Melrose Fitted With Glass Slipper, Class AA State Champs
The Melrose Area Dutchmen defeated second-ranked Caledonia on Saturday 63-51 to finish a season that would make a good movie. Since 1974 when Mark Olberding led Melrose to a state title, the team hadn't even been to state. Olberding spoke with the team before they played their first game in the state tournament and simply told them to play as hard as they can.
In the title game against a Caledonia team that showed lots of firepower during the season, the Dutchmen had 17 assists and outrebounded a very good rebounding team by eight boards. I guess they listened well.
Caledonia shot 34 percent from the field (21 of 62) and 19 percent from three-point range (four of 21). Warriors head coach Josh Diersen told KDHL after the game that basketball is about putting the ball in the basket, and some days you just can't do it. He did credit Melrose for good defense, but added that he never remembered seeing his guys miss so many layups in a game. Not a single player for the Caledonia Warriors was in double figures.
Melrose Area led 31-24 at the half and did make their layups. They shot 49.6 percent (28-49) from the field and were 37.5 percent (6-16) from long range. Six-foot-3 junior Drake Meyer led all scorers with 24 points on seven of 10 shooting , including four of six threes, and was six of nine from the free throw line. The Dutchmen final record was 29-5 and Caledonia finished 28-5, with two of their losses to Class A state champion Rushford-Peterson and one to the AA champ Melrose Area.
When Olberding led Melrose to the state title in 1974 there were two classes and the Class A champ played the Class AA champ for the overall championship. Olberding was a man among boys. I still remember watching the game with my brother and father. He scored 25 points and had 17 rebounds in the Class A title game and then poured in 30 points in a 58-42 win over Bemidji for the overall championship. Melrose finished Olberding's senior season with a 27-0 record. They won the 1971 Class A championship 64-53 over Red Wing before falling in the overall championship to Duluth Central 54-43, then in 1972 lost on a last-second shot to St. James in the Class A championship, and in 1973 fell on a buzzer-beater to Chisholm in the Class A title game, also.
The 6-foot-8 Olberding was along for all those games and averaged 25 points a game in his state tourney appearances. He would attend the University of Minnesota for one year and then go pro and had a productive 12-year career in the ABA and NBA before retiring. Olberding works in real estate in San Antonio, Texas.