What makes this game a little more special than others for Johnson Patterson — who starred at Marshall University High School in Minneapolis during the late 1970s before a stellar career at the University of Wisconsin — was that the victory came at the school she put on the map during an improbable 15-year run.
It was her first time back at the school since she left to coach DeLaSalle in 2009.
From 1995-2009 Johnson Patterson led the Polars to heights no other Minneapolis City Conference team has come close to experiencing.
She led North to 10 state tournament appearances and five Class 3A titles during that span with a group of players who became household names in girls’ basketball. Metro Player of the Year winners Tamara Moore (1998) and Mauri Horton (1999) — who each were named the state’s Ms. Basketball that year — led the Polars to their first two state crowns.
Mia Johnson, Daria Fraizier, Tyrai Bronson and LaRaea Starr were all part of the teams that three-peated from 2003-05.
From 2005-2008, North would endure a City Conference and state tournament drought that coincided with the arrival of Minneapolis South phenom Tayler Hill, who herself during her senior year in 2009 led South to the Class 4A state title with a 47-point performance.
It was also during that year — Johnson Patterson’s last at North — that she would turn in what many consider one the best coaching jobs of her career.
With Senior forward Brianna Edwards — who would go onto to star at Providence College — and eighth graders Seanna Johnson, Allina Starr, Talayiah Rich and Chelsey McGee, North finished runner-up in the Class 2A state tournament.
The next year, Johnson Patterson left North and, with Johnson and Starr blossoming into two of the state’s top players (Rich and McGee went on to Robbinsdale Cooper), led DeLaSalle to a Class 3A three-peat as state champs from 2011-2013.
After the 2014 season she moved on Eden Prairie.
It was Crystal Flint, the current girls’ coach at North, who got the word out about Johnson Patterson’s return to the school in which she developed outstanding women who are role models to the community.
In another twist of irony, Tisa Thomas and Krystal Taylor — both of whom played on state championship teams for Johnson Patterson while at North — are assistants on Flint’s staff.
Before North’s 15-year run on the landscape, girls’ basketball in Minnesota was White. Johnson Patterson definitely changed that.
Simply put, she’s the best!
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.