Vegas Review 2015

The Czar's annual trip to Las Vegas for the July recruiting period has completed.  5 years of Vegas now in the books.  Here are some of the sights and sounds of my trip.

The Games
Probably the biggest theme for me for the trip was all of the point guard play.  Here's a list of no fewer than 10 high profile PGs I saw and its not necessarily all inclusive.  Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Frank Jackson, Jaylen Fisher, Eric Hester, Kobi Simmons, Payton Pritchard, Jaquori McLaughlin, Trevon Duval (2017), Alex Barcello (2017), Jordan McCabe (2018).  McLaughin and Pritchard had Wisconsin following them and as a Badger fan I'd be very happy if Bucky got either one.  My 1st game featured Ball vs Smith.  Ball is a bigger Tyus Jones type (terrific passer).  His mom and pop team (literally his parents coaching his team with him and his 2 brothers playing with many of his high school teammates) played an old Loyola Marymount style with his youngest brother playing the Jeff Fryer role.  The entire team had the "if it feels like leather" green light.  Entertaining but not the greatest basketball and Ball's team ended up getting blown out.  Friday featured a bunch of fun close games in the Fab 48 in their top division.  Main player highlight there was Thon Maker in the 1st game of the day but also saw the Colorado Chaos cause major chaos with 2 late 3s before giving up a buzzer beater to Team Thad. 

As to Minnesota teams, a great showing.  12 teams in the Las Vegas Classic were a combined 39-23, 11 teams in the Fab 48 were 41-20.  D1s 3 teams in the Adidas Summer Championships were 14-4.  That's 94-47 (or 2 out of every 3) overall.  The D1 15s won their 15U bracket.  WOTN Nicols made the championship of the Gold Bracket at the Fab 48 but needed to make their flight.  That meant Select Altenhofen would finish 8-0 and win that title.  Fury Johnson 15s lost in the 2nd bracket championship in Bigfoot.  MN Warriors went 5-1 and lost by 1 in the quarters to the eventual champ of their bracket.  D1 16s lost in the quarters to the eventual runner up.   Big story line locally was Minnesota Fury Wilde taking out EYBL rep Meanstreets easily in the 1st round of championship bracket.  They saw a double digit lead cut to 3 before pulling away.   Heat Northwest, Heat Vang, Select Ohnstad, Select Altenhofen, Fury Johnson, Fury Wilde, D1 16s, D1 15s, MN Warrors, MN Lockdown 15s all won their pools.  Fury Zurn had a great late night matchup against Mac Irvin Fire that they couldn't finish late otherwise that would have been a signature win and pool title as well.  In the D1 16s bracket loss to Utah Prospects, Goanar Mar put on one of the best games I've seen him play as he tried to bring D1 back from double digits down but they ended up getting no closer than 2.  Other local players that played well when I saw them include (in no particular order) David Lindstrand, Austin Slater, Race Thompson, Zach Theisen, Charlie Irmiger, Matthew Hurt, Steffon Mitchell.  Over half of the NSIC was out in Vegas following the local kids too which is as many of those schools as I can recall seeing out there in my time.

The Grub and the Goons
Quality food at all the sites provided to the college coaches.  That's also good for the pocket book.  Quality chicken at Adidas.  Amazing cinnamon roll flavored mini cupcakes at the Fab 48.  The neighboring Irish Pub is always good for lunch on Wednesday before heading out to a week full of games.  As always, plenty of Pepsi consumed too.  The more I see of Vegas, the more shady it is.  Plenty of scary creatures on the streets (insert your own joke about me here) which make even me pay attention.  Did get a chance to saunter through The Fremont Street Experience on the way back to the airport on Saturday.   Think massive full time block party.  I do need to find time to do the zip line over the street sometime.

The Gambling
Always have to make time to hit the tables in Vegas.  After last year's huge losses, a basketball saying came to mind.  There comes a time when summer asks what you did all winter.  Czar put in his fair share of off-season work to make sure that disaster didn't happen again.  Night 1 wasn't anything special but I did walk away with fair gains.  Night 2 it all came thru as I made a big run.  Night 3 was the casino's night as they got all their losses back.  I tried to weather the storm figuring the bad stretch would pass but just never got thru it.  I entered Night 4 dead even and stepped up to higher stakes tables but with less decks so that changes the odds I had prepped with.  After a very rough start, I made the critical decision to switch tables (something I didn't do on night 3) and got back above water for a very tidy profit.  So Czar leaves victorious for the 2nd time in 3 years, always a good feeling.  But especially nice knowing the preparation paid off, literally and figuratively.  2 major differences in my play this year that helped.  Playing possible busts vs dealer non bust cards (e.g hit 16 vs a dealer 17) and soft hands (like double soft 15 vs a 6).  For those wondering, it was not my hot play that caused the Cosmopolitan to burst into flames on Saturday.  Just remember folks as we always say in honor of De La Salle coach Dave Thorson, #GrindersWinGamblersLose

Hit the road 2015

The 4th of July holiday is over and that means its time for our local grassroots teams to hit the road for most of the next 3 weeks.  The 1st period is always a very Midwest feel as teams mostly stay close to home.

