Seniors, seeding and the state tournament

MARSHALL – With another state tournament in the books, there are some final thoughts I’d like to level you with.

Marshall graduates four seniors this year in Marah Mulso, Lexi Saugstad, Abby Louwagie and Emily Buysse. Between the four of them, they have accomplished a lot in their time as Marshall Tigers. Mulso and Louwagie have played in five state championships between volleyball and basketball. They both have two state volleyball titles to their names. Lexi Saugstad and Emily Buysse were both on the Tiger teams that reached the state championships. All of those girls have also been outstanding leaders and prime examples of what you want in a community.

The state tournament also provides great examples of students excelling on and off the court. Academy of Holy Angels’ senior star in Laura Bagwell-Katalinich has over a 4.0 GPA and has a full ride for basketball to Penn. That’s an Ivy League school. That means even if she never picked up a basketball, she would probably get in on an academic scholarship. Don’t let sports or extra curricular activities be an excuse for not performing in the classroom. If she can do it, it’s possible. I promise.

I also got to witness girls state basketball tournament history while I was up there. Before Marshall’s game against AHA, unseeded Thief River Falls knocked off No. 1 seed Hutchinson 61-59. Since the Minnesota State High School league started seeding teams 13 years ago, it was the first time a No. 1 seed had gone down in the first round. Unseeded Becker also knocked off No. 3 seed St. Paul-Como Park in the second round. Last year was an interesting year for the No.1 seeds – Only Hopkins (a Class 4A school) cut down the nets as the No.1 seed in the 2014-15 season. Marshall was a No. 4 seed in last year’s state tournament game, where they got beat by Brooklyn Park-Park Center – the No. 3 seed. The No. 2 seeds won the Class A and AA titles. In the 2013-14 Class A State Championship, Win-E-Mac was unseeded when they knocked off No. 1 Minneota. No. 1 seeds did win the championships for the rest of the classes that year. Minneota was a No. 3 seed when it won the championship in 2012-13. No. 1 seed Maranatha Christian won the Class A Championship as a No. 4 seed in the 2011-12 season. That same year, Providence Academy won as a No. 5 seed in AA and DeLaSalle won the AAA championship as a No. 3 seed. So, as you can see, seedings are done in the best of efforts, but its not an exact science.

Ranking the venues

I’ve now covered state basketball events at Target Center, Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena (Not to mention the state football championship at TCF Bank Stadium). As far as basketball is concerned, I have a pretty good idea as to what each place has to offer. Before I get into accolades, let me state that the state tournaments are put on by a lot of people who work a lot of hours to make things run smoothly. It’s not easy by any means, and for the most part they do a pretty damn good job. Now to the rankings.

Best Atmosphere: Williams Arena (The Barn) It might just be the fact I’ve seen the Marshall girls basketball team play two state championships in that building (one of which went to three overtimes), but there’s just something about the atmosphere there that can’t be topped. It feels a little bit more closed in there and the fans feel closer to you. It got pretty loud in there when I covered games and I loved that.

Best workspace (the court itself): Williams Arena Williams Arena does what I think every venue should do for games. They raise the court, literally. As a photographer, you want your subjects to appear bigger than they actually are. The court being waist level if you’re standing is a huge asset. The lighting is great to boot.

Best press room: Targer Center If this wasn’t strictly basketball, TCF Bank would take this one, but as far as basketball, Target Center has the best press area. The room with all the plugins resembles a classroom I took my sportswriting class in. Now this is an NBA facility, so its to be expected, but at the other two arenas, I’ve found it easier to just quickly turn on the hot spot on my phone to get stuff done. The Target Centers’ internet connection ran very smooth with no hiccups.

Why Mariucci misses the cut: Mariucci misses out because of the most important thing – the atmosphere. With it being mainly used as a hockey arena, the stands are too far away from the court. When I covered a state game there last season, it almost seemed like the fans were yelling into a cavern.

The press room was at the very top of the arena and made navigating between there and the court a pain. On top of that, they put the press room within good ear shot of where the band plays. I can deal with some noise while typing an article, but being able to hear a base drum as if its right next to you while trying to concentrate is a little much. I also am a big fan of fast internet and the connection there operated at the pace of a turtle.