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God bless 'em, and thanks for the memories

04/18/2017, 11:30am CDT
By Marc Hugunin

A fond farewell to the 2017s

Ho hum! More photos of Gabi Haack and Kiley Borowicz. Well, this could be the last time.

I bumped into one of my favorite MIAC coaches at the Midwest Kickoff last weekend and she asked me why I wasn’t at the all-star game. I hesitated because I couldn’t decide which was the more appropriate response. One option was, “How come you’re not at the all-star game?” The other was, “They’re done. They’re on their way out the door. I’ve got a bunch of 8th graders I’ve got to look at.”

But, I hesitated, and so she jumped in to say, “They’re done.” I quickly agreed, adding, “God bless ‘em and thanks for the memories.” To which she replied, “God bless ‘em and thanks for the memories.”

So, it really is a cold, cruel world out there. What have you done for me lately? Well, the class of 2017 did plenty. And, so, while all of us who live more in the world of girls basketball than women’s basketball are busy moving on, it’s appropriate nevertheless to take a look back.

Gabi and Kiley

And let’s first say that the big story among the 2017s was the ultimate vindication, if that’s the right word, of Gabi Haack and Kiley Borowicz. Oh, and the ultimate vindication of Northstar Girls Hoops. I’m sorry. Did I say that? We don’t toot our own horn too much, I don’t think. Do we? But two years ago, give or take, when they were sophomores, if I recall correctly, we moved Gabi and Kiley into our top 10. And got all kinds of grief for it.

Gabi wasn’t that good, they said. If she’s that good, how come she’s not on Tartan’s 1st team? I had a Tartan coach tell me, She’s not that good. Meanwhile, they added, Kiley’s not that good. Just doesn’t have elite foot speed. Doesn’t have D1 offers.

Well, as for Gabi, I said (then), have you seen her play? I saw her single-handedly gallop through Park Center’s Hannah and Danielle Schaub, Ann Simonet and McKenna DuBois as if they were cardboard cutouts, and Gabi was running a full-court weave drill ending in an uncontested layup.

And, as for Kiley, all she did was score 35 points and her team wins. And, now, as a senior, her team won every night, 32 times with no defeats, which can only mean they won the state title, which they did. And the dean of Minnesota girls basketball analysts, Kevin Anderson, picked her as his Player of the Year. Say what? Still no D1 offers, by the way, but Player of the Year over at KJASR.

Well, we had her #8 2 years ago and go nothin’ but grief. Ditto Gabi Haack, and now she’s Ms. Basketball, the Gatorade Player of the Year and the StarTrib’s Metro Player of the Year.

How ironic is that? Because we spent 2 years tooting Gabi’s horn and now, finally, respect has found her, as it should. And we joined in making her our Player of the Year. But, to be honest, If I had had a vote for Ms. Basketball, which I don’t, I would have selected somebody else. Gabi really came into her in this year, and had the best year of any 2017 (Kevin Anderson and Kiley Borowicz notwithstanding).

But, in my mind, Ms. Basketball is a career award, and over a period of 3-4 years, I still think Rae Johnson (St. Michael-Albertville) and Kristin Scott (Kasson-Mantorville) had the biggest impact, as evidenced by their high-D1 (BCS, power 5 conference, however you want to define it) commitments.

Still, if it’s memories you want, Gabi and Kiley stand out for the state tournament exploits, Gabi just this year, Kiley over a 3 year period in which she became the #4 state tournament scorer of all-time. But if Class AAAA is your cup of tea, then Gabi really stands out. She had a better state tournament than any other finalist these past 2 years which, as you know, means Hopkins 2016-2017 and Minnetonka 2016.

So, thanks for the memories, Gabi and Kiley.

And then there’s….

Others are very much deserving of a mention, of course. We did our final ranking of the 2017s in January and we’re not going to revise them now. But if we did, I will say this. Our final 5 would be Rae Johnson, Kristin Scott, Gabi Haack, Rachel Ranke and Kiley Borowicz. Our 2nd 5 would have to include Mikayla Hayes, Annika Jank, Temi Carda and Tori Andrew. Since we’re not revising our rankings, I’m not even going to worry about who would be #10 because it would be too difficult of a pick. About #10 through #15 would be pretty much interchangeable.

Top Classes

Then there’s the question of the top senior classes by school. It’s a question we don’t think about too much. There are no awards for it. Real team performance is usually affected by the quality of 2 or 3 or 4 classes, not just one. But, just for fun, who had the top senior class? Well, going just by individual rankings, you would come up as follows.

1. Park Center. No question this is a great senior class with 4 state tournaments and 2 state titles (Class AAA as freshmen and sophomores). Mikayla Hayes is headed to Florida, Ann Simonet and Danielle Schaub to the Northern Sun.

