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Forest Lake: There and back

By By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune , 11/27/10, 10:50PM CST


Forest Lake hopes to repeat the boys' basketball success of last season. If it does, it will achieve it in a different fashion but very much as its coach envisioned.

Phil Hegseth runs with his teammates during practice at Forest Lake High School. David Brewster, Star Tribune

The Forest Lake boys' basketball team undoubtedly will look different than it did as the Suburban East Conference and Class 4A, Section 7 champion last year. Head coach Dan Cremisino knows this, and according to senior captain Phil Hegseth, the coach has dramatically changed his approach.

Hegseth has played varsity since he was a sophomore, so the rigorous three-hour first-day tryout ending with strength testing and bonus conditioning sent a clear message.

"He knows this is a different team and we need to approach it differently," said Hegseth, Forest Lake's top returning scorer. "We're not going to be able to just walk into a gym and win."

The skill and athleticism of Doug Sewall and Zach Riedeman are irreplaceable, but Cremisino, the Class 4A Section 7 Coach of the Year two seasons running, came into the job four years ago with a specific goal in mind.

"I wanted a program that would withstand the test of time," he said.

His 78-37 record matches up well with that statement to this point. The program he's installed brought a consistent winner to Forest Lake, ultimately bringing hope and confidence to this year's relatively inexperienced group.

"When Cremisino got here, we really took off. We've become a big name," Hegseth said. "When we walk in the gym, people know who we are."

To the players' credit: "You can't turn it around without some good athletes," Cremisino said.

Hegseth, a guard with deep family history in Forest Lake basketball, is one of those.

"He can just flat out shoot the basketball. He's a long-range bomber," Cremisino said. "In the state of Minnesota, I don't know if there's going to be a kid that can shoot it as deep as he can with the accuracy that he can."

Hegseth had the advantage of growing up with the Rangers' all-time and single-season three-point record holder, older brother Pete Hegseth. Both of those records are in jeopardy this season, and family members are placing their bets on who will end up on top.

Brother Pete won't let it go that easily.

"He's always saying he's going to come to the game with a blowhorn and blow it every time I'm shooting," Phil said. "He's so competitive; he's already scared out of his pants."

Records aside, Hegseth will have to diversify his portfolio this year if the Rangers are to succeed. As a sophomore and junior, he benefited from playing with a deep talent pool and minimal attention from opposing defenses. Hegseth is now the main focus, and he'll have to get creative.

Fellow senior Evan Johnson will aid him with points down low and tough defense. He's also into mind games, including the occasional slapping of hands and the random untucking of opponents' jerseys.

"I hate playing against Evan Johnson. He's the worst," Hegseth said. "He gets in your head."

Forest Lake High School basketball head coach Dan Cremisino with his team during practice. By David Brewster, Star Tribune

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