Small school reunion held at state basketball tournament
By Chad Koenen
Some of Minnesota’s most memorable moments at the state basketball tournament were relived during a special one-class small school basketball reunion in March. Representatives from a number of state tournament teams from small schools gathered at the Graduate Minneapolis hotel near Williams Arena to share stories and reflect on what it was like to play at the state basketball tournament against some of the biggest schools in the state.
Henning, which provided a number of memorable moments, during the state basketball tournament in 1965 and 1966, took center stage during the tournament.
The event was held on Thursday morning of the state basketball tournament. There were over 40 veteran players, coaches and managers from the one-class state basketball tournaments that were held from 1960-70. The event highlighted all of the small schools that competed with the big schools from the Twin Cities area who qualified for the state basketball tournament. Each of them were among the best eight teams in the entire state on Minnesota.
During the one-class system, the journey began in 32 districts, each with 13-17 of the 484 schools in Minnesota at the time. Winning the district was a big deal at the time as small schools like Henning were regularly pitted against much larger school districts in Region 6.
One by one the better-than 40 people who attended the reunion were able to speak about their memories from the state basketball tournament from 1960-70 as they reflected on their time of making it to the state tournament and playing at Williams Arena. Each team had the opportunity to have one person who represented their team at the state tournament.
“It was interesting to learn that most of out state teams had similarities in support from their communities—downtown support, huge welcome home celebrations, car caravans on the way back from the tourney, bus loads of fans and etc. Most of the speakers reflected on the key games to get to the state, key games at the tournament, and talked about competing against others teams key players. It was fun for the group to meet some of those competitors after all these years and discuss those mutual games against each other.”Dean Greenwaldt
The reunion also included guest speakers like writers Patrick Reusse and Dave Shama, as well as Minnesota Gophers announcer Dick Jonckowski. The group was able to step back on the floor at Williams Arena to reflect on their time on the biggest stage in Minnesota high school basketball sports at the time.
A total of 23 teams were represented at the reunion, including the 1965 and 1966 Henning boys basketball teams. Greenwaldt spoke on behalf of the 1966 team. Jeff Bondy spoke on behalf of the 1965 team.
“It went really good, It was a really nice deal,” said Bondy.
Greenwaldt said he became aware of the reunion from a newspaper article. After contacting Bondy and longtime writer Cliff Buchan, Greenwaldt said he was picked to represent the 1966 team almost by default. He said most of the members of the team were either not around that week, deceased or were under the weather. While he was planning to be gone during the reunion, Greenwaldt said he was grateful for the opportunity to speak about the Henning team.
“I found out about it from a newspaper article, contacted Bondy and Buchan who tried to spread the word. I was originally scheduled for a trip but plans changed and I was able to attend. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to go. Quite frankly, I got to speak by default.”Dean Greenwaldt
During his presentation, Greenwaldt shared about playing at Williams Arena and taking Edina in the state semi-finals at Williams Arena. The game went three overtimes before the much larger Edina team defeated Henning.
“My talk consisted of reflections of playing in Williams Arena for the first time in 1965 against Eden Prairie before a Gophers game. It was an amazing feeling playing on the raised floor where so many Minnesota greats have played in the past,” said Greenwaldt. “Also, I talked about our teammates and what they ended up doing for life’s work, some key games that we played against Crosby-Ironton in 1966 region finals. (The) Edina game, which many others remember as well, staying at the Curtis Hotel, the blizzard of before the ‘66 tournament, and how important the Peterson twins were to our team. (I also) reminisced the large following and packed gyms where ever we played.”
Bondy, who was a manager for the 1965 team, shared a number of stories about Henning’s state tournament run and their road to Williams Arena.