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January 19, 2018

1/3/2018 8:48:00 AM
A special night in Mt. Lake during annual holiday tournament

Joel Alvstad
Sports Editor

Mt. Lake Area boys basketball coach Shawn Naas has seen his share of talented players come and go in his 23-plus seasons on the Wolverine bench.
A handful of his former players have gone on to coach at various levels.
But last Wednesday marked a first for Naas, which is pretty rare considering he is one of the more-veteran coaches in the entire region.
Last Wednesday marked the first time that a former Wolverine player had coached against Naas as a head coach.
Khamprasong "Air" Chantharak wasn't a fixture on the court for the Wolverines in his high school days. But he was a student of the game, which has served him well since graduating from Mt. Lake in 2008.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and getting his Master's Degree from Minnesota State University-Mankato, Chantharak took a teaching job at Sibley East. While at Sibley East, he was the district's K-12 basketball coordinator, helping set up and direct programs at various levels.
Then, last spring, he was hired as a special education teacher at Tri-City United, which is the consolodated district that includes Montgomery, Lonsdale and LeCenter.
Chantharak was also hired to be the head boys basketball coach. He also coaches junior high football and is an assistant track and field coach for the Titans.
Chantharak is married. When he isn't busy with sports, he and his wife run a small hobby farm near Kasota, growing raspberries and small vegetables and maintaining a small apple orchard.
Chantharak's Titans lost 65-42 to the Wolverines and lost to Cedar Mountain-Comfrey 59-57 Thursday, falling to 2-6 overall for the season.
Wednesday was special for another reason for the MLA program. Prior to the game, there was a recognition of the 2012-13 Wolverine team that won the Section 2A championship and advanced to the state tournament.
The 2012-13 school year was the first for the current MLA pairing, which includes the Mt. Lake Public and Christian schools.
The previous year, the Mt. Lake-Butterfield-Odin paired program finished fourth at the state tournament, while the Mt. Lake Christian boys won the Christian Athletic League title and more than held their own against several Minnesota State High School League foes.
But the paired MLA program went 24-6 in 2012-13, going 14-2 to finish second in the Red Rock Conference.
After surviving a second-round playoff scare in a one-point win over Mankato Loyola, the Wolverines routed Springfield and Lester Prairie to win the section title.
Seven players from the team returned to be recognized before the game.
Fun tournaments
I caught a lot of basketball action in the Mt. Lake and Windom gyms last week.
It was fun to see some good crowds and some exciting basketball on all four days I attended holiday tournaments.
Holiday tournaments are becoming a little more difficult for schools to schedule, particularly in Southwest Minnesota.
A certain number of schools prefer to not play between Christmas and New Year's. Others prefer to not travel very far, particularly when it is cold or snowy.
This year, MLA could find only two other boys teams for its tournament. Legacy Christian, which came to Mt. Lake last year, went to a different tournament. Meanwhile, the girls tournament had a modified format so MLA and Westbrook-Walnut Grove would not play, since they already play twice during the season.
For the Windom tournament, it was nice to have Heron Lake-Okabena back this year and Windom has fortunately found a school in Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg that didn't mind bringing both its girls and boys teams nearly three hours south for a two-day tournament.
I've been impressed with the fan support from KMS every year they've come to the Windom tournament - even in a couple of seasons where both their teams struggled.
And with more hotel options coming in the near future for the Windom area, hopefully KMS will become a staple for the tournament as it moves forward.

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