Class 4A: Missing man
Wayzata's ample student section showed its support of injured senior guard Spencer Hall with a chant of "We love Spencer" before Saturday's Class 4A boys basketball state tournament championship game.
Losing Hall in the second half of Thursday's semifinal against Lakeville North because of an apparent knee injury deprived the Trojans of their third-leading scorer (11.6 points per game) and defensive ace.
"We're all heartbroken for him," Wayzata coach Bryan Schnettler said. "But he's got a huge smile on his face like everybody does right now. We wanted to win for him; we wanted to win for each other. Spencer is a stud, and we did miss him. He's going to bounce back from this, but our guys are going to compete no matter what."
Schnettler then listed the committee of players used to offset Hall's loss.
Sophomore guard Wyatt McBeth earned his "first minutes ever in the state championship game," Schnettler said.
Junior guard Drew Nepstad "played more minutes tonight than he's played all year and goes on and just plays his butt off," Schnettler said. "Same with [senior guard] Jake Berkland. He's just as good on defense as anybody. He ain't backing down."
Berkland and Nepstad each posted three steals as the Trojans finished with 18 points off 20 Park Center turnovers.
Defense made the difference as the Trojans regrouped from a 2022 title game loss to Park Center and won in overtime. Wayzata was fortunate to reach the extra period. Hayden Tibbits failed to get off a shot on his team's final possession of regulation and the Pirates tried converting the miscue into a game-winning fast break.
Instead, a hustling Jake Schmitt got back and contested the Park Center shot. Nepstad grabbed the rebound as time expired.
"You can't replace a kid that is that good and would have played in three state championship games," Schnettler said. "Everyone who touched the floor was going to flat-out compete and play as hard as they can."
DAVID LA VAQUE
Class 3A: Legacies built and building
DeLaSalle has appeared in a state-record 12 consecutive boys basketball state tournaments. First-year coach Todd Anderson has been on the Islanders bench for the entire streak.
The Islanders lost 50-46 to No. 1-ranked Totino-Grace for the Class 3A championship Saturday.
Anderson's staff and players were receiving plenty of videos and texts from alumni before and during the state tournament.
"People want to watch a team that plays hard, plays together," said Anderson, whose Islanders finished 26-6 in his initial season. "That's what makes DeLaSalle special. It's a brotherhood."
Anderson served as an assistant coach for 24 years before taking the reins — five years with Travis Bledsoe and 19 years with current Gophers assistant coach Dave Thorson.
The Islanders won nine state championships during Thorson's tenure. He won six consecutive titles in one stretch.
"There is something special about DeLaSalle," Anderson said.
Totino-Grace became a back-to-back champion with its victory Saturday. The Eagles have soared behind Taison Chatman, a 6-4 senior point guard who is committed to Ohio State.
"I haven't been around very many kids as a player or a coach who have the ability to impact the game and create offense in the way that he does," Totino-Grace coach Nick Carroll said.
Class 2A: Quick turnaround
The Class 2A final annually presents a problem for the teams involved, because they play an early afternoon final after a night semifinal. Both Albany and Minnehaha Academy tried to downplay the effects.
"Energywise, it was hard," said Minnehaha Academy coach Lance Johnson, whose team went to overtime to beat Holy Family in the semifinals. "But they were in the same situation we were, so that's not an excuse."
A season's worth of game-planning helped Albany prepare for the quick turnaround.
"That's a tough spot," Albany coach Cory Schlagel said. "But the wonderful thing is that we had such diverse coverages in that I just had to tell them what I thought we needed to and then we executed."
A couple of Albany players didn't lack energy. A pair of juniors who didn't get any playing time during the tournament still found ways to make themselves stand out.
Relegated to the end of the bench, Devon Schaefer and Hunter Hamann generated smiles among fans with their creative and animated celebrations and histrionics after baskets and during timeouts, which included strong-man poses, arm waves with hands clasped and over-the-top dance moves. Their popularity was enhanced when their antics were captured with growing frequency on the television broadcast.
Class 1A: Among the best
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton coach Daren Gravley is in his second season at the helm of the Knights, but the longtime assistant coach in the program is well-schooled in history.
The Knights won their fourth Class 1A boys basketball state championship with a 59-49 victory over New Life Academy on Saturday at Target Center. The Knights previously won state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2018.
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton stands second in state titles won by a small school, equaling Chisholm. Southwest Minnesota Christian is first, having won five times, including four in a row from 1999 through 2002.
"It's really great to be mentioned with the legacy programs," Gravley said.
Southwest Minnesota Christian is from Section 3, like the Knights. Section 3 has won 11 of the past 24 championships. Ellsworth also won a pair, in 2007 and 2008.
"It's a very tough section year in and year out," Gravley said. "There is a strong tradition with boys basketball. Whoever wins the section is will prepared for the state tournament."
Gravley and his opposing coach Saturday, New Life Academy's Robbie Whitney, are growing familiar with the state tournament scene despite each having just completed his second season as a head coach. Both were also in the state tournament field a year ago.
Gravley replaced head coach Ted Kern midway through last season after serving as Kern's assistant.
Whitney also has played in the state tournament, with St. Francis in 2014 and 2015, and he was with Bethel for the NCAA Division III tournament.