Mountain Iron, Fergus then and now [UPDATED]Published 6:11am Monday, January 7, 2013 Updated 8:13am Monday, January 7, 2013
In 1957 the Fergus Falls Otter boys basketball team edged Mountain Iron 48-47 in the ninth game of the regular season. This vaulted the season record to 9-0.
Later, the Otter boys team from 56 years ago carried a 25-0 record into the state basketball tournament. Fergus took third place and finished 27-1.
A year ago. the Otters girls basketball team took a 28-1 record into state tourney action, also taking third place and finishing 30-2.
Mountain Iron, now combined with the Iron Range town of Buhl, took its number one ranked Class A girls team to this season’s Fergus Falls holiday tournament.
The Rangers led the number one rated Class AAA Otters at halftime before falling to Fergus Falls 70-63.
If the Otter girls go unbeaten while qualifying for another state tournament, they will set a new school record that dates back to 1957.
“I recall our one-point victory over Mountain Iron in 1957,” said former Otter starting guard Curt Reinan who now lives in Nevada. “We played in the preliminary game to the Gopher basketball game in Williams Arena. I hope the Otter girls can enter the state tournament undefeated this year.”
The 2008 Otters girls team entered the state tourney with a 23-5 mark.
Otter boys, in 1984, were 20-2 entering state play.
Two years later, the 1986 Otter boys basketball team qualified for state with a record of 21-2. The 1990 Otter boys team was 20-3 heading into state play and in 2004 the Fergus boys posted a 22-3 record before heading to state.
Other former FFHS players cheering for the 2012-13 Otter girls include 1957 Otter basketball starters Chuck Weiss, who lives in California, Twin Cities resident Don Walseth and Pelican Rapids area resident Ed Ohman.
The fifth starter, Jon Rosengren, is deceased but has an FFHS scholarship in his name, for students who attend M State, Fergus Falls.
“It would be fantastic to see the Otter girls remain unbeaten,” said Ohman. “Records are made to be broken.”
In three years we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fergus Falls High School’s first trip to the state basketball tournament, in 1916. Boys teams also made it to state in 1917 and 1920. It would be 37 more years, not until 1957, when the Otters made a follow-up trip to state.
The late Axel Frees, interviewed for a basketball book in 1981, recalled some of the rugged contests during the 1920 season.
He was a 6-foot, 4-inch center for the Otter boys, playing in games that consisted of two 30-minute halves.
In one contest, Fergus Falls played four overtimes of five minutes each. So the game lasted one hour and 20 minutes, not counting timeouts and the intermission.
In 1920 the state classic was held in Northfield.
“We took the train to Northfield, and they lodged us in individual homes,” said Frees. “We played our first game at 8 in the morning, losing to a very good Faribault team.”
Other Otter basketball teams, boy and girls, have come close to making it to state.
The late Oats LeGrand said a team needs to be talented but also needs good fortune on its side.
“Some you win and some you lose,” said LeGrand. “Sometimes it seems like it’s better to be lucky than to be good, especially when shooting the basketball.”
Tom Hintgen, a former reporter for The Daily Journal, continues to write a weekly column.