Its a special return to The Old Kingdom as I get to see all the coulee region members of the Mississippi Valley Conference. Its all part of seeing the 1st annual Midwest Players Classic at the La Crosse Center put on by La Crosse Aquinas. Premier sponsor? Pepsi. So you know I'm there. As part of my invasion of the Emperor's Palace, the trip also gives me a chance to take a look at my alma mater as La Crosse Central took on Holmen on Friday night. Holmen takes a 6 point lead to halftime thanks to 4 3s from a pair of freshmen and then holds it before scoring the last 5 points of the 3rd quarter to lead by 11. The lead is still 11 before a pair of steals for layups seals it. Holmen sends me out of the alma mater unhappy with a 54-42 win. Then its 6 games as part of the classic.
Game 1: Richfield vs La Crosse, WI Logan
Richfield had the benefit of having last night off but looked unprepared to deal with Logan's star forward Trevor Jorgenson. He scores 11 points in the post in the 1st quarter for a 22-12 lead after the 1st stanza. Richfield scores the 1st 2 buckets of the 2nd quarter to cut the lead to 6 but then the wheels fall off. Ryan Koel with a pair of 3s, Jorgensen 2 post buckets, 2 turnovers for a layup and a 3. Its a 15-0 Logan run. Koel nails his 3rd 3 of the quarter for a 46-22 Logan lead at half. 2nd half is meaningless. Logan wins 79-56. Trevor Jorgenson 25 points and 5 rebounds to lead the Rangers (swampies). Dashawn Jones 13 points to lead Richfield. Logan with 8 3s in the game. Logan senior Drew Escher with arguably the finest high school beard you'll see. And I figure out that former Wisconsin and Washington State coach (and Wisconsin coaching legend) Dick Bennett is in the building watching the games all day.
Game 2: Eastview vs DeForest, WI
Eastview coming off a tough overtime win against city rival Apple Valley Friday night and then had to play the 12:30 game. Tough turnaround. Joey King 2 1st quarter 3s for a 10-5 lead after 1 quarter. DeForest scoreless for the 1st 4:30 of the game. Chris Narum for 3 at the 1:55 mark of the 2nd quarter pushes the Eastview lead to 22-8. DeForest cuts the lead to 24-14 at the half. 37-29 Eastview after 3. Ben Oberfeld starts the 4th with a layup to extend the lead to 10. Joey King picks up 3 straight charges in the next minute. 6:39 left and King has to sit with 4 fouls while DeForest is on a run. That runs ends with DeForest's leader Brandon Staffiel stealing a pass and making 2 free throws. 40-39 DeForest with the lead and 6:07 remaining as Eastview has come unglued during the 11-0 run. Kyle Renz with the 3 point play at 4:07 for a 43-42 DeForest lead and King is back in the game. He picks up a ticky tack 5th foul with 3:35 left for 2 more Renz FTs. On the next possession, DeForest gets called for a foul and mocking applause from the Eastview bench draws a technical (the ref and the bench hadn't been getting along). 1 free throw on the T and DeForest scores on the possession, 48-45 Norskies with 3:10 left. Jacob Ulrich misses a layup but grabs the miss for 2 FTs with 1:31 left. Staffiel called for elbowing out of a trap with 1:29 left. Oberfeld can't get a layup off the inbounds to go in but DeForest with a quick bad miss on the other end. Eastview is tied up but gets the arrow with 54 seconds left. They take their last time out and run Sibley's Razor set from last year for an Oberfeld layup with 30 seconds left. DeForest can't get a good look out of a timeout with 12 seconds left and Ulrich finishes it with 2 free throws. Eastview survives 51-48. Joey King 16 points on 4-6 shooting. All 4 FGs were 3s and 4-6 FTs. Ben Oberfeld 15 points and 4 rebounds.
Game 3: Minneapolis South vs La Crosse, WI Aquinas
The hosts Blugolds feature a bigger than previously remembered Bronson Koenig. The soph PG blew up over the spring to the point where Roy Williams of UNC is following him along with Wisconsin and Marquette offers. (Williams was rumored to attend today but didn't, he saw Marcus Paige play against Josh Oglesby last night). In a very heady play he catches outside the 3 point line just before the halftime buzzer and instead of a desperation heave, he goes to the rack and earns 2 free throws at the buzzer. Aquinas up 44-37 after 3 quarters but they haven't had a double digit lead either. South makes them pay with the 1st 8 points of the 4th quarter as Carnell Sheppard with a nice headfake and jumper followed by a Peter Goldstein tap to finish the run. 45-44 South with 5:27 left and Aquinas needs time. Koenig responds with a tough fading jumper to start a 12-2 Aquinas run. That's a 9 point lead with 1:40 left and Aquinas wins 62-55. Bronson Koenig 19 points on 8-18 shooting. Only 2 official assists but many other hockey assists and outstanding passes. He was used in all facets, off screens like a 2 guard, handling and posting a shorter defender for 3 or 4 good looks. Carnell Sheppard leads South with 21 points, 3 3s, on 7-16 shooting. Thomas Ford 15 points for South.
Game 4: St. Paul Johnson vs Milwaukee King
King came into the week #1 in Wisconsin D1 but lost to Milwaukee Riverside Friday night. Side Note: Riverside will play Hopkins Friday Night at Johnson in the East Metro Showcase. No Cinmeon Bowers for King in this one. A chaotic but even 1st half results in a 25-23 King lead at the break. The 3rd quarter does Johnson in. After Johnson tied the game to start the quarter, King went on a 17-2 run (with no Johnson timeout surprisingly) to lead 42-27. Dominique Borom 3 big triples in the run. Johnson fights back to cut the lead to 11 at the end of the 3rd. They continue the run and after a Marcus Marshall steal and 2 FTs, its 46-42 King with 5:01 left. 15-4 Johnson run across the quarter break. King makes 1 FG the last 4 minutes but converts 16 of their last 18 FTs in the quarter and Johnson can't get over the hump. King wins 67-52. Arroyo Edwards 18 points for King. Marcus Marshall 18 points for Johnson. Estan Tyler 11 points. Roosevelt Scott 10 points.
Linn-Mar jumped out to a 18-5 lead on Madison Memorial in the 1st quarter thanks to 10 quick points from forward Josh Montague. The margin was 12 after 1 quarter and 12 at the half. Memorial fought back to cut the lead to 4 with 50 seconds left in the game, but Linn-Mar won 74-64. Another pleasure watching Marcus Paige direct the team. Matt Bohannon with a cold shooting night. Love the poise of soph Brendan Ortiz at the point. Memorial played without 6'6 Jamar Morris due to injury. Junior Lomomba with a nice night as well for Memorial.
Onalaska without star forward Nick Arenz due to a torn right ACL suffered this week but that didn't matter as they beat up on Milwaukee Bay View in the night cap. Matt Thomas playing well in that win.
The Czar's All-Classic Team
Trevor Jorgenson - Logan
Bronson Koenig - Aquinas
Marcus Paige - Linn-Mar
Arroyo Edwards - King
Joey King - Eastview