Royals triumph in Lake opener

Its off to Eden Prairie for the Lake Conference opener between #2AAAA Hopkins and #5AAAA Eden Prairie.  Late concession stand opening with a hot dog that by itself was pretty decent.  Deductions from the East German judge for the paper wrapping sticking to the bun which almost ruined the entire night and for the bun being whole wheat.  Thumbs up for nutrition but not here.  Sid Hartman, Dave Lee and Bud Grant all take in the first half of this one.  Performances from the EP cheerleaders and Jazz Dance squad who dance expert Tom Krosschell tells me are in the running to make state in a very tough section.  So with that in mind, for today's music, put your hands up and put a ring on it

Song of the Day
Beyonce - All the Single Ladies (yes I did the hand thing during the song, boo to me, oh oh oh guilty pleasure)

Game Time
Hopkins off to a fast start with Siyani Chambers for 3 and a turnover leads to a Jamal Davis dunk to force an Eagles timeout.  Demetrius Martin adds a 3 as the Royals score the 1st 12 points of the game.  Sander Mohn breaks the drought at the 13:30 mark.  Nick Jorgenson with nice first half inside.  His back to back hoops combined with a pair of buckets from soph SG Jake Wright put Hopkins up 26-8 inside of 7 minutes left in the half.  Andre Wallace with back to back triples and a pair of FTs for 8 in a row to cut the lead to 31-16 outside of the 5 minute mark.  Grant Schaeffer out on the break, Siyani Chambers measures him to cut across his face for the steal but WHOOOP, Schaeffer goes around his world (wraps it all the way around behind his back) for the 3 point play on one of the slickest finishes you'll see all year.  41-20 Hopkins.  Then Andre Wallace for 3 with 5 seconds left in the half only to see Siyani Chambers knock it down pure from halfcourt at the halftime buzzer.  46-27 Hopkins.  Hopkins adds the first 8 of the 2nd half and this one looks like running time 54-27 Hopkins leading.  Stop that press machine.  EP knocks down 6 3s in the half as the Eagles storm back on a 19-2 run.   Sander Mohn with 3 of those.  Jack Cottrell with a strong play to rip a rebound away and he finds Mohn all alone.  That 3 is nothing but the bottom of the net and EP is within 10, 56-46 with 8:40 to play.  But the Eagles would get no closer.  Zach Stahl banks in a 3 and then blocks a jumper from Mohn.  The run is 12-2 to push the lead right back to 20.  Hopkins cruises from there for a 76-59 win.

Post Game
For Eden Prairie, Sander Mohn and soph guard Andre Wallace lead the way with 17 each.  Wallace was 5-7 shooting from 3, but strangely 0-9 from 2.  Rare stat there.  Abrian Carpenter again active with 12 rebounds.  19 turnovers for Eden Prairie.  The Eagles fall to 13-4 and 0-1 in the Lake Conference after this back to back loss.  The road ahead is league play and that's brutal.  At Minnetonka on Friday, a tough non-conference game at Elk River on Monday and then undefeated Wayzata comes calling next Friday.

For Hopkins, Siyani Chambers 18 points and 5 assists.  Nick Jorgenson 19 points and 6 rebounds.  Zach Stahl 11 points and 4 boards with South Dakota on hand to see him.  Demetrius Martin 13 of his 15 in the first half with 3 triples.  Interesting that during the 19-2 Eden Prairie run in the 2nd half Hopkins decided to go back to their 1-2-2 matchup.  I'm all for coaching but this seemed to be too much with a 19 point lead.  Hopkins is good enough in their man, especially against an Eden Prairie team that isn't all that athletic (besides Wallace of course), that the zone could have been shelved and/or saved until 2nd meeting.  Panic button or genius?  Hind sight is always 20/20.  Hopkins is now 1-0 in the Lake, 16-1 overall.  Big game for them at #4 Wayzata (16-0) on Friday night before hosting rival Minnetonka on Monday.

A Super Saturday Showcase

Neighboring venues on today's schedule with the Super 60 Showcase at Washburn and 3 games for me there.  But the opener was just down the street with Duluth East visiting Holy Angels.  I'm too late for the sausage pizza there and the cheese slice was greasy at AHA but the hot dogs at Washburn never disappoint.  AAU guys all over the place with Pulley, Net Gain and Pump N Run all at the AHA/Duluth East game.

Game 1: Duluth East at Holy Angels
Duluth East jumps out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a pair of turnovers and a big block from the new fad on the Minnesota high school hoops scene 6'10, 6'11 or 7' if you believe the program Akolda Manyang. Holy Angels would go to a 2-3 zone and claw their way back to take the lead right before the half.  Taylor Stafford would beat the buzzer for 3 to send Duluth East to the locker room ahead 32-30.

But Duluth East's big 3 would be too much in the 2nd half as they score all but 2 of the 49 Greyhounds points in the half.  Johnny Woodard with 22 of those 49.  Holy Angels would hang around thanks to 18 in the half from Danny Sullivan not to mention a couple of nice assists for layups.  63-57 with 4:45 left after 1 of those assists.  But Duluth East pulls away for a 81-68 win.  Johnny Woodard 34, Taylor Stafford 24 and Akolda Manyang 17 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks.  Manyang looking like a major factor for East and definitely a top, if not the top, player in the 2013 class.  Only 6 points from the East roster otherwise.  Danny Sullivan 29, Charlie Koontz 20, Jordan Dembley 10 for AHA.

Super 60 Showcase at Minneapolis Washburn
Game 2: Prairie Seeds Academy vs Lakeview Christian Academy
Everybody hustling up the street for this one and don't arrive late as Anders Broman picks up his 2nd foul at the 13:12 mark after scoring 6 quick points.  18-15 LCA at the 11:25 mark when Anders picks up his 3rd.  He sits at the 10:37 mark with LCA up 20-19.  Trent Pollard with a big half and his bucket at the 6:15 mark puts PSA up 32-29.  Then what's this?  Anders Broman back in with 6:05 left in the half.  Very surprising as it didn't at all feel like the game was out of hand or even getting to that point.  That move backfires as he gets called for a questionable pushoff going to his stepback fade at the 4:03 mark.  That's #4 and now he has to sit with LCA down 38-34.  PSA takes advantage with a 17-3 run the rest of the half.  7 points from Pollard in the run and Devin Buckley with a pair of 3s in that spurt.  55-37 PSA at the half and this one looks ugly for LCA.

Hold my calls as Anders Broman starts the 2nd half.  That propels LCA on an 11-2 run, Anders with 6 of those and now the lead is inside 10.  57-48 PSA with 14:20 left and not going at Anders at all.  PSA with a pair of buckets but then a 10-0 LCA run to cut the lead to 61-58 with 11:41 left and we definitely have a game now.  7 point game when Anders knocks down a 3 and a jumper.   Then Anders with 1 of many pull up fades and a steal for 2 with 7:56 left to tie the game.  Brother Bjorn makes 1 of 2 freebies with 7:32 left and LCA has come all the back to lead 72-71.  35-16 LCA run.  Anders backdoor to keep the lead at 73-72 with 7:10 left.  Center Gage Deis picks it up for PSA on the post and with a layup.  79-74 PSA with 6 left.  Anders with a corner 3 off the oldest BLOB play around (inbounder runs to corner and everybody inexplicably goes over the top, TRAIL THAT!).  Deis with another bunny and then a foul line jumper for a 5 point lead.  86-80 PSA when Bjorn Broman scores 2 and makes a free throws.  Then Luke Borchardt with the 3 point play with 1:54 left and we're tied at 86.  The teams trade missed 3s before 2 Buckley free throws with 56 seconds left.  Anders with a good look that's no good with 45 seconds left.  PSA takes time and for some reason Pollard drives and scores with 20 seconds left.  Anders Broman makes 2 FTs with 9 seconds left.  LCA fouls with 6 seconds left (5th on Anders) but its not the bonus and they can't get a foul on the next inbounds.  PSA wins 90-88.  Anders Broman finishes with 30 points and 6 rebounds on 11-21 FGs.  It stuck out to me that most of his offense was fade away pull ups.  Great that he has a midrange game (unheard in today's players) but nothing at the rim.  That shows me that he lacks some size and burst to play at the D1 level.  Combine that with questions about his 3 point range and position (2 in a 1s body) and I think he projects as a productive NSIC player.  Bjorn Broman again impressive with 25 points and Luke Borchardt with 20.  Very impressive comeback and effort from the Lions.  Very team oriented and not afraid to share the ball.  That contrasts with the largely 1 on 1 style of PSA.  Devin Buckley 27 points, Trent Pollard 20 (16 in 1st half).  Gage Dies 18 points and 11 rebounds mostly in the 2nd half.

Game 3: Robbinsdale Cooper vs Minneapolis South
Cooper would use a pair of 10-0 runs in the 1st half to take control.  In the 2nd of those runs, Eric Brown ends it back to back 3s vs the 2-3 zone and then hammers home a dunk off a steal.  Carnell Sheppard with 4 3s in the half to try to keep South around.  42-25 Cooper at half.  South starts the 2nd half on a 9-2 spurt ending with another Sheppard 3 to cut the lead to 10, 44-34 with 14:42 left.  Thomas Ford with a huge second half to keep South around as he was active inside.  South couldn't get stops late to cut the gap.  Cooper wins 77-65.  Rashad Vaughn 3 triples on his way to 34 points and 10 rebounds.  Thomas Ford 20 of his 28 in the 2nd half to lead South.  Carnell Sheppard 6 3s and 19 points for South.

Game 4: Totino-Grace at Minneapolis Washburn
Nick Carr dominant inside early for Totino-Grace.  6-0 Eagles lead before Washburn rains down 4 3s from 4 players in a 15-1 run to take the lead.  Carr would score 15 of the 1st 17 points for the Eagles and in the 1st half they would get 1 elbow jumper and every other field goal was at the basket.  43-29 Washburn at the break.  9 Washburn players in the book, no more than 6 for any of them, Carr with 19.

Then an early 12-2 run from the Eagles with easy buckets.  Sam Meyer with 2 layups, Carr with a putback and bucket, Andy Moritko with a puback.  47-43 Washburn with 13:25 left.  Washburn wouldn't let Totino-Grace any closer as Dwight Anderson made big shots.  He makes 3 straight 3s to stretch the lead to 9.  69-60 Washburn with 5:22 left when they take timeout.  Then finish the game on a 12-2 run for a 81-62 win.  Dwight Anderson 5 3s and 22 points (17 in last 13:15) to lead the Millers.  Jerry Pratt with 12 points.  8 other Millers with at least 4 points.  Nick Carr 29 points, Andy Moritko 13, Sam Meyer and Gabe Kastenmeier 10.

Spartans slay the mythical beast

Its a trip to the smallest gym on my circuit as I visit St. Paul Academy to see their Tri-Metro game against Brooklyn Center.  Hot dog gets a solid A though I haven't had Pepsi in a gym in a while.  A couple of fun moments from the JV game.  First was a kid in front of me talking about making a Walking Taco with Fritos.  Sign that kid up for the space program, absolute genius!  Then on a no call on a drive to the basket, the SPA JV coach calmly says to the official "That's usually a foul".  I found it pretty funny (and good relations with the ref, voice of experience).  At halftime of the varsity I had a visit from the SPA camera crew.  Always nice to chat with the youngsters.  So with all the social conscience of the day, this song seems fitting

Song of the Day
Tracy Chapman - Talkin' About A Revolution

Game Time
Josh Gray with 5 of the first 6 for SPA and we're tied at 6 less than 4 minutes in.  Then point guard Spencer Egly and 6th man Davante Peyton (8th grader) with 3 point plays for 6 in a row from the Spartans.  12-6 SPA at 10:49.  Deandre Bell with a putback for Brooklyn Center at the 8:10 to keep the Centaurs within 15-10.  But then the Centaurs lack of firepower keeps them to 1 field goal in the next 7:10.  SPA goes on a 13-3 run with center Steven Olson beating the press for a layup and putting back a miss.  Harrison Egly curls for an inbounds layup and Josh Gray scores another bucket also during that run.  28-13 Spartans with 1:39 left in the half.  The Centaurs cut that to 30-18 at half with 5 in a row from Sammie Watkins.

