The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

In recent years at Saint Thomas Academy, thoughts about getting to state have been reserved for the swimming and hockey teams, and a few wrestlers. This year, another entity seems intent on making a bid for post-season attention. When the Cadets defeated Metro East rival Tartan 59-50 on February 15, they achieved two notable feats. 

1. It was the team’s 12th win in a row—something that it hadn’t accomplished for several years.

2. It was also the Cadets’ 17th overall triumph of the year. It’s a number that hardly seemed likely when they opened the 2022-23 campaign with four losses in the first five games.

Cadets continue winning streak

After topping the Titans, STA followed up with a win over Two Rivers two days later to stretch its winning streak to 13 and record to 18-5 overall. This may come as a surprise to some, but not to head coach Khalid El-Amin. In fact, the season is going exactly how he thought it might. “We just needed to get to full strength,” he said.

For the first six weeks, STA was without senior guard Jack Chamberlain, who was recovering from an injury. His first game back was on January 10, when he scored just one basket in a 69-41 loss at Mahtomedi. Three days later, he popped in 10 during a win over Tartan. Chamberlain’s scoring has steadily improved and he’s now averaging nearly a dozen points a game.

That victory over the Titans on January 13 started the long winning streak that has STA tied with Mahtomedi for the conference title. Among those conquests was a 72-58 win over the Zephyrs on February 7. 

Five players have total points in triple digits

The Cadets already had twin scoring threats in senior guards Michael Kirchner (17.7 points per game) and junior Luke Dobbs (16). Close behind in scoring were seniors Andrew Fahning (6.4) and Michael Thompson (6.1). Add in Chamberlain and the Cadets have five players who had totaled more than 100 points each this season.

El-Amin said the addition of Chamberlain helped shore up his rotation on the court. But what really helped was getting his charges to believe in playing defense.

“The key is keeping the ball out of the lane and making teams shoot from the outside,” El-Amin explained. “If you get beat inside, you have to know the rotation and who needs to cover.”

There’s a little more than a week left in the regular season. STA’s postseason will be as a member of Section 3AAA. To get to state for the first time since 2018, the Cadets may have to topple DeLaSalle (18-4 ). El-Amin isn’t thinking that far ahead.

“The big thing is I want us to win the games we’re supposed to win,” he said.

“The key is keeping the ball out of the lane and making teams shoot from the outside,” El-Amin explained. “If you get beat inside, you have to know the rotation and who needs to cover.”

Scots place third at state Nordic ski meet 

It wasn’t quite as high a finish as they had hoped, but the Highland Park boys’ and girls’ Nordic ski teams left the state meet in Biwabik on February 15-16 with smiles on their faces. Both teams placed third, missing second by just one point. Under the circumstances, head coach Brad Moening was very pleased with the performances.

“A lot can go wrong in a short period,” he said the day before the races started.

Both teams had crashes during the team sprint relay races the first day. They also had to deal with 45 mph winds, which tested their durability and agility. 

On the boys’ side, the Scots were missing senior Davis Isom, a top skier who was in Finland competing for Team USA in the U18 division of the Nordic Nations Cup. The Highland girls’ team was the defending state champs, but had just one senior competing in the classic and pursuit races on the second day of competition. 

Koch sisters lead the way for Highland

Through it all, though, the Scots hung tough. Sophomore Hanna Koch led the girls’ team in the classic race, finishing fifth in the 112-member field. Her time of 15:40.7 was 17.4 seconds off the winning mark. Senior Chloe Koch and sophomore Alex Pundsack were not far behind at 12th and 13th places.

Saint Paul Academy sophomores Taylor Barkwell and Inga Wing placed 30th and 37th in the classic. Central junior Kaisa Lindfors checked in at 35th. 

Hanna Koch placed seventh in the subsequent freestyle race to finish fifth overall. Chloe Koch was 26th and Pundsack 30th in that race to end up 17th and 18th overall. Sophomore Amelie Isom was 35th overall. The Scots’ girls totaled 362 points, just behind Stillwater’s 363 and Duluth East’s 387.

Wing did much better in the freestyle, placing 15th to improve to 25th overall. Lindfors was 27th in the freestyle to finish 31st overall. Barkwell was 50th in the freestyle to end up 42nd overall.

The best overall local finish happened the first day when SPA’s Maren Overgard and Helen Townley finished second in team sprint. Highland’s Delia Johnson and Ellie Moore were fourth, and Central’s Maeve Lindsay and Rachel Poppleton were 12th.

Highland boys improve to third

Despite Isom’s absence, the Highland boys’ team improved two spots from a year ago with 338 points, just behind Wayzata’s 339 and Duluth East’s 381. Senior Ben Martin was 15th in the classic for the Scots and 27th in the freestyle to finish 20th overall. (Minnehaha Academy junior Finn Christiansen, who was seventh in the freestyle, ended up one place ahead of Martin.)

Senior Gavin Roberts was the second-best finisher for the Scots at 29th place overall and senior Max Reemtsma was 46th. For Central, junior Henry Brandt was 82nd and freshman Henry Simmons was 85th.  

In the boys’ team sprints, Highland’s Tad Forsman and Tim Tzeutschler came in seventh, while Central’s Henry Huron and Torte Torstenson finished 13th.

Wildcats make it three in a row

Saint Catherine University swimmers Annie Voss and Jordyn Wentzel won three events each to lead the Wildcats over Gustavus Adolphus for first place at the MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Minnesota on February 15-18. The Wildcats finished with 686 points, followed by the Gusties with 672 and Macalester with 563. Voss won the 200 backstroke and the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Wentzel took the 100 and 200 breaststrokes as well as the 500 freestyle. Both swimmers also were on relay teams that finished atop the field.

Raider girls just miss state hockey berth

The Cretin-Derham Hall’s girls’ hockey team came up just short in its bid to make the state tournament for the first time since 2008. The Raiders (10-18) knocked off top-seeded Apple Valley 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Abigail Broz in the Section 3AA semifinals. In the championship game against Rosemount, CDH rallied to force overtime again when Delaney Schwab scored to tie the game at 2-2 late in the third period. Raider goalie Grace Kemp made eight of her 39 saves in the first extra period. However, the Irish found the net in the first minute of the second overtime to dash CDH hopes. 

Dave Wright can be reached at  


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