To St. Cloud Tech for the 5th annual Border Battle. Minnesota won last year 5-0 on Wisconsin soil so cheeseheads looking for revenge with a quality lineup of guards across the board. Minnesota defending home turf with the top 2 ranked teams in 4A and #6AAA Apollo in their home town. Respectable hot dog at the cramped concession stand, but props to the Breakdown folks for providing the media with Papa John's. I thought dibs on 1 piece per came called was fair (this was after game 4). I did the color commentary for 5 of the games on Webcast America. Links will be included below to go back and watch any of the games.
Song of the Day
Border Song - Elton John
Game 1: #2AAAA Tartan vs #2-D2 Seymour (Watch it here)
An outstanding opener between 2 of the best traditions in either state. Tartan hosted the inaugural Border Battle and Seymour beat Henry in that same Border Battle. Tartan uses 4 3s from 4 players and 3 interior buckets from Joel Awich to jump out to a 22-8 lead at the 9:05 mark of the 1st half. The rest of the half is all Seymour. Luke Preiner hits another 3 and the lead is 25-12. They use top scorer Cal Skogman in high pick and roll, usually with their other star Phil Romback and usually in transitions and Tartan has no answers. Skogman is in on the last 16 points of the half (11 + 2 ast to Romback for 5 more points) as Seymour finishes on a 14-0 run. 28-27 Seymour at half. Then 5 more out of the break for Skogman. That's involvement in 21 straight over 8:40. He nails another 3 and after a Seymour 3 its 46-34 Seymour with 12:05 left. Tartan had some success vs 1-3-1 with dribble penetration but it went away against 2-3 zone (something Hill-Murray has had great success with against the Titans). Tartan makes an adjustment to set high screens against the 2-3 and it works. Darrion Strong heats up for Tartan with back to back buckets to cut the lead to 6. Then another nice pullup and a tough 3 point play tie the game at 52 with 6 minutes left. Seymour with the ball up 3 late but can't hang on. After a turnover, 2 free throws cut the margin to 1, then 2 missed Seymour FTs with 49.4 left and Awich inside for an easy 2 puts Tartan back ahead with 35 seconds left. Seymour misses 2 or 3 good looks before Tartan makes 2 more freebies. Seymour can't convert at the end and Tartan comes back for a 62-59 win. Darrion Strong 13 of his 15 points in the second half to bring Tartan back. Joel Awich 14 points and 7 rebounds. Cal Skogman 25 points, Phil Romback 20 points for Seymour.
Game 2: Rocori vs #3-D3 Manitowoc Roncalli (Watch it here)
WOW is all I can say to this one. Rocori chooses to go man in the 1st half against the feared motion offense of Roncalli and all the Jets do is drain 11 3s to finish the half on a 21-10 run. Jets star Ben Stelzer (Michigan Tech signee) with 7 3s by himself. Rocori plays zone in the 2nd half and cuts the lead to 45-42 with 10:30 left behind 2 Jonah Eisenschenk buckets. But Stelzer counters with a 4 point play on his 9th 3 of the day. He sits with 4 fouls at the 7:55 mark and Roncalli up 4. Coach Joe Rux rolls the dice and brings him back in with a 54-50 lead and 6:08 left. All Stelzer does is score 8 of the last 10 Roncalli points to close the game out. Roncalli wins 64-54. Stelzer finishes with 10 3s and 41 points. Roncalli finished with 14 3s , 14 FTs and 4 2s. Jonah Eisenschenk 24 points, Nate Meyer 14 for Rocori.
Game 3: St. Cloud Cathedral vs #1-D3 La Crosse Aquinas (Watch it here)
After hammering my alma mater last night, Aquinas comes to town to play St. Cloud Cathedral. The first half Cathedral gives Aquinas all they want. It takes a Bronson Koenig high jumper at the halftime buzzer to tie the game at 32. Cathedral not keeping Evan Pederson out of the lane as he had 5 assists in the half for easy buckets. But Aquinas can't handle Joe Burt as he puts up 15 points in the half. Great matchup with Burt and Koenig going at each other. Bjorn Bjorklund with a 3 and then Scottie Rucks on the baseline drive to keep Cathedral up 46-45 with 10 minutes left. Koenig with a 3 off a set and then coast to coast for a 3 point play to put Aquinas up 55-48. Cathedral cuts the lead to 59-57 with 4:14 left as Koenig takes 3 quick shots and misses when it looked like Aquinas wanted to run some time off. Bjorklund 5 poitns in the run. But Koenig comes back and posts Burt for a 3 point play. Then a sweet pass to Jimmy Ancius for a 3 point play to push the lead to 8 and that's the dagger. Aquinas wins 71-64. Bronson Koenig 26 points, 13 of those after Cathedral took the 46-45 lead. Joe Burt 23 in a quality effort for Cathedral. Bjorn Bjorklund 14 of his 20 in the second half.