Watkins with another 3 and a runout for BC nets them 2 more.  A quick SPA timeout as Coach McKenzie wasn't happy with his team's transition defense.  The teams trade triples and Bell grabs an offensive board which results in 2 free throws.  33-28 SPA with the lead and 15:08 to play.  Then Spencer Egly to the basket for back to back layups and Josh Gray drives for 2 free throws.  Spencer Egly off the high horns screen kicks to Peyton for 3 just inside of the 10 minute mark.  Gray then beats the Centaurs pressure at the 9:15 mark for 2.  44-31 SPA after the 11-3 run in just about 6 minutes.  A Centaurs 3 with 7:50 left would cut the lead to 8 but Brooklyn Center would get no closer.  Gray to Olson for a layup to again beat the press and Olson puts back a miss.  Gray for 3 and Spencer Egly's 2 FTs with 4:34 left conclude a 12-2 run.  58-40 Spartans with their biggest lead.  Brooklyn Center's pressure allows them to cut into the lead but SPA still goes on to win 65-52.

Post Game
For Brooklyn Center, soph guard Sammy Watkins leads with 13 points.  I liked his game and thought he would do more.  Tyler Wilebski with all 10 of his points in the 2nd half.  They were more athletic than SPA and took advantage as they hammered the offensive glass.  That was especially true early in the game.  But they just have no way to generate offense in the halfcourt.  Their 2-2-1 was able to bother SPA some but when you can't score to get into it, life is difficult. Most of the roster is not seniors, but at Brooklyn Center you never know what you'll have year to year.  Brooklyn Center falls to 3-12, 2-8 in the Tri-Metro.  They host St. Anthony and visit Breck next week.

For St. Paul Academy, junior guard Josh Gray leads with 22 points.  Junior PG Spencer Egly with 14 of his 17 points in the 2nd half.  Center Steven Olson with 11 points.  He's also a junior.  8th grader Dalante Peyton with 8 points off the bench and a couple of assists.  Productive outing for the youngster.  He'll have a nice career there.  The expectations that I had coming in were set very high and those expectations were quite unfair.  Its rare to see warmup drills that are unique and productive but I like the SPA slides, post feeds and got a nice tweak by combining one of the base drills with some concepts from DLS warmup drills (i.e coaches passing for extra shots).  The Spartans improve to 7-9 overall, 3-5 in the Tri-Metro.  This is after a stretch where they lost 7 of 9.  A pair of tough road games awaits as they visit DeLaSalle and Heritage next week.  That's followed by home games with Concordia, St. Anthony and trips to St. Croix Lutheran and Providence.  Tough stretch.the last month of the season.

Orioles hang on at home

Off to St. Louis Park as the 3rd place Orioles try to keep pace in the North Suburban.  The visitor was Fridley who came in trying to stay above 500 in the league.  The hot dogs weren't ready early in the JV game which was disappointing but 2 chocolate chip cookes for a buck was worth it.  We have warmups and then its another edition of Teacher Appreciation Night where each player nominates a teacher for recognition and gives a tidbit about the teacher when the player escorts the teacher on to the court.  Great line during that from 1 player.  "He teaches history like he was there".  Very funny.  Our song of the day is not the obvious (Hot for Teacher by Van Halen).  It comes from the 1st tune on the public address system at halftime of the JV game.

Song of the Day
Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days

Game Time
Nate Geving knocks down the 1st 3 of the game and then an 11-2 run by St. Louis Park as Fridley goes 5 minutes without a field goal.  Kashif Hayes with 5 points in that run and then nails a long 2 right on the 3 point line for a 15-9 Park lead at the 10:28 mark.  That's right after another Geving bucket which would start another Fridley drought from the field.  Zach Gilbert Burke with a putback at the 6:50 mark before Hayes picks up his 2nd foul.  That results in 1 of 2 free throws for Fridley.  21-14 St. Louis Park with the lead as Hayes will sit the rest of the half.  That hurts the Park offense as they can't get a field goal to go down.  But they're getting to the charity stripe out of their dribble drive motion.  A pair of Grant Donald free throws gives Park a 26-14 lead at the 3:36 mark.  Finally Geving nails a 3 at the 3:11 mark to break a FG drought of 7:49 for the Tigers.  Geving with another 3 as the lead gets cut to 5 right before the half.  But Park comes back down the floor and DJ Pollard beats the buzzer for 3.  30-22 Park at the half.  That 3 is the only Park field goal in the last 6:38 with Hayes on the bench.  Fridley with 2 stretches of no FGs that adds up to almost 13 minutes.  Hayes and Geving combine for 7 field goals, the other 10 kids who played combined for 6.

Fridley continues their spurt as they start the half on a 7-0 run to force a Park timeout.  They have 3 chances to take the lead that they don't convert but finally Amane Akane gets a layup to fall for a 31-30 Fridley lead with 13 minutes left.  That's their first lead since 3-2.  Hayes with a driving 3 point play and a floater as Park holds a 40-34 lead with 10 minutes left.  After 2 Fridley free throws, Geving breaks a 6 minute field goal with his 5th bomb of the night.  St. Louis Park takes time hanging on to a 40-39 with 5:59 left.  DJ Pollard on a 1-4 high right elbow iso for 2 free throws as Park can't make a shot.  Matt Duehn for 3 with 4:20 left and Fridley takes a 44-43 lead.  Pollard again drives for 2 free throws off the high blur screen (more on that later).  Gilbert Burke on the post for 1 of 2 free throws countered by Michael Murray with 2 free throws.  46 all with 2:48 left.  Duehn with 1 free throw and a Hayes miss to give Fridley the ball back up 47-46 with 2:20 left.  They take time to strategize just inside of 2 to play.  Fridley comes up with an offensive board and is fouled but can't convert the 2 freebies.  St. Louis Park gets it back and then retains possession on the jump ball with 1:12 left.  Ryan Backstrom for Fridley gets bloodied so we have a stoppage to clean the floor and get him a new uniform.  Makhi Moore puts back a miss with 55 seconds left for a 48-47 Park lead.  That bucket is the first Orioles FG in over 9 minutes.  Fridley comes back and Backstrom's new uniform is just fine as he takes it to the rack and finds Geving for an easy 2 with 37 seconds left.  49-48 Fridley.  Pollard again off the blur screen with 20.5 seconds left calmly buries both free throws.  Fridley took a timeout after the 1st FT to set up a play but they promptly turn it over at the other end.  Hayes makes 2 FTs with 12.7 left.  Geving gets a dribble handoff on the left wing and gets a good look at a 3 but its off the back iron and St. Louis Park hangs on 52-49.

Post Game
For Fridley, Nate Geving leads the way with 19 points and 5 triples.  Soph guard Michael Murray 11 of 12 from the charity stripe for 13 points.  Rest of the team was 4-14 at the line.  Geving with 7 field goals (15 attempts), the rest of the team with 7.  Fridley is now 8-7, 3-4 in the North Suburban which is a tie for 6th with Cooper.  They visit neighbor Columbia Heights on Saturday afternoon.

For St. Louis Park, Kashif Hayes finishes with 17 points on 5-10 FGs and 6-9 FTs despite the first half foul trouble which cost him almost 7 minutes.  His first step is lightning quick.  DJ Pollard with 11 points on 8-8 from the foul line.  The Orioles were 12-16 from the line in the 1st half and 13-23 in the 2nd half.  Those free throws kept Park afloat when their shots wouldn't fall.  Exactly what you're looking for out of the dribble drive.  St. Louis Park is now 6-2 in the North Suburban (tied for 3rd with Totino-Grace) and 9-7 overall.  They have a pair of really tough ranked teams coming in as they host Spring Lake Park Saturday at noon and Washburn on Tuesday night.

A couple of things that caught my eye from St. Louis Park and their Dribble Drive Motion system.  Often in dribble drive when a guard spot passes to the ball side wing, that guard will fill to the ball side similar to the strong side cut in the triangle offense.  St. Louis Park sends that passer to the basket and then out to the weak side giving a full clear out on the strong side.  On a middle drive they then fill around with the opposite guard coming over the top.

The area where Pollard got some good looks to the lane was off the blur screen.  This is a dribble drive concept where the guard passes to the other guard and then cuts to the nail (center of FT line).  The guard with the ball then drives right off this back.  Pollard would be in the left guard slot and get this pass which would take him to the basket going to his right hand.  That resulted in free throws inside of 4 minutes for a 1 point lead and his final 2 free throws that ulimately won it with 20.5 left.  Park runs this with the guard running to the nail to screen and then popping back to the other guard slot

Panther size chews up Eagles

Its a big game in the South Suburban as Lakeville North travels to Apple Valley in a battle for 2nd place.  No taco in a bag like I think AV has had in the past.  But since its Lakeville North we get the one and only...Hat Lady.  Dark red tonight with the purple winter coat and a restaurant quality black hat that seemed very Russian.  DA!  Not as big of a crowd as I would have expected. However, we do get the special (and rare) appearance from Gopher Hole's very own Gopher Lady.  Today's music selection is totally random and pointless.  Country seemed to be good variety today.

Song of the Day
Dixie Chicks - Long Time Gone

Game Time
Trey Heid gets the initial task of guarding Tyus Jones.  Jones with a cold 0-4 start.  Lakeville North takes advantage for a 6-2 lead to force an Apple Valley timeout.  Tyus with a nice cut for 2 countered by a Tyler Flack 3.  Tyus for 2 and drives for a lefty finish.  Then back to back assists.  Then he splits a pair of free throws.  18-14 Apple Valley at the 8:47 mark and Lakeville North needs a timeout.  Dustin Fronk with a steal for a 2 and Matt Christiansen in the post for 2 more.  23-14 Apple Valley at the 6:52 mark.  Their 2-3 zone giving Lakeville North fits.  Panthers not making any shots and very stagnant in their zone offense and getting no inside looks despite a major size advantage.  Tyus with a drive for 2 and then a steal for 2 more + a subtle move to take a bump to make that a 3 point play.  32-24 Apple Valley at the half.  Tyus with 13 and the 2 assists.  Tyler Flack 8 points and 6 rebounds for Lakeville North.

The Panthers start the half strong with a 8-2 run as they start getting inside looks.  Brett Rasmussen all alone for a layup, Flack up high to lay in a lob after making 2 free throws.  Timeout Apple Valley with a 34-32 lead and 14:13 to play.  Tyus driving for another lefty finish and nailing a 3 with 13 minutes to go.  39-32 Apple Valley.  Mitch Hecshel with a pair of layups and Dustin Fronk with 2 free throws on a steal.  47-39 Apple Valley with 10:48 to play.  Zach Creighton with back to back triples, his 3rd and 4th of the night as the Panthers cut into the lead.  Then Ryan Saarela takes over inside.  He makes 1 layup, then Tyler David converts a turnover after Flack missed a dunk, Saarela with 1 layup and another off a BLOB.  53-52 Lakeville North with 7 minutes to play.  Tyus challenges Flack and makes 2 free throws.  Then Tyus blocks Saarela from behind to save 2 more.  Saarela can't be stopped or contained.  He puts back a miss with 5:20 left.  Then a drive to the basket for 2 more.  Flack fouled for 2 freebies with 3:42 left.  59-54 Lakeville North taking over as Tyus just missed back to back chances in the post.  Flack posts up next time down for 2 more from the right box.  Saarela with another bucket and 2 free throws to end a streak of 14 points in just over 7 minutes.  Lakeville North ends the game on a 15-0 run over the last 5:20.  Apple Valley goes scoreless the last 6:19 and only 1 FG in the last 10 minutes.  Tyus Jones last field goal was at the 13 minute mark and had only 2 free throws after that.  Panthers prevail 68-54.

