(Minneapolis, MN) -- Playing on in the memory of a fallen classmate, the Henning Hornets defeated North Woods, 67-42 Saturday to win the Class A Championship at the 2019 Minnesota State Boys' Basketball Tournament....the first ever MSHSL title in the history of the school.
By winning the 2019 title, the Hornets will bring a Minnesota State High School League Championship trophy back home for the first time in the history of the school, which dates back to 1908. Success was achieved in the Hornets' return to the State Boys' Basketball Tournament after a 53-year wait.
Championship Game recap: In Saturday's Class A title tilt, Henning never trailed, as the game was tied just one time (2-2) after the opening tip. Junior guard Parker Fraki connected on back-to-back three point shots to give the Hornets an 8-2 advantage, then steadily built on the lead from there. Henning took a 36-17 lead at intermission, forcing 13 turnovers out of North Woods in the game's first 18 minutes. The North Woods Grizzlies never came closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
Senior Sam Fisher had a performance for the ages in helping Henning secure the title. He scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor while adding seven rebounds and three steals. He and younger brother Isaac Fisher combined to frustrate North Woods' sharp-shooting senior guard Cade Goggleye, who was held to only five points on 2-for-13 shooting from the floor. Sam Fisher was one of three Henning players to tally in double figures. Fraki added 13, while junior Blake Wallevand connected on all five of his shots (including two three-pointers) to net 12 points on the day.
Fraki, Sam Fisher, and Isaac Fisher were all selected to the Class A Boys' Basketball All-Tournament team, as selected by the media covering the tourney. Goggleye and teammate Trevor Morrison were honored from North Woods, which is based in the northern Minnesota community of Cook.
Henning's final record in 2018-19 record will stand at 31-1, capped off with seven consecutive post-season wins en route to the Class A title. North Woods finished as the runner-up in Class A for the third consecutive year, with a final mark of 29-3.
Many intriguing storylines surfaced as Henning captured a Minnesota State High School League team championship for the first time in school history.
Inspirational play following a teammate's death in 2017: One of the students set to receive a diploma this spring from Henning High School would have been Jacob Quam, whose life was tragically cut short in a car crash less than two years ago, in April, 2017. Jacob would have been one of the leaders on this 2018-19 team that would go on to win State. Before the Hornets traveled to the State Boys' Basketball Tournament, they visited Jacob's grave to present a Section 6A Champions t-shirt to go along with the Park Region Conference Champions t-shirt. After some time for celebration, Jacob's grave will soon include the Henning Hornets State Champions shirt, along with a gold medallion for being represented on this year's team.
In an article penned by Chris Murphy for the Fargo Forum on March 21st, 2019, it was noted that Jacob Quam's mother, Angela, has kept the door to his bedroom closed since his death nearly two years ago. The room was virtually untouched, except for the washing of Jacob's blankets and bed sheets. His room still is adorned with the trophies won and the jerseys worn from Jacob's time around the Minnesota communities of Delano and Henning. On Friday morning, March 15th, prior to Henning's Section 6A Championship contest against Parkers Prairie, Chris Murphy noted in the article that Angela Quam decided to open the door to the room and stated: "Jacob, you gotta come out and play today". Later that night, the Hornets trailed Parkers Prairie by eight points with under five minutes to go. Henning rallied with a 16-6 surge at the end to win by two, 60-58. That avenged the Hornets' only loss of the season to the Panthers in Henning's regular season finale. The photo of Dylan Trana displaying Jacob Quam's #33 jersey on a hangar draped with a Section 6A Champion medal at the University of Minnesota-Morris went viral in the days that followed. Saturday afternoon at the Target Center, Jacob's #33 jersey was again on a hangar, with a State Champion gold medal draped over it at the awards ceremony. When he was alive, Jacob Quam felt it would have been cool for the Henning Hornets to wear orange jerseys. Angela Quam had them made after his death. The Hornets wore the orange jerseys at Williams Arena during the quarterfinal victory over Christ's Household of Faith in the State Tournament.
In an ironic coincidence, Jacob Quam spent some of his formative years in the Montrose/Delano area, before the family moved to the Vining area near Henning. The Delano Tigers (as an unseeded team) won the Class AAA State Championship in 2018....Minnesota's first Boys' Basketball Tournament after Jacob's death. Then, in the state's second Boys' Basketball Tourney after his death, the school that Jacob would have graduated from, Henning High School, captured the Class A title. The school colors for Delano: orange and black, identical to that of Henning.
