Welcome to Czar Season 14

Its a new school year and that means we flip the page to a new and currently unknown season for 2020-21.  The usual list of all fall events is now posted on the Fall Hoops page.  There are some extra ones this season.  If I missed yours, please pass it along.

I will be once again doing my annual season previews (see page here).  Conferences and independents will definitely be done.  Not sure if I'll be doing section previews yet or not.  But I may still find a way to sneak some of those teams in.

We have 9 players from class of 2021 that have already committed.  That list can be found here.

If we have holiday tournaments, I'll have my usual page of those but for now I'm leaving that out.

I've also done all the usual clean up of links.  That includes updating the current recruiting rankings from all the major services.  See that on my Players page.

That cleanup also includes all the links on the left hand side of the main site or for those of you on mobile, check out the Resources page (always 1st in the main menu too).  That includes links to anything and everything you may want to know about Minnesota hoops during the high school or grassroots seasons.  It includes national sites, recruiting calendars, signing dates, records and award winners just to name a few useful things that can be found there.

A midwest version of Vegas

Its multiple teams with top players from around the region.  It feels like 90+ degrees in a bright sun.  I'm on the road in July.  A couple MIAC coaches in the gym.  Adult beverages at night evaluating life and the day of hoops.  Ah yes, it feels like a great Las Vegas trip.  Even if Cheadle and many Minnesota refs are working.  So is this heaven?  No its Iowa.  Oh people will come Czar, people will most definitely come.  And so I emerged from the cornfields to take in a road session of games in this abbreviated grassroots season.  But unlike the movie, I return from left field.  I even return with money as the Vegas players card works at Diamond Jo's along the way but no stop there which is always the best move.  Remember folks, Grinders Win, Gamblers Lose.

The weekend in Ames at the All Iowa Attack Fieldhouse featured a surprisingly strong field for a regional event.  Granted having this not be the July open events period definitely caused some helpful movement of teams.  So we'll begin with results from the high school divisions and then comment on some of what I had the chance to watch.

17U Showcase
Crossfire Stone 4-1
D1 Minnesota 3-0
D1 Minnesota Prospects Culp 0-3
Heat Tauer 3-0
Howard Pulley 16s/17s  2-1
MN Rise 3-2
Select Ohnstad 3-1

Select Ohnstad had all 4 of their games decided by 3 points or less.  Sunday was especially wild.  They were sleepy vs MN Rise and lost by 2.  They came back in their next game with Jaelen Treml's layup at the buzzer in OT to beat Team Factory Gold.   Speaking of MN Rise, they won their 1st 3 games including that Select game.  But then gave up a 15 point lead including a 4 point play with about 15 seconds left to lose by 1 to South Dakota Network.  Solid weekend for the outstate club.

Crossfire Stone is now 7-1 on the season.  They had a pair of 1 point games that they won.  Brad Cimperman with a late FT to win the Lincoln Supreme game.  The only loss was a hard fought 6 point loss to Heat Tauer, no shame in that.  They also had a good win over South Dakota Attack.  Attack played without Wisconsin commit Matthew Mors but did have top 5 Iowa soph Tanner Te Slaa (who we saw last week with SD Venom 16s but this is his normal team).  Te Slaa had a late 3 and the game winning free throws to beat Howard Pulley on Saturday night.

Continuing with Howard Pulley they were one of the 3 local teams to pick up good wins over Team Factory UA Rise with Wisconsin commit Chucky Hepburn.  Heat Tauer and D1 Minnesota also on that list.  Very surprised they came away from the weekend 0-4.  Very fun team to watch and talented.

17U Division 
MN Lockdown 4-0 Tourney Champs
MN Nice 1-3
MN Select Robinson 3-2 Consolation Champs

A 1 point loss in pool pushed Select Robinson to 2nd in pool.  Then the local MN Lockdown squad beat them by 2 in the semis.  Lockdown went on win the championship game by 9.  Select avenged the 1 point pool loss to All Iowa Attack Black with a 1 point win in the consolation title game.

