MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the top boys basketball teams in the state is making a plea to young people to get COVID-19 tests.

Every year Minneapolis North is a state title contender. But like so many teams, last year they missed a chance at the State Tournament because of the virus.

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“We have some tall people. We have some shooters. I think we are a pretty balanced team,” said senior Davon Townley. “I feel like we can beat anybody in the state.”

At the end of January, the Polars record is 2-0. They’ve only played two games so far. During a normal season without COVID-19, they might have a dozen or more games in by now.

Now that they’re back on the court, they want to stay there. That’s why they’re teaming up with the Department of Health for a different kind of message.

“We want youth sports to stay open. We want our schools to stay open. And really the key to that is testing,” said Dan Huff, Minnesota Department of Health.

Specifically they’re urging students and young athletes between the ages of 12 and 25. The virus has less impact on them which means they can unknowingly spread the disease.

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“I’ve been tested three times through the nose. It hurts, I’m not going to lie. It’s annoying. But it’s worth it. All about getting back to work and having safety,” said senior Andre Gray II.

“I’m in the high risk category and I was 50-50 on whether or not I was even going to coach this year,” said Coach Larry McKenzie.

McKenzie said 330 days went by between games for his team. With a state title in mind, he said sacrifices need to be made. That means getting tested and wearing a mask so athletes can stay on the court and in the classroom.

“To have that opportunity with hope of having the state tournament as well, if we can get the numbers down, then we are willing to do whatever it takes,” said McKenzie.

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by the principal.

“Last year’s seniors lost every opportunity and I don’t want that to happen for them,” said Mauri Melander Friestleben. “Whatever you need to do. Whatever mild temporary discomfort you need to go through, they are worth it.”

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Meldander Friestleben said that when students are playing sports they are also more engaged in the classroom.

John Lauritsen