Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Jace Frederick
Pioneer Press 

Red Lake caps emotional basketball season with state semifinal appearance

 


Red Lake junior guard Rob McClain hit a free throw with 3:33 to play in the Warriors’ Class A boys state basketball tournament semifinal game against No. 1 seed Minneapolis North on Friday afternoon at Target Center.

The shot only cut Red Lake’s deficit to 74-56, but after he hit the free throw, coach Roger White called timeout and the Warriors’ fans delivered a standing ovation.

Part of the reason for the celebration despite the deficit was that free throw marked McClain’s 1,000th career point.

The other reason?

“(Everybody) was just happy to see my teammates and my coaches be here,” McClain said. “Just being able to show out for the reservation, they were happy to see us. Win or lose, they will always be happy to see us. … More of it was just for the appreciation of the team.”

Minneapolis North (28-5) beat the fifth-seeded Warriors 82-61 to cruise into Saturday’s Class A final at Target Center at 11 a.m., yet Friday seemed like a celebration for Red Lake.

This was the third straight state tournament appearance for the school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation 30 minutes north of Bemidji, but the first time the Warriors (27-5) advanced to the semifinals in that span. The accomplishment capped what has been an emotional season.

McClain remembered the team being at a fall basketball tournament when he heard the news. Aaron White, his sophomore teammate on the basketball team, his cousin and coach Rob White’s 15-year-old son, died of cancer on Nov. 1.

“It was heartbreaking,” McClain said. “I think we didn’t play our second game or our third (at the tournament). We forfeited that just to get back to say our final goodbye. All of that emotion just built up for us. We knew Aaron wouldn’t want us to mourn over what happened. He would want us to go out there, play our hardest, give it our all. That’s what we do every day.”

McClain said the loss of Aaron White had a big carryover effect on the team during the season. McClain said Aaron was energetic, funny and a typical basketball player with the game always on his mind.

“I think that really pushed us harder,” McClain said. “Because we knew that if Aaron didn’t pass, he would be on the court with us. He would be the one trying to outwork everyone. That’s what I go into the gym knowing. Because even though he was smaller than me, he had the biggest heart. … He was just a terrific kid and a lovable family member to me.”

White said some things that are “really, really important” don’t seem to be as big a deal any more after the loss of his son — like winning a basketball game.

“I wanted to win; I don’t like to lose, I’m a coach,” he said. “But at the same time, this is special for these boys to come to the state tournament, see the crowd and people that come here and play our style of basketball in front of this many people. We can’t take the fun out of it. That’s what it’s about, being fun, having these guys have a great experience.”

That’s what Red Lake fans, coaches and players did Friday. Despite a constant deficit, the Warriors never looked defeated.

“There’s more to life than basketball,” White added, “but sometimes basketball brings us together.”

 

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