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
Johnny Woodard - Duluth East (MVP)
Matt Thomas - Onalaska
Sanjay Lumpkin - Benilde-St. Margaret's
James Harrington - Cedar Falls
Latrell Love - Minnetonka
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.