Here's the list for the 1st open period starting on Wednesday.  Interesting that Heat Vang gets super pooled in Indy for the 2nd straight year.  They also have a strange split in the schedule where they will play Wednesday night, twice on Thursday and after their 6 PM game on Thursday, will not play again until Saturday morning.  The 1st 12 17U pools in Milwaukee have a Minnesota representative.  Iowa has many local 2nd teams.  Chicago also well represented with Minnesota teams.

Adidas Invitational (Indianapolis)
MN Heat Vang (Super Pool, 5 of those pools)
MN Heat NW
MN Heat Schwarz
MN Heat Schumann

MN Heat Nord
MN Magic Vatsaas

MN Heat Reese

NY2LA Next Level Invitational (Milwaukee)
MN Comets Lewis
MN Comets Servaty
MN Phenom
MN Select Altenhofen
MN Select Ellis
MN Select Ohnstad
Net Gain Sports (see below)
Real Athletics - Jay
SW MN Stars
WOTN Nicols
WOTN Swedberg

MN Heat Bui
MN Warriors
MN Comets Stumpf
MN Flames
MN Phenom
MN Suns
SW MN Stars
WOTN Herber
WOTN Ewing

Crossfire Swanson
MN Select
MN Comets Schmidt
MN Comets North
SW MN Stars

Chicago Summer Jam (Fri-Sun)
Howard Pulley

Howard Pulley
MN Lockdown

Howard Pulley (both)
MN Attack the Paint
MN Lockdown

Midwest Summer Slam (Ames, IA) (Fri-Sun)
MN Select Moore
MN Swish
MN Fury Jordan

MN Fury Jaryan
MN Comets DLR
MN Comets Kirchner
MN Select

D1 Minnesota 2018 Prospects
MN Rise
MN Fury Davis
MN Fury Slick
MN Bulldogs

Also a handful of other Heat teams competing in this event as well.

Mullen's High Profile Tourney (St. Louis, Fri-Sun)
  • MN Fury Johnson 15s
  • MN Fury Zurn 16s
  • MN Fury Wilde 17s
This has a very Sanford league feel with the Omaha Crusaders and Dakota Schoolers also there

  • D1 Minnesota 16s and 17s will be at the Adidas Uprising finals in Atlanta.  The 17s are in the Silver bracket.  Those games are Wednesday through Friday.
  • D1 Minnesota top 15s will be at Double Pump Summer Tip-Off in Los Angeles.
  • Reed Nikko and Ishmael El-Amin of Net Gain Sports are listed on the rosters for the Rivals/Under Armour camp in Charlotte, NC.  They could be back with Net Gain in Milwaukee for weekend bracket play.
  • Steffon Mitchell and Nate Reuvers will be representing Fury at the Hoop Group Elite Camp outside Philadelphia
  • Crossfire has a 16U team in the Chicago Summer Challenge (different event than Chicago Summer Jam)

An Open Letter From a Referee

The following open letter was sent to me by an official.  I think it encapsulates much of the perspective that is often missing in today's game.  That's especially true at the grassroots level.  Considering recent events, including the 1 year suspensions of dance coaches at 4 schools for their 2015 state dance tournament conduct, it is also timely.  With permission, I'm publishing it here unedited.

An Open Letter to Club Directors, Coaches, Parents, and Referees from a Referee

This weekend, I was involved in a tournament where a referee was called a b***** and shoved by a coach who was upset with a call.  What’s frightening is this type of behavior continues to become more common.  I referee basketball because I think it’s the greatest game in the world and I am writing this letter out of my concern for the game I love. 

Club Directors – Your love for the game of basketball and the kids involved is unparalleled.  Your investment has paid dividends and made Minnesota a basketball hotbed over the past few years.  Protect your investment.  Start holding out of control parents and coaches responsible for their actions.  Stop asking the referees working for you to have thicker skin and start supporting them.  The parents who are thrown out of games are the same ones who complain to you about the team their kid was placed on. The coaches who are ejected are the same ones who give summer basketball a bad name.  You need to start holding parents and coaches accountable for their actions.  When a coach who makes malicious contact with a referee is knowingly allowed to coach in one of your events again you have failed the game, your athletes, and yourself.  

