2013 Great Plains Alliance Wrap

It was a quick 24 hours in St. Cloud for the final bit of 17U pool play and a full day bracket play at the 2013 Great Plains Alliance.   Still miffed that I didn't order the pulled pork sandwich on Saturday.  Total menu miscue on my part.  That's always quality food there and it didn't disappoint on Friday.  But the hot dog was a servicable stand in.  No major surprises in the 17U pool results.  Comets Lewis, Fury Davis, MN Warriors, ND Phenom, Fury Anderson, ECI Prospects, Heat Vang, WOTN I and MN BB Academy Brown were the pool winners.

Those pool wins didn't come easy.  MN Warriors used hot shooting from 3 (18-29) to beat Comets Blue.  Then they opened a big lead on the top Schoolers squad and then had to hold on to win by 6.  ECI Prospects held off E Metro (Johnson) 71-64 to win that pool.  Fury Anderson and Select Ohnstad went down to the wire to decide their pool.  Fury looked to have the close game locked up, but a couple of questionable shots and a missed free throw late gave Select one last chance.  Ian Smith's 3 banked just long.  That allowed Fury to hold on 71-68 and win the pool.  Quality battle in that game between Champlin Park's Ian Smith and Spring Lake Park's TC Robinson in that game.   A big crowd of NSIC coaches had the chance to watch that game and the ECI/Johnson game side by side.

In 17U bracket play a pair of blowup performances in the round of 16.  Wheeler Baker of Fury Davis with 6 3s and 24 points in the 1st half against the top Playmakers crew.  Tyler Rudolph of North Dakota Phenom with 32 and 17 and the Phenom pulled off the 75-73 upset of Heat Vang.  Select Ohnstad held off MN BB Academy Brown 63-52 to advance out of the round of 16.  MN Warriors struggled against Comets Servaty.  The Comets had a 41-39 lead with 5:30 left in that game.  But they would only score 1 more time.  Comets had the ball down 3 with 13 seconds left but never got off a final shot.  Warriors survive and advance 46-43.

Off to the highly anticipated quarterfinals.  The 3 early games didn't have the drama I anticipated.  Select Ohnstad def ND Phenom 68-63, Fury Davis surprisingly rolled ECI Prospects 64-45.  Fury Anderson big over WOTN I 73-55.  But the final quarterfinal between the MN Warriors and Comets Lewis was all that I thought it would be.   Austin Poe out with an injured ankle for the Comets, Jacob Schaefer away with the family for the Warriors.  Warriors get into their stuff and take a 19-15 lead.  Then the Comets go to a halfcourt trap and get a pair of bombs from Clay Elrod for a 12-0 run.  Love the strategy of speeding the game up and getting the Warriors out of their bag of tricks.  The Warriors shooting brings them right back with 4 straight 3s of their own from 3 different guys.  27 all with 4 left in the 1st.  35 all late in the half before the Comets score, get a turnover and Christan Pekarek knocks down a halfcourt 3 at the buzzer for a 40-35 Comets lead at the break.

No way anybody was going to pull away in this one.  Comets up 4 before a pair of Warriors 3s put them back up with 8 minutes left.  After a Comets miss, Warriors would hold the ball up 2.  But a turnover would give it back to the Comets and a pair of free throws would tie the game with a minute left.  Garrett Goetz outstanding this weekend and he came up with a pair of bonus free throws with 45.5 left.  After a scramble Brian Goodwin would tie it with 20 seconds left and that would force over time.  The Comets score right off the tip and get a stop.  They score all 7 in the OT to win 63-56.

The Comets luck would run out in the semifinals against Fury Anderson.  Fury would take a 3 point halftime lead and extend it to 10 with 14 minutes left.  The Comets would counter with a 17-0 run of their own.  52-45 Comets with about 8 to play.  But the offense would disappear after that.  Fury storms back and wins 67-58.    Fury Davis no problems with Select Ohnstad in the other semi as they won 75-55.

That setup a Fury vs Fury final.  Jake Johnson and Michael Gorder all of the Fury Davis offense early, 23 all late in the 1st half.  Then Fury Anderson uses a 9-0 run to open up a 32-24 halftime lead.  TC Robinson with a pair of 3s for Fury Anderson as they stretch the lead to 12 early in the 2nd half.  Fury Davis would make a comeback.  Dennis Austin getting in the lane and Wheeler Baker would get on the board inside of 8 minutes left.  Fury Anderson up 46-45 with 7:35 left.   A big possession down the stretch.  Fury Anderson with a 3 point lead and they hold inside of 3 minutes left.  They get at least 2 offensive board on the possession but after 1:20 off the clock, the possession ends with a charge.  Then 2 more Fury Anderson turnovers.  Baker takes the 2nd one for 1 of 2 free throws with 1:05 left to tie it at 51.  Fury Anderson would make 1-2 on back to back possessions after a Fury Davis miss.  Fury Davis takes time with 17.6 left down 2.  They call their standard baseline double for Wheeler Baker.  Michael Gorder sets the ball side block screen and slips it for a wide open layup with 6.2 left and we're tied.  Fury Anderson gets 1 last look and can't convert and we'll play OT.  With 25 ticks left in OT, Fury Anderson down 3.  Jake Johnson jumps out and blocks a Matt Ambriz 3.  Brian Ishola takes that for a dunk and Fury Davis wins the 17U title 58-53 in overtime.  Loved what TC Robinson and Noble Fahnbulleh did for Fury Anderson on the weekend.  Michael Gorder and Jake Johnson turned out nice performances for Fury Davis. 

