Basketball: Patriot athletes share state experience
Five Patriot athletes - three boys and two girls - share their most memorable moments from the 2022 state tournament
Both the Patriot girls and boys basketball teams made it to the state tournament in 2022. For the girls, it was the first time since 2016, while the boys team had not been there in 15 years.
The girls finished fifth overall at the tournament, while the boys took sixth.
For some of the athletes participating in the tournaments, one of the most memorable things was the atmosphere and the feeling of stepping onto these prominent courts for the first time.
It almost felt like you were an NBA player out there.
“It was a completely different feeling, getting to be in those NBA locker rooms and then walking onto the court and just seeing how big the arena is and how bright it was,” senior Nic Kotaska said. “It almost felt like you were an NBA player out there.”
The Patriot boys had the chance to play at the Target Center and Concordia University in St. Paul, while the girls played at Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota as well as Concordia.
“It was amazing,” senior girls basketball player Morgan Eckes said. “It was definitely a shell shock when we first walked into Maturi … but once we got into it, we just had a lot of fun together, especially getting to play on the cool college courts.”
However, athletes did their best to soak it in quickly, then get back to playing the way they were used to playing.
“We only had the first couple of minutes of warm-ups to take it all in, and then we had to be ready to go, but it was just a different atmosphere,” junior Eli Laposky said.
For junior Isabel Larson, the most noteworthy aspect of playing in a larger complex was the noise - something she wasn’t used to in the Patriot Athletic Center.
“It was so loud,” she said. “I couldn't hear anything my coaches or teammates were saying. We were screaming plays and doing actions to show the play we were running. Also, the court was longer, and you could totally tell.”
It was so loud. I couldn't hear anything my coaches or teammates were saying.
Another substantial change for the athletes was not just the location or the decibel level, but also the level of competition.
“It was completely different than anything I've ever played,” Kotaska said. “It was crazy to play against those teams too. They were there for a reason. They are all really good and it was just fun to compete against them and see how good that competition actually was.”
For those Patriot underclassmen returning next year - including the girls’ entire starting lineup - if playing in the state tournament has done anything, it has lit a fire under them for next year, with the goal of improving on an already successful experience.
“I am so motivated to go back,” junior Maci Martini said. “I could tell a lot of us on the team are. We are kind of perfectionists, so losing right away really affected us. Next year, we just want to do better than fifth and make it to state again. That is hard to do, but we feel like we can do it again.”
“I think we have more experience now and we have guys that want to go back and have that experience again,” Laposky said. “I can see a lot of our guys pushing a lot harder for the next year, especially the sophomores.”
For the seniors like Eckes and Kotaska, the state tournament was a nearly perfect cap to their high school careers, filled with plenty of memories with their teammates.
“(I’ll remember) the experiences I got to have with my team - hanging out at the hotel and trying to sneak out past curfew to the pool after all of our games were done,” Eckes said. “Getting to hold up that fifth-place trophy in front of everyone was pretty cool too, especially after a COVID year and not getting to have a real state tournament last year.”
That said, the underclassmen will also be able to look back on these moments with their teammates and friends.
We are really close,” Martini said. “So it was fun to end the season by spending the night in a hotel and just having that last bonding moment together."
Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or email@example.com . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.