Goodhue's basketball-loving Elisabeth Gadient is 2024 Post Bulletin Player of the Year

Mar. 26—GOODHUE, Minn. — Basketball used to be a crying affair for Elisabeth Gadient.

That was when the future Goodhue High School star was in the fourth grade. It was the same thing virtually every time. An hour before she was scheduled to join other Goodhue elementary kids for an organized basketball session in the school gymnasium, there would be a crying fit in front of her father, Brett Gadient.

Elisabeth wasn't trying to stave off going. Quite the opposite.

She couldn't wait to get there, insisting that Brett drive her to the gym an hour early.

"I'd tell her, 'You're going to get there (early) and nobody's going to be there,'" Brett said. "I'd laugh, but she didn't think it was funny. She'd cry every time. Finally, I'd give in and take her down there because she'd throw such a fit."

That was the start of Gadient's journey in becoming arguably the best girls basketball player that Goodhue has ever had.

The passion for the game, it's always been there and it's never waned.

Mix desire, work ethic, competitiveness, poise and smarts with a 5-foot-11 frame, long arms, speed, quickness, agility and a deft touch and — in this case — you also have something else. Two-time All-State point guard Gadient, fresh off pushing her Goodhue team to the Class 1A state championship, is our Post Bulletin All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

A girl who began her basketball journey in tears and ended the high school portion of it the same way — tears flowing during Goodhue's championship celebration — has cherished the ride.

"I just like being good at something, and for me that was basketball," said Gadient, who averaged a gaudy 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game this season. "Basketball came naturally to me and I like being competitive at something. And I really enjoy playing point guard. You're kind of like a quarterback out there. It's fun as a passer because I really like seeing my teammates succeed."

Though Gadient's basketball career to this point has been bookended by tears — she'll play next season at Minnesota State University, Mankato — that's not the emotion those who've watched her the last nine years think of first when they consider Gadient.

Instead, it's that smile of hers. It's a golden one and it shows up most when she has a basketball in her hands.

"What I remember about her is having her in a fourth-grade summer basketball camp and just how easy the game was for her and how much fun she had," Goodhue 16th-year coach Josh Wieme said. "Everyone noticed that she was smiling all the time. Oh my gosh, that smile."

Gadient's jump through the ranks in Goodhue girls basketball was a steady and quick one. She landed on the varsity as a freshman and became its starting point guard beginning her sophomore year.

It was speeded along by her diligence. Wieme continually witnessed Gadient in her family's driveway when he'd go by, the dark-haired wonder weaving her way through cones she'd set up in order to better her ball handling, or casting up shot after shot, seemingly always with that smile on her face.

"Working out for basketball is something that I crave," Gadient said. "I've had a couple of injuries, and to have to sit out and watch others play kills me. I have a routine in everything that I do with basketball. I have certain shooting and dribbling drills that I do, and I'll look up different drills to do, too."

Brett recalls Elisabeth putting herself through dribbling drills in his wife Heather's Goodhue classroom, Elisabeth waiting her school-teacher mom out as she wrapped things up in the late afternoons. That went on from the third through the sixth grade, Elisabeth often bouncing the ball 45 minutes at a time.

There were also AAU teams to play on starting in sixth grade. Gadient played for a Rochester-based team for a single season, took a break for a year and ever since has played in the Twin Cities for the Minnesota Fury. Practices have been three times a week there, pretty much year round save for the winter high school season.

Gadient has traveled the country with her AAU team, the financial costs adding up. But Brett and Heather have swallowed that, knowing the importance of the game to Elisabeth and also witnessing her rapid growth.

"AAU really helped develop her as a player, being able to go against other top players in the state," Brett said. "I think this year was the culmination of this stuff coming together, all of the hard work. She sacrificed a lot to be a good basketball player."

Gadient wasn't just a good player, she is an All-State player and almost always the best one on the court as Goodhue flew through a 28-5 campaign that culminated in a state championship, its third in 16 years under Wieme.

Gadient, a 2,000-point scorer at Goodhue and a top-six finalist for the state's Miss Basketball award, saved her best for last. Goodhue went into its state championship game against Mountain Iron-Buhl as the No. 1 seed, MIB No. 2. It also went into it knowing that the Rangers had guard Jordan Zubich, who was believed by many to be the state's top player in Class 1A.

Zubich, who averaged 28 points this season, will play at Division I University of North Carolina next year. But Gadient has a reputation for showing up in big ways against other elite individual competition.

Gadient went to bed the night before the noon championship game feeling restless at the Graduate Hotel, located not far from the championship site, the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena. Sharing a room with teammates Julia Carlson, Natalie Thomforde and Maya Poncelet, Gadient is sure she was the last to fall asleep, around 2 a.m.

It wasn't a nervous excitement for Gadient, instead simply a profound eagerness.

"I just remember having a really good feeling as I lay there," Gadient said. "I love the game and I love our whole team. I just wished I could play then (in the middle of the night)."

Sleep deprivation be damned, Gadient immediately let it be known what kind of game it was going to be once noon Saturday, March 16, finally arrived. Gadient took two 3-pointers in the first 2 minutes.

Both hit nothing but net.

"Once I hit them, I knew I was going to be OK," Gadient said.

She was a whole lot more than that. Gadient blistered with her shot all afternoon and had fingerprints on every aspect of what turned into a 70-65 Goodhue state championship game win. The Wildcats' senior star totaled 31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.

And Zubich, who guarded Gadient most of the game? Twelve points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.

For one afternoon, at least, Gadient was the best player in the state in Class 1A.

For the entire season, she was southeastern Minnesota's best.