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Prep stars forever linked

By Chip Scoggins, Star Tribune, 03/26/12, 10:23PM CDT


DeLaSalle's Ross Barker and Osseo's Ian Theisen lived the dream of making the basket to clinch a state title

Osseo's Ian Theisen, left

Members of the Osseo boys' basketball team killed time before their Class 4A championship game Saturday night by watching the 3A title game on the TV in their locker room. They watched in awe as DeLaSalle's Ross Barker made a last-second jumper to give his team a 57-56 victory in overtime.

"We were like, 'Wow, that kid is clutch,'" Osseo center Ian Theisen said. "We also said everyone should be ready because you never know."

Those words proved prophetic because a few hours later, Theisen found himself in a similar position and provided a similar result. His 15-foot jumper at the buzzer gave Osseo a 49-47 victory over Lakeville North and the Class 4A title.

The boys' basketball state tournament celebrated its 100th anniversary last week, and it couldn't have scripted a more dramatic, thrilling finish. Two championship games, two last-second shots, two kids who etched their name in tournament lore with a memory that will last a lifetime.

"I think a lot more people know me now," Barker joked.

Apparently even strangers. In the hours after his shot, Barker received a few text messages from numbers he didn't recognize, including a couple from area codes he'd never seen.

"They were like, 'Congratulations, great shot,'" he said. "I'm like, 'Thanks. Who is this?' I'm a little creeped out."

Theisen became an instant celebrity, too.

"I've actually got more phone calls and more text messages from people I haven't heard from or talked to since fifth grade," he said.

Their individual circumstances couldn't be more different. Barker, a senior, played his final official basketball game Saturday. He's enrolling at Wisconsin in the fall and plans to walk on the Badgers football team as a wide receiver.

Theisen, a 6-9 sophomore, has played varsity since eighth grade and already is receiving interest from a number of Division I programs.

The two share a common connection now, forever linked by one night and two clutch jump shots.

"It's not a bad way to end a state championship game," Theisen said.

It's every kid's dream, played out in driveways and gyms everywhere. Championship is on the line, clock is winding down -- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- he shoots ... and scores! The crowd goes crazy!!

"I get chills thinking about it," Barker said.

Barker's winner came after Minneapolis Washburn took the lead on a layup with less than 10 seconds left. DeLaSalle rehearsed that exact scenario for weeks. The Islanders call the play "make it happen." Rather than call a timeout and allow the opponent to set up its defense, DeLaSalle pushes the ball upcourt quickly and either drives to the hoop or passes to the corner if the defense collapses.

Senior guard Tyler Moore raced the ball up, drew the defense to him and found Barker in his favorite spot on the floor: along the baseline, a step inside the three-point line.

"Everyone on my team knows that's my shot," he said.

Catch, shoot, swish.


"The whole crowd went crazy, our team went crazy," Barker said. "It was a great feeling. To be an Islander, you're taught to never give up."

Theisen also found himself with the ball in the final seconds. He had glanced at the clock seconds before and knew he didn't need to rush his shot if he got the ball. Teammate Bridge Tusler drove to the free-throw line and found Theisen in the corner, his "sweet spot."

Catch, shoot, swish.


"I asked a couple of guys did I really just do that?" Theisen said. "They looked at me funny. It's a moment I'll never forget."

Barker and Theisen celebrated like typical teenagers. Barker hid behind the locker room door and tried to dump a bucket of water on coach Dave Thorson. Amazingly, he missed.

"He dodged it," Barker said. "That's the fastest I've ever seen him move."

The Osseo players gathered at a teammate's house and watched a replay of their game. They made fun of each other's mistakes and then re-enacted their earlier celebration by jumping on Theisen after his winning shot.

"The adrenaline was still pumping," Theisen said.

It's slowed only slightly since then. Both players spent Sunday replaying their shots on an endless loop on their TV and computer.

"My favorite part is the crowd's reaction," Barker said.

That's the neat thing with this. Both supplied the heroics, but they're also quick to acknowledge the role their teammates played. Someone passed them the ball. Others made important plays leading up to those final seconds. They didn't do it alone.

"It's not about one person," Barker said. "It's about the team and how we played together and stuck together. I just happened to get that last opportunity."

What both did with that opportunity will stay with them forever. Sometimes that dream does come true.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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