16U/15U Showcase
D1 Minnesota 15s 3-0
D1 Minnesota 16s 2-1
D1 Prospects 16s-Chase 2-1
D1 Prospects 16s-Tiran 2-1
D1 Prospects 15s-Laymon 0-3
Howard Pulley 15s 3-0
Heat MacDonald 16s 0-3
MN Rise 16s 2-2
MN Suns 16s Richardson 2-2

MN Nice 2-2
MN Grizzlies 1-3
MN Heat Yahn 0-4

D1 Minnesota 15s steamrolled their way to 3 easy wins for coach Al Harris.  The 16U crew had a long rough stretch of solo offense against a very good Lincoln Supreme 16s team.  That put them down by 19 in the 2nd half before a late rally fell short.  Howard Pulley 15s look to be a very fun roster with some of the guys from last year's loaded DTA 14U squad that played 15s locally.  Tommy Humphries and CJ O'Hara on the perimeter with the massive Lincoln Palbicki inside.  Add in guys like Emmanuel Schmitter and you have a talented crew.  They also blew out a talented South Dakota Attack squad.  Heat MacDonald had a very good All Iowa Attack crew on the ropes before losing in overtime.  Star guard Cole Glasgow from that AIA team is reported to be joining the D1 Minnesota 16s.

Player Thoughts
The Star - Eli King (Caledonia, D1 17s).  It was his play in the game vs Team Factory on Saturday night that earned him an immediate offer from the Gophers.  Explosive off the floor for dunks, distributing the ball and defending a guy like Chucky Hepburn, he played at a ridiculous level.

Andrew Morgan (Waseca, Heat Tauer) - In their big game vs Team Factory, Will Tschetter had offensive struggles and Morgan more than made up for it with a strong double double of 18 points, 11 rebounds (give or take) and a couple of blocks. 

Ryan Dufault (Waseca, Heat Tauer) - His toughness shows thru in making big plays and he did that to be a major factor in why the Heat held off Team Factory.

Kyreese Willingham (Waseca, Heat Tauer) - Just as Team Factory was rallying late, he took 2 plays that Chucky Hepburn caused total chaos on and turned them into a 3 and a 3 point play.  Those sealed the game  He also was active on the glass approaching double digit boards in that game.

Josh Strong (Champlin Park, Heat Tauer).  Now he had some turnover moments.  But he did hit some big 3s and have some notable steals.  Definitely keeping an eye on him as another PG in the 2021 class.

Caleb Siwek (Rosemount, Howard Pulley 16s) - He hit a late clutch 3 to tie the game vs SD Attack.  Then against Team Factory knocked down 4 early 3s and then his 6th triple of that game was the dagger to clinch it.  I know shooting runs in the family (brother Luke is at Hamline) but I didn't know he shot it like that.  20 PPG in the South Suburban.  After his stats were pointed out to me I knew I missed on him as my breakout player there, but seeing it in person totally cemented that.

Tre Holloman (CDH, Howard Pulley 16s) - He got the better of the battle with Hepburn on Sunday.  Had a pair of big triples and then a very smart postup for a hoop when he saw Hepburn's small backup was guarding him.  Plus the usual distributing and control of pace that we've all come to expect from him.

Reid Patterson (Lakeville South, Select Ohnstad) - Hit the game winner in the early Saturday opener.  Then had big buckets to bring them back in their last game and a good look at a game winner there to before Jaelen Treml won it in overtime.

Kegan Heiderscheidt (Sleepy Eye, MN Rise) - A lanky big with some skill and athleticism.  Also loved his fire.  He was a key piece in Rise success this weekend.

Other Comments
Minnesota showed well with 7 of the top 12 juniors and 5 of the top 9 sophs playing.  3 others in those groups were on roster for the teams there but unable to play.  As previously mentioned, this wasn't just about Minnesota though.  North Dakota had its #1 and #3 sophomores represented.  South Dakota's top sophomore and #2 junior were there (#1 junior Matthew Mors did not attend).  Nebraska had its 2nd and 3rd players from 2021 and 2022 there.  Iowa had 3 of its top 5 sophomores there with the interesting factoid that they were playing on teams representing 3 different states.  So all of this made for some very fun matchups.  #1 soph in ND going head up against the #2 soph in Nebraska.  #1 soph in Iowa going head up against the #2 junior in Nebraska.  Seeing that level of competition is what makes grassroots ball so fun and why I enjoy my Vegas trip.  It also is a great differentiator for college coaches.  Trying to do it on dicey video feeds is an even bigger challenge to the always difficult art of recruiting.

