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Commentary: Keeping sane during March Madness

Deep thoughts while traveling the tournament trail in the midst of March Madness: Bands: Attention activities and band directors: Please encourage your bands to play at as many athletic events as possible. They enhance the tournament atmosphere. ...

Deep thoughts while traveling the tournament trail in the midst of March Madness:

Bands: Attention activities and band directors: Please encourage your bands to play at as many athletic events as possible. They enhance the tournament atmosphere.

It was energizing to listen to bands from Brainerd, Little Falls, Pequot Lakes, Pine River-Backus and Verndale blow the roof off the arena or the gym wherever their team was playing. Bands just intensify a tournament atmosphere.

It's good to be a Warrior: It was quite a whirlwind last week for former Brainerd Warriors.

Josh Archibald made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins March 5, the same day Cole Smith committed to play hockey at the University of North Dakota. Smith will join Bowling Green's Mitch McLain and Matt and Chris Pohlkamp and Bemidji State's Reid Mimmack as Division I hockey players. How many outstate hockey programs have as many Division I players as the Brainerd Warriors?

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Hannah Lundstrom, now of Concordia College, won two events in the women's MIAC Indoor Championships, while Concordia's David Supinski broke a 37-year-old school record in the men's 600-meter dash.

Maren Brown helped the University of Massachusetts Boston win its first New England Conference women's hockey title and qualify the Beacons for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Sara Wennerstrand of the College of St. Benedict capped the weekend by being named the MIAC Softball Player of the Week.

Fabulous facilities: With Brainerd High School my primary beat, I often don't get to as many events in the area and watch as many area athletes as I would like.

As a result, I recently made my first trips to the new gyms in Pequot Lakes and Wadena-Deer Creek and was impressed with both facilities.

Both are intimate gyms with walking tracks circling above and around the floor. Both have strong, consistent WiFi signals that is critical not only to visiting sports writers racing against the clock, but to every fan with a hand-held gadget.

Hockey hotbeds: Three of the four best hockey teams I covered this winter made the state tournament: Bemidji, Hermantown and St. Cloud Cathedral. The fourth, top-seeded and Class 1A's third-ranked St. Cloud Apollo, was bumped off by the unheralded fourth-seeded Little Falls Flyers.

Hermantown proved how talented it was by winning the 1A state championship after six consecutive state runner-up finishes. Bemidji and Cathedral captured consolation championships in their respective classes.

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During the regular season, Brainerd lost twice apiece to Apollo and Bemidji and once to Hermantown.

Basketball stars: Bryce Irsfeld of Browerville/Eagle Valley and Brad Davison of Maple Grove are two of the best players I've seen in the postseason. And both are only juniors.

Averaging 27 points a game, Irsfeld dumped 37 on Verndale, 24 in the second half of a 63-51 victory in the Section 5-1A championship game. A buffed 6-foot-1, Irsfeld pulled up for jumpers, buried threes and drove to the rim. He finished 11-for-17 from the field that night and was 10 of 11 at the foul line in the second half. He might be the best-kept secret in Central Minnesota boys basketball. He's going to be a prize for some 4-year program.

The 6-3 Davison led Maple Grove to a 74-61 win over Rogers in the Section 8-4A semifinals and basically put the Crimson on his back. Rogers played tight interior defense against the Crimson's 6-10 Reed Nikko, who's headed to Missouri, and limited Nikko's effectiveness so Davison fired from outside and penetrated to score 34. He averages 21 points, is the team's second-leading rebounder and is considered a Division I recruit.

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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