Post Game
For Apple Valley, Tyus Jones leads with 22 points and 4 assists on my sheet.  I had 8-23 FGs on my sheet as well.  With Harry Sonie out for the season, that takes 1 of the few scoring threats out of the Eagles lineup.  Maybe that had an impact but it looked like Tyus was pressing a bit.  Most surprising and you have to credit the Lakeville North defense for this is that nobody besides Tyus made a 3 point shot in the game for Apple Valley.  Lots of 1 on 1 play with little movement contributed to that.  Dustin Fronk with 11 points was the other double figure scorer.  Apple Valley falls to 5-2 in the South Suburban and into 3rd place behind Eastview and Lakeville North.  They are 12-3 overall.  They now have 3 in a row on the road at Jefferson, Rosemount and Prior Lake thru next week.

Tyler Flack leads Lakeville North with 18 points and 12 boards on my sheet.  Ryan Saarela with 14 of his 16 in the last 10 minutes to take over the game.  Zach Creighton with 4 big 3s in the game for 12 points.  Lakeville North gets 35 points from the starters and 33 from the bench for great balance.  Lakeville North struggled vs the 2-3 in the first half and when Creighton didn't play the last 10 minutes I thought his shooting would be missed.  But the defensive work was outstanding holding Apple Valley to 2 FGs in the last 11:30.  Good adjustments against the zone in the 2nd half as Saarela and Flack were too much for the small Eagles front line.  Lakeville North is now 6-1 in the South Suburban and stays 1 game behind Eastview.  They are 14-1 overall.  They visit Rosemount on Thursday.

2012 East Metro Showcase Day 2

Day 2 of the East Metro Showcase was mostly another round of blowouts but there was 1 classic.  Here's a look at the day's games.

Game 1: Roseville vs St. John's Lutheran (FL)
Not much to see here as Roseville rolled to a 106-49 win.  2 losses for St. John's by a total of 119 points in the event.  Yikes.  65-25 at the half as Roseville pulled away.  14 players score with 4 in double figures.  Logan Brown leads with 17 points.

Game 2: Hopkins vs Milwaukee Riverside
In the game that could have been billed as the showcase game of the day, Tubby Smith and staff made an appearance for the first of 3 straight games.  One of their targets Phil Nolan of Riverside got off to a quick start with 4 points and 2 rebounds.  Then Hopkins totally dominated.  From 12-8 Hopkins to a 64-25 halftime lead.  Hopkins would coast from there to a 91-58 win.  Riverside's effort just not there on this day.  Siyani Chambers with another impressive performance with 17 of his 20 points in the 1st half.  Zach Stahl 18.  Jake Wright 18 on 6 3s.  Demetrius Martin 15 of his 17 in the first half.  Gopher targets Phil Nolan and D'Andre Downey with 13 and 11 points respectively.  Nolan with 4 rebounds and 4 blocks as wel.

Game 4: Eden Prairie vs La Crosse Aquinas
Aquinas would hang around with a tie game at 15 at about the 12 minute mark of the 1st half.  Then soph point guard Reggie Rabb picks up his 2nd foul and sits.  He's the replacement for future Badger Bronson Koenig at the point.  That means the Blugolds have to go to point guard #3 and the wheels fall off from there.  Eden Prairie goes on a 34-10 the remainder of the half.  They go on to win 72-45.  Sander Mohn leads with 15 points.  Sophs Andre Wallace and Anthony Anderson with 11 each.  Impressive game from forward Abrian Carpenter with all 15 points of his points in the 1st half.

Game 5: St. Paul Central vs Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (WI)
Hot starts from the top 2 Red Hawks stars get GET off to a nice start.  They roll the lead to 41-23 at half, then 62-32 with 6:34 to play before the benches empty.  Central cuts that against the GET bench to a 66-44 loss.  Central's schedule has been very tough but they look like they've seriously regressed since I saw them a month ago against Tartan.  Malik Durant-Haines and Marcus Taylor-Knighten with 10 each to lead Central.  Tim Wagner 6 3s and 22 points to lead GET.  Winona State commit Riley Bambenek 21 points and 3 triples.

Game 3: Onalaska (WI) at Johnson
We'll save the best game of the day for the end.  Gopher staff stayed around to see Matt Thomas.  He didn't shoot it well but a pair of jumpers off 1 dribble (a 3 and a 2) plus another bucket with the foul put Onalaska up 21-9 with 6:35 left in the first half.  Missouri St recruit Marcus Marshall would get going for Johnson with a pair of 3s.  Combine that with UWGB signee Nick Arenz sitting the last 8 minutes with 3 fouls and Johnson would cut the lead to 26-22 at half.

Marshall with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 37 with 12 minutes left.  Then Darius Watson off the inbound defenders back for 2 with 10 minutes left.  41-38 Johnson in front.  That's followed by a soft T on Onalaska coach Craig Kowal (who was rightfully upset with the brutally awful officiating in this game).  Johnson gets 1 free throw from that but doesn't score on the possession.  Johnson does extend the lead to 49-42 with 6:36 left.  Arenz would foul out with 5:20 left and the Hilltoppers still down 51-44.  Then Thomas again comes up clutch.  He hangs for a jumper and takes the hit for a 3 point play.  Johnson would get a block on 1 end that Quashingm Smith-Pugh converted to a layup on the other.  55-47 Johnson with 4:05 left.  Thomas for 2 and then a T on Smith-Pugh for 2 more Thomas free throws.  Thomas cashes in the possession with the head fake and lean in from the foul line for a 3 point play.  That's 10 straight Thomas points.  Johnson turns it over and Ben Socha knocks down a jumper to put Onalaska ahead 56-55 with 2:45 left.  9-0 Hilltoppers run in 1:20.  Bajuan Adams counters for Johnson going to the rack for a 3 point play.  Onalaska turns it over and Watson makes 1 of 2 FTs with 1:42 left for a 59-56 Johnson lead.  Then Thomas for 3 from the top with 1:13 left to tie the game at 59.  Johnson holds the ball and then to the rim but its a charge with 25.9 left.  Tough call there as well from the officials.  Johnson takes timeout to set their defense.  Thomas gets the ball to half court and Onalaska takes time out to draw up the final play.  There's nothing like calling the timeout, drawing up a play and getting perfect execution to win.  That happened here and it clinches the season award for

Play of the Year
Star Matt Thomas in the right corner.  Ben Socha on the right block.  Double stack on the left block.  Ball in a guard's hands in the high right slot (would be the right guard position in a 2-3 high look).  Thomas takes off across the baseline to the left corner as the ball is dribbled to the left slot.  The entire building is thinking Hoosiers, PICKET FENCE!  PICKET FENCE!  PICKET FENCE!  The guard picks up the dribble as Socha flashes high.  With the dead dribble, the player spins and gives a ball fake to Socha's flash.  Socha goes backdoor and is wide open for the layup.  That wins the game for Onalaska 61-59.

2012 East Metro Showcase Day 1

I didn't see the first game of the East Metro Showcase due to real life but there wasn't much to miss as Highland Park pounded St. John's Lutheran from Florida 98-36.  The event founder is head coach at St. John's Lutheran so that explains why they made the trip.  I arrive 20 minutes later than expected (thank you traffic) and walk into the gym with my Walking Taco and only 1 minute left in game 2 warmups.  Hmm, must multitask.  North Dakota and South Dakota both with coaches in the building to watch.

Song of the Day
Life in the Fast Lane - Eagles

Game 2: Milwaukee Riverside vs St. Paul Central
Big story of the day was the arrival of Riverside's lefty post Phil Nolan who has a boatload of high D1 offers.  But it was the hot shooting that got it going .  Jalen Currie off the always illegal foul line elevator screen for 3.  That's the 3rd Tigers 3 for a 13-5 lead just 2:23 into the game.  Central claws back with their best scorer Montrell Williams coming off the bench to knock down a 3.  20-14 Riverside at the 11:30 mark.  Then Bakari Triggs for 3 inside out from Nolan on the block.  Later Nolan gets the pass off the backboard on the break and slams it home to ignite the crowd.  Wide body RaVonn Posey with a layup, 3 point play and then puts back a missed free throw.  The run is 20-0 as Central goes scoreless for a 7 minute stretch.  40-14 at the 5:50 mark of the 1st half.  Williams would get the last 9 of the half for Central and would score the only Minutemen field goals in a 14:15 stretch into the 2nd half.  Nolan with 2 dunks and a turn and face in the post for 2 more to start the 2nd half.  We get to running time and Riverside with their bench gives up a 12-1 run to end the game.  72-48 Riverside wins.  5 in double figures for Riverside.  Bakari Triggs 19 and 5 3s.  Jalen Currie 14, Shomari Triggs, D'Andre Downey and Phil Nolan all with 10.  Nolan also added 3 blocks.  Marcus Taylor-Knighten 14 points and Montrell Williams 11 for Central.

Game 3: Hopkins at Johnson
This is a rematch of the championship game from the Best Buy Holiday Classic 3 weeks ago (read about that here).  So with that in mind expectation weren't high, but Johnson is on home turf so you never know.  The start is ominous as Marcus Marshall picks up 2 quick fouls.  Then Zach Stahl scores on the post and Andre McDonald for 3.  11-2 Hopkins at the 14:35 mark.  Johnson would come back with Waylon Johnson scoring and a block converted into 2 points by Quashingm Smith-Pugh.  15-13 Hopkins at 11:20.  Darius Watson with a great eurostep for 2 to break some Hopkins momentum.  Marshall staying in and his 3 cuts the lead to 5.  Then Stahl picks up his 2nd at the 7:28 mark and has to sit.  Marshall nails another 3 and a pair of free throws and don't look now but Johnson has their first lead at 32-30 at the 4:30 mark.  That's a 14-4 Johnson run.  Hopkins would counter with an 11-1 run of their own.  Jake Wright's 3 before halftime gives Hopkins a 44-39 going to the 2nd half.

First basket of the half goes to Hopkins and then 6 in a row for Johnson and that gets the crowd involved.  Then at a deadball we end up with a push and all 10 guys will get together and the refs have to jump in and break up what thankfully didn't become a much more serious mess.  Hopkins kids walk away all clapping and more jakked up about it than Johnson.  Waylon Johnson powers for 2 for a Johnson 1 point lead quickly countered by Demetrius Martin.  Johnson again, this time with the scoop quickly countered by Stahl.  Then a right corner BLOB 3 for Marshall puts the Govs up 52-50 with 15:10 to play.  McDonald scores to tie and a turnover results in Siyani Chambers pulling up for 3.  55-52 Hopkins.

Wait a minute, what is this?  No, this has never happened.  But it is actually happening and I'm actually witnessing something absolutely unthinkable.

Hopkins goes 3-2 zone at about the 15 minute mark of the 2nd half and plays it the rest of the way.  That is not a typo.  I am absolutely shocked and speechless 

Johnson has no answer for it.  Chambers continuing his huge half as he gets a 4 point play.  Then a pullup and a layup on a turnover.  Martin with a layup at the 11:37 mark to end an 18-2 run.  68-54 Hopkins with the lead.  Waylon Johnson with a 3 point play and a putback but Chambers counters with a 3 point play of his own.  Watson banks in a 3 from the right corner and the lead is back down to 9, 71-62 with 9:20 to play.  But Hopkins would score 12 of the next 17 to put the game away.  Chambers to Jorgenson for 3 and his own floater in that run.  Hopkins goes on to win 99-83.  Siyani Chambers with a magnificent 2nd half scoring 25 of his 31 points during that half.  Nick Jorgenson and Zach Stahl with 18 each.  Marcus Marshall 4 3s for 17 points to lead Johnson.  De'Vonta Durr and Waylon Johnson 16 points.

Day 2 features Milwaukee Riverside vs Hopkins in the 2nd game followed by Onalaska, WI vs Johnson.  A couple of Gopher interests in those games (Nolan for Riverside and Matt Thomas of Onalaska).

Bears take control of Tri-Metro

Its a another trip to Blake and that must mean its cold.  But these Bears aren't hibernating and their opponent (St. Anthony Huskies) has a bark to match their bite.  Blake has upgraded the food which deserves great applause, but I pick the 1 night where the hard working parents don't have Walking Tacos.  Bad luck by me.  Its a matchup of Tri-Metro division leaders so it deserves a hit song.  Here's today's selection.

