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St. Cloud wins inaugural Hardwood Court Classic

Posted on Monday, February 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Harmony’s Josh Gonzalez contests St. Cloud’s Angel Arroyo’s shot as teammates come in to follow for the rebound. A constant breeze made shooting the ball, particularly from outside, a challenge in the low-scoring, 41-38 affair.
News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

When’s the last time the basketball coaches at Harmony or St. Cloud had to wear sunglasses while coaching a game? Or their players were distracted by incoming jets, or the wind?

In an official game? Probably the week before never.

It was all in play Saturday at Austin-Tindall Sports Complex, where the Bulldogs and Longhorns took part in the inaugural Hardwood Court Classic, believed to be the first sanctioned high-school game to be played in the U.S. outdoors on a hardwood surface.

Even better for park officials — and the St. Cloud basketball team — was that a pretty compelling game was part of the novelty of the event, as the Bulldogs held off a late Longhorn charge and won, 41-38, scoring their first win over their rivals in nearly four years.

“I was telling Jeff (Kuenzli, Austin-Tindall Facility Manager) the conditions were great, the crowd was great,” Bean said. “Steven (Guzman, St. Cloud’s point guard) stepped into his shots late and made them. I’d do this again next week. Kids need to learn how to play and compete outside.”

A few hundred fans braved an afternoon that got cloudier, breezier and chillier as the game progressed, but the action on the court heated up. With Harmony (7-15) down 31-26 entering the fourth quarter, forward Mario Washpun attempted to bring the Longhorns back himself, scoring six of their 10 fourth-quarter points, helping narrow the gap to 37-36 with 1:04 remaining.

St. Cloud’s Guzman was the closer. On a day when the wind made shooting any shot an adventure, he went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing minute to ice the game for the Bulldogs (5-15).

“I’ll remember this win all my life, it was great, I loved it and would love to do it again next year,” Guzman said.

Harmony’s Stephen Frederick scored the first points of the game, thought to be the first official high-school game in the country’s history played outdoors on a hardwood court.

Kuenzli said the event went as well as he’d envisioned when it was first conceived in November, and he hopes to keep it as an annual Super Bowl Saturday event.

“The court passed with flying colors, no issues at all,” he said. “Everything went smooth, no dead spots on the court, and we gave these gave these players an opportunity to do something done for the first time ever and make some lasting memories. We were told we couldn’t pull it off, but people were impressed with how all this got done.”

District tournaments begin next week; St. Cloud will host the District 8A-6 tournament semifinals and finals next Thursday.