is the only woman in the Big Ten on a men's hoops staff in primarily a non-administrative role, which includes scouting and game prep.

In 1993, Kerri-Ann McTiernan was the first woman to coach men's college basketball at Kingsborough Community College in New York City. It took nearly 30 years for Moore to become the second to earn that distinction, but her trailblazing path spurred another recently.

Last September, Sarah Gayler was hired by Brescia University in Kentucky, making her the first woman to coach an NAIA men's basketball program.

Moore's hire at Mesabi Range may open the door for others to coach in men's hoops, but she's only getting started with her ascent.

"I feel like I've had a lot of support," Moore said. "So many people have been impactful. I'm just glad I could give that back."

Fuller's Five

Five Minnesotans who stood out this week:

Noah Alm, Northwestern-St. Paul

The 6-3 senior from Forest Lake scored 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting in a 77-62 win over Wisconsin-Superior to help Northwestern clinch a share of the UMAC regular-season title.

Tyus Jones, Memphis Grizzlies

Former Duke and Apple Valley star scored a career-high 27 points and added nine assists Tuesday against New Orleans to help extend Memphis' winning streak to six games.

Olivia Olson, Benilde-St. Margaret's

The sophomore sensation had back-to-back 30-point games, including 32 points as the Red Knights handed Chaska its first conference loss on her game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left.

Tori Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton

The state's second-leading scorer is an eighth-grader. And she's heating up with 43 and 38 points in a two-game stretch, which already put her over 1,000 career points.

Ronnie Porter, St. Paul Como Park

Porter, who has led Como Park girls to six straight wins, reached the 2,000-point career milestone while scoring 41 in a win over Hill-Murray.

Statistically speaking

2 – Number of last-second game-winning shots Tuesday from Jefferson's Daniel Freitag and Bemidji's Isaac Severts vs. Chaska and Moorhead, respectively.

18 – Number of years since Macalester men's basketball hosted a MIAC playoff game, which it will do Saturday vs. St. Scholastica after upsetting second-place Augsburg on Monday's Senior Night.

32 – Number of years at Gustavus for men's basketball coach Mark Hanson, who announced his retirement last week after the 2021-22 season.

38 – Single-game points scored for Gophers recruit Pharrel Payne in Park of Cottage Grove's win over Mounds View last week.

400 – Career coaching victories achieved last week for Kris Fadness with Austin boys' basketball.

500 – Career coaching victories for former Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle girls' coach Faith Johnson Patterson, who is now at Visitation.

Games to watch

Totino-Grace boys at Park Center, Friday, 7 p.m.

The first matchup between these Class 4A and 3A powerhouse programs on Jan. 21 resulted in a 64-61 comeback victory for Totino-Grace, which is the only team to beat the Pirates.

East Ridge boys vs. Minneapolis North, Saturday, 3 p.m.

The Polars, who are coming off a big win vs. Hopkins, are the favorite to win the Class 2A title, partly because they're battled-tested. This will be their fifth opponent ranked in the top 10 in bigger classes.

Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on Don't be a stranger on Twitter after reading, as chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on Twitter)