Coaches – I have a special admiration for what you do; my dad coached for 30+ years at a small school in Northern Minnesota.  I grew up watching my dad make countless sacrifices and invest many hours in the student athletes he coached on and off the court.  I know the majority of you are the same way, you live for the kids you coach.  Don’t ever forget that many of these kids live for you too.  They look up to you and will emulate what you do on and off the floor.  You have the ultimate responsibility of being good role model.  A great man who coached me had one rule for his teams – the Golden Rule.  If your biggest concern is winning the consolation bracket of the Club State Tournament, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.  Start with the Golden Rule. 

Parents – There’s no guarantee that your child will receive a scholarship or even want to play college basketball.  Enjoy the moment!  You’re lucky your child is able to participate in the greatest game in the world.  Cheer for them and forget about the officiating.  Many of the people working your child’s games are new to officiating.  $25 per game isn’t enough to get many of the top tier referees in the state to work.  New referees will make mistakes (a lot of mistakes).  If you continue to berate these new referees, the pool of referees will shrink and the officiating will get worse.  Also, if you think you can do a better job quit screaming and start officiating – the game needs more referees.

RefereesPut the game 1st, your partners 2nd, and yourself 3rd.  I’m going to hit you with a mind dump here…  Do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing to do.  You can’t referee alone and you can’t referee forever – be a good partner and do whatever you can to help others be successful.  A mentor of mine used to say at referee camps “You only get to keep, what you give away.”  The game and your partners always comes before money and assignments.  Last thing, a veteran referee I know well, always says “You can’t be a good referee, if you’re not a good person.” 

The one thing we all have in common is our love for the game.  AAU Directors start supporting your referees.  Coaches remember you are a role model.  Parents enjoy the moment and stop worrying about the officiating (unless you are actually interested in becoming a referee).  Referees put the game 1st, your partners 2nd and yourself 3rd.  If we don’t all take some responsibility, we’ll lose the game we love as we know it.

2015 EYBL Session 4 Howard Pulley Preview

Memorial Day weekend is always a great weekend for local hoops with the EYBL circuit making its annual appearance.  As always its the 4th and final event of the spring on the EYBL circuit.  About 100 players that are ranked in the current 2016 or 2017 Rivals rankings are expected to be in attendance.  The last session saw 3 top 100 ringers from the Adidas Uprising circuit show up too.  This year the games move to the great Maple Grove Community Gyms facility.  8 sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  Then the EYBL regular season completes with 4 sessions early Monday.  So every team gets in 5 final games as they try to make a run to the top event in July, The Peach Jam.

Lots could be said here about all the different teams and players.  I'll limit my comments mostly to Howard Pulley and their 5 opponents.  

The Situation
Howard Pulley is currently 5-7 and tied with CIA Bounce for 7th in Division D.  Teams that finish in the top 5 in their division automatically qualify for The Peach Jam plus 4 wildcards.  3 teams in Division A are 7-5 and tied for 5th so I'd expect the 2 that don't make the top 5 to take 2 of the 4 wildcard spots.  Then there are 3 teams not in at 6-6 but only 2 spots for those teams.  2 others are 6-6 and win head-head tiebreakers for the 5th spot.  So its a steep climb for Pulley to get in.  The schedule doesn't do the Panthers any favors either as they'll play the top 4 teams in their division plus CIA Bounce.  In order to make The Peach Jam, Howard Pulley must win at least 3 games and most likely 4 out of 5.  In terms of tiebreakers, Pulley won head-head over Alabama Challenge and lost in the last game in Houston to NJ Playaz.  Those are the 2 teams directly in front of them.  Playaz also beat the Challenge.  So if you're Pulley you're hoping for 3 way tie or likely looking at a 2 game margin.

For Howard Pulley, its been the Gary Trent show.  He leads the EYBL in scoring at 23.9 PPG.  That included outbursts of 43 and 33 points in the last session in Houston 2 weeks ago.  The main issue for the Panthers has been finding him some help.  Nobody else averages more than 5.9 PPG.  That number comes from Amar Miller who gets that from his quickness that allows him to get into the lane.  But being undersized in the freakishly athletic EYBL takes away many of his interior chances.  Also keep an eye on the rebounding margin for Pulley as it was a problem in Houston.  They'll need to keep that close.

Game 1, 12:30 PM Saturday, Court 3 vs Team Takeover (9-3 Tied 1st Division D)
The brutal schedule starts with 1 of the 3 teams tied for 1st, this one from DC.  Wing VJ King is the leading scorer and rebounder at 15.3 PPG/5.7 RPG.  He's ranked #11 in the country.  2017 stud DJ Harvey is ranked #13 in the country.  He has Georgetown, Maryland, Louisville and Texas offers.  He's 2nd in both categories at 14 PPG/5 RPG.  6'9" forward Corey Manigault (#121) is committed to Pittsburg.  6'9" Mamadi Daikite is ranked #37 and holds an offer from Virginia.  Guard Aaron Thompson is ranked #69 and holds a Penn State offer.  The King vs Trent mano a mano battle is definitely one to watch.

