By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
— 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.
It was also the first state championship for Section 2A since St. James in 1972.
“I just remember the level of competition that year, because it was a two-class system back then,” Ostermann said. “You remember the friendships that you develop over the course of the season.”
Not just volleyball
Blue Earth Area senior Krista Hassing has signed with Minnesota State to play volleyball for the next four years, but she’s also having a pretty good basketball season.
On Tuesday, she had 14 points and 12 rebounds in a 41-25 victory over United South Central. She’s averaging 16.5 points and 12 rebounds, making her a double-double machine.
“She’s a very gifted athlete,” BEA coach Al Cue said. “Her athleticism is what puts her over the top.”
Blue Earth Area (9-5) hosts Waseca, the South Central Conference’s first-place team, tonight.
Nicollet junior Matt Christenson was unstoppable Monday, scoring 29 points and grabbing 20 rebounds to help the Nicollet boys basketball team to its first victory of the season Monday.
Christenson, a 6-foot-3 forward, tied his career-high for rebounds and fell two points short of his best offensive game, behind a 31-point performance last season.
For the season, Christenson, an all-state linebacker/tight end, is averaging 13.9 points and 11.2 rebounds.
“He’s a bit undersized in the post, but he’s very physical,” Nicollet coach Craig Schafer said. “He uses his muscle to his advantage so he plays like he’s 6-7. He has good fundamentals, which allows him to get easy baskets. He just has a knack for the ball.”
Nicollet plays today at Mankato Loyola.
Game to watch
The St. Peter boys (13-1) play at Fairmont (12-3) tonight with first place at stake in the South Central Conference. The teams are tied at 4-0 in league games and will play again in the regular-season finale Feb. 28 at St. Peter.