Mar. 13—Was 2020 going to be the year for Caledonia to win a state championship in boys basketball?
The Warriors will never know.
After coming close to a state title in recent years, Caledonia was set to return to the Class AA state tournament last spring before the season was quickly washed away due to COVID-19.
"I think the 'What if' will be there forever," Caledonia coach Brad King said. "It's not something for the senior class that will ever go away. Kind of like for this year's senior class for the football season. You don't get to redo it, so I think it will probably be there forever."
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The Warriors have had one of the top programs in Class AA for a decade in boys basketball. Caledonia made four state appearances in a five-year period from 2014-18, placing second in the state in both 2018 and 2015 and third in 2014.
Caledonia had won a state title back in 1997. The 2020 team was 28-1 and ranked No. 1 in the state after beating Stewartville in the Section 1AA final to earn a state berth.
"Everybody had us ranked No. 1 for a reason," King said. "I think we would have had a really good shot at it, absolutely. But you have to play the games in order to say you're the best."
But after beating Stewartville on March 12, the season was cancelled the very next day due to the pandemic.
"It was extremely difficult for our seniors, knowing that it ended without a game being played," King said. "That was probably more frustrating than if you lost the game and had your season end."
King, who had two sons on the team, recalls hearing about the season being called off around noon on March 13. He met with his players at about 3:30 p.m. There had been rumblings about the impending news, but that didn't lessen the blow.
"It was a sledgehammer, a lot of shock at that time," he said. "But I thought we had a good conversation about it. It's something that will probably never go away, but you do have to learn how to handle it. You can be sad, mad for a short timeframe and then it's time to pull the boots up and move forward."
COVID-19 has hit Caledonia with at least a double whammy over the past year in boys' sports. The highly successful football team, which has won a nation-best 71 straight games, only got to play three games last fall before its season was derailed by the pandemic.
"As much as we like to control things, we just don't control every aspect of our life," King said. "Life's not fair, things are going to happen to you that don't seem fair in so many different ways. You've got to take steps forward in your life and handle it. And I thought our guys did a good job of it last year."
If there was an upside for the Warriors 2020 basketball team, it was the fact they won a fifth section title in a seven-year span.
"I think no matter what, it's nice to know that we won our section again and we were going to be the representative of our section, which was really a good section," King said. "It was still really nice to hang our hat on that and we had a fantastic season."
It has also been a motivation for this season. Caledonia currently has just one loss and is ranked third in the state in Class AA.
"Hopefully that's what we're trying to do every year, have a chance to win our section," King said. "You can't win a state championship without getting to state."