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Rushford-Peterson Trojans take State Championship (03/29/2006)
By Brian P. Heilman
Last year, the Rushford-Peterson boys' basketball team gave up a late lead and lost a heartbreaking state title game by three points.

One year later, the R-P Trojans found themselves in the same place.

This time, however, the R-P boys clung to their lead and defeated Ellsworth High for the same state title.

By the same three points.

"It's very gratifying for our players," said head coach Tom Vix, who in addition to winning a 1989 state title with Rushford High School has brought the R-P Trojans to state nine times.

This is his first state title with the Trojans.

The 55-52 victory was the culmination of a tense playoff run for the Trojans, who nearly succumbed to late-game rallies in their final three contests. The Trojans remained staunch enough - and lucky enough - to bring home the glory this year, however.

"The first year I went to state I was really overwhelmed," said Vix. "Everything went so fast, I felt like I was running around crazy."

"This time I really had a chance to sit back and enjoy all the little things, so it was really special."

For the team, which consists mostly of seniors, the accomplishment is likely to remain a point of pride and jubilation for years to come.

Upon their return to the area on Saturday night, the Rushford-Peterson community staged a huge celebration for the hometown heroes, most of whom left the next morning on a senior trip to Florida.

After last week's tense Target Center action, the basketball boys will relax with some fun in the sun. And rightfully so.

Meanwhile Vix, the physics-major-turned-basketball-hero, returned to his physics and chemistry classes.

When asked if R-P's great accomplishment was overshadowed a bit by the Winona State Warriors' national championship, Vix chuckled.

"Don't feel sorry for us," he said. "We're so proud of Winona State."

Many of Vix's former players have been involved in the WSU basketball program, making him even more proud of the accomplishment. Josh Drinkall, older brother of a current R-P player and a former Trojan standout himself, is currently a WSU assistant coach.

"I'm so glad for Coach Leaf," Vix added. "It just shows the quality of basketball in the area."

As for the future, Vix plans to keep coaching "as long as it's still fun."

Right now, with a fresh state championship in hand, it's pretty fun. 


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