In 16U, Comets Stanfield, Schoolers Bertram, Fury Ramey, D1 MN 15s, S MN Elite, Fury Johnson, ECI Prospects and Schoolers Kraning won the 8 pools.  The Comets took out Schoolers Bertam 71-62 and then took out D1 MN 82-75 in the semifinal.  Really liked Ben Ellefson (Hawley) from the Comets.  Expect his stock to really increase in the next year.  No good matchup for Brock Bertram on either end of the floor (always a tough life for bigs in AAU).  When that advantage/disadvantage doesn't go your way, then other options have to be looked at.  With D1 MN down most of the game, I thought they should have made a lineup adjustment.  Fury Johnson over Schoolers Kraning in the other 16U semifinal 64-53.  Fury Johnson opened up a big lead on Comets Stanfield in the final and won their 18th straight game and 3rd straight championship.

Schoolers Vincent def Comets Stumpf 52-38 to win the 15U title.

2013 Great Plains Alliance Preview

Hello?  Hello?  Is thing on?  After a spring hiatus in the 2nd chair on the bench, The Czar is back to work for the summer portion of the 2013 AAU season.  As is standard, the big late June bang is in St. Cloud for the Great Plains Alliance tourney.   Biggest games at the Whitney Rec Center with Sauk Rapids Middle and High Schools being the main alternate locations.  Showcase games Thursday night for all teams.  Pool play all day Friday and bracket play all day Saturday with a 6:30 17U championship finish.

In the 17s bracket, none of the name brand sponsored programs attending but all of the next tier of teams will be there.  Top teams from the Comets, Fury, Select, Heat, WOTN, Schoolers, ECI, and WI Playmakers along with MN Warriors and MN Basketball Academy top 16s all in the 28 team 17U portion of the bracket.

In the Thursday showcase games, there's generally 1 game per session that stands out.  At 5:20 its the top Comets group taking on the top Playmakers group.  This Playmakers group looked awful at the April event but they have a new coach now.  Should be very interesting to see how they look now.  At 6:30 its my personal favorite game of the showcases when the MN Warriors take on the ECI Prospects.  ECI very impressive in St. Cloud in April as they shot the lights out all tourney.  The Warriors have the ability to keep up with that.  The starting groups will be very entertaining but expect the 2nd units to be the difference.  At 7:40 its the top Fury group with John Veil and Michael Gorder, but no Joe Hanel (injury) taking on WI Blizzard Schalow.  The Blizzard have a big man from upper Michigan, 6'8 Alex Almquist, that coaches will want to get a look at.  Also at 7:50, its WOTN I and their top Shakopee bigs, Tyler Weiss and Jake Maiers, taking on the top Dakota Schoolers team.  A down year for the top Schoolers 17s as they are 3-7 right now in the Sanford league.  At 8:50 its the top Select crew led by the guard duo of Ian Smith and Mo Lawal taking on E Metro Elite (a St. Paul Johnson group).

In Friday's pool play, Comets Lewis and Fury Davis take the 1st 2 pools.  MN Warriors are my pick in pool C over the top Schoolers team. ND Phenom vs Heat Frasier in the pool D opener at 9:10 AM should decide that pool.  Top Select team gets my vote in pool E.  Pool F with ECI Prospects, E Metro Elite and WI Blizzard gets consideration for toughest pool.  I still like ECI there.  In pool G, Heat Vang should advance.  Top Playmakers vs top WOTN at 1:50 PM to decide pool H.  Pool I has Marquette Catholic from Indiana (if I can read the pools right), Comets Servaty and the top MN Basketball Academy 16s.  Expect great balance in that pool as well.

Some very good games on the projections from the quarters all the way to the end.

Comets Lewis over Warriors (championship level game)
Select over WOTN I
Heat Vang over MN Basketball Academy Brown
Fury Davis over ECI Prospects

Comets Lewis over Select
Fury Davis over Heat Vang

Comets Lewis def Fury Davis

Players to watch
Ryan Bruggeman, Austin Poe, Clay Elrod - MN Comets Lewis
John Veil, Ngor Barnaba, Dennis Austin, Wheeler Baker, Jake Johnson- MN Fury Davis
Nick Machemehl - MN Comets Schmidt
Garrett Goetz, Jacob Schaefer - MN Warriors
Ryan Casperson, Ajuda Nywesh, Colin Fleming - MN Heat Frasier
Ian Smith, Mo Lawal, Stevie Hjelmberg - MN Select Ohnstad
Patrick Strom, Taylor Schaefer, Jim Warmack, Andrew Kozlowski - ECI Prospects
Alex Almquist - WI Blizzard
Tim Hanson, Geno Crandall - MN Heat Vang
Luke Zuiker, Dakota Oskey, Gaelin Elmore - WI Playmakers Peterson
Joey Witthus, Tommy Gathje, GT Johnson, Evan Nolan, Jacob Hansen - MN BB Academy Brown 16s

Some brief comments on the 15s and 16s.  MN D1 15s will play up in the 16s division.  Grassroots played them tough in St. Cloud in March.  Grassroots has to get through the top Fury team in a 10 PM pool game. Tough draw for MN Basketball Academy Witthus in that pool, but those Chanhassen 2015 kids are under appreciated.  See a kid like Ben Khwice (full disclosure, I coached him once upon a time) who came up and played varsity point at the end of the year.  How about Justin Dahl (Hoopmasters) and John Rumpza (S MN Elite) in a Friday morning showcase game at 10:20 AM.  Tough pool H in 16s with Hoopmasters (Holy Family kids), top Schoolers and top WOTN.   Comets vs D1 MN 15s in 1 semifinal and who ever wins that Grassroots vs top Fury game would be a pick to make the championship on the other side of the bracket.

In 15s have to like the top Comets vs Fury Altenhofen showcase game at 5:20 on Thursday afternoon.  Keep an eye on the top Schoolers team as well.  They've run the table so far in the Sanford league.  The bracket includes no fewer than 3 14U teams.