Preview: 2022 MYAS Girls Grade State Hoops Championships on the Clock

2022 Girls Grade State Championships Preview    

by Wally Langfellow

The long months of planning are in the books. For the staff of Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, and the hundreds of volunteers who make the Girls Grade State Championships happen, the fun is just beginning as they get set for this weekend’s tournament. “We plan about 10 months out for an event of this magnitude,” says MYAS associate director Jeremy Innes. 

And the magnitude is impressive. This year’s Girls Grade State Championships which run February 26-27,  will include a near-record 578 teams (the record is 584 teams in 2017) from across Minnesota, the largest of its kind in the United States. 

“There is a lot that goes into it,” said Innes.  “We discuss things like format modifications, the awards, the seeding process and how to make the on-site experience as memorable as possible.”

In addition to improved seedings and other enhancements, MYAS has tied in the NCAA Women’s Final Four with this year’s tournament. The championship trophy from the Final Four (which will be played in Minneapolis April 1-3), will be touring several of the Grade State Tournament locations throughout the weekend giving players and coaches an opportunity to take photos and learn more about the Womens’ Final Four.  

For MYAS and the host organizations, they know that the buildup to the state tournament for players and teams is something different, thus the addition of the Final Four Trophy, video streaming of games on the internet, and more. Says Innes, “it is not just another tournament. The goal is to make it look easy so when the teams get to the facility for their first game, everything is in place and ready to go for them.”

Coming back for more

The planning and preparation that goes into the tournament is what keeps teams and organizations coming back year after year explains Fridley Youth Basketball Association president Jason Karsten. Karsten noted that Fridley has hosted  the Grade State Tournament “too many (times) to count. We like the fact that MYAS runs the show. We just have to provide a smooth running facility. It’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to worry about teams and refs showing up.”

For Joe Janquart, who is the boys varsity basketball head coach at Lakeville South and the site host coordinator for his organization, the reasons to host are two-pronged. “It’s an opportunity to partner with MYAS and fundraise for our program while cultivating an experience that they (the players) will never forget.”

Snow days

Of course running a tournament like this for so many years has its challenges including bad weather outside…and inside the gym. According to Karsten, that didn’t stop the 2019 tournament at his venue in Fridley from marching on. 

“Three years ago,” recalled Karsten, “a roof vent was open over our gym. Snow was blowing in the vent and it began snowing in the gym during a game. Luckily, a janitor was at the facility and got it shut quickly.”

Keep an eye out

One of the teams to watch at this year’s state tournament is Joe Nusbaum’s Spring Lake Park 7A squad. Nusbaum has coached this group since the third grade and has several players who also play high school sports (softball and tennis) as 7th graders. The Panthers are 19-10 overall on the season and had top three finishes in 8 of the 10 tournaments they played in including a first place finish in the Irondale tournament. 

Spring Lake Park is seeded 15th in the top tier of 7A so it won’t be easy, and Nusbaum is hopeful that his team can make a run. But he does have his priorities. “I want to make sure the girls have fun. It would be great to win one of our first two games and have the opportunity to place at State.” 

While the Grade State Championships are nothing new for Nusbaum and his Panthers (they’ve played Grade State as 4th graders and 6th graders), it will be a brand new experience for Centennial 6B coach Cory Reisdorfer and his team. Reisdorfer will plunge into state by mixing up his starting line-up. “We have a different starting lineup each game to provide the girls with the experiences of starting a game and coming off the bench.  Our 6th grade season has been successful in many ways, not just wins and losses,”  explains Reisdorfer. 

A winning philosophy that’s not lost on Innes and the MYAS staff. 

Click here for Girls Grade State Fan Guide

Click here for 2022 Brackets

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