Game 2, 9:30 PM Saturday, Court 3 vs Albany City Rocks (8-4 4th Division D)
Albany City Rocks is led by the guard tandem of 6'5" Kevin Huerter (#101 ranking) and 6'3" Howard Washington (#83 ranking).  Huerter has offers from Iowa, Notre Dame and Maryland just to name a few.    He leads the team in scoring at 12.3 PPG and assists at 3 APG.  Washington has offers from Ohio State and Boston College.  He averages 9.5 PPG and 2.7 APG.  On the front line, Anthony Lamb has a bunch of low D1 offers.  The 6'6" forward averages 11.6 PPG and is 7th in the EYBL with 8.4 rebounds per game.

Game 3, 2:00 PM Sunday, Court 5 vs E1T1 (9-3 Tied 1st Division D)
Guard Maverick Rowan leads the team at 18.4 PPG.  He's ranked #42 in the country and was once a commit to Pittsburgh.  6'9" forward Jonathan Isaac is ranked #45 and has interest from most of the SEC.  Ditto that for 6'10" center Tony Bradley (#35).  Bradley averages 12.6 PPG and 8.7 RPG.  Isaac averages 14.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG.  Guard Jordan Harris is ranked #92 and is committed to Georgia.  Point Guard Lamonte Turner averages 10.8 PPG and 4.9 APG and is committed to Tennessee.  He may have reclassified from 2016 to 2015 so we may not see him this weekend.

Game 4, 9:30 PM Sunday, Court 1 vs Georgia Stars (9-3 Tied 1st Division D)
Just when you thought the front line studs were too much, the Stars pull out a ridiculous front line.  Forward Udoka Azubuike is ranked #13 with Kansas and Georgetown on his list of offers.  6'10" Abdulhakim Ado is ranked #25.  Then you have 2017 F Wendall Carter ranked #8.  He averages 10.6 with 7.5 rbs.   Add in #82 Trent Forrest on the wing with a team high 13.9 PPG and Jared Harper at 13.8 for guard support.  They'll attend Florida State and Auburn respectively.  Too much size here for Pulley to deal with.

Game 5, 12:30 PM Monday, Court 3 vs CIA Bounce (5-7 Tied 7th Division D)
In theory, this could be a Peach Jam play in game for either team or both in the very last session of the regular season.  That would be drama.  The last weekend and day is always interesting because some teams may have spots locked up or have nothing to play for so you never know what you'll get.  Guard Koby McEwen is ranked #102 and has offers from Baylor and Ole Miss.  His 13.4 PPG is the only double figure scoring average for CIA Bounce.  Fellow wing Brandon Cyrus is ranked #110 and has offers from Boston College and San Diego State.  Forward Eddie Ekiyor is ranked #88.  His offer list includes Oregon, Miami and Virginia Tech.  He averages 9.7 PPG and 7.7 RPG.  Point Guard Nelson Kaputo is committed to St. Bonaventure. 

2015 Comets Shootout Thoughts

The Comets Shootout is always one of the most entertaining events of the season.  Its also hectic with the teams playing the games in a 2 day span.  Especially so for the 17U kids who take the ACT Saturday morning and then play up to 5 games in 24 hours after that.  Here are some of the sights and sounds from the weekend.

The setup for the tourney was a scheduled play-in game to make the 1st game of the 16 team championship bracket on Saturday night.  That meant most of the day was mismatches.  In the 16U play-in games, Bomb Squad (IA) took out Heat Bui and Select Olafeso took out Fury Jaryan in a pair of upsets. Most notable game of the round of 16 was Lockdown taking on Fury Zurn.  Fury looked to have the game put away but Trae Berhow and Lockdown would make a late rally before just falling short 67-62.

Then it was on to 17U play-in games and a major upset here.  Select Ellis took out Real Athletics Jay 83-78.  Layup drill for the Select guys and Real Athletics didn't shoot the lights out like they're capable of.  In the round of 16, Select Ohnstad took out WOTN Nicols 53-42 in a battle.  Select Altenhofen also with a hard fought 73-67 win over Comets Servaty.  ECI Prospect knocked out Phenom.  Heat NW knocked out Select Ellis and Fury Wilde took out Heat Wayzata.  Heat Wayzata with Johnny Beeninga for the weekend and former Badger Jon Bryant coaching them up on the bench.

Its all about donuts thanks to former Comets guard Christian Pekarek. And not mini-donuts either, I have a waistline to maintain.  More than enough to feed me from these full size donuts.  Magic and Comets would move on in the top half of the 16U bracket.  In the 17U quarters, WI Heat shot the lights out and had an 11 point lead late vs Comets Lewis.  But Jordan Bolton was able to get to the rim in the comeback and a late 4 point play from Bryce Irsfeld allowed the Comets to steal one 68-65.  Steal one they did, I have to show some love for the Wisconsin guys playing well this weekend.  They reminded me of some of the old Minnesota Warriors squads.  Heat Vang would take out Select Ohnstad 61-50 behind a clutch shooting 2nd half from Ryan Jacobus.

