by Dennis Dalman – email@example.com
Several Sabres basketball players say they feel as if they’d suddenly awakened from a dream last week after playing for the 3A state championship March 20 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Even though the Sabres lost 55-70 to the Minneapolis DeLaSalle Islanders, they are proud they played their very best and happy to have been the first Sartell basketball team to compete in a state championship tourney – the first in 43 years.
“The state tournament seems like it was a dream now,” said Sabres Head Coach David Angell.
Making it to the state was a deeply held season goal for all Sabres players, and they realized that goal, Angell said. They were also in peak form.
“They did exactly what they needed to,” he said. “They deserve credit. DeLaSalle is the best (basketball) team in the state in all categories. They performed great in rebounds, and they outperformed us.”
Angell has been the Sabres basketball coach since 1983. Making it to the state was a big thrill, of course, for him and his players.
“It was a great experience,” he said.
Playing at state was “kind of scary,” said Patrick Fischer.
“A big arena and all those lights,” he said. “At first I felt a bit nervous. We knew they (DeLaSalle) are really good. Still, it was disappointing to lose, and yet I wouldn’t change any of it. I’m happy with how our team played. Our goal was to get to state and we did it.”
It was Fischer who was part of a play that electrified everyone March 14 at Halenbeck Hall at St. Cloud State University. That’s the night the Sabres won the Section 8-3A championship that sent them to state play. It was a very tight game all through the evening. In the remarkable last seconds of that game, Sabre player Fischer single-handedly controlled the ball for the last 45 seconds of the game, then threw the ball, which was caught by post player Tim Immelman. In the blink of an eye, Immelman slammed the ball through the hoop, causing Sabres fans to erupt in a deafening roar of joy. With that one remarkable moment, the Sabres won the game 57-55, leaving their opponents, the Fergus Falls Otters, stunned but impressed.
Fischer will attend Bemidji State University next fall and will be a member of its basketball team.
Like Fischer, all the Sabres are happy about their experience at state. For example, on the night after the Sabres lost to DeLaSalle, Sabres’ shooting guard Tom Bearson said he went to sleep “with a happy head.” He was still exhilarated by the experience as he drifted into sleep. He replayed in his mind what he described as the “phenomenal ambiance” of the tournament: he and his teammates entering the huge Williams Arena with its bright lights and packed crowds, the roar of Sabres fans greeting them, the intense and tough play against superb opponents, the ecstatic rush when the Sabres took an 11-4 lead near the game’s start.
“It was really cool,” Bearson said. “Our goal as a team was to win at sectionals and go to state, and we ended up doing it. I’m so proud of our team and the coaching staff.”
Many others are proud, too. Many people Bearson has come into contact with since the game have congratulated him and the team with “Way to go!” comments and hearty pats and handshakes.
“People come up to me and congratulate me – people I don’t even know,” he said. “It’s nice to know people really did care and appreciate our team as something cool.”
Bearson, who is a junior, is eager to begin practicing for next year’s basketball season.
Immelman, too, felt a bit dazed and dazzled after the state tournament.
“The fans were screaming in Williams Arena,” he said. “It was just insane.”
His post-game moods range from pride and elation to disappointment and sadness. Immelman is proud of his team and the coaching staff; he is elated the Sabres made it to state; he is disappointed a bit they lost; and he is sad his four happy years with the Sabres are gone now.
He keeps sadness at bay by looking forward to his years as a St. John’s University student and member of the legendary Johnnie’s football team. He will start college next fall.
“My four years on the Sabres team were unforgettable,” he said. “It was my favorite part of high school. I have an almost surreal feeling now it’s all over. I wish it was still going on. It was great and it went by so fast. It’s sad knowing I’m not going to practice anymore after school.”
However, Immelman said he has memories to cherish forever.
“Playing at state was one of my best accomplishments,” he said. “I was super-excited about it, and it was such an honor. I loved playing for (coach) Angell.”
Immelman scored 10 points at the state tournament. Parker Hagen scored 19, Brandon Snoberger 12; Bearson 8; and Fischer 6.
Immelman said he will always remember the support he and his team received from so many fans: school chums, parents, siblings, city residents and total strangers. His family members (parents Aubrey and Pam; brother Matt, 15; sister Elizabeth, 13; and Patrick, 7) were his number-one fans, naturally.
Patrick loved to wear a shirt with his big-brother-hero’s name and number on it; he would make team-spirit signs to help cheer on Tim; and he would cry when he couldn’t attend an away-game.
Immelman said he has little doubt Patrick, too, will someday be a Sabres team member, and – who knows? – at some happy future time just might help win a state championship.
“I want to thank everybody for all the support,” Immelman said. “It’s been a great run. The whole experience is something I’ll never forget.”
The members of the Sabres basketball team are Scott Ballard, Bearson, Brett Bertelson, Fischer, Nolan Frank, Nick Gjense, Hagen, Andrew Hayes, Dylan Hollenkamp, Tim Immelman, Mick Kutz, Ben Lanners, Matt Markman, Cordell Midas, Clay Nackenthun, Sam Neeser, Snoberger and Kevin Wolfe.