Song of the Day
Foreigner - Cold as Ice

Game Time
Last year Anthony Brama went off for 39 to lead the Huskies to a 70-69 win.  Brama's luck this year was sour as he picks up 2 fouls in the 1st 1:28 and has to sit.  Blake uses that to score the 1st 7 of the game.  St. Anthony would get a running half hook from Chance Blackey for their 1st field goal of the night but they were hard to come by.  Blake would take control from there.  Kebu Johnson to Alex Smith for a layup, then a Johnson steal for a 3 point play.  Paul Blake with a putback after a turnover.  St. Anthony turns it over for a 3rd consecutive time for 0 points but misses an open layup going back.  17-6 Blake at the 7:30 mark.  Brama back in the game to try to ignite the Huskies offense but to no avail.  Soph PG John Veil with his 2nd 3 of the night and the extra pass to Johnson for 3.  He sandwiches that 3 with a pair of drives. Then he swats Brama on one end and Veil buries a 3 on the other.  Johnson takes another turnover for 2 more and the rout is on.  38-10 Blake at the half.  St. Anthony with 4 FTs and 3 FGs in the half.  Unofficially the Huskies were 3-27 from the floor.  Johnson keeps it going posting right off the 2nd half inbounds.  Then a steal that he takes home for a dunk and a runout for a reverse layup.  Add 2 more bunnies and its really out of hand at 50-12 with 14:17 to go.  60-23 with 9:07 left when I call it an evening.  St. Anthony with 9 FTs and 7 FGs at that point.  Blake goes on to win 69-38.

Post Game
For St. Anthony, Anthony Brama leads with 11 points.  Nobody else more than 6.  It was fun to see St. Anthony go to the Buzz Defense. a 2-3 passing lane zone.  Coach Bratland is a hard nosed man to man kind of guy so it was interesting to see that.  They did get some traps out of it but on this night nothing worked.  St. Anthony falls to 10-2 (only other loss 54-52 at NSP) and 6-1 in the Tri-Metro.  They remain 1 game ahead of Concordia in the East division.  They visit Mahtomedi on Saturday.  Brama vs Zach Lindquist head to head will be fun.  Both teams like to pound the ball low.  Mahtomedi using their triangle type set and St. Anthony with their Kansas high low system.

For Blake, who would have seen this coming.  Their size inside was absolutely dominant with Kebu Johnson, Connor Kline and Paul Blake sending everything away and making life miserable.  Kebu Johnson finishes with 20 points and stuffing the stat sheet going for the Andrei Kirilenko 5x5.  I had at least 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 blocks for him on my sheet.  John Veil adds 3 3s in the 1st half and finishes with 13 points and 7 assists.  Paul Blake with 12.  The Bears now have won 3 in a row since back to back losses to Chaska and Edina.  They're now 11-2 and 8-0 in the Tri-Metro, 1.5 games ahead of DeLaSalle in the West.  7 of the next 8 games for the Bears are on the road and only 3 home games vs 10 road games remain in the regular season.

2012 Midwest Players Classic Review

Last Saturday was the 2nd annual Midwest Players Classic at the La Crosse Center in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Once again a quality group of Minnesota teams made the trip across the river.  Here's how they fared.

Game 1: Austin vs Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, WI
Really good crowd on hand to see local star Riley Bambenek, a Winona State commit, and the GET High (don't do drugs kids) Red Hawks take on the Austin Packers in the opener.  Austin star Joe Aase with 7 in a row to help the Packers to a 13-9 lead after 1 quarter.  The lead would get to 8 before a GET comeback.  23 all at the half.  GET's 1-3-1 is too much in the 2nd half as they hold the Packers to only 11 points.  Riley Bambenek struggles with his shooting but ends up with 13 points 10 boards and 7 assists on my sheet as GET wins 49-34.  That zone held Joe Aase to 13 points and 7 of them were in a 1st quarter spurt.

Game 2: Owatonna vs Onalaska, WI
Owatonna with a 10-0 run to end the first quarter and take a 14-7 lead to the 2nd.  Onalaska would counter with a 9-0 run to regain the lead.  Even midway thru the 2nd when Onalaska star Matt Thomas scores 10 of the last 12 Hilltoppers points.  That's in a 14-4 run to end the half and a 35-26 Hilltoppers lead.  Thomas finishes the run in the 3rd quarter with a steal for 2 and the lead balloons to 16.  Thomas with 12 in a 19-4 run that blew it open.  Owatonna gets the last 10 of the game against the Onalaska bench to cut the final margin to 54-46.  Matt Thomas 17 points and 5 rebounds to lead Onalaska.

Game 3: St. Paul Johnson vs Whitefish Bay Dominican
Johnson played this one without star PG Marcus Marshall (Missouri State commit).  Dominican had their D1 backcourt of Jamal Taylor and Duane Wilson on hand along with frosh post stud Diamond Stone.  5 all early when Dominican goes on a 21-2 run that puts this one out of reach in the 1st quarter.  Wilson all over the place in the run with a tip in, scoop, steal for a James Worthy like dunk left handed and an NBA 3.  Could definitely see why he'll be visiting Memphis at the end of the month.  Taylor goes for 24, Wilson for 21 and 8 rebounds, Stone for 11 points, 7 boards and at least 5 blocks.  Waylon Johnson with 11 in a nice outing for Johnson.  Dominican rolls 78-46.  Hard to see how they'll be challenged in division 4.

Game 4: Roseville vs Milwaukee Riverside
Riverside would get a 3 at the buzzer to take a 15-9 lead after 1 quarter.  Mack Johnson would bring Roseville back with 12 in the 2nd quarter to come from 8 down.  25-22 Roseville at halftime.  37-35 Riverside going to the 4th.  42 all with 4 minutes to go.  Roseville would get a pair of steals and miss open layups to convert on those.   Riverside helping out by holding the ball.  46-42 with 20.9 to go and Roseville goes 0-3 from the line on a 3 shot foul.  That's a dagger and means a 3 ball at the buzzer by Mack Johnson is meaningless.  47-45 Milwaukee Riverside wins.  Mack Johnson 5 3s and 25 points.  Bakari Triggs with 2 late layups for the final Riverside points.  He finishes with 16.  11 for sophomore star D'Andre Downey.

Game 5: Eastview vs Madison Memorial
This was meant to be the game of the day and it was a major shocker.  Memorial played without "Popcorn" Morris up front and point guard Brendan Ortiz came off the bench. Ortiz was the star of the triple OT state championship game last year for the Spartans.  Cleveland St commit Junior Lomomba off to a fast start with the 1st 6 Memorial points.  Eastview would counter with a pair of 3s from guard Chris Narum and Drake commit Joey King with his own 3.  Jester Weah 2 inside buckets to end the quarter.  13-10 Eastview after 1.  2 turnovers lead to points in an 8-0 Eastview run to start the quarter.  Memorial would counter with 7 in a row of their own to cut the lead to 21-17.  But Eastview finishes the half on a 10-2 run in the last 2:20.  King on the post with 1 bucket and 2 assists out of there as well.  Point guard Darin Haugh would add another steal and 2 in that run as well.  31-19 Eastview at the break.  Narum back to back 3s vs the Memorial 1-3-1 to start the half and holy cow the lead is 18.  Memorial would get a pair of 3s and a layup from Ngijol Songolo to cut the lead to 10 right before the end of the quarter.  45-33 Eastview going to the 4th.  Center Ben Oberfeld would get 4 inside buckets exploiting Memorial pressure and the Spartans couldn't score on the other end.  It gets out of hand and Eastview wins big 64-37.  Very impressive performance from Eastview, especially Darin Haugh at the point.  He won the head-head battle with Ortiz.  Eastview also played lots of 1-3-1 which isn't like them and it was very effective.  Ben Oberfeld finishes with 16 and 8.  Joey King with 11. Chris Narum 5 3s for 15. Darin Haugh 8 but it doesn't tell the story of how he ran the team, took care of the ball and was a defensive nightmare.  Junior Lomomba held to only 2 points after the 1st 6.  He finishes with 8 and 8.

Game 6: Kaukauna vs La Crosse Aquinas
Aquinas played without star point guard Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin commit) due to a hand injury that will sideline him for the rest of the high school season.  They also were missing forward Mike Conway who blew out a knee before the season started.  That's their top 2 players so you had that going against the Galloping Ghosts, scary thought.  Kaukauna would open the lead to around 15 midway through the 3rd but Aquinas would claw back to trail 39-30 going to the 4th.  Then a 16-4 run to start the quarter.  Soph guard Reggie Rabb starting in place of Koenig nailed the go ahead runner with 2:05 to play.  Rabb played here in the cities with MN Fury Black last spring.  Kaukauna would have a free throw to tie with 21 seconds left.  That was no good but they forced a turnover in the backcourt.  The scramble was wild but the Ghosts couldn't score and Aquinas steals one 47-46.

Spartans break the ice

Its a night in the Classic Suburban with Mahtomedi visiting Richfield.  Mahtomedi off to a 7-1 start but a rough stretch last week so a chance to see the Zephrys first hand to determine where they really fit.  Cheese pizza from Little Caesars not a bad option.  A small crowd so a quiet night in the stand except for 1 pleasant surprise.  Its my first local pep band of the year but the PA system blares until 1 minute to go in warmups.  That always bugs me, one of the rare times the kids show up to play and you waste their time with the pumped in music.  Thankfully they hung around through the first half and halftime.  It also means that there's enough tunes to pick from their set list for ...

Song of the Day
All the Small Things - Blink 182

Game Time
Jared Noonan for 3 to give Richfield a 3-2 lead 25 seconds into the game.  Why does this shot matter?  Because there won't be another one from outside of 5 feet for a LONG time.  Meanwhile Mahtomedi pounds the ball inside with Mike Harris scoring and a pair of Zach Lindquist post ups.  Add in an Andrew Lindquist 3 and the run is 9-0 for a 11-3 Zephyrs lead.  Richfield would counter by pounding the offensive board (and they had plenty of opportunity for that in this game).  Dan Beyel and Deshawn Jones with putbacks followed by a pair of Richfield layups to cut the Mahtomedi lead to 16-15 at the 8:12 mark.  Mahtomedi takes timeout and counters with a 10-2 run of their own.  Andrew Lindquist with a drive, assist to Zach and then a layup on a 3 on 1 break via a pretty behind the back feed from Mike Fandler.  26-17 Mahtomedi at the 4:22 to force a Richfield timeout.  Danny Shay would work and run his way to 4 layups in the last 4 minutes to counter a pair of Noonan drives.  34-26 Mahtomedi at the half.  Zach Lindquist with 8 quick points to start the half.  He sits the last 2:50 with 2 fouls but still ends up with 13 in the half.  Jones 8 (and a huge block), Noonan 7 for Richfield.

Andrew Lindquist keeping the Zephyrs going with an assist to Zach for a 3 point play, 2 free throws and a drive for 2 more. Noonan keeping it even with a layup on a turnover in the backcourt and an assist for another layup.  Then Zach Lindquist with a jumper and Mike Harris driving for 2.  47-36 Mahtomedi with 10:56 to play.  Then the cosmic shift.  Richfield with a putback and then Zach Lindquist gets his 4th foul with 7:54 to go.  It was a loose ball and a questionable call.  48-38 Mahtomedi with the lead when Zach sits.  That triggers something as Noonan buries a 3 at the 7:37 mark.  That's the 1st outside shot for the Spartans since Noonan's 3 in the first 25 seconds or 28 minutes if you're adding it up.  Most of that with Mahtomedi playing a 3-2 zone with a taller guy on top.  Jones with a putback and Mahtomedi needs a timeout.  48-43 Mahtomedi with 6:37 left and Zach Lindquist still sitting. 