If you're a long time reader, you won't be surprised I saw Chucky Hepburn 3 times.  I am going to watch a Wisconsin commit after all.  While he and his team struggled, I loved his game.  23 points vs Heat.  Team collapsed when he was on the bench.  He has such quickness with the ball and defensively with his hands.  Uses his body well and has a swagger.  Wisconsin also showing interest in Lincoln Supreme's Isaac Traudt (2022).  He didn't have a big game, but as a big wing who can shoot it, I still liked what I saw.  It was the toughness of the other star on that team, Cale Jacobsen, that really carried the day for that team.  Also liked what I saw from SD Attack 16s star Caden Hinker.  The forward holds offers from Augustana and Sioux Falls.  I definitely expect that list to grow.  Versatile inside/out game, has strength and a bit of bounce.  Joe Hurlburt (D1 16s, Enderlin, ND) has a frame that college coaches love and after seeing him in person you can see why.  I think he needs some time to adjust to the bigger stage but definitely want to see his development.  You can see PG Tamin Lipsey (Iowa, D1 17s playing up) isn't all the way back from his knee injury, but his vision and feel for the game are there.  He will be fun to watch.

2020 Hard Work Kick Off Review

While a couple teams have already gone on the road, the revamped AAU schedule (thank you COVID-19) really kicked into gear over the holiday with the Prep Hoops Hard Work Kickoff in Appleton, WI.  Minnesota was represented with a handful of teams in each division.  Here are the results and a few highlights from what I watched online.

MN Chill 3-0
Crossfire Brown 0-3
MN Select James 0-3
MN Select Koch 1-2

It was a nice weekend for Chill as they hung on for a 4 point win in their opener on Friday night.  They followed that up with a pair of double digit wins on Saturday.  Productive weekends from forwards Molley Komara (Park Center) and Khalif Bettis (Burnsville).

Rough weekends for Crossfire Brown and Select James.  Crossfire with 3 single digit losses.  That included giving up a 6 point lead at the very end of their Friday night loss.  Wing Henry Skinner (Rockford) with a big 2nd half in that loss to keep Crossfire in it.  John Mueller (Watertown-Mayer) also productive for Crossfire.

Select James had a double digit lead in their opener before scoring only 1 FG in the last 20 minutes.  They lost all 3 games by double digits.  Center Jeffrey Iwuchuwku (Park Center) is raw but shows upside.  The Eastview duo of Rohan Jordan and Hayden Hoffman look to be future pieces for the Lightning.  Jordan reminds me of PC grad David Ijamibola while Hoffman's game showed a striking similarity to Eastview grad Tate Machacek.

MN Select Davis 0-3
Crossfire Barker 3-0
Crossfire Terhaar 2-1
SE MN Thunder 2-1
MSP Elite 1-2

The Select Davis record is a bit harsh.  They lost big to 2 loaded squads in SD Venom and WI Playground Club's Under Armour squad.  No real shame there.  They came back to take a 1 point lead later in the 2nd half of their Illinois Hoopstars game before giving up 10 of the last 13 points.   Standouts for Select included Daniel Ijadimbola (BSM) and RJ Joiklow (Simley), Nathan Johnson (STA), RJ Spencer (TG) and Brayden Williams (Owatonna) all showing flashes as well.

Solid weekend for the Crossfire teams as they go 5-1.  That included a local bragging rights win for the Terhaar squad over MSP Elite.  That MSP Elite squad is largely a group of Spring Lake Park players.

MN Select Ohnstad 2-1
MN Select Robinson 2-1
Crossfire Stone 3-0
Crossfire Jorgenson 0-3

Only loss for the Mitch Ohnstad's top Select squad was a hard fought battle against the WI Playground Club Under Armour 17s.  Reid Patterson making important shots in their games.  Jaelen Treml's defense sticking out as well.  That included a respectable effort, particularly in the 1st half, against high major recruit James Graham in the WI PGC game.  Graham leading WI PGC with 20 points in the game and was the difference.

Select Robinson started out with a loss in the game I watched.  But I think this is a squad that could surprise folks with their solid guard play and lesser known guys on the front line.  Shakopee's Mick Wherley is one of those guys.  Grayson Stalboerger (Eastview) with 4 triples and 20 points to keep them close in the game they lost.

