David Flom had an idea what to expect from his 2019-20 basketball squad more than a decade ago. The group was in fourth grade when the program had to find a solution to get the most out of a deep and talented class.
"This group was so strong that we created two A traveling teams and split them equally," Flom said. "They went on to finish first and fourth in state that year. They continued to win championships all the way through traveling at each level [A, B and C]."
That class did not win a Class 4A section or state championship its senior season because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the season to end prematurely in the middle of March, but it did lead to perfection. The Eagles, with a 28-0 record and playing arguably the toughest schedule in the state, are the Star Tribune All-Metro Boys' Team of the Year.
Top-ranked Eden Prairie defeated nine of the next 12 teams ranked behind them in Class 4A in the final regular season poll by Minnesota Basketball News and two (Minnehaha Academy and DeLaSalle) of the top three teams in Class 3A. Seven of those 13 victories (Hopkins and Prior Lake twice each) came on its opponent's home court and three more at neutral sites.
"As we try to do every year, we try to put together the most challenging schedule we can to prepare us for the postseason," Flom said.
With a goal of winning a state championship. That is, until the Eagles got to a certain point in the season.
"Every coach looks at the schedule and takes a guess as to what your record might be at the end of the year," Flom said. "Realistically, I thought if we went something like 22-4 that would have been a fantastic accomplishment and would likely put us in position to be the No. 1 seed for the state tournament.
"So, going unbeaten was never on the radar or a priority. However, once we hit 15-0 [after an 82-64 victory over No. 8 Park Center] we decided to be different — try and win every game — and made it a goal at that point."
The Eagles' signature victory came a little more than three weeks later. They overcame a six-point halftime deficit to win 78-64 at Minnehaha Academy.
"A lot of people knew we could compete with them, but they thought their athleticism and skill would supersede us. That just wasn't the case." Eagles senior Connor Christensen said. "That was the most important game along our trek. The crowd, atmosphere and fans made it seem like that."
The Eagles wound up being the No. 10-ranked team in the country, according to ESPN. Flom also was named the National High School Coaches Association's Coach of the Year.
"We have had the privilege of having many great teams. The best team we had before this group was in 2011 when we took second in state," Flom said. "There are similarities between the two teams in how much they loved each other and the only thing that mattered was winning. With that being said, this is the best team I've ever had.
"A few Minnesota high school historians have said this team was one of the top three most dominate teams they've seen. Obviously, with finishing ranked in the top 10 nationally is quite an accomplishment and probably the highest ranking for any Minnesota team in history. All of these nice awards and recognitions have really helped with the sting of not getting the opportunity to get crowned state champions."
Team roster: Austin Andrews, Ansu Bojang, Tyler Brau, Connor Christensen, Drake Dobbs, Brenden Donahue, Lukas Dunford, Will Foster, Miles Frisch, Matthew Grant, John Henry, Sam Henry, Greg Hopkins, Tommy Mendyke, Christopher Nyland, Cole Tiran, Ryan Warren. Student manager Jake Kukla. Head coach David Flom, assistant coaches Corey Christopherson, Nick Ravn, Jake Sullivan.