Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Norm Grow and the McDonald boys. A look at the Minnesota state record book

I could stare at sports records all day. And, on many unproductive days of my life, I've done just that. My dad always bought a new Who's Who baseball book each year and we could spend hours looking at the stats of obscure players and marveling at the longevity of someone like Nolan Ryan. I used to buy NBA Registers and Guides and sit for days looking at box scores from playoff series from the 1970s, or gawking at Wilt Chamberlain's scoring marks (ahem).

And it doesn't matter the sport or level of play, although, admittedly, I've never spent any time poring over old soccer records or college lacrosse champions. The Minnesota high school basketball records are kept here. Pretty much everything is there, from the highest scoring boys team in history to the leading rebounder in girls basketball.

Matthew Pederson, of Starbuck, Minnesota, maintains the records. He's the Harvey Pollack of Minnesota basketball. As he notes, points, field goals and free throws are officially recorded while others - like assists and steals - are compiled by teams, meaning inconsistencies consistently come up. Especially with a stat like assists, a number that can be manipulated or questioned at any level, even the NBA. A few years ago some statisticians questioned Chris Paul's assist numbers, as they watched videotape and determined that on his home court, Paul was getting some favorable record-keeping by the hometown crew. In high school it's obviously even more difficult, as the giggling 16-year-old girl - or, to be fair, the giggling 16-year-old boy - might struggle to figure what's an assist and what's just a good play by the guy who scores. If a guard passes it to a forward on the wing, and he takes six dribbles to the left, spins back to the right, pump fakes and hits a jumper...that is not an assist.

Many other things influence the records. Today teams play longer games and more of them, meaning season and career marks should be easier to break. The 3-point line didn't come into effect until the 1988 season, so the gunners who played before that didn't benefit from the extra point. And back in the day, stats like rebounds, blocked shots and assists might not have even been recorded, so dominant big men or efficient guards were robbed of potential records.

Still, people can read these stats knowing those inconsistencies exist. But they're all still fascinating to go through. Some of the highlights.

The team scoring records for the boys sort of have to be analyzed the same way people look at NBA scoring records. Whenever someone does something, you'll often hear it's a non-Wilt record, meaning Chamberlain's records were so absurd that they're sort of nestled in their own spot in the books. No one's really compared to him, only to every other player in league history. So it is with Minnesota Transitions, which has used a high-scoring offense to put itself on the basketball map the past few seasons. Of the seven highest-scoring games, Transitions has four of them, all in the last five years (they also have the four highest-scoring halves).

The record for points by a losing team is still held by Red Lake, which lost 117-113 to Wabasso in 1997 in one of the more memorable state tournament games of the past 20 years.

Atwater set the mark for points in a quarter, way back in 1958, with an outrageous 55-point outburst. That's one record that will never be broken. Minnesota now plays 18-minute halves, instead of eight-minute quarters. Perhaps the oldest record belongs to Buffalo, which committed the fewest fouls in a game - one - in a 1926 barnburner that might have actually been played in an old red barn. Buffalo's coach probably complained about that call. In 1978, Breckenridge matched Buffalo with a one-foul game.

Speaking of Wilt, for decades former Foley star Norm Grow ruled the books just like the Big Dipper. And, in fact, Grow actually broke some of Wilt's marks, which proves just how dominant he was. In this 1958 Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd piece, it's noted that Grow broke the Kansas star's record for secondary school points. This old newspaper article from the Milwaukee Journal also discusses Grow's mark. Grow's records are so old he was called a cager, a term rarely seen since about the 1970s. Grow's record of 70 points in a game stood for 47 years, until Cash Eggleston broke it with 90 points in 2005. Eggleston's school? Transitions.

A Janesville legend, Gene Volz, makes an appearance with his 51-point game in 1956.

The single-game field goal percentage mark is an eye-opening number: Jerome Gleixner of Bloomington made all 19 shots in a 1953 game. A pair of dominant high school players who never lived up to expectations at the University of Minnesota - Kevin Loge and Kyle Sanden - are also on the list, with games of 16-for-16 and 13-for-13, respectively. Former Staples-Motley guard Erik Kelly holds one of the more impressive marks. He hit all 10 of his 3-point attempts in a 1996 game, which would be impressive in a backyard or an empty gym.

Some might raise their eyebrows at the assist numbers, for the reasons mentioned above. Still, they are startling. Martin Wind of Cass Lake-Bena had 28 in a 2008 game. No word on whether an asterisk should be attached to that number.

For the gals, the record for most points in a game has stood since 1982, when Lester Prairie's Kay Konerza scored 58. You'd think a superstar who plays for a coach who likes running up the score would have broken that at some point the past three decades. An old friend of mine and a graduate of St. Ben's, Laura Wendorff, still holds the top spot for best rebounding game by a girl. The Fulda native grabbed 34 in a 1996 contest, though Missy Kassube of Eagle Valley matched it in 2008. I once jokingly questioned that number to Wendorff. She was an extremely unselfish player who cared little for individual glory. She actually thought it was probably pretty accurate, as the opponent that night was not very good, providing plenty of chances for defensive and offensive boards. We'll keep the asterisk off of that one.

