Former St. Paul Central football and basketball great PAUL JACKSON correctly predicted the outcome of the Class 3A Section 4 boys’ basketball game between the No. 7-ranked Minutemen and top-ranked St. Paul Johnson at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul.
“Both teams will play it down to wire, and the one [team] who wants it the most will win it,” said Jackson, who graduated in 1983 and whose son JAKOBI JACKSON plays guard for his dad’s alma mater.
That winning team turned out to be Central, who avenged two conference losses to the defending champion Governors to win 60-56 and earn their first state tournament berth since 2000.
As usual, Central was led by its own version of “The Big Three.” SAM GUBBRUD’S timely shooting accounted for 14 points, RAYEON WILLIAMS slashed his way to 12, and FELIX TAYLOR JR. scored 10 while running the offense flawlessly.
The difference-maker for the Minutemen, however, was GARRETT GARDNER. The guard, averaging five points per game, scored a game-high 17 points.
Central’s defense held Johnson’s balanced scoring attack in check as junior point guard JALEN MOBLEY (16 points) and PIERRE CONWELL (11) were the only Governors in double figures.
Central’s victory ended Johnson’s string of five consecutive state tournament berths but also made it seven consecutive appearances for a team from the St. Paul City Conference (Como Park represented in 2008).
One might say that both teams have come full circle from a historical perspective.
Thirty years ago, on March 17, 1984, Sam Gubburd’s father, DAVE GUBBRUD, started for St. Paul Central and teamed with ALBERT SIMMONS, CHARLES CARTER, CHARLES BELLEPHANT, ALLAN LANGFORD, KYLE THOMAS and WILLIAM TURNER to earn a berth to the state tournament by defeating Johnson, led by BARRON CHAPMAN, MONTE DEBERRY and CHRIS GARRETT, 57-52 at the University of St. Thomas.
The elder Gubbrud also hit a buzzer-beater in the Class AA (during the two class system) third-place game to defeat Bloomington Kennedy.
During this time, Central’s coach, SCOTT HOWELL, was completing his senior year as an All-Metro football and All-Conference baseball player.
The final tally:
St. Paul Central: Garret Gardner 17, Sam Gubbrud 14, Rayeon Williams 12, Felix Taylor Jr. 10, Kalu Abosi 5, Abdikalak Muse 2.
St. Paul Johnson: Jalen Mobley 16, Pierre Conwell 11, Eric Elliot 8, Louis Williams 7, Malik Jones 5, Andre Smith 5, Justus Murphy 2, Sedrick Clark 2.
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.