In the bottom half of the 17U bracket, Select Altenhofen by 10 over ECI Prospects.  Fury Wilde struggled with the trapping of Heat NW in the 1st half but handled it in the 2nd half.  Heat NW would see their offense leave them for the 1st 9 minutes of the 2nd half.  Fury Wilde would pull away for a surprisingly easy 67-43 win.

In the 16U semis, the Magic would take out the hosts Comets 61-50.  Fury Zurn took out Heat Nord 61-47.  Then off to the 17U semis.  Comets Lewis broke open a close one in the 2nd half to defeat Heat Vang 68-46.  The other semi was a Fury Wilde vs Select Altenhofen rematch from last week.  That was Select's only Sanford league loss last week in a 63-60 fistfight.  This one didn't disappoint either.  Right down to the end in this one too and Fury holds off Select 64-58.  Fury would try to run away and Select would make a comeback.  Great game.

Then we get tandem championship games in 15U and 16U.  15U game was a back and forth battle between Future Stars and Comets North.  Things got a little ugly with a scoring controversy in the 2nd half but that dust settled and the Future Stars would hang on for a 48-43 win after trailing by 6 at the half.  In the 16U title game, Magic would control the 1st half and take a 7 point lead to halftime.  Fury would come out on a 12-1 run to get the lead but never fully put the game away.  Fury would break a tie in the last minute and win 57-53.

Then its the 17U championship game.  This championship game may be the latest one we have on the circuit but it never seems to disappoint and this one didn't either.  Fury would jump out to a quick 11-2 lead but the Comets would battle back to tie.  Dalante Peyton with a 3 at the buzzer to send Fury to halftime up 36-33.  The Comets would look to put the game away but Fury with a Furious (sorry, had to go there) rally in the last minute.  Fury missed 3, Comets 2 free throws to go up 5.  Peyton another 3, Comets layup, Sean Ryan for 3 and the lead is 1.  Jordan Bolton makes 2 free throws to put the Comets back up by 3.  Comets intentionally foul Peyton as they don't want to give up a 3.  He makes the first, intentionally misses the 2nd and Ryan crashes in from the left slot, grabs the miss and hits a left baseline fadeaway at the buzzer to force overtime.  WOW! 

In the overtime, its a 1 point game late when Steffon Mitchell gets blocked and Ethan Novacinski scoops on the other end to put the Comets up 1 with 12.7 left.  Fury takes a timeout, Mitchell gets double-teamed.  Jubie Alade stripped as time runs out and the Comets win a thriller 79-78 in overtime. 

Notable Players
Odell Wilson - Future Stars 15U (Mpls North)
Jenson Beachy - Comets North 15U (Perham)
Mitchell Plombon - Comets North 15U (Perham)
Mykal Howard - Magic Vatsaas 16U (St. Louis Park)
Brian Sitzmann - Magic Vatsaas 16U (Prior Lake)
Kade Hart - Magic Vatsaas 16U (Fairbault)
Trae Berhow - Lockdown 16U (Watertown-Mayer)
Myles Hanson - Fury Zurn 16U (Chaska)
Owen Chose - Fury Zurn 16U (Eden Prairie)
Dalante Peyton - Fury Wilde 17U (St. Paul Academy)
Austin Slater - Fury Wilde 17U (Wayzata)
Sam Sustacek - Select Ohnstad 17U (Orono)
Jordan Bolton - Comets Lewis 17U (Apple Valley)
Kobe Boraas - Comets Lewis 17U (Sauk Rapids)

2015 Comets Shootout Predictions

Its time once again for the Comets Shootout, one of the great events of our local grassroots season.  No shoe company teams showing up except for the Net Gain 15s so the field is very wide open.  A shame that we don't get a chance to see D1 and Net Gain as we have in past years.  Its also a much bigger field than we've had.  There are 48 teams each in 17U and 16U divisions and 44 in 15U.  The tourney format is an opening round game to play into the 16 team Platinum championship bracket.  For the teams in the last handful of opening round games, sorry, no soup for you.  Say hello to the Gold bracket.   So with that in mind, many of the opening round games are mismatches so I'm going to skip ahead to my thoughts on bracket play.

