by Wally Langfellow
photos by Garrett Super
It was a celebration on many levels on Monday January 16th at Bloomington Kennedy High School. Minnesota Youth Athletic Services’ 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day invitational basketball tournament brought 44 boys and girls youth teams from across the state together on a day where the famed American civil rights leader was honored across the country.
Zumbrota-Mazeppa coach Jason Gill, whose 7th grade boys team won the 7/8th grade B/C tournament said “Playing in the tournament was a great way for the kids to give thought around why we celebrate MLK day.”
Gill’s Cougars opened the tournament with close wins over Minneapolis Phelps and Hermantown before posting a 53-43 win over Esko in the championship game.
“We played good competition for our level throughout the day” said Gill. “We saw a variety of teams and faced full court pressing and different zone defenses that we generally don’t see when we play schools in our area.”
For Gill, the attraction of playing against talented metro area teams is an added bonus for his team that made the 60 mile drive from southern Minnesota to the Twin Cities on MLK Day. “We thought it’d be a great way to face some tough competition and play against teams that we don’t see on a regular basis.”
Gill’s Zumbrota-Mazeppa team wasn’t the only outstate team to make their way to the Twin Cities for MLK Day. The aforementioned Hermantown Hawks coached by Paul Senst also made the trip from the Duluth area and finished in 3rd place winning two of their three games.
“We like playing metro teams because it is always good competition. We are able to see different faces and different schemes and schools that we may not see again” said Senst.
“The high level of competition, especially coming from a small town in northern Minnesota” is why Esko coach Brent Hipp brought his team to this year’s tournament. Hipp’s Esko team finished in 2nd place, with their only loss coming to Zumbrota-Mazeppa in that championship game.
When asked if his team understood the meaning of playing on MLK Day, Hipp left no doubt. “They sure did and thought it was a great way to use their day out of school to play the sport they love while honoring MLK”
Senst also made note of how his team and coaches made sure that understanding the meaning of the MLK holiday was part of the overall experience. “We as coaches touch on it lightly and the athletes understand why we are playing on a holiday also because of what is taught in school.”
“It’s a good thing to do to keep active on an off school day and we feel it is a good, interesting idea to play on a national holiday remembrance day.”
As for the overall experience, Gill and his fellow outstate coaches all agree that playing in MYAS events like the MLK Day invitational only makes their teams better. “I think it has made our team much more competitive and the kids have loved playing at the tournaments and hanging out with teammates and making new friends.”
5th Boys A: Eastview B5 Blue
6th Boys A: Wayzata 6A
7th Boys A: CLM 7A
7th/8th Boys B/C: Zumbrota-Mazeppa
8th Boys A: Shakopee Black 8A
5th Girls A: Moundsview
7th Girls A: Wayzata G7 1