It was the seventh time Skip Dolan had brought a team from Annandale to the men’s national basketball tournament. The first was in 2004, then there were five in a row from 2013 to 2017.
The best result was to be second after a decisive 60-41 defeat against Esko in the 2014 Class 2A final.
The Cardinals were back on Saturday to face Minneapolis North, a school with six previous state titles, ranging from four in the largest class to two in the smallest.
“I can’t stand what’s going on. I don’t know how we’re going to master stupidity.
The easy angle was to declare Annandale an underdog, though that wouldn’t have factored in the Cardinals on a 28-game winning streak, and with the latest win coming in Friday’s semifinal against Caledonia and rookie of Iowa State Eli King.
As it turned out, North’s attempt to use pressure defense to play at a fast pace only worked briefly, when the Polars blitzed 9-2 to take a 19-14 lead.
Dolan called timeout with 7:02 left in the first half, the Cardinals started getting layups on cuts and dives to the baskets again. They led 30-23 at halftime and never had a problem again, pulling away for a 60-49 win and Annandale’s first-ever state title.
The coach brought four of his five senior starters to a post-game interview session. He spoke of the great optimism with this collection – all athletes from all three sports, 2-2 to start the season with a few football injuries remaining, then a 29-0 finish.
As Annandale wrapped up his media session, North coach Larry McKenzie and most of his players arrived outside the small interview room.
Dolan followed his players to the door. A few Cardinals offered brief congratulations to the Polars, the traditional “big season,” but Dolan then stopped.
It didn’t come off as a rival coach trying to win a sportsmanship medal, but rather heartfelt congratulations to the players from the North who had been through a lot, kept fighting until the end on Saturday and were a “class act” on and off the floor. .
“I wish you the best,” Dolan said. “I’m going to follow you wherever you go after high school, and I’m sure there will be great things.”
Dolan then shook McKenzie’s hand and headed down the long hallway to the locker room.
I was there and we also shook hands. Then, before I could mention it, Dolan said:
“Did you hear what happened with that team last night? I can’t stand what’s going on. I don’t know how we’re going to get the stupidity under control. ”
North had beaten Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta and its exceptional center, Jackson Loge, in the semifinals on Friday evening. Late overnight, a social media post was sent directly to North’s Jacob Butler containing serious racial slurs.
It came from a non-playing student at one of those high schools involved in sports co-op.
McKenzie spoke in the interview room about his team’s issues in that loss — an inability to make jump shots, layups allowed on drives and diving, and Annandale conveying the Polars’ trademark pressure — then was quizzed on the racist message sent directly to his player. .
“We don’t have a United States of America,” McKenzie said. “There’s a lot of division… And I’ll tell you as someone over 60, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“And I think it’s getting worse. It’s not just a [Minnesota State] The responsibility of the High School League, but it’s all our responsibility as a community. This cannot be acceptable behavior.
“I believe there is no better tool in terms of fighting racism and the divide than athletics. Athletics brings people together, doesn’t it? And it’s not the athletes , but it’s those people over there who are enabling young people…
“Where did he learn that? I think it was the first time he did that? Where did he learn this type of behavior?
McKenzie also said this of his team, representing a northern community that remains shocked by the February 9 killing of DeShaun Hill, 15, a sophomore and northern athlete:
“I’m proud of these young men for what they’ve been through. Being a teenager at 17 and 18 and losing a classmate and teammate is not common in a community. Missing almost a year and a half of school due to COVID and then the teachers decide to go out and have no school for 10 more days…
“This senior group, in 2020 COVID hit and they can’t finish this season. They’ve been through more adversity than any other group of kids probably could. [face] during their lifetime.”