15U Predictions
3 possible round of 16 games here stick out to me.  Let's start with apologies to 3 of my players from last year as I can't pick them in their opener vs Comets North.  My team was 0-2 vs Comets teams at the Comets last year, can't go against that here.  Comets North is a very nice team but they'll get a stiff challenge from the MN Eagles.  They are a group of Apple Valley kids who had great success this year.  Also in the bottom half, Fury Johnson looks like they take on Comets Little who had a great season last year.   Then the sleeper game and that's the Comets top group against Crossfire Swanson.  The Crossfire group was largely together with the Heat last year and have some extra pieces to go with it.  The Comets complete the sweep but the game looks to not be a pushover.

Comets Schmidt takes out Select Hermer in a Sanford League game in the quarters.  Future Stars vs Lockdown and Fury Johnson vs Net Gain should be high quality quarterfinal games.  Comets North is my pick to move thru the last quarter with North Hoops being a major sleeper here if its Minneapolis North kids.  Future Stars vs Comets Schmidt in 1 semifinal and Fury Johnson vs Comets North in the other.  Fury Johnson and Comets Schmidt move on to the final with Fury Johnson winning a grudge match.  Love the matchup of point guards in that game.

15U Players to watch:
Matt Todd - Fury Johnson
Jarvis Thomas - Lockdown
Cam Jackson - Comets Schmidt
Odell Wilson - Future Stars (or North Hoops?)

16U Predictions
Comets again get no favors for their top team as I see them drawing Real Athletics Robinson in the round of 16.  But I think the Comets are too deep and move on.  ECI Prospects move on over WOTN Ewing.  Heat Bui and Magic Vatsaas play a tight game with Heat barely moving on.  I'll take Fury Jaryan to advance over Heat Gardner to conclude the top half.  Heat Nord thru against the MN Swish.  Playmakers Streege move on as well.  Comets DLR gets the home court edge over WOTN Herber.  Then a dynamite game at the bottom with Lockdown and Fury Zurn.  Fury moves on in a stiff opening round test.

Comets Stumpf advances over ECI, Heat Bui moves on over Fury Jaryan.  Fury Zurn also advances over the Comets.  Heat Nord advances over the Playmakers.  No Heat vs Heat final as the Comets and Fury knock them out.  So again its a Comets vs Fury top team showdown for the title and again I'll take the Fury.

16U Players to watch:
Dedoch Chan, Myles Hanson, Owen Chose - Fury Zurn
Siman Sem - ECI Prospects
Trae Berhow, Mar Mar Hughes- Lockdown
Derek Thompson, Dillon Haider - Comets Stumpf
Kade Hart - Magic Vatsaas
Isaac Johnson - Real Athletics Robinson

17U Predictions
Long story short, don't leave before the late games.  The best 2 games here are in the 10 PM slot Saturday night.  Fury Wilde rums into Heat McKee (all Wayzata kids) and Heat Northwest has a war with Real Athletics Jay.  Heat Northwest big but if they can add Xavier Johnson this week, that would be huge to go against the guard strength of Real Athletics.  I'll take Real Athletics with their shooting.  Also in the bottom half, I'll take ECI Prospects over WI Playmakers Boll.  Select Altenhofen continues their nice run with a win over Comets Servaty.   In the top half, Comets Lewis over Fury Jordan.  Heat Schumann moves on over Red River Heat.  Select Ohnstad def WOTN Nicols and Heat Vang knocks off the MN Swish.

Comets Lewis no problem moving on to the semis over Heat Schumann.  Select Ohnstad knocks off Heat Vang in a tight one.  Select Altenhofen moves on over ECI.  Fury Wilde with another stiff test knocking out Real Athletics Jay.  They win a rematch with Select Altenhofen in the semis.  Select Ohnstad won a title last week and I'll take them to knock off the hosts in the semis.  Fury Wilde completes the Fury sweep with a win over Select Ohnstad in the final.

17U Players to watch:
Steffon Mitchell, Dalante Peyton - Fury Wilde
Seth Coatta, Chris Olson, Cedric Boone - Real Athletics Jay
Isaiah Wade, Lucas Walford - Heat Northwest
Ryan Lindberg,  Jack Sowada - Heat McKee
Brady Kuchinka - WOTN Nicols
Charlie Irmiger, Carter Brooks, Jack Stensgard - Select Ohnstad
Sam Baker, Nick Dufault - Select Altenhofen
Cole Dahl, Bryce Irsfeld, Ethan Novacinski - Comets Lewis
Samm Jones, Quenton Siebenahler - Heat Vang

Small School Delight

To Macalester for the 4A and 4AA championships.  Jammed packed house at the Leonard Center for both games.  The always fun 500 ml bottle of Coke is the drink that closes out the official tally for the beverage counter (hard to track cups at state).  Boo the Toddler Ref is in the house for the late game.

