RED LAKE -- Two years ago, Red Lake High School made its program debut in the state girls basketball tournament.
While the Warriors were eliminated in the 2017 quarterfinals, they’re back and hungry for a deep run in Minneapolis when the 2019 tournament tips off today at 11 a.m.
Top-seeded Minneota (27-1) stands in its way, but that shouldn’t trouble this team.
Red Lake (21-7) needed to knock off a 27-1 Stephen-Argyle team in the Section 8A title game last Friday to punch its ticket to state. The Warriors took care of business with a 74-59 win.
“They had to earn each and every game that they won this year,” Warriors head coach Randy Holthusen said. “They’re very well deserving to go to the state tournament this year, and actually go down there and win some games.”
Defense has been the key to Red Lake’s success. The Warriors have held opponents to 54 points per game this season, while averaging 73 points per game themselves.
“We’ve got to lock down defenders all the way through the game, as well as communicating all the way through the game,” Holthusen said. “But them coming together as a team, kind of like a family, has brought them their successes.”
Indeed, many of the players are family. That includes the McClain sisters: senior Angel, sophomore Kelanna and eighth-grader Rhozario.
Angel McClain is the lone senior on this year’s squad. She played important minutes as a sophomore in Red Lake’s last run to the state tournament.
“To me it means a lot because I’ve been playing with these girls since second grade,” Angel said of returning to state. “Having all my little sisters be with me on the court at state is going to be a really fun experience. … I think of all them as my little sisters. We’re pretty close I think.”
“I’ve coached every one of the sisters all the way up to this point, and now we’re down to the younger sisters of each and every family,” Holthusen said. “From them watching their older sisters go to the state tournament inspired them to do the same thing. It’s just a carry-over from generation to generation, sister to sister, family member to family member. It almost seems like I’ve been coaching these girls forever.”
In another familial connection, Holthusen will have the opportunity to coach his daughter, junior Autumn Holthusen, at the state tournament for the first time.
Fans will travel by the bus load to the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion to cheer on their Warriors.
“Once they know that a school from the rez is going to state, everybody is following no matter what,” Autumn Holthusen said. “It’s non-stop support.”
“Just going to state in general is a big boost for our community, and a big boost for our school and all of Indian country,” coach Holthusen added. “This is a great morale booster for even the younger generation to see and watch. Hopefully we can build from that.”
Coach Holthusen said the experience of 2017 will benefit this year’s group as Red Lake contends for its first state championship. The Warriors will settle for nothing less.
“I think it’ll play a big factor in how successful we can be when we get down there,” he said. “We’re not going down there just to settle and be down there. We’re going to go down there and try to win the whole thing.”
If you go
Who: Red Lake vs. No. 1 Minneota
What: Class A state quarterfinals
Where: Maturi Pavilion, Minneapolis
When: 11 a.m. today