Hanging in a case in the gym lobby at Henning High School is the last worn basketball jerseys of Jacob Quam, who died in a car accident in 2017. When his class graduates this spring, those jerseys will be taken down and given to his mother Angela. Angela Quam sent a text to Henning boys basketball coach Randy Misegades on Thursday before Henning played in its first state tournament since 1966.
The text told the Hornets to play with heart and play with desire and that Jacob will be with them. The text had an excerpt from a letter Jacob's uncle read to the team two days after Jacob died. The full letter is on a bulletin board in Misegades' office.
"I know at times it's a struggle for her," Misegades said. "She's so happy for these kids and she loves them, but at the same time, I know she can't help but think what if he was out there. We keep telling her he was."
Angela was in the Target Center crowd Saturday, as Jacob's best friend and senior Dylan Trana lifted an orange Henning jersey Jacob never got a chance to wear to the Henning crowd to celebrate the team's first state title.
"It's awesome that I get to hold my brother's jersey," Trana said.
The pictures of the Henning state boys basketball tournament teams from 1965 and 1966 hang in the lobby at Henning as well. It's one of the first things people see when they walk in. Visitors will see something new, as Henning is the champion of Minnesota Class 1A boys basketball thanks to a 67-42 victory against North Woods on Saturday.
"It's big for the community, and adding Jacob's whole scenario in there makes it a little more special for sure," Misegades said. "We definitely were motivated and had more to play for than just basketball. I haven't had a chance to even process it yet, but I'm just proud of the kids."
When Trana checked out of the final high school basketball game of his career, he walked up to the chair at the end of the bench that has Quam's jersey and gave some punches, as if he was celebrating with Jacob.
"Showing everybody that he's still with us and that we were playing 6-on-5 the whole time," Trana said.
Henning (31-1) opened with a 19-9 run in which all points were scored by Parker Fraki and Sam Fisher. The closest North Woods (29-3) would get from there in the first half was 23-15 on a 3-pointer from Cade Goggleye.
"We just played well, played good defense and played our hearts out," said Fisher, who had a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Henning shot 56.5 percent and forced 13 turnovers in the first half en route to a 36-17 lead at halftime behind 14 points from Fisher and 13 points from Fraki. Saturday was the third straight season North Woods lost in the state championship game.
"They're fast," North Woods coach Will Kleppe said. "They executed well, they moved well, they timed their back cuts well and you pair that with some real aggressive defense on the perimeter like they had, that's a tough obstacle to overcome."
The closest North Woods (29-3) got in the second half was 45-29 with 12 minutes, 12 seconds remaining. Henning won in the semifinals by 33, Jacob's number, and by 25 in the state championship game.
"It was our main goal the whole season, just to make it to state," said Fraki, who finished with 13 points, five assists and five rebounds. "Once we finally got here, we belong here, so we decided it's a chance we can win it all."
Angela sent Misegades a text Saturday morning before the championship game. Misegades read it to the team.
"Tell the kids to lick their hands because that's what winners taste like," the text read.
Halftime: Henning 36, North Woods 17
H: Fraki 13, Wallevand 12, I. Fisher 9, S. Fisher 22, Lange 4, Bjorklund 5, Trana 2.
NW: Goggleye 5, Sherman 6, Kleppe 10, T. Chiabotti 5, Morrison 11, Chosa 2, D. Chiabotti 3.