Crossfire Stone swept their weekend.  Forward Connor Chappell (Orono) is a guy who I can see jumping onto the radar with his athleticism.  PG Reagan Koch (Jordan) makes me think a bit of NSIC PGs like Ryan Bruggeman and Jameson Bryan.  Not a wow guy, but makes open shots, is tough and doesn't turn it over.  He has a D2 offer from Colorado School of Mines.

The Czar's 2019-20 All-Surprise Team

The 2019-2020 season is a wrap.  That means its time to hand out hardware and review what happened and what we thought would happen.  In that spirit, I'm going to go back and select a player or 2 from each conference that I previewed.  But this is not an MVP vote.  These are players that didn't necessarily make the biggest impact, but they are guys that exceeded any expectations that I had before the season started.  All were highly valuable contributors to their teams.

EMAC: Joey Ritzema - Avail Academy
Ritzema was the classic dirty work guy for the Valor (FEAR THE RHINO!).  But he also made big plays. 

IMAC: Theo Liu - Blake
The 3 Amigos at the guard spots for the Bears are well known.  But its Theo Liu as a stretch 4 and a 4th scoring option on the floor took the Bears to another level.

Lake: JT Gaffney - Minnetonka and Regan Merritt - Hopkins
Gaffney was a very productive wing for the Skippers.  From knocking down shots to being a defensive stopper, he was a critical piece.

Merritt was a great role guy for Hopkins off the bench.  He hit big shots and was solid defensively.  He always seemed to make a big impact when on the floor.

Metro East:  Dewayne Thompson - Henry Sibley
While the Warriors had a long year, it would have been much longer if not for Thompson.  He emerged as a go to guy that was hard to contain off the bounce.

Metro West: Mahad Faisal - Chaska
Faisal was a productive wing scorer for the Hawks.  He gave them critical length and another guy who could make a big shot.

Minneapolis: Quientrail Jamison-Travis - Minneapolis North
Jamison-Travis was an absolute load inside for opponents to deal with.  His strength and size allowed him to bully his way to many buckets and rebounds.  It also allowed Davon Townley to expand his game by playing more away from the basket.

MCAA: Alex Heimerl - Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity
Another forward gets recognized here.  Heimerl was a key frontcourt piece for the Bulldogs to go with their solid guard play.

NW Suburban:  Kaleb Skelly - Spring Lake Park
It was the seniors who rightfully got noticed for the Panthers.  But it was the junior Skelly who was the extra piece for Spring Lake Park.  His ability to play inside and outside and give them some sort of front line presence was critical to their success.

St. Paul: Nico Peterson - Highland Park
I could have gone with teammate Carter Owens here too.  But it was Peterson's energetic forward play that really got my attention when I watched the Scots this year.  He could run the floor for dunks but also block shots on the other end.

Skyline: Teige Lethert - St. Croix Prep and AJ Greene - Concordia
In the Skyline I have to stretch a bit.  Freshman AJ Greene is the clear newcomer of the year.  The lefty wing was a big part of the rotation for a very good season for Concordia.  A quality 3rd option that will be a much more important player next year.

Lethert forced his way into the St. Croix Prep rotation with toughness and physical play.  That was much needed on the Lions front line.  He'll also see a bigger role next year to go with the quality backcourt that St. Croix Prep returns.

South Suburban: Malcolm Jones - Prior Lake and Avery Mast - Lakeville South
Here its a pair of sophomores who raised their games to become key rotation pieces.  Jones showed a 2 way game that will allow him to step in and try to pick up some of the slack of losing Dawson Garcia.  Expect a big season for him next year at Prior Lake.

Mast proved to be very productive for the Cougars.  While the guard play and interior play were known, it was the wing play of Mast that was a big key.

Suburban East: Evan Kim - Mounds View
For a team that had a very surprising year and did it in their typical fashion, Kim was the perfect guy.  Big, tough and smart with the ability to knock down shots.  That was Kim's story and he was the key to the Mustangs offense all year.

Tri-Metro: Bryce Boyd - Holy Angels and Lamar Grayson - Richfield
I first saw Boyd over the holidays and immediately liked the junior wing.  Good athlete and capable of making plays.  Definitely a name I'm keeping an eye on.