Number of Teams I've Seen: 159 (70 courts)

Beverage Consumption Counter: 1658.7 ounces (107 days, 144 games, 2 scrimmages added on)
  • Pepsi: 844 ounces
  • Coke: 208.9 ounces
  • Dr. Pepper: 48 ounces
  • Sprite: 200 ounces
  • Sierra Mist: 12 ounces
  • Barq's Root Beer: 20 ounces
  • A&W Root Beer: 72 ounces
  • Red Powerade: 120 ounces
  • 0 Calorie Fruit Punch Powerade: 20 ounces
  • Red Gatorade: 96.9 ounces
  • Water: 500 ml
Hot Dog Counter: 22

Song of the Day: Fleetwood Mac - Seven Wonders

4A Championship (#3 Maranatha vs #2 Minneapolis North):
Cam Monson with a layup to start and a Jeremiah Hanson drive for 2 free throws.  4-0 MCA at 15:57 as the North offense can't get going.  JaQuan Sanders-Smith off the North bench with the nice give and go via Odell Wilson in the post and another layup.  Timeout North at 13:27 down 10-9.  Its Sanders-Smith again, this time its a 3 point play to give North their 1st lead.  He adds bonus free throws and Wilson with a jumper as the frosh continues to produce.  21-18 Polars at the 8 minute mark.  Hanson heating up as he buries back to back 3s as the North offense is really ragged.  He then outmuscles a Polar for a rebound and gets fouled.  Then a North attempt to save a loose ball goes haywire and Hanson turns that into a 3 point play.  4 straight turnovers, outworked on that rebound and they give up an offensive rebound of a free throw.  That's an ugly sequence for North.  31-26 MCA at 2:22 after that.  Isaac Johnson with a tough stepback, a 3 point play and running out for 2 more.  Monson with 3 of 4 free throws during that stretch.  Hanson with a technical free throw after the 2nd North delay of game call and he scores the last bucket of the half.  38-35 Maranatha at the half.  Hanson with 21.  Isaac Johnson with 10.

Jamil Jackson had a rough first half but got off to a quick 2nd half start with a hoop and a putback as the Polars score the 1st 6 of the second half.  Isaac Johnson to the left hand for 2 and Tyler Johnson for 3 to end the Polars 11-2 run.  46-40 North at 13:20.  Jackson sits with his 4th foul a minute later.  Monson with a free throw off a turnover, Hanson saves a miss for a Jake Meyen free throw and then Hanson scores.  49-48 North inside 10 to play.  Then the chess match begins.  MCA with a little momentum and in a 1-1-3 zone.  North looks a bit confused but they'll go 4 corners 2-1-2 and hold it.  Then a strange North timeout with 7:31.  MCA stays zone and North will hold for another 50 seconds.  But for some reason North decides to play at 6:40 and Sanders-Smith makes 1 of 2 free throws at 6:32.  MCA takes time and they'll come out man after they miss.  North misses and Hanson scores to tie it.  Jackson comes back in with 5:37 left.  Bad North miss and Damario Armstrong makes 2 free throws with 4:43 left for a 52-50 MCA lead.  They'll go back to the zone.  Tyler Johnson converts a turnover to tie it as its as 2 minute stretch of bad shots and turnovers both ways.  Hanson makes bonus free throws with 2:07 left, Sanders-Smith scoops for 2 but Jake Meyen scores the other way.  56-54 MCA 1:48 left.  Another bad shot and Armstrong makes an ill advised double clutch bank.  58-54 MCA 1:20 left.  Jackson makes 2 free throws and Maranatha helps the Polars by jacking a crazy shot.  Tyler Johnson to the rim for a monster dunk attempt over Hanson that almost went in.  He makes 1 free throw to cut the MCA lead to 1.  Hanson makes 1 of 2 free throws after the last MCA timeout.  North misses and MCA appears to get whacked but its an overrule to a jump ball with 30.3 left and it goes to MCA.  MCA travels with 20 seconds left, Jamil Jackson tips in a miss and North takes a timeout to set their defense with 9.4 left.  MCA gets in the inbounds and darn near turns it over.  But 1 outlet later they're on the break and its Monson under the rim.  Pump once and its a layup for the game winner with 2 seconds left but it doesn't go down, oh my goodness.  59 all and we'll play overtime.

In overtime, Jackson a tip in to put North up 1.  Armstrong off the bounce, Sanders-Smith with a floater.  Armstrong to Monson for a layup.  64-63 MCA with 2:15 left in OT.  Hanson up and under but its a walk with 1:30 left.  Tyler Johnson puts back a miss and Hanson misses with 1 minute left.  North bails out MCA with a quick miss.  Monson makes 1 free throw and MCA gets the miss back for Hanson to score .  Sanders-Smith fouled and makes 2 with 33.1 left and we're tied at 67.  Maranatha takes their last timeout to setup the final possession . Its Armstrong off the bounce and he makes the floater with 14 seconds left.  North out of timeouts and here they come.  The push up the right wing and Jackson has an open right side look that's no good with 5 seconds left.  MCA grabs the rebound and North makes no attempt to foul?!?!?!?!  Maranatha wins 69-67 in OT.  Jeremiah Hanson leads all scorers with 33 points, Damario Armstrong with 11 and despite struggles in regulation came up large with 2 buckets and an assist for another in the OT.  JaQuan Sanders-Smith leads North with 15, Issac Johnson with 15.  Jamil Jackson with 12 and Tyler Johnson with 10 points but both of them struggled as well.

