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Kerry Collins, Published March 25 2009

Senior driven: Pelican Rapids’ 12 seniors get one last shot at state

Don’t tell the Pelican Rapids boys basketball team that experience doesn’t always transfer into wins.

Behind 12 seniors on the roster, the Vikings have rolled into today’s Minnesota state basketball tournament with a perfect 30-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A.

“It really is a special group,” coach Brad Strand said. “They all get along so well, and because they’re seniors and what they’ve been through, I know they’re not going to fold when they get in tough situations.”

The group is savvy enough not to overlook any team, and they won’t get the chance to. The Vikings’ first-round foe is defending state champ New London-Spicer at 6 p.m. today at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

Offensive dynamo Tydan Storrusten (26.1 points, 7.5 assists per game) and defensive stalwart Eric Shulstad are the leaders of this crew, but the chemistry among all 12 seniors is why the Vikings score 82.9 points per game.

“This is a really tight-knit group, and the friendships we’ve established with this club is pretty unbelievable,” Storrusten said. “And the best part is that everyone is so happy for one another when they do well.

“The chemistry we have is pretty special.”

While Storrusten and Shulstad may get most of the attention, Strand quickly pointed out that the Vikings wouldn’t be unbeaten without Matt Haugen’s defense, Matt Skow-Anderson athleticism, Jan-Erik Lindberg’s shooting and Brian Guler’s energy off the bench.

“They have all accepted their roles, and that can be tough sometimes,” Strand said. “They realize that not everyone is going to play major minutes, but they’ve accepted those roles – and they’ve fulfilled those roles.

“And we need all of them. Every single one.”

And every single one of them is smart on and off the court. All but one of the 15 players on the roster are taking a college-credit math class – and the one that isn’t is just a sophomore.

The team has been academic state champs the last two years.

While Storrusten and Shulstad played on the Vikings’ 2006 team that went to the state tournament, section title games have not been kind to this group of seniors.

Pelican Rapids lost in the section basketball championship each of the last two years – to the top-ranked team in the state both times.

The Vikings have also lost in the section football title tilts three years in a row (to Hawley each time), and they came up short in the section baseball championship last year.

“It’s not like we went out and laid an egg or anything,” Storrusten said. “We were losing to some pretty good teams.”

But the Vikings are enjoying the run right now. As of Monday morning, the high school had six fan buses set up to go to the Twin Cities today, and more were likely to be filled up.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Storrusten said. “It’s been a complete blast, and the community and school are just rocking.

“This is something that 10 or 20 years from now we’re going to look at as being pretty special.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com