Natalie Bremer takes a shot during one of her games this season on the Lake City girls basketball team. The advanced to the state tournament.
Natalie Bremer takes a shot during one of her games this season on the Lake City girls basketball team. The advanced to the state tournament. PHOTO SUBMITTED

LAKE CITY, Minn. – For the Bremer family, a large part of their lives revolves around two things: bovines and basketball.  

The Bremers – Steve and Michelle along with their children, Andrew, 24, Zach, 21, and Natalie, 17 – have spent many hours in the gym playing, watching or coaching basketball while also devoting a large amount of time doing chores on their 50-cow dairy farm near Lake City.
This year, Natalie played for the Lake City girls basketball team, which ended the season 19-4. Although the team’s final loss came in the quarterfinal game of the state tournament, it was the girls basketball team’s first appearance back at the state tournament in 37 years, Steve said.
“We’ve been good for the past couple years so people knew we would probably be good again this year,” Natalie said. “We just had to show it to people.”
Natalie also had a memorable season, being named to the all-conference team for the third year in a row and voted the Hiawatha Valley League Player of the Year. The 5-foot-11-inch junior guard, who has been in the starting lineup since eighth grade, also set a new record this season and became the Lake City girls basketball all-time leading scorer with 1,798 points in her varsity career.
“People realize how much I love the game and how much I want to get out of the game,” Natalie said.
With a shortened season that started in January due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Natalie and her team had only one week of formal practice before facing opponents.
“That was really different to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for games,” Natalie said. “But it was really exciting to get back on the court. We were all waiting.”
As Natalie’s family watched her season play out and end with a state tournament appearance, it brought back memories of playing basketball in high school for each of them.
Steve began his varsity career as a sophomore after being pulled up from b-squad when Lake City went to state in 1983.
“In the playoffs, we were huge underdogs, and in order for us to win Section 1, it was a major accomplishment to win over a team like Caledonia,” Steve said.
The Tigers came home sixth overall in the state, losing their final game in the consolation round.
“We got to play at Williams Arena (at the University of Minnesota) for the quarterfinal game,” Steve said. “That was pretty awesome to play on a raised floor and have the fans all around you.”
Although Lake City did not repeat a state tournament appearance during Steve’s junior and senior years, he did become a starting guard for the team.
Like his dad, Zach, a 6-foot-5-inch forward, was also pulled up to the varsity squad in his sophomore year in 2016.
“We were the underdogs the whole season because nobody thought we would be good that year so we had our team slogan, ‘Let them sleep,’” he said about playing in 2017. “We went deep into the playoffs and ended up taking down Caledonia in the section finals and went to state that year.”
While Zach’s team also lost in the quarterfinals to the No. 1-ranked team in the state, he was able to show off his skills with his first dunk during the consolation game.
During his junior and senior year, Zach started as a forward and then played one year for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls after being recruited. He is now back on the farm working full time with his dad while his mom works off the farm.
Michelle, who graduated in 1990, also played basketball in her younger years, taking the role as starting guard in ninth grade for Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom.
“We had a good chance to go to state when I was a senior, but when I blew out my knee and didn’t play that year, that chance went down the tubes,” she said. “I loved playing the sport. My biggest goal was to beat my sister at everything because she played those sports too.”
Andrew also saw time on the basketball court during high school but took more joy on the baseball diamond.
Basketball has been a great fit for the farming family.
“I liked football and baseball, too, but that was during planting and harvesting seasons,” Steve said. “Basketball was my only sport because I didn’t have fieldwork to do. It didn’t interfere. And I liked playing the game.”
Once his kids started playing, Steve did what he needed to do to get to as many games as he could. For home games, he moved his usual 5 p.m. milking earlier in order to make it to the gym in time.
“For away games, it would depend on how far away it was if I could make it or not,” Steve said.
Now that Zach works on the farm with Steve, the younger Bremer is able to finish chores in order to allow Steve to attend more away games.  
Basketball for the younger Bremer generation has been a year-round sport.
“It’s really changed since I’ve played basketball,” Steve said. “When I played it was just a winter sport. We didn’t have the summer camps and summer leagues they do now.”
It has also sparked friendly competition at home. The hoop in their driveway has had a lot of use over the years.
“Zach and I are always playing one-on-one to pass the time,” Natalie said.
The siblings also like to compete in the barn, sometimes racing to see who can complete their chores before the other.
“They’ve always been competitive,” Michelle said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing outside.”
Plus, the farm provides their own personal weight lifting program. The Bremers put up 1,000 small square bales of hay and 1,500 small square bales of straw during the summer along with one semi load of straw in February.  
All the Bremers realize the hard work ethic they developed on the farm has transferred to the court.
“I’ve always had this motto that you get out of farming what you put into it,” Steve said. “I transferred that to basketball too. … It takes a team effort to succeed. All family members need to work together to achieve the same goal.”
For the Bremer family, that applies to both taking care of bovines and playing basketball.