After 94 years, boys basketball team is finally back in state tournament

Cameron Smith

Forget the Red Sox and their 86-year title drought before 2004. Forget the Toronto Maple Leafs and their 45-year drought and the Arizona Cardinals, who haven't won a football title since they were the Chicago Cardinals in 1947. In fact, you can even forget the Chicago Cubs.

As dismal as all those professional sports title droughts may be, they can't compare to the one that Detroit Lakes (Minn.) High will break on Wednesday, when the Lakers' boys basketball team will appear at the Minnesota state tournament for the first time in 94 years. Yes, the Cubs haven't won a World Series in 104 years, but they appeared in the Fall Classic in 1945. That means the Chicago Northsiders earned a spot in their championship 27 years more recently than Detroit Lakes was able to.

No matter. Now that the Lakers have finally earned a spot in the state quarterfinals -- and potentially beyond -- for the first time since the state's sixth tournament, students, residents and everyone connected with the tiny town of 13,000 is jubilant about their basketball team's sudden emergence.

The 1918 Detroit Lakes state tournament team — Becker County Historical Society

"Everybody wants to be a part of it," Detroit Lakes athletic director Mitch McLeod told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "We're going crazy right now. It's been nuts nonstop."

There's good reason for that excitement. The team's recently-earned section title is the first in school history; the 1918 squad which played in the state tournament advanced based on a bizarre two-game, total points series with another nearby school. Making matters more special was the fact that the 2012 regional title came a year after Detroit Lakes finished just one game short of a state berth.

There was no denying the Lakers this time, with the eventual 44-41 victory against Fergus Falls (Minn.) High serving as living proof of the program's dedication to getting it right … even if it took the political careers of 16 different presidents to come and go before Detroit Lakes made it back to where the school thinks it belongs.

"Ninety-four years to wait for a chance to play for a state championship is a long time," Detroit Lakes boys basketball coach Robb Flint told the Star-Tribune. "I give a lot of credit to the kids for playing on some bad teams the last few years but who hung with it and put their time in and really showed what hard work can accomplish."

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