MINNEAPOLIS -- For a Section 8A team, It’s a big deal to reach the Minnesota state Class A boys basketball tournament.

It’s an even bigger deal for a Section 8A team to advance past the first round of the tournament.

So, these are notable days for the boys basketball team at Badger-Greenbush-Middle River, which is one win away from playing for a state Class A title.

The Gators will play Hayfield at noon on Wednesday in the state Class A semifinals at Target Center. The winner plays for a state title on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

According to the Minnesota State High School League, there have been only four Section 8A teams to have played for a state title in the past 40-plus seasons -- Lake of the Woods in 1980, Fertile-Beltrami in 1996, Win-E-Mac in 2000 and Cass Lake-Bena in 2007. And no team from Section 8A has won a state championship since the Minnesota State High School League went to a multi-class system in 1971.

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By winning its quarterfinal game against Deer River last week, B-G-MR finds itself in some rare air. The Gators now want more.

“The support from our community has been unbelievable,” said B-G-MR coach Kent Christian. “It’s definitely been busy the past few days but it’s a good busy.”

Hayfield (19-4) upset Legacy Christian Academy in last week’s quarterfinals. In that game, Hayfield junior Easton Fritcher pulled down 29 rebounds in addition to scoring 12 points. “He’s not real big but he’s a rebounding machine,” said Christian. “He gets after it.”

Four Hayfield players scored in double figures and the Vikings played their starting five until the final minute of the game.

“They’re disciplined and they don’t seem to turn the ball over,” said Christian. “But we feel that we match up with them.

The Gators have been balanced all season, with Adam Benke, a 6-foot-1 senior, leading the way as he averages 16.5 points. Kobey Dallager, a 6-2 junior averages 13.4 points while Zach Blawat scores 12.4 points per game. Kasen Swenson, who hit a game-turning shot against Deer River in the quarterfinals, averages 10.6 points while Aaron Westling scores at a 7.4 ppg clip.

B-G-MR was allotted 250 tickets for the semifinal game. The Gators were scheduled to practice Tuesday at noon before heading to the Twin Cities for a shot at a state title.

In December, few knew if there would even be a season due to the pandemic.

B-G-MR made the most of the situation.

“Talk about resiliency,” said Christian. “In December, we weren’t sure there would be a season. Hopefully, this will teach us to sit back and enjoy things a little more.”



Minn. state Class A tournament

Badger-Greenbush-Middle River vs. Hayfield

When: Noon, Wednesday

Where: Target Center

Coaches: Kent Christian, B-G-MR, 250-241 career record; Chris Pack, Hayfield, 324-247 career record

Records: B-G-MR 20-3; Hayfield 19-4

Of note: Hayfield has won 14 of its past 15 games; B-G-MR has won 11 in a row