A skip pass finds Noonan for 1 bomb and after a tough Mahtomedi shot, he buries another.  49-48 Richfield takes the lead just inside of 6 minutes to play.  Zach Lindquist returns at the 5:44 mark with that score.  Erik Jimson drives for 2, Jones drives for 2 more with 5:17 left and its 53-48 Richfield to force another Zephyrs timeout.  Noonan drives left baseline and makes the high floater to push the lead to 7.  Total run for Richfield is 19-1 over over 4:09.  Mahtomedi with 2 missed front ends of the bonus in that stretch after Zach Lindquist came back in.  3 of 4 freebies from Mahtomedi cut the lead to 55-51 with 4:31 left.  They would get no closer.  Jimson with 2 free throws and then a steal leads to a Jones hammer dunk inside of 4 minutes left and the lead is 8.  Shay puts back a miss at the 3:40 mark for the 1st Mahtomedi field goal in over 7 minutes.  By that time its too late.  The rest is mostly free throws.  Richfield comes from 11 down with 11 to play to win 72-63.

Post Game
For Mahtomedi, Zach Lindquist leads the way with 27 points and 11 rebounds on my sheet.  Andrew Lindquist with 13, Danny Shay with 14.  They get only 1 point from their bench.  Bad matchup for the Zephyrs as they don't have athletes or a true point guard.  That's a bad combination against an athletic team that wants to get after you and Richfield did that with success.  Besides Zach Lindquist there's not a ton of offensive firepower either which makes them a similar matchup to St. Thomas Academy (STA beat the Zephyrs 58-51 last week).  This is the 3rd straight loss for Mahtomedi dropping their record to 7-4, 2-3 in the Classic Suburban.  3 home games are next with South St. Paul on Friday then a pair of really tough games against similar opponents St. Anthony on Saturday and Tartan on Tuesday.

For Richfield, Jared Noonan comes up big in the 2nd half with 3 straight 3s and a drive in that 19-1 second half run that ultimately won the game.  14 points off the bench for Deshawn Jones who somebody on the AAU circuit needs to find.  6'3 to 6'4 athletic and active.  Really liked him both times I've seen him this year.  23 points total from the Richfield bench.  It makes up for Siberian cold night from Shawn Bear who had only 2 FTs and I had him 0-15 shooting (0-13 from 3).  Not a single one was a bad shot either.  Plenty of good looks that just simply wouldn't go in.  Richfield improves to 7-4, 3-2 in the Classic Suburban and 6 home wins in a row since the opening day loss to Waconia.  They've lost their last 3 on the road (Grand Rapids, St. Thomas Academy and Sibley).  The road awaits them on Friday with a trip to Tartan.

Hooker reaches a milestone

Its a long trip to the edges of the kingdom and the fine town of St. Petersburg (Elk River and you know I'm not calling it Leningrad).  Dominos pizza on the menu, no sausage but cheese will do.  Like many schools in the NWSC they use the split gym setup for the lower level games and then have to setup the main floor for the varsity game.  Park Center was the opponent tonight with their dangerous group of juniors and Elk River has been a pleasant surprise.  But our best surprise of the night comes with the students dancing to the song of the day at halftime.

Song of the Day
DJ Casper - Cha Cha Slide

Game Time
A Quinton Hooker pullup from just inside of 3 gives Park Center a 7-2 lead less than 2 minutes in.  Isaiah McKay with a 3 point play, Hooker to Treyton Daniels for 3.  22-17 Pirates at the 11 minute mark.  Then Hooker with a questionable charge for his 2nd at the 8:40 mark and he'll sit most of the rest of the half.  McKay buries his 2nd 3 of the night for a 5 point lead but the Elks come back with 6 in a row thanks to a pair of layups from Landon Werner.  27-26 Elk River grabs their 1st lead at the 5:50 mark.  Daniels with 2 free throws on a questionable blocking call and 2 more at the 2:05 mark.  Soph star Clay Elrod on the post for 2 and then a drive from the elbow for a 3 point play.  Elk River adds the last bucket of the half for a 37-36 halftime lead.

Hooker gets it going in the 2nd half.  He drains a 3, knocks down 1 jumper and then hangs from the foul line for another.  Add in a tip in in a 6-0 run and that gives Park Center a 53-47 lead with 12:30 to play and Elk River takes time.  Inside of the 9 minute mark, Hooker with a couple of quality passes that should have been points but a layup was botched and the handle on the 3 on 1 break broke up the other.  Elrod with his 2nd straight 3 that cut the lead to 1 before Hooker finds McKay for 3.  Elrod then picks up his 4th foul with 6:54 and has to sit with the Elks trailing 60-56.  Could've been 6 but the Pirates missed both freebies.  Elk River runs over a minute off the clock before a tough Tucker Morrell fade in the lane.  He then counters a Pirates 3 with one of his own.  63-61 Park Center with 5:10 left before Treyton Daniels drives and scores.  A dead ball gets Elrod back into the game at the 4:26 mark and he only missed 2 offensive possessions.  Then a nice set sees Hooker screen down and then post up.  He gets the ball on the right block and kicks out to Daniels for a critical 3 with 4 minutes to go.  Elk river turns it over and Hooker tips in a miss for a 70-61 lead.  He seals the game with 6 of 6 free throws the rest of the way.  Park Center gets a quality road win 82-71.

Post Game
For Elk River, Clay Elrod with 21 points and 5 rebounds on my sheet.  Tucker Morrell with 12, Porter Morrell and Landon Werner 10 each.  The Elks got Elrod a couple of easy layups by having their guard dribble to the wing pop a big from the elbow to the top and having a guard cross screen the post.  Surprised there wasn't more of that action used.  Elk River falls to 7-5 overall and 5-2 in the NW Suburban and out of a 4 way tie in the loss column at the top of the league.  Next week will be critical for the Elks as they go on the road Tuesday to Champlin Park and host Maple Grove on Friday.  Trips to Armstrong and Centennial before hosting Osseo follow that.

For Park Center, Treyton Daniels leads all scorers with 22 points.  Quinton Hooker with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists (worth 11 more points) on my sheet.  19 of those in the 2nd half thanks to the 1st half foul trouble.  With a pair of free throws with 46.8 to play, he passed the 1000 career points mark.  Isaiah McKay with 3 bombs and 17 points.  No seniors for Park Center and they're already dangerous.  They ran some horns ball screen action for Hooker and always got good looks out of it (a couple of assists from Hooker for 3) but only saw it 3 maybe 4 times.  Park Center is now 6-5 and 3-4 in the NW Suburban.  They host Anoka and go to Blaine next week.

Roosevelt storms back against Edison

Its another Wednesday night trip to Edison.  While I was looking forward to the Walking Taco (grade C, but good call by me to add the hot sauce), the game itself seemed like another Wednesday night mismatch.  As they say, That's Why They Play The Games.

Game Time
Edison jumping out to a 7-2 lead 4:30 into the game. They would then get junior guard Brian Givens going with a layup, 3 and jumper for a 20-12 lead at the 8:10 mark.  The lead gets to 10 just outside of the 5 minute mark.  Roosevelt gets 7 in a row to cut the lead to 3 but Givens gets the last points of the half on the rare 4 point play.  30-21 Edison at the half.

Edison comes out in a 3-2 zone in the 2nd half and Roosevelt has nothing for it.  Add in some quality play from Dedrick Holifield off the Edison bench as he comes in only in the 2nd half and buries a 3 and gets a putback.  Forward Josh Perez with a coast to coast trip to the hoop and another drive for 2.  41-25 Edison with 13:20 to go.  That's the biggest of the game.  Frosh Arione Farrar Jr off the Roosevelt bench for back to back 3s as the Teddies try to chip into that lead.  Their best scorer Brandon Strickland drives and goes glass for 2 and puts back a miss after getting his 4th foul.  But he gets #5 with 7:52 left and Roosevelt down 55-45.  Momentum to Edison as they turn it over, get the benefit of a no call that would have been an easy 2 which they turn into a Holifield 3 point play.  52-40 Edison just inside of 6 to play.

Don't blink because the game changes in a hurry.  Soph Demetrius Durant with a drive for 2 FTs and steals the inbounds for 2 more.  Soph Terrance Hicks steals the next inbounds for 2 more freebies and puts back a miss.  Steven Childs with a big 3 at the 4 minute mark and all of a sudden its a 1 possession game.  54-51 Edison hanging on and they turn it over on a jump ball.  Farrar with drive, pulls up to not draw the charge then a quality head fake to get the defender up and jump in for the contact.  That's a veteran move from a freshman.  But both the free throws were no good.  Durant drives for 2 and Edison with a quick shot and miss.  Roosevelt will patiently hold vs the 3-2 inside of 3 minutes to play down 55-53. 

They get the top defender drawn to the ball in a 2 guard set.  Guard to guard pass (pulls the wing defender out) and the 2nd pass to the wing finds Childs wide open in the slot between defenders as the bottom defender doesn't get out to him.  Its a cold blooded 3 with 2:15 to go to put Roosevelt on top 56-55.  Edison with 3 chances on the offensive glass and can't convert.  Childs is fouled and makes 2 free throws.  Edison turns it over but Roosevelt misses the front end of the bonus with 44.6 to go.  Edison comes back, a drive to the rim is out of control but they get the call.  However, they can't make the free throws with 37.3 left.  Roosevelt walks after getting the rebound so Edison still has a chance down 58-55 with 33.3 to play.  Perez gets a look for the tying 3 from the left corner but Hicks swats it away.  Roosevelt makes their last 4 free throws for a 62-55 win.  Roosevelt closes the game on a 22-3 run over the last 5:42 with Edison going scoreless over the last 3:30.

Post Game
For Edison, they get good balance with 12 from soph Joseph Anderson, 11 from Josh Perez, 11 from Brian Givens (all 1st half) and 12 from Dedrick Holifield (all 2nd half).  Their 3-2 zone kept Roosevelt off balance.  I must say they looked better than I expected.  Far more disciplined and playing with a purpose much more than last year.  The Tommies fall to 3-7.  They play at Minneapolis Southwest on Friday.

For Roosevelt, give them credit for not hanging their heads.  Their full court pressure really bothered Edison and it paid off later in the game.  14 from soph Demetrius Durant and Frosh Aroine Farrar.  10 for the lefty Steven Childs and they were all clutch points in the last 4 minutes.  I liked Farrar's game as a strong wing who can shoot it (4 3s tonight).  Combine him with fellow frosh Terry Thomas and the future has light for the Teddies.  Roosevelt improves their record to 2-6 after 4 straight losses by at least 24 points.  They are at Minneapolis North on Friday.

Royals Rock Falcons

Its an early trip to Hopkins as I got a chance to see the quality youth for both squads.  But as you all know, the real reason is that I was there for the Walking Taco.  Looked like it would be great and felt warm enough but tasted cold throughout.  I must have mixed it wrong (always a critical component).  Hopkins would pull away late in all 3 games I saw, but some noteworthy points anyway.  Since it was played in 2 buildings today and mentioned by a loyal twitter follower (and if you're not following me there, shame on you do it now!  You're missing plenty of good stuff that you don't get here), here's our

Song of the Day
Space Jam Theme

Game Time
Jamal Davis comes off the bench in this one for Hopkins.  Ibrahim Cisse unavailable for Armstrong and he's one of their few "big" guys.  Armstrong gives up the first 4 as scoring is hard to come by for both sides early.  Then the Falcons put up 10 quick ones thanks to back to back Nick O'Hara 3s, a SLOB jumper and a pair of free throws from versatile soph Nobel Fahnbulleh.  10-4 Falcons at the 13:38 mark.  14-11 Falcons when their star junior Konner Goettsche goes down with a knee injury.  He did not return. Fahnbulleh with a foul line pullup before Hopkins explodes.  Siyani Chambers on the offensive glass for 2, Nick Jorgensen with a putback of a free throw miss.  Another Hopkins missed free throw results in a Royals 3 point play from Stahl.  Demetrius Martin with a drive and then a tough 3 where he though he got fouled.  Its all part of a 20-1 Hopkins run in just over 3 and a half minutes.  31-17 Hopkins at the 7:33 mark.  Mitchell Biewen with 7 in a row for the Falcons and his 3 cuts the lead to 42-31 with 3:40 left in the half.  Hopkins scores the next 9 before an Armstrong tip ends the half.  51-33 Hopkins at halftime.