Grayson went from just another one of many guys for Richfield to being a major force.  He was a dynamic scoring slasher for the Spartans.  Very tough to stop and very dangerous in transition.

Independents: Michael Jude - Kaleidoscope
The freshman guard saw plenty of time last year.  This year he took the point guard spot and ran with it.  Not only did he run the show effectively but he was a knockdown shooter as well.  That helped lead the young Comets to a very nice 15-13 season in their 2nd year.  That included their 1st playoff home game.

Coaches: Omar McMillan - Richfield and Nate Bellefeuille - Legacy Christian
This section is to recognize the coaches of teams who went beyond expectations (#ShockTheCzar).  I'm saddened not to see Richfield make a run at state as that could have given them a case for worst Czar prediction ever.  But they still come in a clear 2nd as I got them totally wrong.  The pieces from last year came back and put it together.  Coach McMillan for that would be my metro coach of the year.

Even in the wide open abyss known as the section 4A race, seeing Legacy make the section final was a big surprise.  This year was a 15 game improvement from 9 wins to 24-4.  That results in the best season in school history.  There were definitely pieces in place and getting Jake Wald from St. Francis was huge.  But the Lions put it together at least a year earlier than expected.  Great work by coach Bellefeuille to put it together.

The Fans Go Out With A Bang

Section finals here we go.  31 teams playing for titles starting tonight.  But its a really strange 24 hours that we've seen.  Tonight's finals played with fans but that's the last fan night we'll see.  Friday's finals will be played with limited family tickets available due to the Corona virus scare.  Props to the MSHSL for lifting the restriction on live streaming playoff games for those games.  So tonight we get a subdued crowd in Hastings for the 4AAAA final.  Its a rubber match between Suburban East foes East Ridge and Cretin-Derham Hall.  The teams split home wins during the regular season with a Woodbury upset costing CDH a share of the league crown.

Game Time
Offense hard to come by early, particularly for East Ridge.  Tre Holloman 6 straight CDH points for a 12-2 CDH lead at the 10:15 mark.  East Ridge unable to get anything to fall.  But Ben North finally breaks the ice with a 3 just under the 10 minute mark.  That triggers an 11-2 Raptors run.  Brody Kriesel with a 3 to end it.  14-13 CDH at 5:50.  CDH with the next 8 as a couple of East Ridge turnovers end the run.  North with 2 hoops to stop the bleeding.  22-17 CDH at the break. 

CDH seemed to have an answer for every East Ridge bit of momentum.  Kriesel 2 FTs countered by a J'Vonne Hadley triple.  Drew Adams 3 countered by Amari Carter with a drive for 2 and a triple of his own.  Hadley in the post dishes to Will Burke for a layup.  Carter puts back his own miss.  CDH lead back to 10, 38-28, with under 12 minutes left.

Ben Carlson heating up despite being mugged all night inside.  He scores in the post and knocks down a 3 as part of 6 straight East Ridge points.  After a CDH FT, its Hadley's 4th foul and another Ben North triple.  Kriesel to the line to make 1 of 2 with 4:49 left.  That miss would have tied the game and it brings Hadley back in.  42-41 CDH.  Holloman takes Carlson off the ball screen switch and finishes.  Kriesel from the short corner vs a 1-2-2 zone.  Holloman has the answer with the left hand.  Then he strips Carlson inside (could have easily been a jump ball).  Carter goes to the quick spin move in the post for a layup.  48-42 CDH with 1:40 left and it looks to be over.

Carlson with a free throw.  Kriesel with a strip at halfcourt that he converts with 1:10 left.  Back to a 1 possession game.  CDH misses a front end.  Kriesel converts that into a left wing triple.  48 all with 40 seconds left.  CDH timeout with 27.2 left.  They hold with Holloman.  He drives and his lob is too high for Hadley.  Carlson with a chance to grab it but can't hang on.  Its out to Cretin under their basket with 3.7 left.  The teams trade time outs.  On the BLOB, nothing on the initial set.  Curtis Jones drops back beyond the 3 point line for the catch.  1 dribble left and he'll pull it from 25 feet straight away.  BANG!  Raiders advance with a 51-48 win.  Not to mention it keeps my picks at dead even going into the final night (though I need a Spring Lake Park win to not be underwater).  All 10 starters score and no bench points in the game.

