I have been thinking about how much fun I had at the state girls’ basketball tournament all week long. I’m still on a high a week later! Sure I was exhausted when I got home that Saturday night, and I’ve recovered. But my mind won’t stop thinking about my experience at state girls’ basketball with the Minneota Vikings.
Watching the Minneota Vikings girls’ basketball team win a state championship and being a small part of that broadcasting their games will always be a very special moment in my life. There are 150 Class A girls’ basketball teams in the state and Minneota finished first! The best team in the state! All week people have been asking me about the three games they played. They want to know what some of the girls are like, and they want to hear my stories about my experience at Williams Arena. I happily tell them my stories and I have a number of them. Let me share some of my favorites!
The girls beat Heritage Christian Academy in a close game in which Abby Hennen went 8-8 from the free throw line and made clutch free throws at the end of the game for the win. After the game Abby’s sister Kelsey Buysse who was broadcasting with me told me that they have a basketball hoop on the farm where Abby practices free throws. So in the press conference I asked Abby if practicing free throws on the farm all these years paid off? Her answer was classic Abby “I felt right at home, after all they call this place the Barn!” Everyone including Coach Johnston burst out laughing! That quote went viral on social media and was in a number of newspapers.
Most of you know John Millea of the MSHSL. He writes Johns Journal and covers high school sports statewide for the high school league. I have gotten to know John over the years and he is one of the hardest working people I know. He does a great job telling stories. He is also a great human being, a very kind person, and always looking for the positive in people and has a great sense of humor.
After the LQPV/DB Shadows won two state championships in dance, I was given two Shadows car stickers to give to John to put on his Toyota vehicle that he drives around the state. It’s a thing that when a school wins a state championship, John will put your school team logo on his car. So during halftime, I presented John the Shadows car stickers. John was really excited to get them, after I left he tweeted pictures of them. John has over 25,000 Twitter followers!
I get asked what the Minneota coaches and girls are like. I always say very kind people, the girls come from good families. I know Morgan and Abby Hennen the best. I’ve known the Hennen family for a long time. I enjoy talking sports with Steve and Missy and asking what their kids are up to. It has been fun watching Abby and Morgan grow from elementary basketball players to where they are at now. Lizzy Gillingham is a special person, tough as nails and very athletic. She comes from an athletic family, her dad Brad is a world class weight lifter. Brad has broken world records. Lizzy’s grandfather is Gale Gillingham of the NFL Green Bay Packers. Gale played on the 60’s Packers team coached by Vince Lombardi. Very nice family. The Kockelman family had a big state tournament with two daughters in the state tournament. Their oldest daughter Taya coaches Redwood Valley girls team and they qualified for state. I always have said that Morgan Kockelman is the best defensive player I’ve ever seen. Morgan, in my mind doesn’t get enough credit or press. She shut down the best guards in Minnesota during the state tournament! Dale Kockelman, her dad is the assistant coach and is basketball smart. I enjoy visiting with him. Lydia Sussner always takes time to talk to me. She is one talented girl when it comes to volleyball and basketball. She will be playing college volleyball at SMSU next year. Those are the five starters and I’ve come to know them well. Coach Johnston is a football and basketball genius! I say this on the air all the time, he is the best coach at making adjustments during the game to put his team in a position to win. Which they do a lot, win! Chad always takes time for me and I appreciate that. He also is a family man, and does a great job balancing work and family. It has been a pleasure knowing all of them, they are good people!
The people that broadcasted with me are some of my best friends. Byron Higgin, Kelsey Buysse and Molly Hennen. We sure have a fun time together. All three of them are very good on the radio and it helps that they like to talk. Kelsey and Molly were laughing at me, because there wasn’t much room for me at Williams Arena on press row, because my belly was in the way between the chair and table. I’m glad someone thought it was funny. All three of them bring joy to my life and we are good friends.
I could go on and on about the state girls’ basketball tournament. So many experiences with people. I guess I’m a people person for sure. I love people, I love visiting with people, especially at state tournaments. The Minneota community makes me feel like part of their family and I’m thankful for that.