By: Lee Palmer
In 2004 Colby Fitzgerald and Scott LeBrun took their senior-laden team to a state championship. Seventeen years later they are leading another senior-laden group to the South Dakota Class “B” State Tournament this weekend in Aberdeen as coaches, Fitzgerald the head coach, LeBrun as an assistant along with Mark Liebl and Matt Hanson.
“We have watched that game too many times to count,” Connor Libis, Max Herber and Sam Palmer said. Palmer added, ‘Like four times this week alone.”
These seniors and their teammates, who were just a barely a year old, or in some cases not even born, and have idolized the 2004 team, get their opportunity on the floor of the Barnett Center, the same venue Fitzgerald and LeBrun cut down the nets. Yet they haven’t lost sight of what it means.
“It is such a cool experience. Not very often does this happen,” Herber said talking about their idols, who won a state championship, coaching these seniors to a state tournament.
“Yeah I have watched it, but mostly to see some of the stuff we ran when we were up there,” LeBrun said.
Fitzgerald said he has watched the 2002 state championships more. “My mom was not a very good camera person. She took video of the games, because that was before the games were all televised, so she took the film. It is special,” Fitzgerald said. “I just want the boys to enjoy themselves. That is what I remember the most is the fun we had when we were up there, and I want them to enjoy that too.”
“They (the coaches) are great. They are letting us have fun and keeping us loose. We are here on a goal, but they want us to have fun doing it as well. It really helps they know what we are feeling, so they are letting us enjoy it,” Palmer mentioned.
Libis reiterated what Palmer said, “Coaches told us to enjoy it. We are happy to be here, but we are not done.”
When asked if there were similarities between the two groups, Libis said that both teams had a lot of seniors, both teams had/have some size, but the game is different and the teams are different.
LeBrun, in his first year as an assistant, said he was honored to be coaching this team and is really glad Fitzgerald asked him to join the staff. Fitzgerald, in his second year as head coach, said it is great to be able to share this with someone he built a life long friendship with from their days playing. He joked that LeBrun should have joined last year because all Scott does is go to state championships.
When talking about idols as coaches Palmer, who wears Fitzgerald’s number 13 partially in honor of his coach, said, “It is really cool. Been a very long time since that number has been on the Barnett floor for St. Mary, and to wear it now with Colby as my coach is really special.”