Dave Aus, whose Blaine Bengals played here in early December winning 6-4, takes the school from the Metro's north suburbs back to the boys Class AA state tournament a sixth straight year.
Lee Smith's Eden Prairie Eagles got bumped out of sections by Minnetonka last year after winning the Class AA state championship game in 2009. The Eagles this season are the No. 1 seed.
Smith played on a line with Brian Nelson, who went on to Minnesota-Duluth on scholarship in 1984. Aus (WHS '87) grew up in Litchfield until the family moved here when Pete Aus got the head coaching job here.
Though 20-4-4, Blaine goes in unseeded. The Bengals face off with Edina (18-7-2), the No. 2 seed and the 2010 champion, at 11 a.m. today. Last year, the Bengals were upset by Apple Valley.
Eden Prairie (21-5-2) plays unseeded Lakeville North (13-14-1) at 6 p.m.
Alex Lippert, the 6-4 post player from Willmar, led MIAC women's basketball in blocks with 80 (20 more than the next player) and the freshmen's 102 rejections overall set a new standard at Concordia College.
Lippert, named MIAC honorable-mention, had a team-leading 6.6 rebounds and third-best 9.5 points per game in 26 starts. She helped the Cobbers finish second in the league and win the conference tournament by beating regular-season champion St. Thomas.
That earned the Cobbers a berth in the NCAA region tournament where they played poorly (24 turnovers, 26 percent shooting) and fell to Simpson (Iowa) 59-56. Lippert had a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds.
All five seniors from the Cardinals 2009-2010 girls team played college ball. Hannah Smith averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds for Ridgewater College, the MCAC consolation champions. Jenna Thompson also started for the Lady Warriors. Jen Knake played JV ball at Jamestown State College and Mariel Aamot at Gustavus Adolphus.
In men's basketball, Taylor Filipek had a team-high nine rebounds, though he didn't score, as Eastern Kentucky lost in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to Southwest Missouri State, at Nashville, 65-49 to end up 15-16. The 6-6 freshman forward averaged one point and two rebounds in 28 games.
Casey Sussenguth at Southwest Minnesota State (12-14) played in 17 games averaging five minutes. Senior Ryan Hagemeyer finished his fourth year at Concordia College (14-12) with a 3.5 scoring average and 23 rebounds in 20.
State long ago
The 1947 Willmar boys hockey team continues to stand alone after this year's team one-goal loss in the section final.
The '47 team was just a second-year high school program that mended hockey outfits out of football pads and catcher's chest protectors.
Though there were gifted athletes, the competitive experience was shallow.
The two wins in a 2-7 1946-47 season came in the region playoff against Granite Falls.
Sixty-three years later the team's first line is still standing. Harlan Brogren lives in North Carolina and his older brother Marv is here in Willmar. Kenny Johnson, the center on a line that seldom left the ice, lives on Lake Andrew. Johnson was inducted into the Cardinal Hall of Fame in 2010 while Harlan was in the 2002 inaugural class.
After 1947, Willmar boys had to choose between wrestling and basketball until the sport returned at the varsity level in 1972.
Coach of year
Tim Hanson (WHS '92), watched each of the Cardinals playoffs games at the MAC sitting with former Willmar head coach John Wilson, who gave Hanson his first job in a varsity program.
It turns out Hanson was named Class AA Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches following his selection as 8AA's top coach.
Hanson has coached the North Wright County River Hawks (Monticello, St. Michael-
Albertville-Annandale) for six years. He coached with the Wright County Blades at Buffalo for three years before the split to form NWC.
The third-grade teacher is married to Willmar graduate Lori Roufs, who is head fast-pitch coach at Monticello. They have two daughters.
On the fly
* Rick Swenson, a Willmar native, is competing this week in the 1,000-mile Iditarod sled dog race to Nome. Swenson, 60, is the event's only five-time champion. Part of his early training for maintaining a good pace through snow and cold was as a paper carrier for this newspaper. The veteran musher crashed on rutted trails near Rainy Pass and injured his shoulder but pressed on and is 19th, at last report, of 62 who started at Anchorage.
* Bonnie Henrickson's Kansas Jayhawks finished the Big 12 Conference 6-10 and 20-12 overall while starting three sophomores, a redshirt freshman and a senior. The Jayhawks crushed Colorado 71-45 Tuesday in Kansas City in the first round of the conference tournament, and then lost 86-51 Wednesday to top-seed Baylor (29-2).
* Named girls hockey Academic All-State from Willmar, the Class A Academic State Champion, are seniors Kayte Cole, Alex Linbo and Kaitlin Hoffman.
* Drew Larson, the Cardinals' state runner-up Class AAA at 145 pounds in 2007, has finished his fourth season wrestling for St. John's University. His career record is 58-34 with 17-9 record as a junior and 13-9 this year.
* Jay Kocka had another successful season as head boys basketball coach at Maple Valley (N.D.). The Raiders (20-5) won their county tournament and conference championship and finished third in Region 1.
* After five-straight winning seasons, Pete Stahnke (WHS '83), head coach Park Rapids boys hockey, lost to state Class A entrant Thief River Falls in the Section 8A opener to finish 12-13-1.
* Pre-season All-America Jordan Smith is hitting .200 for the St. Cloud State Huskies, who are making a swing through southern Illinois and Indiana this week on the Huskies (6-1) spring trip. The third baseman has six hits, five RBI and a triple in 30 at bats.