At 939, Klinge is king

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CEDAR RAPIDS ó The buzzer rang, and the Waukon Indians stripped.

Off came the black uniform tops. Revealed were white tank tops.

On the front: "939 WINS."

On the back: "CONGRATS COACH."

Gene Klinge became the winningest girlsí basketball coach in state history after Waukon defeated MFL MarMac, 48-38, last night as part of Rivalry Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

"Itís a real thrill for me. Yeah, Iím very excited about it," Klinge said.

A Monona native, Klinge owns a 939-218 mark in 48 years ó 41 at West Central (817-186), the last seven at Waukon (122-32), where he won a state title in 2004.

He passed the late Bob Mullen, who posted a 938-420 mark in a career that spanned 54 years and six schools.

"The man whose record I broke, he was a true gentleman," Klinge said. "He taught me a lot about being a gracious winner and a gracious loser."

Klinge graduated from MFL in 1955. His first victory (56-45, on Nov. 16, 1962) came against his alma mater. So did his record-breaker.

"Itís awesome. Itís an enjoyment to play for him," said Mary Halvorson, who led all scorers with 16 points as Waukon improved to 8-1. "He has coached longer than my Dad has been alive.

"I respect him so much. He deserves this."

No. 939 isnít the end of the journey.

"He loves the game so much," said Logan Hjerleid. "Heíll be doing it until itís over."

Klinge said, "I enjoy what Iím doing. I think I still have something to contribute."

MFL MarMac (6-2) was much more than just window dressing for the occasion. This cast of Bulldogs had never lost to their Waukon counterparts, from seventh grade on up.

For a while, it looked like more of the same Waukon didnít score until 3:20 had passed, and didnít convert from the field until Hjerleid hit a baseline jumper with 5:35 elapsed.

Through the early drought, Klinge seethed.

"Swing the ball," he hollered. "Attack the defense!"

The Indians trailed, 11-6, after one quarter, then asserted themselves late in the half.

Halvorsonís basket gave Waukon its first lead, 15-14, with 2:43 left in the half. The Indians were up, 21-18, at intermission.

Finally, a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter opened the margin to 33-20.

The margin stayed between 8-12 points most of the rest of the way.

Carissa Berger scored on a layup at the buzzer to wrap it up; moments later, the Indians were in their undershirts.

The idea was the brainstorm of Chelsey Dreckman, and was completed during lunch hour at school one day shortly before the holiday break.

"Itís a little out of character for our girls," Klinge said. "Theyíre not a show-boaty bunch."

Pat Klinge said her husband "has been pretty quiet about (the record). The kids read the papers and listen to the news. Iím sure itís been a distraction.

"Honestly, I think heís glad itís over with."

 

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