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Against all odds, Harlem basketball reflects on underdog journey to the state tournament

Harlem boys win semifinal
Posted at 12:02 AM, Mar 28, 2022

HAVRE — It’s been over two weeks since the conclusion of the state basketball tournament but many in the state haven’t forgotten how the Harlem basketball teams shocked Class B for both the boys and girls programs in their unlikely postseason journey.

The Harlem girls went 7-14 in their season but won when it counted in the district and divisional tournaments to earn a trip to the state tournament and a semifinal appearance.

“A lot of people doubted us going into the district and divisional tournaments and I believed in our team to make it to the state tournament and we did,” MSU-Northern bound senior, Taya Trottier, said.

Trottier was a big piece to the puzzle earning all-state honors the last three years. She will get the chance to reunite with another Harlem star L’Tia Lawrence who just finished her freshman year at MSU-Northern scoring 11.7 points per game.

“Yeah she definitely pushed me harder in practice and in ball and with coach, I came for a camp and that’s where he asked me to come play for him.”

For the boys, their state tournament performance will go down infamy after first beating Eureka in the closing seconds of the quarterfinal game when Teagan Levaldo hit a three to tie the game and then seconds later stole the inbounds to hit the buzzer beating game winner.

Then in the next match-up upset two time defending Class B champion Lodge Grass in the semifinals to cement Harlem as the biggest underdog upset team of the year. Junior transfer Caleb Cole reflected on what that moment was like:

“Some parts were pretty nerve-wracking but at the end it was exciting.”

“Just having the community behind both of us and especially them getting to the state championship in I don’t know how long,” Trottier added.

Between both programs, the Wildcats produced three all-state and four all-conference selections in Trottier, Cole, RJ Ramone and Tyler Cichosz as well as a second place finish at state for the boys and a semifinal appearance for the girls. For Cole, getting to the state title game was a big moment for him and his family as Cole’s father, Chris Cole, won a state championship.

“My dad won state his junior year in Harlem and I got to play in a state title game my junior year in Harlem so that’s pretty cool.”

Chris Cole was a part of Harlem’s first ever Class B state title in 2002 and with the momentum Harlem has riding with them into next season, Caleb could join his father in raising a trophy for the basketball-rich city.