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Locals join MSU-M athletics hall of fame

Alexandria native Steve Colby and Glenwood resident Steve Holte were enshrined in the Minnesota State University-Moorhead Athletics Hall of Fame last September along with the rest of the 1970-1971 Dragons basketball team that had finished 24-2 and won a Northern Intercollegiate Conference (NIC) title.

Their experiences went from playing on one of the program’s most successful teams ever to a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.

Today Colby lives just south of Holmes City on Rachel Lake with his wife, Cher Colby, who works as a para at Jefferson High School.

It was at that same school in Alexandria where Colby got his start playing basketball. He graduated from JHS in 1967 after standout seasons in both basketball and football. He was selected MVP of both the Cardinals football and basketball teams during his senior year at JHS. He was offered opportunities to play both sports at the collegiate level.

“It was quite a rewarding experience,” Colby said about his time at JHS. “We had pretty good teams, except my senior year in basketball.”

Holte is a 1966 graduate of Battle Lake who was a two-year starter in football and basketball and a four-year starter in baseball. He ran the Cornerstone Christian Youth Center in Alexandria for many years before moving his family to Glenwood.

Colby enjoyed playing basketball most in high school, and the program at what was then known as Moorhead State College offered him the opportunity to earn a scholarship. Colby accepted the offer to attend Moorhead and play basketball starting in the fall of 1967.

“I went there because they offered me a scholarship,” Colby said. “I actually had more scholarship opportunities for football.”

Colby actually tried out for the Moorhead State football team his freshman year, but he quickly decided to hang up the cleats. Basketball was going to be his focus while attending MSC.

“I realized basketball was going to be my sport,” Colby said. “I had the opportunity to be a starter my freshman year, which I was. So I was a four year starter for the Moorhead State Dragons.”

After playing as a standout in high school sports, Colby became more of a role player during his time with the Dragons. He was a consistent starter through four years at MSC and broke the 1,000 career point mark his senior year.

The Dragons did not have much to celebrate during the first three seasons of Colby’s career as the team never finished close to earning a conference championship. All of that changed in 1970 as the roster matured and brought in some key transfers.

Jerry Barney, Mike Berg and Charlie Williams all transferred into the program and were named All-NIC in 1971.

The Dragons opened the season strong with 15 consecutive victories. Winona finally broke that streak with a loss on the road 70-68, but Moorhead later would avenge the game with a home victory of its own.

The prospects of making an appearance in the national tournament were bright after the Dragons finished the regular season 24-1 and 11-1 in the NIC. Everything was going smoothly, and capacity crowds would often greet the Dragons during home games.

“Everything was just so much more fun because we had a winning season,” Colby said. “We ended up beating five or six conference champions from around the Midwest.”

But the tournament dreams were dashed in a playoff upset at the hands of Augsburg College. Colby said the team was caught looking ahead to facing St. Thomas, a team the Dragons had defeated by 15 points earlier in the season.

“We were kind of looking past them, as you know those things happen,” Colby said. “We were down by 20 points at the half.”

The Dragons battled back in the second half and trailed by only a point in the closing seconds. Moorhead State had the ball with four seconds left, but Berg missed a buzzer beater that would have given them the victory over Augsburg.

“That was a bitter, sad ending to your career,” Colby said. “When you practice your whole life for that kind of thing then it ends like that, it’s pretty upsetting.”

After college Colby played basketball for the Winnipeg Jets semipro team for a few months before becoming a substitute teacher in Lackawanna, New York, a suburb of Buffalo.

Colby said he now tries to make a trip back to Moorhead every couple of years to see his old squad in action. The team still plays in the same gymnasium that he did, Alex Nemzek Hall.

Moorhead has twice recently honored the 1970-1971 team, arguably the best in the program’s history. The team gathered for a reunion four years ago, and on September 27, 2013 the players were once again honored as they were inducted into the Dragon Athletics Hall of Fame.

“They rolled out the red carpet once again,” Colby said.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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