2. East Ridge. Here you have to wonder if we’ve overrated somebody, as the team results over the years don’t suggest this high of a rating. But, of course, as we said, team results usually reflect contributions of several classes and maybe East Ridge’s older and younger classes weren’t pulling their weight? In any event, this reflects the ratings of Noelle Tomes, Mariah Sexe and Kendal Kenol.

3. Apple Valley. Always underachievers, sorry to say. Lyndsey Robson was always top 10, Sara Teske was top 20 before a serious knee injury, and Erin Baxter came on as a senior. Robson is going to Green Bay, Teske and Baxter D2. The team results don’t support this kind of rating, especially when we know that the junior class also had Brynne Rolland. In other words, you have to lay the shortfall on the 2017s.

4. Eastview. This is mainly Rachel Ranke and Allie Pickrain, with a little bit of Miranda Crenshaw. They’re going D1, D2 and D3, respectively. The team results support this. After losing Madi Guebert, they kept on winning. And, while the 2018s aren’t bad, they don’t have a Madi Guebert or a Rachel Ranke. So the 2017s did a lot of the heavy lifting.

5. Winona. This is Eden Nibbelink and Danneka Voegeli, both going D1, and a little bit of Maria Appicelli, going D2. A truly terrible performance in the state final does alter the fact that a lot of teams would trade them for 2 state runners-up.

6. Elk River. OK, now here is where we clearly have underrated somebody—probably everybody other than Gabi Haack. Sidney Wentland is going D1. Kelsie Cox is going NAIA, and probably could be going higher. Ava Kramer isn’t going anywhere that I’m aware of, but was a serious contributor on a state title team. The win over Hopkins, accomplished 100 percent by the 2017s, says this is the state’s #1 senior class and, again, we underrated everybody other than Gabi Haack.

7. Watertown-Mayer. Claire Killian and Kirstin Klitzke certainly are a dynamic duo. But what that says is 2 isn’t enough, even in Class AA.

8. New Prague. Maizie Deihl and Taylor Hustad. Underachieved largely due to Deihl’s injuries though, as we said, two is not enough.

9. St. Michael-Albertville. Rae Johnson and Lizzy Heil, underachieved because 2 is not enough and Heil missed most of the year with an injury.

10. Andover. Joli Daninger and Amanda D’Agostino.

Honorable Mention. Edina, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Alexandria, Wayzata, Kennedy.

Greatest Moments

And here we're talking about 2017s going head to head against one another.

1. Way, way back when they were sophomores in 2015, Mikayla Hayes and Kristin Scott faced off in a state semi. Remember? Scott had a great game—19 points, 18 boards, 3 blocks. Hayes spent a long period on the bench with fouls but checked back into the game at 7:32 of the 2nd half with the score tied. She scored a 1, a 2 and then a 3 to put Park Center up 42-34 en route to a 47-37 win.

2. Eastview’s seniors took on Temi Carda and Lakeville North 6 times in 2 years and Lyndsey Robson and Apple Valley 5 times, going 8-3 overall and closing out both rivalries with a win late in 2017.

3. Elk River, Park Center and Andover played one another once a year, with the Elks and the Pirates going 3-1 and Andover 0-4. Elk, of course, got the last laugh by beating Park Center 71-66 early this year and of course by winning the state title. Park Center still leads Elk in state titles 2-1.

And, the biggest game of all among these opponents came in the late winter 2015 when Elk River defeated Park Center 75-61. Abi Scheid outscored Mikayla Hayes 21-19, but it was Gabi Haack who really had her coming out party, scoring 34 points, one more than Hannah and Danielle Schaub, Ann Simonet and McKenna DuBois combined.

4. And considering that he spent exactly 4 years on the scene, and he “graduated” at the end of the 2017 season, I’m going to toss coach Chris VanderHyde of Park Center into the class of 2017, too. One of everybody’s favorite coaches, he was too short on the scene, and too soon gone. He will be missed.

So, to Chris and to all the girls of the class of 2017, God bless you all, and thanks for the memories.

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Tag(s): High School  Recruiting  Marc Hugunin  Erin Baxter  Kiley Borowicz  Temi Carda  Kelsie Cox  Jolene Daninger  Maizie Deihl  Gabi Haack  Mikayla Hayes  Lizzie Heil  Annika Jank  Raennah Johnson  Claire Killian  Kirstin Klitzke  Ava Kramer  Eden Nibbelink  Rachel Ranke  Lyndsey Robson  Danielle Schaub  Mariah Sexe  Ann Simonet  Sarah Teske  Noelle Tomes  Danneka Voegeli  Sidney Wentland  Team Reports  Kristin Scott  Tori Andrew  Taylor Hustad  Maria Appicelli  Amanda Dagostino  Kelen Kenol