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Shawn Jansen: Atwater’s Boesch rides Duke to win bracket challenge

Many basketball fans had never heard of Duke guard Grayson Allen until Monday night.

The freshman got overshadowed by big-name recruits such as Jahlil Okafor or Tyus Jones. However, Allen has earned a spot in the heart of Duke fans after he scored 16 points to help lead the Blue Devils back from a nine-point deficit in their 68-63 win over Wisconsin in the national championship game.

Consider Atwater boys basketball coach Jason Boesch a fan of Allen.

Boesch, a Duke die-hard, rode the Blue Devils to the top of the 2015 Marci Stenberg Bracket Challenge.

Boesch felt pessimistic with Duke facing a big deficit midway through the second half.

“It was not looking good,” Boesch said. “Wisconsin was looking really good and they had a lot of confidence. Grayson Allen came in and he was unbelievable with his energy and toughness. He saved it for us.”

Did I mention how much I can’t stand Duke? (See last week’s column.)

I felt sick to my stomach watching the Blue Devils celebrate, and others shared my pain.

Former Atwater coach John Kane, who grew up a Michael Jordan and North Carolina fan, hates Duke more than I do.

“Everyone thinks they have this squeaky clean reputation, but they play physical, almost borderline dirty. Especially during the Carlos Boozer era,” Kane said. “Then there is Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), always complaining when they’re down and he’s everyone’s best friend when they’re ahead.”

Boesch’s reaction?

“Kane’s a whiner,” he said. “How can you hate? I don’t understand it.”

Boesch and three others in our pool picked Duke to win the title. Livingston’s Ricardo Aguilar, Golden Valley’s Matt Thissen and former Sun-Star Sports Editor James Burns all picked the Blue Devils and finished second, third and fourth, respectively.

Of 26 coaches and media members, only El Capitan coach Chris Tufts correctly predicted Wisconsin and Duke in the final. Only Tufts had Wisconsin winning it all and he finished fifth.

On the other side of the standings, Los Banos’ Joe Barcellos and Buhach Colony’s John Bliss tied for last place.

“All the upsets happened on the first day of the tournament,” Bliss said. “The upsets I picked were on the second day when there were no upsets.”

Bliss missed half of the games on the first day and never recovered. He remained at the bottom of the standings the whole tournament.

“A lot of people gave me grief,” Bliss said. “The first time I walked in the P.E. room, they said, ‘What’s with you? You can’t pick a bracket.’ I didn’t see the newspaper that day, but I knew my name was on the bottom.”

Well, that’s another year in the books. Congratulations to Boesch and the rest of the Duke faithful. We’ll do it all again next year and it’s safe to say I won’t be picking a Duke repeat.

Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or sjansen@mercedsunstar.com.

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