Two boys basketball teams from southern Minnesota, just about an hour’s drive apart, playing for the small-school boys basketball championship, 20 years ago ... as Chad Ostermann remembered, “it was a big deal.”
“It was the Gopher Conference against the Valley Conference,” said Ostermann, then a player at Maple River and now the coach of his alma mater. “I don’t think either conference had ever played in a state championship game. It was a great night for southern Minnesota basketball.”
Twenty years ago, Maple River won the Class A championship, defeating Faribault Bethlehem Academy 33-29 at the St. Paul Civic Center. On Friday, 16 players and two coaches will be honored at the boys basketball game against Mankato Loyola.
The list of players expected to be present include Ostermann, Derek Staloch, Eric Lewis, Justin Schuster, Matt Myers, Rob McGregor, Jeremy Huebsch, Jason Krengel, Shannon Sinning, Mark Lancaster, Chris Staloch, Matt Sohre, Tom Denn, Fran Breiter, Jason Sohre and Chris Johnson. The head coach was Dave Walker, assisted by Tim Anderson, now the coach at Loyola.
Myers will have traveled the farthest, coming up from Kearney, Neb.
“We’ve always wanted to do something, but you never know which year,” Ostermann said. “Five, 10 ... you’ve kind of stayed in touch. With 20, it’s been a long time.”
Ostermann remembers that championship night and the journey to get there. It was a close game throughout as Faribault BA tried to slow the game down and limit the high-scoring Eagles, who never trailed.
Lancaster, a 6-foot-9 center, was on his game with 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Jason Krengel scored 10 points and drew the assignment of defending BA’s top player, Tim Schlaak. Ostermann hit the clinching free throws in the final minute.
It was the lowest-scoring championship game since 1942, when Buhl defeated Marshall 30-29. There has only been one lower-scoring game championship game since, a 34-23 victory by Southwest Minnesota Christian over Christ’s Household of Faith.