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Rickert, Greyhounds on the verge

Thursday night will be the culmination of much more than a single season of Duluth East basketball. Years of preparation and planning have been invested by the Greyhounds' coaching staff, all aimed at making a state tournament run this season, th...

Thursday night will be the culmination of much more than a single season of Duluth East basketball. Years of preparation and planning have been invested by the Greyhounds' coaching staff, all aimed at making a state tournament run this season, the last for Rick Rickert and head coach Bob Kunze.
"We made our selections way in advance, hoping they would pay dividends," Kunze said. "And they have."
But, for all their accomplishments, the supernova that is the 2001 Greyhounds could disappear from the high school basketball galaxy prematurely with a loss in Thursday's Section 8AAAA final. As unlikely as that would seem following East's 52-26 dismantling of Brainerd in the semifinals, the players and coaches fully understand the gravity of their upcoming battle with St. Cloud Tech, and they're taking nothing for granted.
"There's no apprehension," said Kunze. "But we got beat last year, and we're determined not to let that happen again. We're playing our best basketball now."
Leading the way, of course, is Rickert, who will be the focal point of the Tech Tigers' defense on Thursday.
"Rick's going to get his points, but we're just going to try to make it difficult for him," said Tigers head coach Pat Dorsey.
Offensively, the Tigers will be looking to their own star big man, Paul Ferber, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior. He missed the teams' earlier meeting, a 51-39 East win on Feb. 17, but will play and should contribute in the rematch.
"When we went to Duluth East we were missing Ferber, (out with a dislocated shoulder), so we were a little shorthanded," said Dorsey. "But with him in the lineup, we're hoping to do a little more inside and that should open things out away from Rickert."
A high-scoring game, however, is not likely. At least not on Tech's side of the scoreboard.
"I don't think we're capable of scoring 70 points against East," Dorsey said. "But defensively, I think we're capable of keeping East in check."
The Greyhounds, playing their best defense of the season recently, feel similarly about St. Cloud Tech.
The wild card is the locale. The Tigers will be playing in their own backyard, at St. Cloud State's Halenbeck Hall, giving them a distinct home-court advantage.
"I like that it will be at SCSU," said Dorsey. "We'll have fan support."
But the Greyhounds, presented with the option of playing in St. Cloud or in Brainerd, actually chose the Granite City as well. They have their sights set on the next step, a state tournament appearance, which would begin on the same Halenbeck Hall floor.
"Later on, we're hoping to play there again," said Kunze.
He and his staff are so intent on taking the next step, that they spent time watching the Section 6AAAA semifinals earlier this week.
"We have a little better idea of how we match up now," Kunze said.
Of course, none of that will matter unless the 'Hounds can accomplish their primary mission on Thursday, the one they've been building toward for years.
"It would be a heck of an accomplishment for the players and for the program," said Kunze.
And a great going away present as well.
Ticket notes
The East-Tech game, scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m., will be the opening game of a high school basketball double-header at Halenbeck Hall. Tickets are available for $5 and $3 at the door.

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