Well, itís been over a week, but I think the buzz is still
swirling around the boyís basketball teamís State Championship season. Maybe itís because everyone knows Iím
the ďsports guyĒ, but that team is all anyone wants to talk about.
When you think of them, you think of the whole season. Not just the State Tournament. The entire season, and the journey this
team has been on was the story.
Zach and how his family and team rallied around him was the story. And what an amazing story it was.
Iíve mentioned before what a special connection I felt with
this squad. Dave Cresap has been
talking about these since they could dribble it seems like. He saw this groupís potential at a very
young age. I remember him pointing
them out to me during games Iíd ref at the Spring Flingís. I really started taking notice of them
as I refereed 7-8 grade games.
These guys were launching and hitting threeís back then already.
Coach Cresap went through somewhat of a dilemma, as these
guys got older. They were
good. They might have been better
at a younger age than some of the guys ahead of them as they rose to varsity
age. And this group included his
own son, Jordan.
Although I never coached my son, I have spent time coaching
at every level from 5th grade to college J.V. I know the pressure coaches are
under. I canít imagine how that
gets ratcheted up a notch when you coach you son. And, it makes it harder when your son is a good, talented
I say all this because I know coach Cresap has had some
difficulties in the past dealing with parents. Heck, every coach goes through it. I know some kids and parents probably didnít like it when
they saw the writing on the wall, that the group of guys who eventually made up
the core of this championship team, were going to take spots from upperclassmen
as they rose through the ranks.
Nick Tobkin was a regular starter as a sophomore and his
fellow senior this season, Des Duffy, saw regular time as an
underclassmen. Zach Gabbard,
Jordan Bruhn and Jordan Cresap all played as sophomores. That meant some seniors who thought it
was their turn, didnít see the time they expected. That meant feelings were hurt, and feathers got ruffled.
Coach Cresap confided in me that there was a time he thought
he would get fired because of parent pressure. But he held strong.
In my opinion, he was steadily building a program that could
compete at a State level. Thatís
something Perham had never seen before in basketball. He was teaching players, and parents, how to get to that
level, and it isnít easy. There
were some bumps along the road. It
takes a different kind of player, and a different kind of parent, to make a
State Champion (ask anyone involved with the gymnastics team!).
Those younger players were doing more strength and conditioning
than the players before them. Not
only were they playing more summer basketball, but they took it to another
levelÖplaying in, and winning, state and national tournaments.
They finally saw their potential come together when one of
them went down. When Zach
collapsed, the team, and their season could have collapsed too. But just as Zach held on and fought his
way back, this group of young men came together as brothers, and mad an
improbable, and historic run.
And just when the team needed him most, Zach returned, and
his spirit lifted his team over the top to a State Championship.
Few get to experience just how magical being part of a State
Championship can be. The comradery,
the life long memories. The pride
of being able to tell people you were a part of a State Championship.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a State Championship
basketball team my senior year.
Twenty-three years later, itís still hard to describe the emotion I
felt, and the connection I still feel to the rest of the guys who were a part
of it. I donít see many of them
anymore. Time has moved us in
different directions. But the
memories are still as vivid as if they happened yesterday.
And thatís why I connected with this squad. I saw my team in them. Iíve been seeing my team in them as
they have developed. Itís been
like reliving my own memories as I watched their journey. And itís been great watching it unfold.
The biggest difference between my Rocori Spartans and this
Perham team? My group was a bunch
of seniors when we went 26-0 to win the Class AA title. This team has nearly everyone coming
back, and could quite possibly be even better next year.