Inspired Irish win one for their coach

Rosemount wins playoff game one day after Orr has heart attack

Rosemount head girls basketball coach Chris Orr (third from left) suffered a heart attack at school Friday, requiring quick action by his colleagues to save his life. The next day, the basketball team defeated Apple Valley 61-58 to reach the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game. Rosemount Girls Basketball photo
Rosemount head girls basketball coach Chris Orr (third from left) suffered a heart attack at school Friday, requiring quick action by his colleagues to save his life. The next day, the basketball team defeated Apple Valley 61-58 to reach the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game. Rosemount Girls Basketball photo

Rosemount played its best game of the season in the middle of its most trying time of the season.

The Irish’s 61-58 victory over Apple Valley in the Class 4A, Section 3 girls basketball semifinals Saturday not only put them within one game of the state tournament, it showed that athletes can go a long way on a little inspiration.

Or, in this case, a lot of inspiration. The Irish were playing for head coach Chris Orr, who almost died in the Rosemount High School gym last Friday after suffering a heart attack. He collapsed during a physical education class. Quick action by fellow Rosemount PE teacher Tracy Cassano, who performed cardio pulmonary resuscitation, and the presence of a defibrillator nearby are credited with saving Orr’s life.

A stent was installed to open a blocked artery and Orr went home Saturday. He did not attend the game against Apple Valley, but had a surprise for the players when it was over.

“On the bus going home after the game we said, ‘Hey, let’s go in the (Rosemount) gym and take a photo we can give to coach Orr,’ ” said Kirstee Rotty, who served as acting head coach for the Apple Valley game. “We all thought that would be a good idea and when we went in he was in the middle of the gym, waiting for us.

“It was a very emotional moment.”

Orr, who is in his fifth year as Rosemount head coach, hopes to attend the Section 3 championship game against Eastview at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hamline University. What coaching duties he would have, if any, has not been decided. Rotty likely will continue as acting head coach.

The Irish (17-11), who put Orr’s name on the backs of their shoes, closed the Apple Valley game on a 16-7 run and scored the last seven points to defeat an Eagles team that had beaten then twice during South Suburban Conference play in the regular season.

“The players were inspired, of course. They wanted to win for coach Orr,” said Rotty, whom Orr asked to speak on the team’s behalf. “And I think they really stepped up on the defensive end. Apple Valley has some talented scorers and for the most part we were able to contain them.”

Senior guard Maddy Olson had a game-high 22 points for the third-seeded Irish. Senior forward Nicole Elias scored 19 and senior forward Katie Essen added 11.

Rosemount senior guard Maddy Olson brings the ball upcourt during the Irish's first-round playoff victory over Burnsville. Olson scored 22 points as Rosemount defeated Apple Valley 61-58 in the Class 4A, Section 3 semifinals Saturday night. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Rosemount senior guard Maddy Olson brings the ball upcourt during the Irish’s first-round playoff victory over Burnsville. Olson scored 22 points as Rosemount defeated Apple Valley 61-58 in the Class 4A, Section 3 semifinals Saturday night. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Junior forward Brynne Rolland scored 18 points for Apple Valley (21-7), which was ranked ninth in Class 4A. Senior guards Lyndsey Robson and Erin Baxter added 14 and 12 points.

The victory puts Rosemount in the section championship game against Eastview for the third consecutive year. It will be the ninth game between the teams in the past three seasons; Eastview won the previous eight.

During the regular season the Lightning defeated the Irish 45-34 and 54-37. Rotty said she expects Thursday’s game to be low-scoring as well.

“We have a lot of respect for Eastview,” she said. “They’re always a team that’s solid fundamentally, and one thing I’ve noticed recently is they’ve picked it up on the defensive end. But if we can do the things we did against Apple Valley, we can be in the game at the end with a chance to win.”