Armstrong trying to hang around with Fahnbulleh tipping in a miss and driving.  Then a Nick O'Hara 3 to cut the lead to 16.  61-45 with 14:30 to play.  One more Hopkins run puts it away. Jamal Davis runs for a layup and buries a 3 from Chambers.  The rest of the run is layups.  Andre McDonald finishes a 16-2 spurt for the biggest lead of the night 77-47 with 7:22 to play.  Coach Novak can start going deeper into the bench at that point and the Royals win 90-68.

Post Game
For Armstrong, Nobel Fahnbulleh leads the way with 21 points.  Got on the glass, played a little bit in the post, played point guard.  Kind of a jack of all trades.  Nick O'Hara 3 3s for 13.  Mitchell Biewen 3 3s for 11.  Armstrong started 4 juniors and the sophomore Fahnbulleh.  Add in a good class of freshmen (Evan Nolan 1st off varsity bench and Jerome Dixon got garbage time minutes along with 4 other freshman playing soph or JV regularly) and the future is bright.  The Falcons fall to 2-7 (1-5 in NWSC).  They are at Centennial on Thursday.  Cougars upset Maple Grove tonight thanks to a hungry KuckyMonster (Mitchell Kuck's twitter handle) putting up 40.

Hopkins with 5 in double figures including 17 and 6 from Zach Stahl.  Demetrius Martin 14, Nick Jorgenson and Siyani Chambers 12, Andre McDonald with 10.  Fun to watch 8th grader Amir Coffey be the best player in the sophomore game as well.  Wouldn't shock me to see him with Pulley (betting odds, don't gamble kids) or PNR 15s this spring.  Hopkins is now 12-1 and they're off until they play Johnson next Friday night at Johnson in the East Metro Showcase.

Crusaders Slay Lions

Off to Providence Academy for their Tri-Metro cross-division game with St. Croix Lutheran.  Gotta like A & W Root Beer but a C- on the hot dog.  The all-star officiating crew had to double-take at their "locker room" setup but they didn't take that on to the court.  Crazy story from the night though.  I've referenced my good friend The Caveman here.  His wife works at Providence and we've been meaning to get to a game there so I jokingly told him that I was in attendance and  kept some riff raff out of her classroom.  Kicker is that, unbeknownst to me, she wasn't even there today so it didn't come across as a joke.  Whoops!  Had to love the music selection on the public address with Fantastic Voyage, Stray Cats-Rock This Town and some ZZ Top but there's an even better tune for today.  But there is 1 caveat.  I will NOT dance if you want me to.

Song of the Day
Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance

Game Time
St. Croix Lutheran with 3 straight layups to open up a 10-4 lead in the first 5 minutes.  Providence would counter with 8 of the next 10 thanks to a pair of 3s including 1 from guard Joe Heck.  St. Croix Lutheran with a pair of buckets for an 18-14 lead and a Providence timeout at the 10:12 mark. Wesley Tucker with a block on 1 end and then cleans up the mess on the offensive glass for 2 and the Crusaders lead is 6. But Providence has another run in them.  Forward Jackson Canfield steps into a 3, post Eric Richelsen for 2 and then 2 more on a laser pass from Canfield.  Nick Schmitz with a pull up to end the 11-2 run that forces a St. Croix Lutheran timeout.  27-24 Providence at the 6:48 mark.  Back to back 3s help to open the lead slightly for the Crusaders.  41-38 St. Croix Lutheran at half.

Tucker gets called for a foul diving for a loose ball at the 16:36 mark and had to leave to check that everything on his face was in place (bloody lip or nose it looked like).  The Crusader offense was non-existent without him.  Providence scores the last 2 of the first half and the first 15 of the 2nd half.  53-41 Lions at the 13:11 mark and the Crusaders take time to regroup.  They break the run with a pair of free throws at the 12:36 mark.  Then Tucker returns at the 12:07 mark.  His putback at the 11:15 mark is the first St. Croix Lutheran field goal of the 2nd half.   Then Providence starts to struggle.

Goplin with back to back layups on turnovers but Schmitz buries a 3 to keep the lead at 10.  Canfield reaches around on Tucker for his 4th foul and has to sit at the 8:30 mark.  Post Ben Ratliff already on the bench with 4.  Richelsen productive inside on this night and his putback inside of 7 to play puts the Lions up 65-53.  Mark Lawrence drives for 2 and a layup for 2 more off a turnover.  Heck gets a putback at the 5:52 mark for a 67-57 Providence lead as they take time out to discuss the stretch drive.

Coach Schmalzbauer has seen enough and he rolls the dice to bring Canfield back out of the timeout.  Back to back Lions turnovers result in Crusaders layups.  Canfield with the cold blooded 3 at the 4:15 mark for a 72-63 lead.  Providence gets a stop but on the way back they turn it over and Tucker cashes it in for a 3 point play.  Lawrence with a steal for 2 free throws.  An ill-advised 3 by the Lions is an airball and Tucker scores on a layup on the other end.  Another Lions turnover gives St. Croix Lutheran a chance to tie but Tucker walks.  72-70 Providence with 2:47 left.  Providence turns it over again and Lawrence buries a right wing 3 to bring the Crusaders all the way back. Canfield gets a good look at a 3 that's around and out from the left corner.  Tucker lays it up at the other end.  75-72 St. Croix Lutheran on top with 2:10 left.  Canfield with another laser beam, this one to Ratliff for a layup at the 1:50 mark.  Crusaders hold vs the 2-3 zone.  Providence extends and Goplin drives for a layup at 1:12.  Canfield with a good look on the other end but that's no good with 45 seconds left.  The rest is free throws.  St. Croix Lutheran comes from 9 down in the last 4 minutes to win 81-76.

Post Game
For Providence Academy, guard Joe Heck with a pair of 3s and 23 points to lead the Lions.  Forward Jackson Canfield with 3 3s and 14 points (4-13 FGs).  Eric Richelsen 14 points inside, Ben Ratliff 13 from the other post spot.  All 5 starters in double figures, 2 points from the bench (which was a winner, read on).  The Lions would love to have this one back as 8 turnovers in the last 6:30 were a killer.  As much as I can't stand their version of THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE, it had its moments tonight.  But with their 2-3 zone base and that offense, they need to get leads as they aren't built to come from behind.  The Lions have now lost 5 of 7 to fall to 7-7.  They're now 2-4 in the Tri-Metro.  A tough home contest with St. Anthony is their next game next Tuesday. 

St. Croix Lutheran gets 23 from Wesley Tucker.  17 of those come in the last 11:15.  I also had him with 7 rebounds.  Mark Lawrence 21 points and 3 3s on the night.  Jackson Goplin with 17.  The Crusaders get all 81 points from their starters.  Their diamond press and staying in the backcourt on misses was just too much for the Lions to handle.  The Crusaders are now 8-4, 3-2 in the Tri-Metro.  3 of those 4 losses are at St. Anthony, Maple River (#3AA), and Concordia.  Trips to Trinity on Sat and then at Blake next Tuesday are up next.

2012 Timberwolves Shootout Wrap

Saturday marked the 8th consecutive year that I've attended the Timberwolves Shootout.  After the disasterous watershed moment that was Lake Geneva Badger vs Hopkins in 2009, this year showed a couple of major milestones to me.  First was the total attendance of 3306 which is a huge disappointment and a surprise.  I think that can be directly traced back to that 2009 moment.  The Timberwolves insist that a team with big travel (e.g Kevin Love's Lake Oswego, OR team) doesn't bring fans and therefore it makes no sense to bring them in.  I insist that they flat out don't get it.  My cousin hasn't driven 5 hours each way from eastern Wisconsin for 7 of those years to watch Lake Geneva Badger.  He did it to see Jrue Holiday and Joe Jackson and Josh Selby and DeMarcus Cousins etc.  People all around the state came to see those stars.  It was the top event of the year and was special because of those players.  Now they're just another weekend event on the schedule trying to make a buck.  Hopefully this all makes the TWolves take a very hard look in the mirror and do a total re-evaluation of how they do the event.  Interesting too that one of the tickets given away was a Chicago ticket which doesn't seem to make much business sense either.  Why would you cut the 2 hour game window to 90 minutes when basketball history clearly shows there's no way you'll be on time later in the day (late game didn't start til about 7:15 but was scheduled for 6:30).  The second is that there was only 1 competitive game all day.  We've had blowouts in the past but I've never seen a set of games here that had only 1 good game for the entire day.  I'm all for having a little fun with names, but general consensus was the constant embellishing of Latrell LOOOOOVE  was way way too much.  I don't know about the other side of the court, but on my side for the 1st time there was no open concession stand, only 1 stand way around at 1 end of the arena was open.  Very strange.  Why not have 1 stand right behind the main crowd of people on each side open (similar to what they do for other high school games there).  Now on to the game specifics.

Game 1: #1AAA Benilde St. Margaret's vs #1A St. Thomas More (Rapid City, SD)
KJ Rech with a post up and free throw for St. Thomas More and an early 6-5 lead.  Sanjay Lumpkin with a putback and 3 in a 7-0 run to put BSM on top.  Eric Hensch counters with 5 in a row to cut the lead to 1.  BSM only up 7 inside of 3:30 before an 11-2 run to close the half.  Lumpkin for a layup, assist to Isaiah Zierden for 3, plus layups from Isaiah Gray, Breion Creer and Will Dunn.  39-23 BSM at half.  Skye Warwick heats up in the second half and combined with a 1-3-1 zone, they cut the BSM lead to 12.  Then Hensch and Warwick with bombs to cut the lead to 11.  The lead is 10 before a Lumpkin bucket , putback by Creer and 2 freebies from Lumpkin put it away.  68-50 BSM wins.  Sanjay Lumpkin with 29 and 10 to lead the way.  Quiet 29 but very effective.  Skye Warwick 20 pts and 6-14 from 3 to lead St. Thomas More.  We'll have the set used to get him many of those looks at the end.

Game 2: Duluth East vs #3 D2 Rice Lake, WI
Story of this game was the return of Johnny Woodard for Duluth East and his battle vs Gopher signee Wally Ellenson and his 2 brothers.  This was Woodard's 1st game of the season following a shoulder injury suffered and reinjured during the summer AAU season.  He's didn't look it was the 1st game back.  His 2 free throws and a 3 give the first 5 Greyhounds points of the game.  Taylor Stafford with back to back 3s and the rout is on early.  24-7 East at the 9:50 mark.  Woodard with a drive and hang for 2 and a sick dunk late in the half. Wally Ellenson finally gets his 1st field goal on a lob dunk at the 1:15 mark of the half.  44-27 East at the break, Woodard 16, Wally 3.  Wally with strong hands snares a pass and reverses for 2 and then a monster follow up dunk flying through the air to hammer home a rebound.  55-38 East at the 13:40 mark.  Woodard hangs for 2 more and posts up Wally for 2 more.  Wally back the other way with a behind the back assist and a running floater in the lane that he banks home.  Woodard right back with a drive for a 3 point play.  Woodard a bucket and offensive rebound for 2 free throws and its Wally's 4th foul.  70-48 East with 8:14 left.  Duluth East wins 86-71.  Johnny Woodard with a huge day of 33 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists on 12-20 FGs, 8-13 FTs.  Taylor Stafford 20 points and 9 assists.  Wally Ellenson 9 points and 10 boards on 4-14, Henry Ellenson 11 and 5 rebounds.  Alex Cuskey 17 points to lead Rice Lake.

Game 3: Minnetonka vs #6AA Pelican Rapids
Pelican Rapids would get a putback and a runout for a layup from forward Luke Halbakken for a early 6-5 lead.  Then this one was all Skippers.  Latrell Love goes 10 for 10 for 21 points in the first half.  The team shoots a sick 22-28 from the floor in the half for a 19 point lead.  The lead balloons to 29 before Tonka wins 86-66.  Latrell Love with 27 points on the day as there wasn't an answer for him on the post.  Tommy McDermott also impressive generating offense from the guard spot for 20 points.  Riley Dearring 17 points.  Casey Bruggeman with 17, Luke Halbakken 16.

