The last week had just about all a sports fan could ask for. State tournaments for basketball began, while hockey wrapped up with four state titles awarded on Saturday.
The Final Fours in college basketball were highlighted by Minnesotans, the Twins opened the season while the Wild and Timberwolves marched on as their seasons continued.
Yueill captains U.S.
Bloomington native Jackson Yueill was named captain for the United States Under-23 soccer team which came up excruciatingly short of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics after a 2-1 loss to Honduras last week. Yueill scored the lone American goal on a highlight-reel blast from about 25 yards outside of the box.
He was later named to the Best XI at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament joining American defender Justin Glad on the list.
Yueill, who plays with San Jose, opens the MLS season April 16 against Houston. The Quakes visit Minnesota United July 3 before the rematch August 17 in California.
Minnesota basketball on the national stage
Hopkins’ Paige Bueckers and Minnehaha Academy’s Jalen Suggs showed the rest of the country what potential there is in Minnesota basketball.
Bueckers, the standout UCONN freshman, became the first freshman to earn three of the most prestigious individual awards, including the Naismith Award (began in 1983), Associated Press Player of the Year, USBWA Player of the Year and Nancy Lieberman Award (top guard in the nation and fifth Husky joining Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Renee Montgomery and Moriah Jefferson).
Add to that First Team All-America from the WBCA, AP and USBWA and USBWA and WBCA Co-Freshman of the Year ,the Big East Player and Freshman of the year, Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and the River Walk Region Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament.
She helped lead the Huskies to its 13th consecutive Final Four and a 28-2 record. She led the team averaging 20 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game as well as a 46.4 three-point field goal percentage.
Meanwhile, Suggs, the standout guard at Gonzaga, might have surpassed Christian Latner on the all-time greatest shots in March Madness history during Saturday’s national semifinal win over UCLA 93-90. Taking a pass in stride near his own free-throw line, Suggs dribbled the ball three times crossing midcourt before heaving the decisive shot just before time expired. Gonzaga remains perfect at 31-0, with one more game to play. Two minutes earlier he blocked a layup by Cody Riley in what many deemed the play of the tournament before the late fireworks. After the block, he fired a pass to Drew Timme for a dunk and a two-point lead.
For the first time four state hockey titles were decided on one day at Xcel Energy Center as Class A and AA girls then boys took to the ice Saturday.
Proctor/Hermantown opened the day with a 3-2 double-overtime win over Gentry Academy for the Class A girls title, thanks to a one-time slapshot by senior Alyssa Watkins nearly seven minutes into the second overtime to complete a perfect 21-0 record for the Mirage.
The girls Class AA final shaped up to be everything hockey fans wanted to see in a rematch of the 2020 championship game, in which Andover won 5-3.
This year, Edina captured its fourth title in five seasons by a 2-1 final score over the Huskies to finish 22-0. All three goals were scored in a span of 3:30 during the second period, with the eventual winner coming off a backhander from senior defenseman Lily Hendrickson.
A much smaller crowd than the typical 18,000-plus fans greeted the nightcap on Saturday as Gentry Academy dominated Dodge County 8-1 for the Class A title before Eden Prairie needed double overtime to top Lakeville South in Class AA.
Gentry Academy used a goal and three assists from Damon Furuseth to complete a 19-0 season as they outscored their opponent in three state tournament games 21-4 and outshot Dodge County 54-9 in the final.
In Class AA, Jackson Blake broke through for Eden Prairie with a shot from between the face off circles with 15:54 left in the second overtime for a 2-1 win over Lakeville South. Eden Prairie knew the feeling of being runner-up having come up short in the final three times since 2016 including 2019 and 20020.
The teams traded well-executed goals on passes from just outside the goal crease. Blake set up Carter Bachelder’s sixth goal of the tournament just under six minutes into the contest.
With just under four minutes left in the second period, Tanner Ludtk angled a pass to the far post where Cam Boche was waiting to redirect the puck into a wide-open net.
Of course, the tournaments to this point haven’t been perfect with Hermantown using a JV roster while Centennial girls Hill-Murray boys ending its season before the first game due to COVID-19 protocols.
But if we can make it through to the end with eight more basketball champions by the end of the second weekend of April, I think it will be deemed a large success given the circumstances.
Follow Jason Olson on Twitter @Jason0lson or @SunSportsJason.