The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) recently inducted basketball player Khalid El-Amin, basketball player and coach Faith Johnson Patterson, and soccer and basketball player Tony Sanneh into its Hall of Fame.
Here are memories I treasure of each as both a spectator and sports writer.
El-Amin was a 5’10” junior point guard when his team, Minneapolis North, faced a 65-64 deficit with 5.5 seconds remaining in the 1996 state boys’ basketball quarterfinals against St. Thomas Academy.
A St. Thomas Academy player was at the free-throw line with two chances to ice the game and dethrone the defending champion Polars. The player missed the first free-throw, then the second.
That second misfire fell into the hands of guard Kavon Westberry—the hero of North’s championship game the previous year—and he passed to backcourt mate Ozzie Lockhart.
The junior guard then found El-Amin racing up the middle of the St. Paul Civic Center court. El-Amin then pulled up from the top of the key and hit nothing but the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded.
After hitting the shot, El-Amin and his teammates leaped over media row to celebrate with their fans in jubilation. El-Amin finished with 41 points, including a state-tournament-record nine three-pointers.
North won their second-straight Sweet Sixteen tournament title the following evening.
Faith Johnson Patterson
Johnson Patterson provided me with a vivid memory that I find unforgettable not as a reporter but as a spectator.
In May 1980, my father invited me—a ninth-grader at the time—to attend a high school all-star game at the old Met Center in Bloomington featuring teams representing Minnesota and Indiana.
We looked on as Marshall-University High senior guard Faith Johnson—displaying quickness, leadership, and one of the purest jump shots I’ve ever witnessed—scored nine of her 15 points in the second period to help the Minnesota all-stars defeat the Indiana all-stars 71-65.
That game was my introduction to Faith Johnson the player. Many don’t realize the impact she had as a player during a time when girls’ basketball was in its infancy.
Many remember Johnson-Patterson as one the state’s greatest coaches. Some remember her as an outstanding high school player. Thanks to my father, I will always remember her as both.
Sanneh was known as one of the best high school soccer players to ever come out of Minnesota, but my memories of him are as a basketball player for St. Paul Academy (SPA).
One memory that will stick happened on a cold winter night in February 1990 as SPA, ranked number-four in Class A, took on St. Agnes in a regular-season game.
Sanneh, a 6’2” senior forward, scored 21 points, leading his team to a 59-54 victory over the number-10-ranked Aggies. My memories are so vivid because he was known to many as a great soccer player.
Another memory I have of Sanneh occurred in April of that same year. As a member of the Metro All-Star team that played the Out-State All-Stars that year, I watched as he used a double-pump dunk to win the pre-game slam dunk competition at St. Cloud State University.
El-Amin, Johnson-Patterson and Sanneh have left me with memories I will always cherish.