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Harding's gym in St. Paul fell silent during a boys basketball matchup between city teams earlier this month. Players were so emotional, the rest of the game was canceled.

Everyone watching was shocked when Minneapolis South's Romero Walker suffered one of the more gruesome leg fractures that you'll see. The 6-8 senior landed awkwardly after a blocked shot midway through the first half.

"It didn't seem real," South's leading scorer, Poet Davis, said. "It really just felt like a bad dream. All that was going through my mind was Romero and how he was going to be."

Walker's injury was reminiscent of the horrific broken leg NBA superstar Paul George suffered in 2014, or Kevin Ware's for Louisville during the 2013 NCAA tournament.

Devastating injuries are the worst part of sports. They can happen in an instant. Nobody knows how to react in the moment. How teams respond to that adversity can define their seasons.

South had already doubled its six wins from last season, and that number was 15 after Wednesday night's game, a loss to Southwest. A committed core stuck around after eight players from the program transferred two years ago, including several starters.

South coach Joe Hyser never expected such a quick turnaround, but the ceiling was obviously higher with the city conference's top shot blocker. The team visited Walker in the hospital last week and found him in good spirits.

"It was really healing for us," Hyser said. "I think that helped us compete again."

Only a couple days removed from surgery on Feb. 7, Walker showed up to support his teammates in a win against rival Minneapolis North. The Tigers swept the season series after trailing most of the night.

Earlier this season, Walker had been a big part of South handing North its first conference home loss since 2015. He felt a great sense of pride for contributing to the program's turnaround with Davis and other captains.

"I've been here since my freshman year," Walker said. "We had something great, I felt like. This year was our year."

It still could be a decent finish for South. Arguably the city's best guard, the 6-foot Davis raised his level of play without Walker. He had 21 points vs. North. And his 36 points led Monday's win against Edison. Davis credited teammates Kevaughn Fields, Jamari Stewart Scott and Eugene Brown for helping to fill the void inside.

South's defense (18 steals vs. North) picked up because players felt like they let Walker down. He was injured trying to protect the rim after the Tigers allowed the opponent to have an easy path to the basket.

"He's probably our most important player [on defense]," Davis said. "We said the rest of the season we're going to pride ourselves on defense, being in the passing lanes and being in the right place at the right time."

North owned the Minneapolis City boys basketball crown for years, but this seems like the right time for a new champion. Washburn, led by 6-9 Colorado State recruit Kyle Jorgenson, was undefeated in the conference as of Wednesday. Four teams have at least 13 wins, including South, North and Southwest.

"When Hopkins plays Wayzata, you're going to have 3,000-plus people in a gym," Hyser said. "Our gyms just aren't that big. But a city game between rivals — like us and North — there's nothing like it."

The Tigers lost five starters to transfer two years ago. They took their lumps last year but were in prime contention for a city championship before losing to Washburn last week. It was the first game without Walker and the worst timing to be missing their big man.

Still, Walker's horrible leg injury didn't end South's quest for a state tournament bid. Davis and company are carrying on and not giving up on the season. They're motivated to play for "Mero."

"This has been such a satisfying season," Hyser said. "I knew we were going to improve, but not to this point. It's a tribute to them. That's why you have to have good leadership, like from Poet and Romero. Two inspirational leaders."


Five Minnesota ballers who stood out:

Dalton Albrecht, Bemidji State

The 6-8 senior averaged 28.5 points and 10 rebounds to be named NSIC player of the week, including 31 points and 12 rebounds in a win vs. Crookston.

Destinee Bursch, Minnesota State Mankato

The Eden Prairie native was named NSIC women's player of the week after averaging 23 points, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals. The Mavericks clinched the NSIC regular season crown with a 19th straight win.

Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves

The All-Star guard exploded for 41 points on 16-for-27 shooting Tuesday in a win at Portland. Edwards was questionable to play but still had his third game with 30-plus points in February.

Madison Mathiowetz, South Dakota State

The sophomore from Sleepy Eye had 22 points on 6-for-8 three-point shooting in a win vs. Oral Roberts on Saturday. The Jackrabbits were in first place in the Summit League as of Wednesday.

B.J. Omot, North Dakota

The 6-8 sophomore from Mankato averaged 22.4 points during a seven-game win streak for the Fighting Hawks in Summit League play, including four games with 25 points or more.


2,000 Career points for several players this month, including Cass Lake-Bena's Gabrielle Fineday, Blake's Grayson Okoronkwo, Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke's Lewis Jones, Mabel-Canton's Cayden Tollefsrud and New Ulm's Colton Benson.

778 Times in NBA history that a team played consecutive road games against teams 15-plus games above. 500. The Wolves were the only one to win both by 20-plus points (vs. Bucks and Clippers).

60 Points surpassed by Pine City's Karly Jusczak (63), Ogilvie's Grace Heins (62) and Hawley's Brevin Stoa (61) in recent games, setting single-game scoring marks.

22 Consecutive wins for No. 1 Class 2A Breck before last week's 66-64 loss against Washburn to fall from the unbeaten ranks.

20 Second-half lead in points before the Gophers men lost 90-85 Sunday at Iowa, the second-biggest second-half comeback in Hawkeyes history.

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Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on Don't be a stranger on X after reading — chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on X).