Game 4: #1AAAA Hopkins vs Madison East (Watch it here)
This one was over right from the start. Joe Coleman for 2 and a 3 point play. Siyani Chambers with a steal for 2 and then a long ball. 16-2 Hopkins at the 12:08 mark. East couldn't make a shot on the Nimrod Hilliard kickouts but it wouldn't have matter. The lead gets to 31-6 at 7:50, etc etc etc. Hopkins rolls 93-53 with the stars seeing limited action. Nick Jorgenson leads Hopkins with 20 points. Joe Coleman 15 points, 4 rebounds and a highlight block. 0-1 on outside shooting. Marvin Singleton 13. Jake Wright 11 as the frosh saw plenty of 1st half time in this one. Nimrod Hilliard 25 points for East and I had 9 turnovers on my sheet. But he is really fun to watch with his ridiculous quickness.
Game 5: #6AAA St. Cloud Apollo vs #11-D2 Rice Lake (Watch it here)
Rice Lake finishes the 1st half on a 12-2 run to flip the score to a 34-29 halftime lead. Wally Ellenson with 4 highlight reel blocks in the half. The duo of Simon Krych and Blake Maslonkowski producing inside for Apollo. Apollo comes back with their own run out of halftime of 14-3 to take a 43-37 lead inside of 13 minutes remaining. Krych doing work inside for a 3 point play 54-50 Apollo lead. Ellenson quiet to this point in the half banks in a 3 from the left corner (ridiculous) and another 3 at 4:55 for a 58-56 Rice Lake lead. Maslonkowski with a 3 point play countered by a Ellenson pullup. Mas on the post again for 2 with 45 seconds left. Nice play to go right to score after going left most of the game. 62-61 Rice Lake. Ellenson 1 free throw and then Ellenson is roaming on D and appears to tie up Krych but a foul is called. Krych is clutch with both freebies with 10.7 left to tie the game at 63. Rice Lake goes with no time out. Dribble up the right wing and hand off to the lefty Ellenson, he gets another screen at the top of the key but there's nothing there. He fades from 3 against great defense as the buzzer sounds and BOOM goes the dynamite as the 3 goes in for the win. 66-63 Rice Lake wins as Apollo sees another buzzer beater. He finishes with 25 points to lead all scorers. Simon Krych 23 points, Blake Maslonkowski 13 for the Eagles.
Game 6: Baldwin-Woodville at St. Cloud Tech (Watch it here)
To the late game and in a surprise, just nothing for Baldwin-Woodville in the first half. Star point guard Ryan Benoy goes scoreless and has 3 fouls. Tyler Heitmann has 14 points in the half to keep the Blackhawks close. But after a 5-0 Baldwin-Woodville start, the half is all Tech after a 20-5 run. 34-21 Tech at half but not putting it away either. Benoy picks up his 4th foul at 16:45 and has to sit. Tech Frosh Andy Foley with a pair of tough hoops early in the half as Tech extends the lead to 18. Down 13 with 11:15 to play, he comes back in and why not. Benoy finally on the board with a 3 at the 7:50 mark after an 0-7 FG start. Alex Matchinsky with a pair of free throws and Tech keeps the lead at 16 with just over 7 minutes left. But that 3 sparked Benoy. 1 basket, then a 3 point play and a pull up. He follows 2 missed Tech free throws with 2 made free throws of his own. Those 9 in a row cut the Tech lead to 55-48 with 5:05 left. Don't leave just yet. Matchinsky back to back hoops before a Benoy 3 vs a Tech zone cuts the lead to 59-53 with 4:05 left. Matchinsky scores again and Benoy fouls out with 1:58 left. Baldwin-Woodville won't get any closer. Tech makes their free throws to win 71-57. Alex Matchinsky with 18 of his 30 for Tech in the first half. Freshman Andy Foley 14 of his 19 in the second half with 6 late free throws to ice the game. Tyler Heitman 14 of his 20 in the first half to lead Baldwin-Woodville. Ryan Benoy all 15 of his points in a 3:45 span late in the 2nd half where the Blackhawks outscored Tech 19-8.
The series splits 3 and 3. Minnesota leads all time 15-11. Each state has won 2 years and this year's split. Next year's event is at Sun Prairie, WI. Here are the participants for what should be another outstanding.
WI: Sun Prairie, Waunakee, Wisconsin Dells, Madison Edgewood, La Crosse Aquinas and Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau.
MN: Tartan, DeLaSalle, Maranatha, Maple River, Prior Lake and Grand Rapids
The Czar's All Border Battle Team
Ben Stelzer - Manitowoc Roncalli (MVP)
Wally Ellenson - Rice Lake
Alex Matchinsky - St. Cloud Tech
Calahan Skogman - Seymour
Darrion Strong - Tartan
Bronson Koenig - La Crosse Aquinas
Joe Burt - St. Cloud Cathedral
Simon Krych - St. Cloud Apollo
Nathan Meyer- Rocori
Joe Coleman - Hopkins