Post Game
Heartbreak hotel for East Ridge. Brody Kriesel with 13 of his 18 points in the 2nd half including the clutch plays in the last 1:15 to get the game back to even.  Ben Carlson with 10 of his 15 in the 2nd half.  Ben North with 2 3s and 10 points.  Kendall Blue with only 2 FTs as he couldn't buy a shot all night.  Bad luck for the talented sophomore and the Raptors.  Ben Carlson goes over 2000 points for his career and finishes as the school's all-time leading scorer.  Raptors finish their season 23-6 with their only losses in the new year being the 2 to CDH.

Curtis Jones with the game winner and 16 points to lead CDH.  Tre Holloman adds 14 points including 3 big plays down the stretch.  Amari Carter adds a productive 12 point night.  J'Vonne Hadley held to 7 points.  He's been used in the post more as the season has progressed.  Didn't see much of it tonight though.

Now assuming the state tourney is played (which is a major assumption at this point), worst case for CDH is a 3 seed.  But the debate of Eastview vs CDH in the seeding is a fun one.  The Eastview win over Wayzata while CDH lost to Wayzata likely tips the scales to Eastview.  But CDH has a Minnehaha win on their resume.  At the end of the day its likely a 2 vs 3 scenario which only determines jersey color in a potential semifinal.  Both would get a random draw team in round 1.

2020 5AAAA Semis Recap

We're down semifinals and finals across the state this week.  My week begins with the 5AAAA semis at Coon Rapids.  Good crowd on hand.  Solid hot dog on the concessions.  No band for any of the schools was disappointing.  South Dakota on hand watching the games as well.

Game 1: Park Center 60 Mounds View 39
Dain Dainja with a pass out of the post that leads to an offensive board.  Then an assist for a layup and he'll score his own post up with Mounds View not bringing a double team.  Josh Brown 2 bombs and its 17-5 Park Center just over 5 minutes in.  Soph wing Dylan Wheeler with a couple of 3s as Mounds View counters with a 10-0 run to jump right back in the game.  Dainja 2 more inside hoops.  Wheeler a hoop and a triple.  Dainja ends the half with a mean dunk.  29-25 Park Cetner at the break.

Park Center much more disciplined on the defensive end in the 2nd half.  John Montgomery with a free throw and a tip in to keep Mounds View within 36-31 with 10:35 left.  Mustangs go the next 4 minutes without a field goal.  Dainja with a steal and some circus dribbling to go coast to coast for a 3 point play.  Josh Brown another triple.  Park Center hits a bunch of free throws from there to coast to a win  Dain Dainja with 17 points to lead all scorers.  Park Center with 4 in double figures.  Dylan Wheeler with 15 to lead Mounds View, 13 in the 1st half.  Mounds View tried a quick box and 1 on Josh Brown.  Interesting that they never really doubled inside much but Dainja's passing is a legit threat.

Game 2: Spring Lake Park 80 Champlin Park 59
2 simple storylines here.  Too much Gabe Myren for Spring Lake Park and too little offense from Champlin Park.  Spring Lake Park 4 early 3s to open a 19-6 lead.  Champlin Park with the next 10 to cut the margin to 3.  Francis Nwaokorie 1st 5 points in that run plus a skip pass for the next 3.  Myren converts 2 turnovers into 3 point plays.  Kaleb Skelly adds 3 triples.  Spring Lake Park 40-30 at the break.

Its a 12 point game with 12:30 left when Spring Lake Park blows it open.  Myren in the post, at the line, from deep and 2 more for 9 in a row.  Jacob Say adds his 3rd 3 of the night.  Blake Remme 2 hoops before a Myren putback.  Remme with the exclamation point with a mean tip dunk with 5:43 left.  74-43 Spring Lake Park lead after the 24-5 run.  Garbage time from the there.  Gabe Myren terrific with 33 points on the night. 20 of those in the 1st half.  Only 2 3s as he was attacking all night.  3 others in double figures for Spring Lake Park.  Cooper Olson and Devon Moore with 11 each for Champlin Park.  They strangely really didn't look at Francis Nwaokorie inside.  All 5 of his points in that 1 early spurt and largely invisible beyond that.  Some credit to Daydor Phillips for battling him in there all night.  His reward?  Another chance to battle with Dain Dainja inside in the section final at Rogers on Friday night.