4AA Championship (#1 St. Croix Lutheran vs #3 Minneapolis Roosevelt):
To show you how respected Roosevelt was in the section, SCL had 2 losses all year (DLS and St. Thomas Academy), #1 in the state poll and power polls and a better record but Roosevelt still got the top seed.  Interesting defensive matchups as its Trenton Krueger who gets Elijah Hannah, Ade Lamu gets London Cobbs and Venkat Valluri gets Arione Farrar.  Ade Lamu active early for SCL with a pair of steals for a bucket and 2 free throws plus a tap in.   London Cobbs carrying the Roosevelt offense as he scores their 1st 9 points with 3 buckets and a triple.  That 3 starts a 7-0 Roosevelt run to put them up 13-10 at the 8 minute mark.  Trenton Krueger and a high low feed for free throws vs the 2-3 zone.  That surrounds a Cobbs 3.  16-15 Roosevelt.  Then Roosevelt coach Rob Mestas leaves the bench at the 4:30 mark and does not return.  Krueger with a 3 point play.  Cobbs fouled and then makes a free throw.  He won't take the 2nd due to blood on the cheek.  But a Roosevelt assistant fixes that by ripping off his tie and using it to get rid of the blood.   Arione Farrar finds Abdullah Aden for a momentum building 3 right before the half.  Roosevelt 23-18 lead going to halftime.

Lamu active again to start the 2nd half as he goes steal for 2 and steal for 2 free throws.  After Cobbs puts back his own miss, its Aage Rovney for 3 and Krueger with another 3 point play.  12-2 Crusaders run puts them back on top 30-26 with 14:20 left.  Cobbs will sit with his 4th foul at the 10:52 mark.  Rovney hit on a 3 for 2-3 FTs and Gunnar Maki converts inside to push the lead to 6 with 9:20 left.  Aden a BLOB 3, Farrar pull for 2 and then buries a 3.  That's a quick Roosevelt 8-0 run for a 38-36 Teddies lead with 7:12 left.  Cobbs back in with more than 6 minutes in a bit of a surprise considering how close the game is.  Lamu with a sick ridiculous block going high at the rim to smack one away.  Krueger with a layup and a SCL pins the backside of the zone for a Rovney 3 from the left corner with 4:10 left.  41-38 SCL back on top.  Roosevelt misses, SCL takes time.  They'll spread the floor but not hold against the zone.  That patience pays off in a Krueger layup thanks to great ball movement with 3:20 left.  43-38 SCL after their 7-0 run.  But the Crusaders can't take care of the ball (PG Valluri sitting).  Farrar to Cobbs for 3 after a turnover, another turnover leads to Cobbs getting hit on a 3.  He makes 2 of the 3 to tie the game at 43 with 1:29 left.  Another SCL turnover with 1:05 left.  Roosevelt takes another timeout to set up offense and SCL comes out 1-3-1.  They get a trap at the halfcourt circle to force another Teddies timeout with 37.8 left.

Teddies shot no good, Cobbs hustles to snare the miss and Krueger bumps him with 22 seconds left.  That's his 5th foul.  Cobbs makes the 1st free throw but misses the 2nd.  Roosevelt runs down that miss too and Farrar is fouled with 18 seconds left.  Timeout SCL before the free throws.  Farrar misses the front end and here come the Crusaders.  Down the right side we go and the ball eventually ends up in the hands of Tommy Metcalf, the 5th guy you would think of in the Crusaders starting 5.  Maybe he's not even in the game if Krueger doesn't foul out.  But who cares, its an open 12 footer from just off the left lane line and its pure with 7 seconds left!  Roosevelt pushes the ball back and Farrar gets called for a walk right at the 3 point line with 0.7 left.  St. Croix Lutheran wins a thriller 45-44.  Trenton Krueger 14, Ade Lamu and Aage Rovney 12 as the big 3 do their part for SCL.  London Cobbs leads all scorers with 21 points, Arione Farrar with 11.

What an amazing night of basketball.  The stands were packed and people were 2 and 3 deep on the 3 rails.  Great fans, great hoops and an overall great environment.  Heartbreak hotel for the Minneapolis City Conference (and my picks) as they lose all 3 of their section finals by a combined 7 points. On a more serious note, best wishes to Rob Mestas, hope he gets well soon.