HAGEN: Taking a look at the final quarter of Coach Munsen’s storied careerRAPID CITY — There wasn’t much passion from the normally high-intense Gary Munsen in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s state championship game.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
RAPID CITY — There wasn’t much passion from the normally high-intense Gary Munsen in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s state championship game.
While Sioux Falls O’Gorman captured its third consecutive Class AA state title by defeating the Kernels 63-48, Munsen went 0-for-3 in his last three title-game appearances.
In 2008, the Kernels lost to Watertown 49-40 in the championship. Last year, Munsen and the Kernels went up against O’Gorman and lost 61-54, and Munsen admitted O’Gorman was a better team.
This year, Munsen had it all planned out.
He announced his retirement knowing this group of solid seniors had a chance to bring him a 10th state championship, allowing him to cap an already impressive career on top of the high school basketball world.
Throughout the year, the team proclaimed it wanted to win the title for “Muns.”
The Kernels won the Eastern South Dakota Conference, the District 3AA tournament and maneuvered their way into the championship game after beating Sioux Falls Roosevelt in the first round of the state tournament and Pierre in the semifinals.
After beating the Governors — who handed the Kernels two losses during the regular season — Mitchell and Munsen had a shot at redemption against O’Gorman from the previous year’s title game loss.
Soon after the game tipped off, Mitchell trailed and never fully recovered.
Munsen said the Kernels were flat, and they were especially on defense. Mitchell made a nice comeback in the third quarter, rallying from an eight-point deficit to pull within two with a little more than a minute left before the start of the fourth. But O’Gorman’s offense proved to be too much.
The Knights went on a huge run at the end of the third quarter that continued into the beginning of the fourth, building a 14-point advantage.
That’s when Munsen went quiet.
When O’Gorman found wide-open lanes through the middle of the court, Munsen just shook his head. Mitchell called timeout on three possessions in a row as the game was approaching its end in hopes to find a way to shift its defense for a furious comeback.
A long jumper from Jade Miller got the Kernels within 10 with 1:17 to go, but that was it.
With his arms crossed for most of the fourth quarter, Munsen watched the Knights steal his last-shining crown.
Once Munsen knew there would be no first-place trophy, he finally made a motion to his bench.
It was a very classy move from the coach, pulling his senior starters with 55.2 seconds left in the game to get a loud ovation from the Mitchell crowd.
While tears were falling for some of the Mitchell seniors who were removed, Munsen ushered in the future of Mitchell basketball by putting his reserves on the court.
Munsen didn’t console any of the players next to him on the bench, but instead watched the final seconds on the clock tick away, knowing his career with the Kernels had come to an end.
During the awards ceremony, Munsen received the second-place trophy after being recognized as “legendary coach Gary Munsen.”
Munsen fought back tears as he walked over to his team for one last photo at the state tournament.
There was no perfect ending for the legend.