Mitchell's memorable three-peat; 1980s Kernel team to be honored
During a recent holiday, Bart Friedrick stayed up until 2 a.m. watching Mitchell High School basketball game tapes from the 1984 and 1985 championship seasons.
The former Mitchell standout can’t remember the exact details of when he put those tapes in the VCR, but seeing those highlights brought back memories of how impressive those teams he starred for played.
“You forget a lot of it, but then it comes back after you watch those games,” said Friedrick, recalling that he watched the games with his father, Jim, who still lives in Mitchell. “Playing in championships is something not everybody does. It’s stayed with me my whole life.”
Now 47, living in Volga and selling insurance, the former Mitchell High School standout who went on to play Division I basketball at Drake University said he thinks about those championships often.
Today, Friedrick is getting inducted to the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. The entire 1984-85 Mitchell boys basketball team, in which Friedrick played as a senior, is being recognized at an induction ceremony banquet as the Team of Excellence. The ceremony starts at 2 p.m. at Sioux Falls’ Ramkota Inn.
This year is also the 30-year anniversary of Mitchell’s first championship under longtime coach Gary Munsen and the start of a three-peat, winning championships in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
Munsen said during a recent interview with The Daily Republic that the 1984-85 team was the best he’s ever had, simply because it was the only team of his to go unbeaten. That season, the Kernels went 23-0.
“The thing about this team was everybody handled the situation really well, because everyone knew the target was on our back,” Munsen said. “Everybody expected those kids to win.”
The first title
The Corn Palace was always packed for Mitchell basketball games in the mid ’80s, Friedrick said. At the time, there were two classes of basketball in the state, A and B, whereas today there’s a third class, AA, that the largest schools compete in.
When Friedrick was a junior, Sioux Falls Washington — coached by John Odney — was coming off an undefeated season in Class A and was the favorite to win the title again.
Mitchell’s lone loss in the 1983-84 season was against Brookings on the road, a 51-49 defeat in overtime. Mitchell handed Brookings its lone loss in the regular season that year, and the two Eastern South Dakota Conference rivals met in the state tournament semifinals.
That year, Munsen was in his seventh state tournament appearance. He had never won a title to that point.
“They said Munsen couldn’t get over the hump,” said Munsen, who went on to win 12 combined boys and girls state basketball championships.
Munsen called the semifinal matchup against Brookings “a battle.” He remembers being down by single-digit points at halftime and rallying in the second half for a 55-37 win.
In the finals — which was the 49th year of the state basketball tournament — Mitchell defeated Sioux Falls Washington in front of 7,469 people to earn Munsen his first state championship and end a 20-year title drought for boys basketball in Mitchell. Friedrick scored 17 points in the championship game, which Mitchell trailed 25-22 at halftime.
For the three-game state tournament, Friedrick finished with 48 points, 22 rebounds and seven blocked shots. He and senior Chad Andersen were named to the all-tournament team.
The headline of The Daily Republic after winning the title read, “Mitchell, S.D. is Gold Country!”
Mitchell won its final seven games of that season, starting a 40-game win streak that lasted into 1986. It’s a record that still stands today for most consecutive wins in the state’s highest class of basketball.
“Now, O’Gorman can argue about it,” Munsen said, referring to Sioux Falls O’Gorman’s run from 2010 to 2012. “O’Gorman would have run 42 in a row, but they got beat in the Mike Miller Classic by an out-of-state team. But, too bad, they got beat.”
O’Gorman won three Class AA state championships from 2010 to 2012. In 2011 at the Mitchell-hosted Mike Miller Classic, O’Gorman lost a pair of games to non-South Dakota teams. The Knights lost 61-58 to a team from Memphis, Tenn., and 74-73 to La Lumiere, of Indiana.
The perfect season
Friedrick said the regular-season loss to Brookings during the 1983-84 season was a game that “slipped away from us.”
“We could have been undefeated that year, too,” he said.
When Friedrick was a senior, there weren’t any games that slipped away from the Kernels.
They went 23-0 and knocked off Sioux Falls Washington again in the championship game, this time winning 62-59.
“I don’t know if they’ve ever had attendance at the state tournament like that since,” Friedrick said. “It seemed like the whole town of Mitchell was at those games. It was quite a following and something you’ll never forget.”
Tim Byrd, a senior, told The Daily Republic after the game, “To do it once is a dream. To do it twice is unreal.”
Despite being the favorite to win state that year, Friedrick said the only pressure he felt that season was during the games.
“We were just kind of having fun with the year we were having,” said Friedrick, who scored 61 points and recorded 16 rebounds in three state tournament games. “As far as the pressure goes, the real pressure was on the court while trying to play the best you could. We pretty much had every team gunning for us. I think we handled it well and we came out with wins for the most part.”
Dean Jacobsen, a junior guard who came off the bench that year, said Friedrick was the team’s go-to player all year.
“He put in a lot of time,” Jacobsen said. “He had a nice hook shot that nobody could block and was a leader by example. He wasn’t real vocal, but we always knew he was ready to play. We knew when he stepped on the floor that he would give us his best effort and he always did.”
Friedrick, Byrd and Andersen were named to the all-state team. Having three players on the first all-state team has never been done again, Munsen said.
Friedrick and Sioux Falls Washington’s Randy Leslie shared the Mr. Basketball award in 1985. Then Friedrick went on to star at Drake, scoring 1,042 points from 1985 to 1989. He was named to the college’s 1980 all-decade team in 2006.
New class, same result
The 1985-86 season was the first time basketball was split into three classes in South Dakota.
Mitchell won its first 10 games that season and finished the year 21-2, beating Brookings in the championship.
“Everyone thought because we lost so many players that we wouldn’t be much,” Munsen said. “I knew we’d be good.”
Since then, Munsen led Mitchell’s boys teams to titles in 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997 and 2005. The school has never had another three-peat, and only O’Gorman’s run from 2010 to 2012 has matched it in the highest class of basketball in the state.
While reliving the memories of the three-peat with The Daily Republic recently, Munsen showed pictures of highlighted games and clippings in a pair of old scrapbooks. He explained how much he was anticipating reuniting with Friedrick and other players from the 1984-85 team today.
“They were a great bunch of kids to coach,” he said. “I can’t wait to get up and talk about them.”
Others getting inducted
Here’s a list of the other players who are getting inducted to today’s South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame:
Lien Marso (Harrold); Mark Tetzlaff (Hamlin); DuWayne M. Gross (Sisseton); Rich Andrzejewski (Arlington); Richard “Milt” Authier (Woonsocket); Phil Miedema (Hitchcock); Willie White (Pine Ridge); Gerhardt “G.E.” Buenning (Parkston); Denver Ten Broek (McIntosh); Luther Hippe (Washington High); Steve Hammer (Pierpont); Julie (Harmacek) Bridge (Avon); Colleen Morgan (Stickney); Mandy Koupal (Wagner); Kris Holwerda (Brookings); and Lori Wohlleber O’Farrell (Summit). Kent Hyde, a hall of fame athlete from Onida, will be recognized as the fourth all-time single-season scoring leader in the nation with a 50.4 scoring average in 1953.