Area Notebook: Benson coach can't be at his first game

·5 min read

Dec. 8—BENSON — To say it was a rough first game as Benson's new coach is to understate. For Mike Felt, it was as difficult as anything he has had to deal with.

Because of COVID-19 protocols, Felt could not be on the bench for Benson's boys basketball game at Wheaton/Herman-Norcross.

"I gave the pre-game speech by Zoom meeting," he said.

The Braves lost 70-46.

"I'm feeling fine," said Felt, who said he is vaccinated. "It's been tough coaching virtually.

"It's been a struggle. I'm in my assistants' earpieces trying to tell them what I want."

Felt said his young children have been sick, which is why he believes he tested positive. He has no symptoms and expected to return to practice Tuesday. The Braves' next game is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dawson-Boyd.

Felt was hired over the summer to replace his brother-in-law, Adam Jensen, who remains on the boys basketball staff as an assistant. He was head coach at Parkers Prairie and is a former North Dakota State player and Redwood Valley star.

He anticipates Benson's West Central Conference to be extremely difficult. Morris/Chokio-Alberta, led by Augustana recruit Jackson Loge, looks to be a state title contender. Melrose, Minnewaska and BOLD have been traditionally tough programs and Felt believes Sauk Centre and Montevideo are no slouches.

"Yes, it's going to be tough," he said. "You've got to be ready to go every night.

"There are a lot of good teams and a lot of well-coached teams. There aren't any fluff games, especially in this conference. You have to bring it every night."

BOLD has brutal stretch

The BOLD boys basketball team is Sagedahl-free for the first time in six years. With Drew's graduation in 2021 and Jordan's graduation in 2019, the Warriors haven't had a Sagedahl on the court in a while, though their father, Daren Sagedahl, remains an assistant coach.

BOLD opened with a 75-59 victory over Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, but has a string of four straight games against state-tournament contenders.

It starts Thursday when Mayer Lutheran comes to Bird Island. The Warriors then play Tuesday, Dec. 14 at Central Minnesota Christian and Dec. 17 at Melrose before returning home Dec. 21 to take on Morris/Chokio-Alberta.

"I think we're going to be in good shape come Jan. 1," said BOLD head coach Jake Brustuen. "We've got a brutal schedule coming up."

Brustuen kidded that he blames his activities director, Derek Flann, for the tough schedule. The two are friends.

"What was my AD thinking?" he quipped.

Brustuen said it was a delight to coach the Sagedahls, but he hopes new players take charge offensively.

"Cole Visser had an awesome junior year and I think he'll take another step this year," Brustuen said. "Ryan King saw some minutes on varsity as a sophomore and he's one athletic dude.

"We're always going to be who we are. We've got some good athletes and we'll continue to play our style."

Bremer Classic pairings

This year's Bremer Bank Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament intrigues. It's a mix of top area teams with a couple of squads that should be interesting.

Willmar, of course, is the host of the tournament Dec. 29-30 at the Big Red Gym.

Here's the schedule the first day: MACCRAY vs. Dassel-Cokato, 2 p.m.; Central Minnesota Christian vs. Barnesville, 3:45 p.m.; Lac qui Parle Valley vs. New London-Spicer, 5:30 p.m.; and Willmar vs. Redwood Valley, 7:15 p.m.

Day 2's schedule looks like this: Redwood Valley vs. CMCS, 2 p.m.; Barnesville vs. MACCRAY, 3:45 p.m.; Dassel-Cokato vs. Lac qui Parle Valley, 5:30 p.m.; Willmar vs. NLS, 7:15 p.m.

CMCS was in the state tournament last year.

Barnesville was 12-9 last year. Dassel-Cokato is coming off a state football championship with many of the same athletes.

Last year's Bremer Bank Holiday Classic was postponed because of the pandemic. The season didn't start for most schools until Jan. 14.

Shot clock coming

The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors approved the use of a 35-second shot clock for the 2023-24 season last week. Minnesota is the 13th state association to adopt a shot clock for varsity-level games.

Others include Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Schools in Minnesota are allowed to use a shot clock during the regular season if both teams agree. It'll be for both boys and girls games. The high school league was given a report that said there was 75% approval for shot-clock implementation among member schools.

Minnesota is the 13th state association to adopt a shot clock for varsity-level basketball games. Others include Iowa (both boys and girls associations), North Dakota, South Dakota, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.

Mud Puppies are back

The Minnesota Mud Puppies will return as a team for the 2022 Northwoods League baseball season.

The Mud Puppies played a 36-game road-only schedule in 2021 to make up for the loss of the Thunder Bay Border Cats, who were limited by travel restrictions to Canada caused by the pandemic. Thunder Bay won't be back this season.

"This was a difficult decision to make, playing the 2022 season without the Thunder Bay Border Cats," said Northwoods League President/Commissioner Ryan Voz in a statement. "They have a rich tradition in the League."

Voz is co-owner of the Willmar Stingers with Marc Jerzak.

"We were expecting the Mud Puppies to be a one-year stop-gap in 2021, however with the ongoing impact and uncertainty of international travel requirements, the decision was made to bring them back for 2022," Voz said.

Willmar athlete honored

Willmar girls basketball player Ella Shinn has been named a Central Lakes Conference performer of the week. Shinn, a senior forward, had 18 rebounds in two games last week for the Cardinals.

Also honored were:


From Fergus Falls, boys hockey player Michael Debrito, hockey goalie Ana Jyrkas and wrestler Caleb Fronning;


From Sartell, boys basketball player Mason Lund;


From Brainerd, boys basketball player Cam Engholm and wrestler Dalton Barrett;


From Alexandria, girls basketball player Hadley Thul.

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