Well worth the wait: Henning captured gold after returning to the State Boys' Basketball Tournament for the first time in 53 years....a long, long wait in between appearances. The Hornets made back-to-back appearances in 1965 and 1966, when only eight teams out of more than 500 made State in a single class (the two-class State Tournament in Minnesota wasn't introduced until the 1970-71 school year, and the expansion to four classes took place in the 1996-97 school year).
In the mid-60's, when Henning won back-to-back Region 6 titles, the Hornets faced numerous challenges just trying to advance out of their District. In that era, District 22 included formidable foes such as Alexandria, Glenwood, Osakis, and Starbuck. After triumphs over determined Alexandria Cardinal squads in both 1965 and 1966, the Hornets would then have to task of facing the likes of Detroit Lakes and Crosby-Ironton in Region 6 play. In the era of one class Boys' Basketball, Region 6 Champions were generally battle-tested before advancing to State. Dave Opheim was the man to guide the Hornets to Region 6 Championships and onto State in both 1965 and 1966. The most well-known players from that era of Henning Basketball were the Peterson twins: Bob and Dick. Both Bob Peterson and Dick Peterson would later become basketball coaches and educators themselves.
Those that have followed prep sports for a long time in Minnesota may be aware of the term "Edinasty". That eminates from the time when the Boys' Basketball program at Edina/Edina-Morningside ruled the roost, winning State Championships in 1966 through 1968. During that three-year run of dominance, Edina's overall record was 79-1. The 1966 Henning Hornets were one of the few threats that had the chance to alter that historic run. The battle of the Hornets occurred in the semifinals of the Minnesota Boys' Basketball State Tournament that year. In that round, the big city Hornets of Edina-Morningside needed triple overtime to prevail over the Henning Hornets from a town of less than 900 citizens. Legend has it that the large majority of the more than 18,000 spectators that jammed into Williams Arena for the game were cheering fervently for Henning. Edina beat Duluth East the next day to capture the State Championship, finishing with a perfect 26-0 record. That would mark the first of the three straight titles in the "Edinasty".
One of Henning's own takes the alma mater to uncharted heights: The Hornets are coached by Randy Misegades, a Henning High School graduate who was an excellent player himself in the mid-90's playing for then-coach Neal Oscarson. A hometown guy who returned to his alma mater and brought them back to State after a lengthy absence certainly provided a feel-good angle. Misegades has coached at Henning for 14 seasons, following Oscarson's retirement.
One of Randy Misegades' assistants on the staff now at Henning is Mark Oscarson. Mark's father is the aforementioned Neal Oscarson. The tie in with the present, recent past, and distant past: Mark also played for his father during Neal's accomplished coaching career at Henning (Neal Oscarson is now part of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches' Association's Hall of Fame). Like Randy Misegades, Neal Oscarson also played and coached at his alma mater. Neal Oscarson was part of those fabulous Henning teams that earned State Tournament trips in 1965 and 1966.
A standout effort for a stand-alone program: Henning's Boys' Basketball program is the only male sport in the school that does not co-op with a neighboring school. Young men at Henning High School that wish to compete in sports such as Cross Country, Wrestling, Baseball, and Track partner up with student-athletes at Battle Lake and Underwood High Schools to become the Otter Tail Central Bulldogs. The cooperative of Otter Tail Central in Football and Golf pairs up students from both Henning and Battle Lake High Schools. An ongoing era of declining enrollment and/or changing demographics at many locations across greater Minnesota forces schools to enter cooperative arrangements in many sports.
It remains to been seen how much longer the Henning Boys' Basketball program will sustain on its own. A State Championship not only brings excitement to Henning, a carryover effect could be to spur more interest in younger kids wishing to play the sport of basketball in the community. The young boys growing up in the district at this time will strive to emulate the heroes of today such as Parker Fraki, the Wallevand twins, or the Fisher, Bjorklund, and Trana brothers.
Chris Murphy of the Fargo Forum provided information for this report. The Minnesota State High School League furnished photography and also provided additional information for this report.