Roll along Playoffs, roll along

A fun couple of playoff nights on the schedule.  Thursday gives the small schools center stage.  Friday is a quiet night with the 1st AAAA semis on the schedule.

Thursday: Humboldt 65 Hiawatha 52
This was the 8 vs 9 game in 4AA and I had the upset correctly picked in this one.  No Jaheim Houts for Hiawatha in this one.  Desmond Lugo a pair of 3s and Humboldt storms out to a 15-4 lead.  But a mysterious lack of game plan from Humboldt coach Augie Garcia.  He lets the 1 Hiawatha weapon, PG Jessye Lewis, pretty much do whatever he wants.  Plus he lets his guys settle for 3s against the 2-3 zone rather than easier looks against a defense that was one of the worst I saw all year.  Humboldt gets a couple of free throws at the halftime buzzer to go up by 5.

Romelle Bell lights up the 2nd half for Hiawatha.  He starts with 2 buckets.  Lewis with a 3 and a drive.  Bell from Lewis and he'll cut for 2 more.  Lewis for 3 and Bell for 3 to end an 11-2 run from a tie game.  44-35 Hiawatha with their biggest lead of the night with just under 12 minutes left.  Lewis with another assist for a 3 to keep the Wolves lead at 47-40 with 10:10 left.  But Hiawatha gets only 1 more field goal the rest of the way.  Hawks go on a 25-5 run to finish the game.  Lugo 2 more trips to the deep beyond.  Keith Pabon 2 triples with the 2nd coming as Bell cramps up.  A turnover for a layup and the Humboldt lead is 59-50 with 4:14 left.  The rest is basically free throws.    Jessye Lewis 22, Romelle Bell 20 for Hiawatha but no help beyond that.  Desmond Lugo with 5 triples and 18 points to lead Humboldt to the quarters on Saturday vs St. Croix Prep.

Friday: Hopkins 66 Wayzata 56
Hopkins with 2 buckets in the 1st minute but then only 1 FG in the next 12:50.  Wayzata with a 12-0 run after those buckets with a couple Camden Heide assists included.  Heide with a floater and a Drew Berkland 3 to push the lead to 22-11 at 5:28.  Walton backdoor for 2 free throws plus a jumper and Hopkins converts a turnover to cut the lead to 5 with just over 3 minutes left.  Wayzata rallies with 2 Carter Bjerke 3s in an 8-0 for a 33-20 lead.  Walton closes the half with 2 free throws to cut the margin to 33-22.  Walton 12 in the half, 8-8 FTs.  Half of that damage done with his primary defender Kody Williams sitting with 2 fouls.

Bjerke scores inside to open the half for another 13 point lead.  Here come the Royals.  7-0 run with 2 Xavier White buckets to force a quick Wayzata timeout.  Walton for 3 and a putback for a 3 point play to cut the lead to 1.  Regan Merritt another productive night off the bench for Hopkins.  His steal for a 3 point play and another 3 tie it up.  Walton to a fadeaway and Hopkins is back on top 47-45 with 8:45 left.  Back and forth we go with Merritt making 1-2 free throws for a 53-52 Hopkins lead with 4:21 left.

Then its time for Kerwin Walton to take over.  He drives and hits a crazy off balance banker for a 3 point play with 3:33 left.  Then a sweet backcut on a BLOB for another 3 point play.  Teams trade a couple of buckets and its Walton to Andre Gray for a bucket with 1:32 left to keep the lead at 7.  He adds 2 free throws to help the margin get to double figures.  Kerwin Walton finishes with 30 points, half of them at the charity stripe.  Much to the chagrin of Wayzata coach Brian Schnettler who had to be held back from the officials late.  Carter Bjerke 3 triples and 15 points to lead Wayzata.  Drew Berkland adds 3 triples and 13 points for the Trojans.  Hopkins advances to face Cooper in the section final next Wednesday.  Cooper and St. Louis Park played 3 games this year with margins of 2, 2 and 4 points.