Former Chisholm legend Joel McDonald dominates the categories for season scoring records. McDonald is part of the first family of Minnesota hoops, as his dad, Bob, has been coaching Chisholm since Buffalo committed that one foul in that 1926 game, or at least it seems like it. All of the McDonald boys were prolific scorers and Judy McDonald was one of the top scoring girls in state history. Joel scored 1,157 points in 1991, when he led Chisholm to the Class A state championship. He also set a record that year by averaging 38.57 points. McDonald has the fourth-highest scoring season ever - 35.95 a game in 1990 - and his brother Tom averaged 35.54 in 1982. Norm Grow reappears, with a 36.32 mark in 1958, the third highest of all time.

If Norm Grow was the Wilt of his day, Janet Karvonen was sort of the Babe Ruth of girls basketball in the state. She changed the way people watched girls basketball and shattered nearly every record. Some of her marks have fallen over the years, but many still remain, a testament to her skill and dominance. She averaged 32.5 a game for New York Mills in 1980, the third highest mark (Kierah Kimbrough of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River holds the record with a 34.10 average in 2005). Karvonen scored 3,129 points in her decorated career, a mark that stood for 17 years, until Megan Taylor of Roseau broke it in 1997. Is it easier to break records now? It took 17 years for Karvonen's record to fall but only eight for Taylor's record to be eclipsed by Katie Ohm. And four years later, Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South broke Ohm's record.

That same evolution is evident on the boys' side. Grow's record of 2,852 points lasted from 1958 until McDonald broke it in 1991. Braham star Isaiah Dahlman passed McDonald 15 years later. Ellsworth's Cody Schilling erased Dahlman from the top spot two years later. He holds the mark now with 3,428 points. Grow still holds the record for free throws attempted in a career, an amazing 988. Schilling, however, was a much more accurate shooter and holds the mark for free throws made, hitting 797 out of 955. For career rebounds, Grow is also the only player from the ancient days to make the top 9. He had 1,417 in three years, while all the others played after 1999. Again, rebounding records weren't always well-maintained in previous decades. Schilling's name litters the record book, as the former Ellsworth star - who now plays for Augustana - is also the all-time assist leader, an amazing number for a guy who also scored the most points in state history.

One of the odder stats? Most overtime periods in a game. St. Cloud Tech and Little Falls played eight OTs in a 1983 game. The Red Wing girls might have participated in the most boring game in state history, as they shot 75 free throws in a 2008 game, which is 15 more than the next closest team. Just thinking about watching that game gives me the chills. And for the record, Red Wing's opponent that day - Holy Angels - shot 16. I wish I knew how many Holy Angels players fouled out of that game. An even more atrocious number from that day? Red Wing only hit 36 of the free throws. Fulda recently won a pair of state titles but it was the school's 1989 team that set a record by hitting all 24 of their free throws in a game.

The legendary Edina teams of the 1960s still maintain the mark for most victories in a row by a boys team, winning 69 straight from 1965-1968.

And on and on and on.

Spend some time on the site and bookmark it, as Pederson is always updating it when old records fall.

And if you want some truly absurd numbers? Go to this site and click on the link that says Record Book Basketball. It will be a PDF, but it has the national basketball records. Highest scoring boy? Louisiana's Greg Procell, a 1970 grad who scored 6,702 points. Even Pistol Pete was jealous. But even those numbers should not be looked at as the final word, as it appears there are discrepancies and omissions. For instance, Dahlman's listed above Schilling in the scoring book.

So perhaps look at some of the numbers with a bit of skepticism. Just be prepared to spend a few hours reading them.


Brock said...

The oldest Noreen boy from Transitions recently broke the scoring record though some games I think got taken away because they are not registered teams or something like that. He also with his brother scored over 90 pts in a game a few weeks ago. Record for two brothers in one game?

Neil R said...

I have the 1991 title game of Chisholm vs Westbrook-Walnut Grove. The WWG team was dominant. They had every position filled perfectly. But not even that machine could get past Joel and Bob McDonald.
I had to pleasure of watching numerous Schilling games. He would put up a triple-double (granted, yet it was Class A) and it wouldn't stand out during game.

Shawn Fury said...

That'd be a fun game to see again. I went to it with my parents. Was reading an old story on it and it was only a 2-point game in the fourth, then Chisholm went on like a 15-0 run to break it open. I remember WWG beating Nordgaard and Dawson-Boyd in the semifinals. I can't believe there are too many players in any of the other 49 states who are the all-time leading assist men and scorers, like Schilling.