The induction of the 1994 State Championship Boys Basketball Team into the Saint Agnes High School Athletic Hall of Fame—including Marlon McCoy, Lester Jackson, Char Davis, Jahmai “Pancho” Phipps, Michael Fortin, Aaron Holmen, Lester Jackson, Stephen Kubista, Michael Launderville, David LaValle, Kamani Lloyd, Juan Taylor, Craig Vaughn and coach Dick Ghizoni—took place last Saturday afternoon at Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul.
It was quite a journey to the state championship and Hall of Fame, a journey that started 29 years ago.
After leading Ramsey Junior High School to the St. Paul City championship in dominating fashion in 1990, eighth-graders McCoy, Jackson, Davis and Phipps made a decision that further changed the landscape of high school basketball.
Instead of following the tradition of attending a St. Paul City Conference school—St. Paul Central being the main school at the time—the foursome decided to make their own mark by enrolling at St. Agnes.
“We really wanted to go somewhere and create our own legacy,” McCoy said about their decision. “We wanted to bring a state championship to our neighborhood.”
For the next three years the Aggies had outstanding seasons but came up short of qualifying each year. In 1994, with McCoy, Phipps, Jackson, Davis, Lloyd, Taylor and Vaughn leading the way, everything clicked.
They defeated DeLaSalle (74-54) and Orono (71-42) to reach the state tournament for the first time in school history. Once in the tournament, they continued to dominate with victories over Maple River (63-56) and Westbrook-Walnut Grove (66-53), culminating in a 78-71 victory over Morris in the championship game.
St. Agnes’ championship — along with Minneapolis Washburn’s Class AA title win over Hopkins—also led to changes in the state’s post-season landscape.
After winning the title, no player from St. Agnes or Washburn was selected to play in the annual Metro-Outstate All Star game featuring the state’s top high school players. This led to the development of the Inner City All-Star Classic—featuring the metro area’s top players of color—by former Minneapolis North hoopers Derek Reuben and Ralph Crowder.
The game, which was played every June, ran from 1994 to 2017. McCoy, Phipps, Jackson, Davis and Vaughn played in the first game, while Ghizoni served as one of the coaches.
McCoy and his teammates set out to make history. In the process of making history, they also changed it.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.