Prep basketball: Final game down memory lane for McDonald
Bob McDonald’s future wife always watched him play basketball at Minnesota Duluth from the bleacher seats behind the scorer’s table.
So when the venerable 80-year-old Chisholm coach walked into what’s now known as Romano Gymnasium on Tuesday night to coach the Border Battle Minnesota All-Stars — his final game in the Northland after 59 seasons on the bench — he knew exactly where to sit.
“When we came out of the locker room (before the girls game), he said, ‘Let’s go sit where your mom used to watch me play,’ ” said Joel McDonald, Hibbing’s coach and Bob’s youngest son, who was serving as assistant coach for the Minnesota team. “There was a lot of reminiscing on the way here. It was a very special ride down from Hibbing.”
Father and son took in one half of the girls all-star game from that spot, thinking back on the last 60 years in the life of Minnesota’s all-time winningest coach in any sport — including the last 17 years since Darlene McDonald died of cancer.
“My wife sat there when I was playing at UMD; I would look up and always see her there,” Bob McDonald recalled. “There’s some nostalgia — maybe a soft spot — actually somewhat depressing, you might say, looking at times past.
“It puts you in the position where it’s kind of haunting. You put yourself back in those good times — it was really a fulfilling time in my life. We were married for 42 years and it all started here.”
McDonald attended UMD after transferring from the University of Michigan and then playing two years at Hibbing Community College in the early 1950s.
“This is home sweet home in some respects of my life; this is where the family life began,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll come back into this gym again.”
McDonald’s final coaching stint at Romano turned out like 1,012 of his high school games did — with a victory — as Minnesota downed Wisconsin 120-115 in double overtime in a fast-paced, 3-point shooting exhibition.
Mora guard Sam Johnson scored 27 points, made six 3-pointers and tipped in a missed shot to force overtime as Minnesota clawed back from a double-digit halftime deficit. Esko seniors Kory Deadrick and Casey Staniger, who led the Eskomos to their first Class AA state title this year, had 19 points and 15, respectively, and Division I recruit Alex Illikainen of Grand Rapids added 17.
Bayfield guard Donald Gordon III scored a team-high 27 points on nine 3-pointers for Wisconsin and was named winner of the Mike Gerber Most Valuable Player Award in honor of the late Duluth Area Youth Basketball Association chairman. Ashland’s Thomas Whiting added 18 points and five 3-pointers as Wisconsin made 23 long-range shots.
McDonald was honored at halftime by emcee Tom Hansen and given a standing ovation by the crowd.
“Being here with him and celebrating his career and being around a bunch of good basketball players at the same time is a good way for him to go out,” Joel McDonald said. “I’m very happy to be a part of it.
“It’s a lot different than looking at my dad on the opposing bench at Roels Gymnasium.”
The elder McDonald says he has no plans on returning to watch Chisholm play at home as he doesn’t want to be viewed as an overseer over new coach Larry Pervenanze. He’ll make an exception, he said, if Hibbing is the opponent.
Nor does he look back with any sadness upon retiring after 53 years with the Bluestreaks.
“I fulfilled an obligation to my kids at Chisholm, to the community, my hometown,” he said. “So I don’t look back on that.”
Wisconsin All-Stars — Luke Stanley 4, Luke Murphy 16, Carter Anderson 6, Daniel Gengenbach 6, Joe Stark 9, Josh Weix 6, Mitchell Reinthaler 8, Donald Gordon III 27, Thomas Whiting 18, Brandyn Christman 13. Totals 41 10-19 115.
3-point goals — Gordon 9, Whiting 5, Stark 3, Reinthaler 2, Christman 2, Murphy, Anderson.
Minnesota All-Stars — Trevontae Brown 12, Tyler Jerkovich 6, Sam Johnson 27, Casey Staniger 15, Alex Illikainen 17, Kory Deadrick 19, Kole Zuidmulder 11, Adam Laine 12. Totals 47 9-11 120.
3-point goals — Johnson 6, Deadrick 5, Brown, Jerkovich, Staniger, Illikainen.
WISCONSIN 78, MINNESOTA 76
Defense is a rarely seen strategy in all-star games, but it was on full display in the girls game.
Full-court pressure, trapping defenses and contested shots were all part of the scene at Romano. As was a total of 72 attempted free throws — 50 by the Wisconsin All-Stars — in their two-point victory.
Superior senior Hailey Kontny — three days after helping the Spartans to a Division 1 runner-up state tournament finish — led Wisconsin with 19 points, mostly from the foul line. Eau Claire Memorial’s Lauren Novak added 15.
North Woods senior Darby Youngstrom, who concluded her career as Northeastern Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,800 points, led the Minnesota team with 22 and was named MVP.
Barnum’s Daron Mainville added 13 points and hit the tying shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Wisconsin All-Stars — Britnee Zuck 3, Haley Seifert 3, Mallie Doucette 10, Meg Elias 4, Kayla Hanley 5, Lauren Novak 15, Afton Kuehndorf 11, Hailey Kontny 19, Janice Anderson 1, Breanna Steen 6. Totals 19 29-50 78.
3-point goals — Novak 2, Kuehndorf 2, Seifert, Doucette, Hanley.
Minnesota All-Stars — Allie Knuti 2, Mia Anderson 10, Daron Mainville 13, Abby Hawkinson 7, Emily Neumann 3, Sarah Overbye 2, Darby Youngstrom 22, Destinie Villebrun 7, Hannah Johnson 6, Lexi Hill 4. Totals 28 17-22 76.
3-point goals — Youngstrom 2, Anderson, Villebrun.