There was evidence this week that an old gentleman originally from Minnesota's southwest prairie has gone completely off the deep end in his nostalgia for what once were the state basketball playdowns concluding with an eight-team, one-class tournament in Williams Arena.
This self-awareness took place when RTR — the merged school district of Russell, Tyler and Ruthton — qualified for another appearance in the state boys tournament by winning Section 3 in Class 1A.
And my first thought when seeing this was, "I wonder what year it was that tiny Russell upset mighty Marshall early in the district tournament? Had to be the mid-1950s."
Yup. I could remember the headline in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune delivered to our front door in Fulda, Minn.:
"Russell [action verb] Marshall."
Turns out, it was 1956. Russell 59, Marshall 58, in a District 9 opener played in Canby.
Which means I always leave my car keys in the house, and always leave my cellphone in the car, requiring return trips, but I'll never forget being a 10-year-old and absolutely stunned that Russell had beaten Marshall — one of the favorites to come out of Region 3.
On Thursday, there was a needed conversation with one of my basketball heroes, Terry Porter, who is right up there with Lou Hudson, Bobby Jackson, Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville on the admiration list.
The reason for this was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Porter and his Marshall teammates defeating Cloquet 75-74 in a 1963 state championship game that many of us claim was the greatest played in the one-class era.
It was a matchup of "The Turk," Porter, and "The Mouse," Dave Meisner, and their partners in the backcourt, Whitey Johnson for Marshall and Mike Forrest for Cloquet, and outstanding cohorts up front.
In the last seconds, Denny Schroeder made a pair of free throws to win it — the first bouncing in, the second smooth.
"I made 80-some percent of my free throws and Denny was up there, too," Porter said. "The first one gave us a thrill; the second was pure."
Three years later, Porter was a standout at St. Cloud State and I was a rookie 20-year-old beat reporter at the St. Cloud Times. He scored 1,694 career points for the Huskies. He made 663 field goals and I'd estimate 40% of those would have been three-pointers, because The Turk was willing and deadly from distance.
Porter's family had moved around but had settled back in Marshall before he went to high school.
"You weren't a kid there in '56, when Russell beat a Marshall team that was 19-1 in the District 9 opener, right?" I said.
Porter: "No, but I've heard about the game 5,000 times. I even met the Russell player who made the two free throws to beat Marshall. Frank Greve."
Frank died in 2013. Wendell Hurst, a star for those Russell Bulldogs, died in 2014. And that long-ago upset is left only in the ancient brains of a few of us one-class aficionados as Russell — along with partners Tyler and Ruthton — has many greater accomplishments to celebrate.
The merger of the schools took place in 1987-88. Todd Bouman gave the Knights an immediate all-around star athlete. RTR has had outstanding athletics with frequency, including state boys basketball titles in 2004, 2005 and 2018.
A year ago, RTR made the state tournament and lost the opener to Hayfield, which would win a second consecutive title.
RTR has returned with nearly the same group — a collection of seniors ready to play a last game against New Life Academy in Saturday's Class 1A title game.
New Life's Erick Reader, 6-9, has committed to the Gophers as a 2023 walk-on. On Friday, RTR was taking on Cherry's Isaac Asuma, verbally committed to the Gophers for 2024 and anticipated to be the point guard of the future.
RTR survived Cherry 61-57 thanks to made free throws and getting Asuma and sophomore Noah Sundquist in foul trouble. Then, once at the line, the Knights made 13 of 14 free throws, compared to four of 12 for Cherry.
Asuma came out storming the basket in the second half, pushing Cherry to a seven-point lead. There were also a couple of dramatic flops that contributed to his four fouls and sent Asuma to the bench for a hunk of the second half.
Hey, those lads from the prairie have been playing together since the third grade, and were savvy enough to get the whistles. Worked for Duke quite a few times.
Plus, if you make 93% from the line and the other team makes 33%, who deserves to win? Not them.