Game 4: Prior Lake vs #7-4A Cedar Falls, IA
Track star James Harrington takes 4 early Prior Lake turnovers the other way for layups.  That's on the way to a 23 point lead in the first half.  45-26 at the half.  A 10-2 run to end the game by Prior Lake cuts the final margin to 67-56.  James Harrington outstanding with 20 of his 25 in the first half.  Carson Shanks 11 and 10 for Prior Lake, 16 from Jack Kaiser, 11 and 10 from Jack Harrison.  The twins Kalehl and Kalund Brown use their athleticism to do a fantastic defensive job on Jon Sobaski holding him to 4 points and only 1 field goal.

Game 5: #2AAAA Hopkins vs #5-4A Sioux City East, IA
A battle of size vs speed and this one was all speed.  Sioux City East picks up 8 fouls in the 1st half, all on their 3 big men.  That includes 3 each on their power forward and star center Adam Woodbury.  Add in the fact that East had a truckload of first half turnovers and 9 3s from Hopkins, this one was over early.  52-33 Hopkins at the half.  Woodbury goes for 15 of his 23 in the second half as Hopkins had nobody near that big to guard him.  Zach Stahl with 21 points and had to battle Woodbury.  Siyani Chambers 18 points and 4 assists.  JC Fuller 22 points for East.  East with 23 turnovers for the game.

Game 6: #5AAAA Apple Valley vs #1 D2 Onalaska, WI
Now to the game of the day.  Tyus Jones with 3 quick assists and a 3.  His 3 comes after a jumper and tip from Hilltoppers star Matt Thomas.  11-10 Onalaska at the 10:30 mark.  Tyus with a free throw, NBA 3 and layup on a turnover in a 9-0 Eagles run.  21-17 Apple Valley at the 5:34 mark and the Hilltoppers need a timeout.  Tyus misses a breakaway dunk and Thomas promptly buries a 3 coming back, big 5 point swing there.  Tyus with another steal for 2 for another Onalaska timeout, 27-22 Eagles at the 1:49 mark.  Onalaska gets 2 buckets in the last minute to cut the lead.  29-27 Apple Valley at half.  Tyus 11 and 4 assists, Thomas with 12.

Onalaska trying to face guard Tyus in the second half (more on that later as well), but he makes a pair of free throws and scores after a Mitch Hechsel bucket.  Its an 8-0 Eagles run, timeout Hilltoppers down 41-33 with 12:13 to play.  The lead gets to 10 before Onalaska makes a charge.  Nick Arenz on the post for 2 and a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 6.  Thomas then starts to go off.  Jumper for 2, a Tus turnover leads to a 3 point play.  48-44 Apple Valley with 6:06 to play.  Jones to Harry Sonie for 3 and a Hecshel jumper.  But Clint Rihn nails a 3, Thomas on the post for a free throw, then a pull up 3.  55-51 Apple Valley with 3:50 left.  In the bonus Sonie nails a free throw and then a bad technical on coach Kowal of Onalaska and Sonie nails the back end of the bonus and the 2 technicals.  59-51 Apple Valley with the ball but the Hilltoppers get a stop.  Rihn for 3, Thomas with 2 free throws.  But the Hilltoppers leaving the middle open in their gimmick defense on Tyus.  Sonie to Hechsel for a layup.  Bang bang moment is a block on Tyus for 2 Thomas free throws but Sonie counters with a mid-lane pull up.  63-58 Eagles with 2:05 left.  Thomas with a jumper and fouled.  The free throw is no good but they get it back and Thomas promptly buries another jumper.  Then he steals the inbounds for a layup.  Holy cow.  64-63 Onalaska with the lead and Apple Valley turns it over.  Onalaska takes a tough shot and misses.  Tyus comes back with 1 of 2 free throws to tie it with 1:24 left.  Thomas misses a tough NBA 3 with a minute left in a tie game and Apple Valley takes time with 58.6 left and the ball.  Dustin Fronk misses an open 3 short but the Eagles get it back.  Harry Sonie buries a 3 but wait a minute.  The Apple Valley bench called a timeout before the shot was released so no basket.  Instead the Eagles have the ball with 32.2 to go and we're tied at 64.  They hold and Tyus comes to get it with 10 to go.  He splits a double team off a high screen and gets into the lane.  His floater his short but Hechsel is there to put it back with 1.9 to play.  Onalaska out of the timeout goes Valpo, the pass it tipped and Arenz has a clean look from 3 at the buzzer but its off the back iron and Apple Valley hangs on 66-64 in an outstanding game.

Tyus Jones held to 18 points and 6 assists as Onalaska really focused their defense on him.  Mitch Hechsel, Harry Sonie and Dustin Fronk all in double figures stepping up.  Matt Thomas with 21 of his 33 in the 2nd half and 10 in the last 3 minutes.  Clint Rihn 4 3s and 14 points along with faceguarding Jones much of the night.  Nick Arenz 11 and 7.  Hilltoppers get 0 points from their bench.

Czar's All-Tournament Teams
1st Team
Johnny Woodard - Duluth East (MVP)
Matt Thomas - Onalaska
Sanjay Lumpkin - Benilde-St. Margaret's
James Harrington - Cedar Falls
Latrell Love - Minnetonka

2nd Team
Taylor Stafford - Duluth East
Adam Woodbury - Sioux City East
Zach Stahl - Hopkins
Siyani Chambers - Hopkins
Skye Warwick - St. Thomas More

Tactical Moments of the Day
A couple of noteworthy tactics during the day.  We'll start with Onalaska and how they defended Tyus Jones.  They showed plenty of 2-3 zone but the majority of the night and most of the 2nd half was a tweak of that 2-3 zone to be a 1-3 with 1 of the top defenders (mostly Clint Rihn) pulled out to play man-man and face guard.  Nice concept to adjust within the basic scheme of their regular defense.  With Arenz playing the middle and responsible for the basket and only 1 guy on top, Apple Valley was able get to the middle at will.  Harry Sonie saw a ton of this.  Arenz couldn't step up on the quick guard for fear of a layup.  But it he doesn't step up you're giving up a wide open foul line jumper.  If Arenz steps up and the the low wing helps behind, then you have a kick for a wing 3 from a guy like Fronk who can really shoot it.  A very fun cat and mouse game to watch.

The other item was from St. Thomas More.  In South Dakota, they use the shot clock for all of their games (and North Dakota went to it for all games this year vs class A games last year).  That means plenty of quick hitters.  You saw this when a set didn't work, there's wasn't much in the way of spacing or idea of what to do because you normally have to jack up a shot by that point.  One set that the Cavaliers ran with great success was called Eagle.

Sharpshooter Skye Warwick on the right box with a post on the right elbow.  Other post is on the left block.  Point guard on top who enters the ball to another perimeter player on left wing.  Point guard clears to the left corner.  Post flashes straight up the lane line to the left slot for a catch.  On the catch, the right elbow post goes and pins down on Warwick on the right block.  The post with the ball takes 2 hard dribbles across the top toward that action and Warwick comes and gets it on the dribble handoff where he can shoot the 3 behind it.

That was the base action.  You could even add a cross screen action where the original left wing goes and cross screens for the pindown post (see Utah St type action) and run it as a continuity.  Similarly you could end it with America's play action off that last extra cross screen.

Czar talks Flagrant Fouls Vid

So a new viral video is out on YouTube about some nasty fouls in a high school game in Washington just before the holidays (Flagrant Fouls Video). Take a look at it and gather your thoughts.  Here are some things that struck me.
  • Yes the refs are horrid, but you already knew that.
  • I hear lots of fans yelling but nothing from the coaches.
  • For the kids getting hacked, where are their teammates to defend them?
  • For the team committing the fouls, where's the leadership on the floor from teammates?
  • Those are the types of fouls that start brawls in the NBA.  There's a line between playing hard and plays that do nothing but risk injury.  Thankfully nothing broke out.
  • Along those lines, if I'm the coach of the other team, I would have strongly considered pulling my team off the floor.
  • Lots of publicity on the refs and the kids.  Where is the accountability for the head coach for not pulling those kids out of the game for those fouls?
Fox 9's Dawn Mitchell used this in her sports segment this evening.  She made a point of mentioning the names of the kids.  Seems like that strongly implies "That's who the thug is!".  In my opinion, that's taking a personal level shot at the kids which is an unspoken No No in our business (those of you who read my Adrian Wackett tirade in the early days of this blog correctly held me accountable for that).  Its a fine line between saying that was a dirty play and that's a dirty player.  Were the names of the kids that important to making the story?  Was it really necessary?  If so, then why not include these names first?
  • Coach of the team with the kids committing the fouls.
  • The AD for that coach.
  • Conference Commissioner for that league to see if any action will be taken
  • The names of the officials (which was the whole point of the video, to point out the officiating)
  • The director of the officials association that those officials are in
  • The director of officials for the state
Those folks are all adults who can and should be held accountable.  My actions would be to see that the AD disciplines the coach and the players.  The Conference Commissioner should be happy with that punishment and impose more if too lenient.  The officials should be reviewed by their superiors as well and held accountable.

Pilgrimage to the EMAC

Off to St. Paul Washington High School where they take on Central in a big St. Paul City showdown.  Then its next door to St. Bernard's for a big showdown with #1 Hopkins.  Oh wait, a bit of nostalgia there, St. Bernard's has been closed for 2 years and Washington went out in 1978 and is now a junior high/magnet school.  Though the matchup up with Central I mentioned above from 1951 was part of the salad days for Washington when they were in a stretch of winning or sharing 5 straight league titles (ended 60 years ago).

Now Washington plays host to games for Great River School.  Tonight's opponent is Community of Peace which is just across 35E and almost closer to the gym than Great River's building.  No concessions but a late arrival isn't an issue.  That's because the JV game ran way late.  No flag in the gym means no national anthem.  Its a showdown in the East Division of the EMAC.

Game Time
4-3 CPA Tigers after a pair of free throws.  Then an 11-0 run for Great River thanks to turnovers.  Point guard Donovan O'Dowd with a pair of layups in the run.  A pair of layups from CPA brings them within 17-11 at the 10 minute mark.  Great River starts to expand the lead with Adrian Miller going back to back from deep.  That exploits the CPA 2-3 zone.  Miller with 2 more bombs and its 38-18 Great River.  The lead expands to 49-25 at half.  65-34 Stars with 13 to play and that's all I can watch.  Edwin Flowers productive inside and nice work from point guard Donovan O'Dowd passing and scoring.  The lead could have been much worse if Great River wouldn't have missed layups.

On Twitter during the game, I mentioned that CPA was part of a state record.  Answer to the question comes from February 2nd, 2005 when MN Transitions beat CPA 153-69.  Cash Eggleston scored 90 points with 20 3s to set state records in both.

Stars outshine Redhawks

Off to Holy Angels for my 1st look at the Stars this year.  They've gotten off to a very good start taking BSM to the wire just before the holiday break.  A C+ hot dog on the menu and the rare find of A&W Root Beer.  JV/B game is a total blowout. Ho hum crowd trying to get back in the swing of things. Since we're all fat and happy from the holiday season (and of course I qualify), let's go with this retro tune for today's

Song of the Day
Poison - Unskinny Bop

Game Time
A quality guard matchup as Jordan Dembley gets the assignment on Minnehaha's Gerald McCarver.  Sam Keis with a layup and 3 ball for Holy Angels. McCarver counters that with a bucket and free throw.  12-11 Minnehaha at the 12:48 mark.  Holy Angels opens it up thanks to Danny Sullivan.  He finds soph center Charlie Koontz for a layup, then buries a 3 in transition and converts a layup.  25-16 Stars at the 6:40 mark.  Minnehaha claws back with a pair of McCarver buckets to get the lead down to 1.  31-28 Holy Angels at half.  Center Kaharri Carter 9 trips to line in the half on the way to 12 points to lead all scorers.

