Battle-Tested Melrose Heads To State

Battle-Tested Melrose Heads To State Click to Enlarge Photo: Emily Goerdt

(KNSI) – The Melrose Dutchmen head to the Minnesota State High School Boys Basketball Tournament today after surviving not only one of the toughest sections in the state of Minnesota but an epic game for the ages.

What one describes as epic can be up for debate but a recap of the game may help.

If one describes the word epic as nail-biting, the Section 6AA Championship game had them covered.

If one describes the word epic as none-stop action, the Section 6AA Championship Game had them covered.

If one describes the word epic as having a lead-change with 5.5 seconds left, the other team setting up a final shot, making that final shot, that team and their fans storming the court and then the final shot being waved-off and the other team and their fans storming the court and heading to state, that is exactly what the Section 6AA Championship Game provided.

Quickly recapping a game for the ages between Albany and Melrose may not embody what exactly transpired but the game itself was a microcosm as to what Section 6AA has provided for many years and especially this year.

Albany actually maintained an 11-point-lead going into halftime by holding potent Melrose to 17 first-half points.

What was said to the team from coach Ryan Dusha may never be uttered aloud but it must have been something special.

Melrose started the second-half on an 11-0 run and tied the game at 28-apiece.

Back-and-forth the battle raged on but Albany would continue lead.

Neither team could get the upper hand as Melrose finished by connecting on just 13 of 23 trips to the charity stripe; Albany finished 6 of 11.

The Dutchmen were within striking-distance when they connected for a big three-pointer by Grant Moscho to bring score to 51-50.

Albany then slowed play down to milk the clock for whatever they could and Melrose was forced to foul to give Albany a chance to go up by three.

However, Albany missed the front end of the 1-and-1 attempt and Melrose came away with the rebound and was able to call timeout with 16.2 seconds remaining.

Melrose then got the ball to their leading scorer on the season, Preston Keaveny.

Keaveny was at the top of the key and faked one way and went the other way and hit a tough jumper with 5.3 seconds remaining in the instant classic.

Albany then brought the ball back to half court and called their final timeout with 2.3 seconds remaining; the Huskies then had a play designed, executed the play to perfection and scored the winning basket.

Albany players, coaches and fans all screamed onto the court in jubilation as their team was heading to the state tournament.

However, after a brief meeting between the three referees, one referee came out and waved both of his hands in the "no good" motion and Melrose and their fans stormed the court with their team heading to state for the first time since 2015.

Melrose coach Ryan Dusha had a perfect look at what he thought about the final basket from Albany.

"I knew he didn't get it off in time; just because I knew it didn't get off doesn't mean the refs saw it the same way. "

Once the refs conferred and came back with what is seemingly the correct call, Dusha had many mixed emotions going through his head but wasn't just thinking about his team.

"Just a huge swing of emotions on both sides and I don't think anybody can imagine what Albany went through at the time but in the end they got the call right."

Melrose now plays Lake City in the first round of state and coach Dusha thinks they have quite the test ahead of them when asked how they stop leading scorer Nathan Heise.

"Well, you don't shut him down; he is a special player he can do it all. He can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and he's a very underrated passer."

Although the teams that Melrose will face in state are all section champions, the Dutchmen will undoubtedly use their experiences against teams like Albany, Cathedral, Foley and Eden Valley-Watkins to help them out.

Albany head coach Cory Schlagel thinks the area itself may be the reason the section is so competitive and teams tend to do well in state.

"This area of the state produces a lot of really good multi-sport high school athletes and basketball is a beneficiary of this in my opinion. It seems as though whichever sport you pick there is an area team that is competing at the very highest level at the end of their respective season."

Regardless of how Melrose does at state this weekend, since 2013, the worst a team from section 6AA has finished is fourth.

Dusha and the Dutchmen will hope to continue that trend tonight at 8:00 p.m. when the face-off against 22-2 Lake City.

Melrose coach Dusha talks about the crazy finish and his team on the KNSI Sports Podcast.

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