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Korby: Basketball records made and broken, Part II

It's been rousing fun tracking some of the feedback I've been receiving from my column March 4 on local high school basketball scoring records. Carlton County sports fanatics have much to be proud of with its basketball heritage. Records continue to fall and the dialogue of which specific generation of teams and individuals is the "best" is a top local coffee shop conversation igniter.

Thanks to Dwight Cadwell, WKLK radio personality and local sports expert, I was corrected on who holds the Minnesota high school record for girls for basketball points in a game. It is Gianna Kneepkens, who scored 67 points in a classic state tourney contest for Duluth Marshall in 2021. She went over 50 points in hoops matchups six times that season. Kneepkens just finished her freshman basketball season at the University of Utah.

Avid Pine Knot reader Fred Anderson informed me I should definitely recognize the record-breaking performance of a Moose Lake/Willow River girls basketball player named Natalie Mikrot. In her senior year, Mikrot finished with more than 2,300 career points for the Rebels. On March 29, she made a couple of 3-pointers for Minnesota in the Minnesota vs. Wisconsin high school all-star girls basketball classic at UMD. She has been a starter for the Moose Lake girls team since she was in the seventh grade. Fred Anderson is the brother of Jerry Anderson, who played on the 1955 Esko state tourney basketball team featured in the Pine Knot, and is a friend of Dave Mikrot, Natalie's grandpa.

Mikrot is now the all-time leading basketball scorer for Moose Lake/Willow River schools, including both boys and girls. No other player hit for 2000-plus points. She surpassed many all-time greats, including Annie Adamzak, who was recently selected for the Star Tribune Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame.

Adamzak was on five state championship teams while at Moose Lake High School. Almost unbelievably, her senior year, her softball, basketball, and volleyball teams were all undefeated state champions. Adamzak specialized in volleyball in college at the University of Nebraska and became a first team All American. She scored 1,535 total points in her high school basketball career and currently conducts volleyball instructional schools and teams in the Twin Cities.

Mikrot also stars on the Rebels volleyball and softball teams. She currently is practicing as a fastpitch catcher and has a rocket arm to deter would-be base stealers. She has accepted a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Mikrot was also playing in the Polar League high school basketball all-star game April 4.

In April 2022, the NCAA Women's Division I basketball tournament was at the Target Center in Minneapolis. It featured former Minnesota state high school girls standout Paige Bueckers and other regional team representatives.

A hugely important milestone, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the legislated Title IX bill passage signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Title IX provisions have continually been reviewed and often challenged, but basically states that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Although primarily noted for equal financial support in male and female sports, Title IX covers much more and was highly recognized and celebrated over the Final Four weekend.

Pine Knot aficionados questioned where former standout Debbie Hunter stood in regard to Cloquet girls basketball records. Hunter started playing in ninth grade in the late 1970s, the first year of Minnesota girls high school sponsored basketball. Hunter was the first to eclipse 1,000 points for Cloquet, finishing her career with 1,535. Her junior season she led the Lumberjacks to their first state tournament appearance and her senior season she was a Minnesota Miss Basketball finalist. She also was all-state in volleyball and was on a state-winning relay track team.

Hunter was highly recruited by Division I colleges and chose to "stay home" and attend the University of Minnesota. She became not only a Cloquet Civic Center but a Gophers basketball legend. Debbie is one of seven women players to have her number retired in Gophers basketball history (there are 10 men) and her likeness is on a banner that hangs from the rafters at Williams Arena.

Some of Hunter's Gophers records include: first individual triple double (21 points, 10 assists, 12 steals, Jan. 31, 2018); 1983 All-Big Ten/Kodak All-American; record for steals in a game (12); record for assists in a game (15); and 1982 and '83 Gophers MVP. Post-college, she won many coaching laurels, and now lives in Texas.

Well, basketball season for high school and college playoffs are now concluded, so my thumb will be less physically drained from hitting the jump button on the television remote control. But the Twins start April 7, and the Wild and Timberwolves will soon be in the playoffs, so ... sigh ... maybe not much rest after all.

Steve Korby's interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. He welcomes ideas for human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans c/o [email protected].

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