MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The East Ridge Boys basketball team started strong this season — and it looks like they are finishing strong.

They are driven not by making the state tournament last year. With a coach that comes from a basketball family that understands winning.

Coach Bryce Tesdahl helped guide the New Prague team to success.

“When you build something special at New Prague and you see things growing, especially culture and just standards of excellence on and off the court, it’s hard to leave kids that are already bought into that and families that are bought into that,” Tesdahl said.

But when East Ridge came calling last year, he made the move. And what he has here is something special in 2019, because as this season has evolved, it’s become obvious this team has talent, and this team could be something special.

“I say we have a lot of different athletic abilities throughout the entire team. We’re all pretty fast, and as you can see we’re all pretty vertically gifted,” said forward Courtney Brown.

The gifted have attracted coaches like Gonzaga’s Mark Few to watch them play. There are at least three Division One players on this roster, so stats are replaced by a quest to win.

(credit: CBS)

“I think that might be part of it. I think we just know like, we always leave our egos at the door, once we step in the gym. We know we’re here to win … and you got to do whatever you have to do in each game, even if you don’t have the best game scoring wise. You get some rebounds, play defense,” said forward Ben Carlson.

Which brings us back to Coach Tesdahl. He’s a descendant of Minnesota basketball royalty. His mother is a McDonald, as in the McDonald family, the one that originates in Chisholm. At the top of the pyramid sits his grandfather, Bob McDonald — the all-time winningest coach in state history.

“Ever since I’ve grown up and been a part of the family, and going to Mom and Dad’s practices and just being around high school basketball, it’s been special being around such a great culture of excellence in the classroom, in the community and on the court,” Tesdahl said. “And obviously having Grandpa as a role model, and having so many wins and having so many [successes].”

He may need some of that grandfatherly advice. Standing in their way of a possible state championship could be the defending state champs – Cretin-Durham Hall. They beat the Raptors in the region finals last year. East Ridge beat them twice this season, motivated by the section final loss.

“That obviously stings a lot because that’s as close as East Ridge has ever gone to make it to the state tournament,” Carlson said. “So we were right there, and we’re trying to get past that hump this year. That’s been our goal ever since that loss.”

That’s what they plan to erase, to get to a state tournament, and maybe even win it.

Mike Max