It’s been just over a month since the Park Center boys basketball team moved to the top of the state rankings.
The Pirates have spent much of that time living with the pressure that is associated with such an honor, all while attempting to enjoy it as well.
It’s a fine-line to walk for Park Center, and head coach Broderick Powell has been paying close attention to the path is players take in navigating their way along that line.
“They have done a great job of putting themselves in this position,” said Powell, whose team is 13-1 heading into this week. “But they can’t let this be the only joy they have this year. The pressure will be on them to finish the year that way too.”
To offer a reminder of just how difficult that can be to do, the Pirates will open up their gym to some of their own history this week.
Park Center will have its 1990-91 team in attendance the Pirates host Maple Grove at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.
That group was the last from Park Center to sit on top of the state boys basketball rankings, but they are also part of a long list of teams in state history to be ranked No. 1 during the regular season only to watch their ultimate goal of a state title vanish in a late-season loss to Minneapolis Roosevelt.
That team went undefeated during the regular season, and advanced all the way into the regional final, before the Teddies pulled the upset en route to a runner-up finish in the state basketball tournament.
It stung then, and likely still does. Powell said he wants his players to understand the pain lingering from that defeat was, and still is, real.
“That was my main thing to have those guys come back and talk about the importance of staying humble and understanding that you have to continue to work, and now you have to work even harder because everybody is coming for you,” Powell said. “If you don’t do those things, that is what can happen.”
His other reasons for inviting the 90-91 group back into the gym were two-fold. He said first and foremost that reconnecting with the alumni will play a huge role in sustaining what Park Center has established with its basketball program in the three years since Powell took over as head coach.
He also wants his players to revel some in what they have already accomplished, only because as the 21-year gap in between the No. 1 ranking both teams achieved is longer than any of his players have been alive.
“It hasn’t happened that often around here,” Powell said. “Because of that, you have to enjoy it. You have to respect what both teams accomplished, because it isn’t easy to get there.”
This year’s version of Pirates have reached this point the old-fashioned way – they’ve won their way there.
Park Center opened the season ranked seventh in Class 4A. That changed permanently after a 72-70 victory over then-No. 1 Apple Valley catapulted the Pirates to the top spot.
Since then, finished off 2012 with five more victories to enter 2013 a perfect 9-0. They would lose to Class 3A No. 1 DeLaSalle Jan. 3, but they responded the very next night by beating Class 4A No. 9 Elk River 76-63.
Convincing victories over Anoka, Blaine and Andover have followed.
“It is all about teachable moments, and after we loss to DeLaSalle, we had a teachable moment,” said Powell. “We could feel bad, or we could put that behind us right away. The kids did a great job of moving on, and that was a good lesson for us to learn.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org