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99 years later, champs

By Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune, 03/24/12, 11:49PM CDT


The Bulldogs were unfazed as they entered the tournament without a seed, and they're leaving it with the trophy in hand

A fist-pump after a three-pointer. A chest-thump after drawing an and-one foul.

Those emotionally charged responses on the court from Plainview-Elgin-Milville's Beau Nelson came in the heat of battle and in front of thousands of fans at Target Center and on television.

The tear-filled embrace he shared with family in the front row after the crowd dispersed following the Bulldogs' 55-39 victory over Litchfield trumped it all.

Ninety-nine years after Plainview was part of the first basketball tournament in the state, a championship trophy is coming home for the first time.

"We weren't going to be beat today," Nelson said. "We all said we were going to put everything we had into winning this."

Down by a point with 11 minutes, 15 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs woke up and showed that all-or-nothing attitude. They outscored the Dragons 25-8 the rest of the way.

Nelson scored nine consecutive points in one stretch during the victory march. He finished with a game-high 21 points, 14 in the second half.

"When we weren't being real aggressive, he was the one who initiated some aggressiveness for us," coach Kirk Thompson said. "It just kind of carried over from there the rest of the game."

Unseeded Plainview-Elgin-Millville (27-6) wiped away the Nos. 2- and 3-seeded teams this week before rolling over No. 4 Litchfield (26-5).

A year ago the team didn't make the state field despite holding the No. 1 ranking most of the season. Thompson wasn't sure this year's squad could make a run, either. Then, after the Bulldogs lost to Chatfield in early February, they didn't lose again.

"Every practice got more intense and more intense," Nelson said. "That really opened our eyes."

So did not receiving one of the tournament's four seeds.

"Every game was going to be tough for us," Thompson said. "But we played well, and we played with poise. I give our kids a lot of credit."

Especially Nelson.

"He was a man possessed in that second half," Thompson said. "And it was fantastic."

Cory Speer added 18 points for the Bulldogs, and Sam Ruth finished with 10. They joined Nelson as the only three players to score for their team until more than six minutes had passed in the second half.

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