OSSEO — McDonell 47, Thorp 35.
Let’s get that out of the way.
It seems every aspect of American life has been disrupted by the COVID-19 virus that is spreading throughout the country. Nearly every sports league around the world has gone on hiatus and there was a feeling before Thursday night’s sectional semifinal in Osseo that regardless of the outcome, this was likely to be the final basketball game of the season for both teams. In the hours after the game those feelings were proven correct as the WIAA canceled the remainder of the season in both boys and girls winter sports.
Off the court, things were fairly different. One side of the Osseo-Fairchild gym lay empty, blocked by “closed” signs that roped off the bleachers. On the other side, however, the gym seemed fairly packed with parents from both teams and a few Thorp students forming a small student section.
“I thought it was going to be a lot different,” McDonell senior JD Bohaty said. “I’m really impressed with all the people that came out. The student section wasn’t here so the parents were leading cheers, it really makes you proud of your school.”
On the court things seemed pretty normal. Teams ran out of their locker rooms and high-fived one another like normal. There were on-court high-fives, butt slaps and everything you would expect from a normal basketball game. At halftime Neil Diamond’s voice rang out with “reaching out, touching me, touching you,” and after McDonell clinched victory, the teams lined up for their regular post-game handshakes.
That’s when things got a little atypical again. Normally after the game teams would head back to their respective locker rooms to either celebrate or grieve, but not tonight. Tonight, Thorp coach Rich Sonnentag wanted to pray.
“For the better part of two or three weeks I’ve seen something like this coming I was just hoping it was going to happen after our tournament,” Sonnentag said. “People, whether it’s a panic or it’s a reason to be scared, and I just felt like kids need to understand that. I’m not even sure, and I talked to (McDonell coach) Adam (Schilling) earlier today, I’m not even sure that our game should have been played today.”
The teams gathered around in a circle, got down on a knee, bowed their heads, and McDonell senior Eion Kressin led everyone in a prayer.
“I think we just wanted to come together as a group and put everything into perspective after a tough game,” Schilling said.
The whole day was unusual for the Cardinals, according to Sonnentag.
He said his players spent much of the morning reaching out to family members to divvy up the limited tickets.
“That’s not the stuff as a coach you want them to be doing on game day,” Sonnentag said. “That affected us. … We just didn’t have our heads right.”
The Macks jumped up early and confused the Cardinals with a triangle-and-two hybrid defense to smother Thorp’s Isaac Soumis and Aidan Reis. Kressin held down the paint and scored a game-high 21 points while Bohaty connected on three 3s for 11 points.
It should have been a moment for celebration, but after the game both McDonell seniors realized the possibility that this could be their last high school game.
“We just kind of learned to suck it up,” Bohaty said. “You can’t control everything. If our season ended tonight, it’s a good way to end it.”
“Obviously one of our goals was to get back to state again, but we want to look out for everybody, so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Kressin said.
When the WIAA announced the playoff's cancellation, Kressin seemed subdued.
“Obviously I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to finish the entire basketball season, but at least I got to end on a win which is always great," he said. "I’m just staying positive and looking forward to the future in college sports.”
The cancellation of the state tournament means the Macks won't have a chance to make it five straight trips to state and the fourth of Kressin's career.
"I kind of look at it as I’ve never lost a playoff game except at the Kohl Center," he said. "I think looking back on it I’ll be a little frustrated I didn’t get to go to the Kohl Center, but there’s nothing I can really do about it.
Ultimately, the game proved to merely be a brief distraction from everything happening outside the doors of that gym.
“It’s just sports,” Sonnentag said. “There are other things that are way more important now. I just thought it was something good for the kids to understand. This is bigger, it’s bigger than them.”
McDonell 47, Thorp 35
McDonell: Logan Hughes 9, Jake Siegenthaler 4, JD Bohaty 11, Tanner Opsal 2, Eion Kressin 21.
Thorp: Jack Syryczuk 6, Ethan Reis 10, Jonathan Slagoski 2, Aidan Reis 10, Isaac Soumis 7.
3-pointers: McDonell 4 (Bohaty 3, Hughes), Thorp 6 (Syryczuk 2, E. Reis 2, A. Reis 2).
Halftime: McDonell 24-17.