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Park Rapids trio leads Oak Hills Christian College to national title

Not many people think of Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji as a power in men's basketball.

Thanks to Ryan Chmielewski, Luke Herbert and Dan Long, Oak Hills can now be considered a national champion.

The three 2002 graduates of Park Rapids Area High School were three of the five starters on the Oak Hills team that captured the title at the Association of Christian College Athletics Division II National Basketball Championships in Bethany, OK March 2-4.

Oak Hills entered as the No. 6 seed out of 10 teams and defeated No. 3 Barclay College (Kansas) 86-83 in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Association Free Lutheran Bible School (a fellow Minnesota school located in Plymouth) 70-63 in the semifinals and No. 1 Emmanus Bible College (Iowa) 66-63 in the finals to give Oak Hills its first national title in any sport.

"No offense to my guys, but we weren't the most talented team I've had in my nine years," said head coach Dan Hovestol, who has been the head coach for all nine years Oak Hills has offered basketball. "But they were the team that put in the effort to realize the dream. I'm really proud of them."

Oak Hills got off to a rocky start this season by opening with an 0-7 record. Six of those losses were by at least 23 points with five being by at least 30 points.

Oak Hills turned things around when the Park Rapids trio joined the team during the second semester after Christmas break. Oak Hills went 18-7 the rest of the way, including three close wins at the national tournament.

"When the season began, I was more concerned with winning a game than having the potential to win a national title. Because we lost a few of our solid recruits at the start of the year, I was first and foremost hoping to have enough bodies to field a team. I lost seven of my 10 players. At that point I had severe doubts about even attending the national tournament, much less winning a championship," said Hovestol. "We added six new players in the spring to round out our nine-player group. Ryan, Luke and Dan joined us during the second semester and all three were starters. It's no coincidence that our 18-7 record in the second semester occurred when they decided to join us. There would have been no way we would be celebrating a national title without the efforts of the Park Rapids group."

The Park Rapids trio played well in all three tournament games.

In the win over Barclay, Herbert had 17 points (on 7 of 11 shooting), 13 rebounds and four assists while Long had 16 points (on 6 of 8 shooting), 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Chmielewski ran the offense, finishing with one free throw, four rebounds and four assists. Glen Bratz led the team with 34 points.

In the semifinals, Oak Hills claimed a 32-15 lead at the half in the win over Association Free Lutheran. Long had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Herbert had 10 points and six rebounds and Chmielewski had 3 points, six assists and five rebounds. Bratz again led the way with 22 points.

The championship game was also close as Oak Hills saw a 35-21 lead in the second half vanish. Emmanus led 60-59 with two minutes remaining before Chmielewski hit a 3-pointer to give Oak Hills the lead for good. Bratz scored 27 points to earn tournament MVP honors while Herbert had 11 points and six rebounds, Long had 6 points and six rebounds and Chmielewski had 6 points and two assists.

The Wolfpack followed the ACCA tournament by defeating De Saint-Boniface 81-56 and Mennonite University 77-74 to repeat as champs at the Central Plains Athletic Conference tournament March 17-18.

For the season, all three Park Rapids players put up consistent numbers.

Herbert, a 6-4 post, averaged 16.9 points for second on the team and a team-leading 10.9 rebounds a game. In 25 starts, Herbert shot 58 percent from the field (170 for 293, including 36 of 88 3-pointers) and 60.5 percent at the free-throw line (46 for 76) with 273 rebounds, 83 assists, 12 blocked shots, 20 steals and 422 points.

Long, a 6-6 post, also played in 25 games and averaged 13.6 points (for fourth on the team) and 9.6 rebounds (to trail only Herbert) a game. Long shot 53.9 percent from the field (137 for 254) and 59.9 percent at the line (66 for 112) with 241 rebounds, 50 assists, 21 steals, 340 points and a team-leading 40 blocks.

Chmielewski, a 6-foot point guard, led the team with 166 assists (7.2 per game) while averaging 5.4 points a night. Chmielewski made 41 of 144 shots (including 18 of 81 3-pointers) and 24 of 45 free throws while tallying 124 points, 98 rebounds and 17 steals.

"The impact the three players from Park Rapids had on our team was incredible," said Hovestol. "Ryan provided stability at point for me and was a solid leader in running our offense and setting people up defensively. Dan was an inside presence that we desperately needed. Dan was a solid rebounder and shot blocker and was hard for teams to contain offensively. Luke was simple solid all-around. He could play with his back to the basket but also go out and knock down 3s. Teams had a hard time controlling him because of his inside/outside capability."

With no seniors in the lineup, Oak Hills has the potential to contend for another national title next year. In the meantime, Hovestol and the rest of the team are going to savor this year's national championship.

"I'm still savoring this year. I'm a realist to know that an opportunity to secure a national title doesn't come around every year. I also know the fabric of life at a small college and you never know what you'll have the next year," said Hovestol. "My hope is to have a team that not only possesses the attributes of solid players on the court, but - more importantly - are examples of Christian character off the court. What happens in the classroom and with the transformation of student lives for service to Christ far transcends what we just accomplished on the basketball court. It's nice, however, when all of these things can go hand in hand. Because of the incredible contributions of my Park Rapids contingent, I would welcome more players from your area if they are looking for a Christian college education and an opportunity to play ball."

Zubke leads Saints to title

Brady Zubke played a key role as the St. Scholastica men's basketball team captured the UMAC regular-season and tournament titles for the first time in school history.

Zubke, a 6-6 sophomore forward, played in 24 games as the Saints compiled a 17-10 overall record. St. Scholastica won the UMAC regular-season title with an 11-3 record and capped off the season by defeating Morris 88-76 in the semifinals and Bethany Lutheran 83-64 in the finals of the UMAC Tournament. Zubke had 19 points and five rebounds in the championship game.

For the season, Zubke started 15 games and averaged 24.9 minutes a game. The 2004 graduate of Park Rapids made 100 of 209 field goals (47.8 percent) and 41 of 54 free throws (75.9 percent) while scoring 245 points (10.2 per game for third on the team). Zubke made 4 of 22 3-pointers, grabbed 109 rebounds (4.5 per game), and had 35 assists, 22 blocked shots and 18 steals.

Zubke led the team in scoring in four games (with a high of 21 points against Wartburg College) and was the Saints' top rebounder in five contests.

In conference play, Zubke averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 14 games.

As a freshman, Zubke averaged 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.

Wolff contributes at VCSU

Zac Wolff of Park Rapids played in all 29 games for the Valley State University men's basketball team this season.

Wolff, a 6-7 freshman center, averaged 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds as a reserve as the Vikings went 7-7 in DAC-10 Conference play and 14-15 overall.

Wolff made 32 of 61 field goals (52.5 percent) and 44 of 73 free throws (60.3 percent) while averaging 12 minutes a game. Wolff scored 108 points, grabbed 66 rebounds and had eight assists, three blocked shots and 10 steals.

Pats' perfect season ends

Garry Grewe was hoping the Pequot Lakes boys basketball team would make a run at winning the state Class AA title and end the season with a perfect record.

Instead, the Patriots were eliminated in the state quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years.

Grewe, the former boys basketball coach at Park Rapids, led Pequot Lakes to a 67-47 win over Virginia to win the Section 7AA title. That gave the Patriots a 28-0 record and the No. 4 ranking heading into state.

In the state quarterfinals, Breck eliminated Pequot Lakes with a 65-57 win last Wednesday night. Pequot Lakes lost to Martin County West 63-43 in its first state tournament appearance in 2004.