Dembley for 3 and then a sweet behind the back pass that gets bobbled into no points.  Then Sullivan with a layup on a bullet pass from Parker Bredow.  36-30 Stars at the 15:40 mark.  Sullivan with another basket, Dembley with his 2nd 3 of the half and another Sullivan 3 to push the lead to 49-37 at the 12:20 mark.  McCarver keeps the Redhawks fairly close.  A drive for a pair of freebies and an assist for a layup cut the lead to 9 outside of 7 to play.  Dembley continuing a strong half with 2 free throws and a drive.  But Jesse Johnson buries a 3 inside of 6 to play.  59-51 AHA with the lead before they put it away.  Dembley to the basket for 2, Sullivan tips in a missed free throw and converts a turnover into a dunk.  Then Dembley to center John Banovitz for back to back layups.  69-52 Stars with 3:45 left after a 10-1 run in 2:10.  Dembley adds a 3 point play and a pretty 3 pass sequence vs pressure nets Keis a 3 point play as well.  1:55 left and the benches empty.  Holy Angels wins 81-54 as they go on a 22-3 run in the last 5:45.

Post Game
For Minnehaha, Kaharri Carter with 12 of his 18 in the first half.  He was active inside causing the Holy Angels bigs some trouble with 13 trips to the charity stripe.  Gerald McCarver 15 points as Dembley did a nice job on him.  Minnehaha falls to 6-3 (3-1) with the loss.  They have a big showdown in the Tri-Metro West at undefeated #6AAA Blake on Friday night.  Then a tough trip to St. Anthony next Tuesday.

Holy Angels improves to 5-3 with the victory.  2 of those losses by a total of 3 points.  Nice mix of man and 3-2 zone in the game.  Jordan Dembley with 19 of his 21 (I'll take mine over official book) in the 2nd half including 7-7 FTs and a pair of pretty assists in the late run.  Danny Sullivan finishes with 19 and 7 rebounds on my sheet.  Sam Keis and Charlie Koontz chip in with 11 each.  AHA has a very interesting 3 game home stretch coming up with Mpls Henry (coach McKenzie's old school), Missota favorite Chanhassen in the conference opener and then Breck with former McKenzie assistant Matt McCollister at helm. 

Who was that? team

Every season there are players who burst on to the scene that aren't household names and may not be known to even the hardcore fan.  These players aren't the top players on their team, stars on the AAU scene and they don't necessarily project well at the college level.  But they have big impact for their high school teams and makes you say "Who was that?" when you see them play.  So without further ado, here's my "Who was that?" team for players from the first month of the 2011-12 season.

PG - Brandon Arnold (Chanhassen)
SG - Renard Suggs (Woodbury)
SF - Ryan Saarella (Lakeville North)
PF - Desmond Williams (FAIR)
C - Jordan Burich (Roseville)

Honorable Mention - Shawn Fitzgibbons (DeLaSalle).

Arnold has shown a special passing ability and can impact a game without scoring.  His 16 assist performance at St. Thomas Academy for layup after layup was a real pleasure to watch.  He continued that trend with good play at the Best Buy Holiday Classic.

The name Suggs makes you immediately think of slasher Ricky Suggs but Renard is a real sniper.  His 7 3s and 33 points at Roseville were a huge factor for the Royals.  He's athletic and not afraid to go to the rack either.  Reminds me a bit of former DLS star Bretson McNeal.

Saarela has been one of the big reasons why Lakeville North hasn't dropped off despite not having star Tyler Flack.  His hustle inside and versatility are major factors.  He's averaging 16.5 PPG to help fill the void.

Williams has had a dropoff since the entrance of Deonte Blakemore for the Falcons.  He put up some huge numbers early against a weak schedule but his 31 point performance against Gage Deis at Prairie Seeds Academy in a big conference game was eye opening.  He's limited to his right hand and won't be a post at the next level due to his 6'4 size but he's been a great compliment to their star Darrion Scott.

Burich has been a real spark plug for the Raiders.  He scored 27 points with 10 blocks in a close loss to Minneapolis Washburn.  He also had 17 points with 12 blocks in a win over St. Paul Johnson.  Roseville's guards were a known quantity but he's addressed the interior questions.  The 6'6 junior has some bounce and room to bulk up.  Don't be surprised to see his stock seriously rise in the next year.

Fitzgibbons was a known quantity as I remember him as a big time scorer as a freshman hence the down grade to honorable mention but he's had a nice year for the Islanders so far and deserves mention.  With freshman Jarvis Johnson and soph Reid Travis being names that people think of, he slides under the radar.

2012 Timberwolves Shootout Preview

The Timberwolves Shootout returns to a 6 game schedule this year with the game schedule compressed to 90 minute intervals so expect things to run way behind later in the day.  An outstanding field of Minnesota stars, Gopher recruits (signed, wanted or missed) and quality teams.  Let's dive deeper into the games.  Worth noting for all of the Non-MN teams that they'll have to contend with the 4 extra minutes of game time and halves.

Note: All records and rankings through January 1, 2012

11:00 AM - St. Thomas More (SD) vs Benilde-St. Margaret's
The day begins with a battle of number 1s.  St. Thomas More is out of Rapid City, SD and they're ranked number 1 in South Dakota's class A (enrollment 90-449) with a record of 6-0.  The Cavaliers are also the defending state champs.  6'1 G Skye Warwick leads the way.  He's a shooter with range beyond the NBA line.  He'll attend Northern State next year with Rogers center Mike Schreiber.  Eric Hensch mans another guard spot while 6'6 Kirby (KJ) Rech and 6'5 Jeremy Henderson man the front line.  Benilde St. Margaret's is ranked number 1 in class AAA with a 7-1 record and has already knocked off class AAAA state favorite Hopkins and fellow Shootout member Minnetonka.  They're only loss is to #1AAAA Eastview.  They feature 3 division 1 stars.  6'6 Forward Sanjay Lumpkin (Northwestern) is a wing who plays some inside.  Sharpshooter Isaiah Zierden (Creighton) can match Warwick's shooting.  Will Dunn (IPFW) is a power wing.  Keep an eye on guard Isaiah Gray who's been outstanding for the Red Knights.  BSM isn't deep or big so we'll see if that becomes a factor on the NBA size court. 

Czar's Pick: Benilde-St. Margaret's, too talented and they've proven this year they're tough enough to win the big game.

12:30 PM - Rice Lake (WI) vs Duluth East
Rice Lake comes into the Shootout 8-0 and ranked #3 in Wisconsin's Division 2 (2nd largest class).  They feature the 3 Ellenson brothers.  They'll be familiar to locals who follow the summer scene as they all played with Minnesota Pump N Run last summer.  Senior Wally is a 6'5 lefty who will attend Minnesota next year.   He's an explosive wing who has high jumped 6'11.   6'6 Junior Ellwood mans the middle and can block shots.  Freshman Henry is a 6'7 wing who may have the highest upside of the 3 brothers.  Senior Alex Cuskey is also one to keep an eye on.  Duluth East was ranked #10 in AAAA to start the season but they've played the entire season without their star wing Johnny Woodard due to a shoulder injury that he re-injured in July.  He won't return until February.  They're 2-6 but have played a brutally tough schedule.  Senior point guard Taylor Stafford has been lighting up opponents for 30 a game this season.  He scored 38 a night in 3 games at the Best Buy Holiday Classic last week.

Czar's Pick: Rice Lake (WI), too much from the Ellenson trio and East not enough firepower

2:00 PM - Pelican Rapids vs Minnetonka
This is the 1 Minnesota vs Minnesota matchup of the day.  Pelican Rapids comes into the game 6-2 and ranked #2 in the class AA poll.  They'll likely drop after a loss at Moorhead over the holidays.  They feature forward Luke Halbakken and guard Casey Bruggeman who provide scoring and senior leadership.  Soph guard Ryan Bruggeman is also one to watch.  Minnetonka is 8-2 and ranked #9 in the AAAA poll.  The Skippers are deep on the perimeter.  Junior wing Riley Dearring is one of the top juniors in the state and averages 16.1 PPG.  Senior guard Tommy McDermott can score in bunches.  He averages 16.2 PPG.  Senior wing Joe Risinger has had a breakout season.  Latrell Love scores 15.9 a night and is a crafty long-armed post

Czar's Pick: Minnetonka wins with their depth and too much perimeter firepower.  No good matchup for Risinger means he has a big day.

3:30 PM - Cedar Falls (IA) vs Prior Lake
Cedar Falls is ranked #7 in Iowa's top class.  Their star guard James Harrington averages 21.8 points a night.  He'll run track at Alabama next season.  6'2 Senior Caleb Konieczny averages 14.6 points a night.  Their record is 3-2 but the 2 losses are to the #1 and #3 teams in the state.  Prior Lake is 4-3 and was once ranked #10 in the class AAAA poll.  7'0 junior center Carson Shanks has committed to Utah State.  He averages 10.1 points a game.  Cedar Falls doesn't have any real size to deal with him so they'll have to be physical and see if they can bump him off the block.  Sophomore point guard Jon Sobaski is the straw that stirs the drink.  He averages 17.1 points a game.  The Lakers can go huge up front with 6'5 senior Jack Harrison and 6'10 Jeff Probert if they so choose.

Czar's Pick: I like Cedar Falls in this one.  They pounded a quality Austin team 74-41 and beat #9 Linn-Mar by 1.  Harrington vs Sobaski will be fun to watch.

5:00 PM - Sioux City East (IA) vs Hopkins
Sioux City East is currently 7-1 and ranked #5 in Iowa's top class.  They feature 7'1 lefty center Adam Woodbury who will play at Iowa next season.  He's ranked #42 nationally in the class of 2012 by Minnesota did attempt to recruit him.  He averages 17.4 PPG on 66% shooting with 11 rebounds a game.  6'3 Senior JC Fuller averages 16.8 a night.  They can also throw 6'7 and 6'8 on the floor with Woodbury.  Hopkins has a record of 9-1 and suffered their only loss to Benilde-St. Margaret's.  They're currently ranked #2 in the class AAAA poll.  Point guard Siyani Chambers is a great leader and will attend Harvard next season.  He's also stepped up his scoring this season.  6'6 Forward Zach Stahl is a division 1 talent who missed the first 6 games of the season (including the Benilde-St. Margaret's loss).  Since his return, he won the MVP at the Best Buy Holiday Classic with 28 points in the championship victory over St. Paul Johnson.  They have a load of guards and play at as fast a pace as anybody in Minnesota.  But besides Stahl there's no real size in their rotation.

Czar's Pick: Hopkins.  I think their pace is too much on the big floor with 4 extra minutes.  If East is forced to put Woodbury on the floor with 4 guards to keep up with Hopkins and a fast pace, that's to Hopkins advantage.  The longer East can stay big and at a slow pace, the better it is for them.

6:30 PM - Onalaska (WI) vs Apple Valley
Onalaska is ranked number 1 in Wisconsin's Division 2 with a record of 7-0.  They feature 2013 star shooting guard Matt Thomas who's averaging 21.4 points a game.  He's considered the best shooter in Wisconsin.  They also feature UW-Green Bay signee 6'8 Nick Arenz up front (12.4 PPG).  After playing in the Shootout last year, Arenz blew out a knee in the next game and is still trying to get back to 100%.  Guards Clint Rihn and Ben Socha are quality contributors.  Apple Valley is 6-1 and ranked #6 in the class AAAA poll.  They feature sophomore point guard Tyus Jones who's currently ranked #7 in the nation in the class of 2014 by  He played with the USA national team this summer.  You'll be hard pressed to find a better passer anywhere in the high school game right now.  He also adds in 28 points a night.  Expect to see Tubby Smith and who knows what other high profile coaches in attendance to watch him.  He's surrounded by sharpshooter Dustin Fronk at 19 points a night and guard Harry Sonie at 11.7 a night.  Its a small and mostly young Apple Valley lineup that will get a serious test from the experienced Hilltoppers

Czar's Pick: Tyus Jones has had a ridiculously huge year.  Also note that Onalaska has a huge conference game the previous night vs La Crosse Aquinas and a tough one at Eau Claire Memorial earlier in the week plus the long game day travel and I think its too much to overcome.  But Tyus and Thomas will put on a show.