Milaca Boys Basketball Coach Dustin Naumann likes Litchfield’s chances in the Class AA Boys Basketball Tournament which opened Wednesday, with Litchfield (24-5) facing Redwood Valley (24-4) at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
“John Carlson is a great coach – his teams are well-prepared for every game,” said Naumann. “They took second last year and returned good players from that team.”
Naumann was on Milaca’s 2003 state tournament team which lost to Litchfield in the opening round of the Class AA tourney at St. Cloud State University’s Halenbeck Hall. The Dragons went on to roll to their third-straight AA title. One of the leaders on the 2003 Litchfield team was Carlson’s son John, now a tight end for the Vikings after playing for the Seattle Seahawks. The younger Carlson was a standout for the Notre Dame football team.
I got to know the elder John Carlson when he played basketball at St. Cloud State and I was sports editor at the St. Cloud Daily Times. He sometimes filled in and played in weekend tournaments for the slow pitch softball team I managed. He’s one of the true “nice guys” I’ve met over the years.
Annandale (20-9), which stopped Milaca in the first round of the Section 5AA Tournament, faces Byron (25-4) in the quarterfinals of the AA tourney.
“Annandale will get a test right away,” said Naumann. “Annandale will attempt to play its fast-tempo game against the methodical and sound defense of Byron. It should be an interesting match-up.”
•Sartell Boys Basketball Coach Dave Angell, who has his team competing in the Class AAA State Tournament, is another “nice guy” I met while in St. Cloud. In fact, Angell was on the first sports team I covered at the Times – the 76ers Legion baseball team. Back then St. Cloud had just one Legion team and it included the best players from St. Cloud Tech and St. Cloud Cathedral. Angell was a standout shortstop/outfielder/pitcher. That team also included second baseman Pat Schneider, who has officiated many Milaca wrestling duals over the years.
Angell has been head coach at Sartell 29 years. His Sabres (17-12) are making their first state tournament appearance and faced defending-champion Minneapolis DeLaSalle (27-1)in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Fans will recall Milaca facing Angell’s Sartell teams in some high-scoring games in the mid-1990s when the Sabres were led by Russ Archambault and Nate Wrightson and Doug Reetz-coached Milaca was led by Eric Joldersma, Mark DeJong, Aaron Larsen, Ben Matthews and Jesse Peterson. I have a video of one of those games that I’ll have to dig out this week. I recall Joldersma and Wrightson exchanging amazing baskets during that game and Sartell winning something like 86-80.
•Former Milaca Boys Basketball Coach Terry Techam has his Delano team in the Class AAA State Tournament. Delano (26-3) met St. Paul Johnson (21-7) in the first round Wednesday. It’s Delano’s second trip to the state tournament and first since 1993. Techam’s team entered the tournament ranked No. 4 in the Minnesota Basketball News final Class AAA state poll.
•Milaca’s wrestling captains next season will be Ray Hoffman, Brandon Merten and Jorgen Erickson. Hoffman was 29-8 at 113 pounds this season while Merten was 27-13 at heavyweight and Erickson was 12-18 at 160/170. Hoffman and Merten advanced to the state meet.
The wrestling team held its banquet Monday night.