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Albrook team takes Duluth championship

They may have all played on the 2004 city championship basketball men's C-league team, but the connections only begin there.

"Everyone on the (K &K Roofing) roster either went to Albrook [High School] or has kids there," said Rick Greer, who played and managed the team, which was sponsored by K&K Roofing. "They're all from the Albrook school district."

Greer graduated in 1995 from Albrook High School in Saginaw, which represents kids from Alborn and Brookston, with a graduating class of 28.

"It's a small school," said Greer, "so everybody knows everybody."

"I've known them all, except one, for my whole life," he added.

The players range in age from 21 to 34, and for the most part, each has played ball with another team member.

Kyle and Kelly Karppinen are brothers who own and run K & K Roofing and went to high school with Brad Olesiak.

"They've been playing together ever since," said Greer, who worked at K&K for about five years.

The Karppinen brothers and Steve Debock "coach their kids' Little League, T- ball teams together," said Greer.

Greer went to high school with Dan Warner, and Martin Johnson is his neighbor in Alborn. Wyatt Mann and Joe Wark attended Albrook together as well.

The team also gets together for fun outside of coaching kids' teams and playing basketball together.

"I have a pool table at home," said Greer. "We have poker nights every once in a while, and most of the team gets together for that."

The team has a good time, joking around and laughing about their age, he added.

A "focus on the humor of being old" is sometimes in order, said Kelly Karppinen.

"We're just a bunch of old guys trying to prove that we can still play," he said.

"When the 18-year-olds show up, then we notice we don't have the legs anymore or the wind anymore," said Greer. "Then we play team basketball."

The team's 11-3 record at the end of the regular season, with two big losses to the team they would later meet in the championship game, marked a fun season of what Greer calls "real team basketball."

"We play other teams that are better than us," he said, "but we play a real team game."

The championship game was played on March 3 at Washington Center, where they beat Ogitchidagg.

"It ended up being a real close game," said Greer. "I think it (Ogitchidagg) means 'warrior.'"

"We were up on them pretty good," he said, "and then they made a run on us. They shot the lights out (in the second half), made shots that were pretty unbelievable."

The score of the game was most likely within five points, said Greer, though he and his teammates did not remember the exact score.

"We were up on them close to 20 earlier in the game, though," he added. "We made our free throws. That's what won it for us."

"It's a team effort, and everybody knows the rules," said Greer. "Everyone has the green light to shoot."

Greer said the winners received a trophy and an official Duluth Parks and Recreation mug, and then put the win in perspective.

"You're only as old as you feel, right?" he said, with a laugh. "It's supposed to be about the fun."