The Buzzer Beaters
How often can you say the state tournament made the Sportscenter top 10 not once but twice? Sam Dubois became a cult hero right away on Wednesday morning as his prayer was answered vs Chaska. Not to be outdone, North Woods soph guard Cade Goggleye threw in a half-court winner in the class A semis at Williams on Thursday.
As to champions, quite honestly nothing was a significant surprise. North crushed everybody in their path with wins by 47, 44 and 47 points. That means back to back state titles with no doubt for the Polars. Next year they move up into section 5AA. That section will have a new champ as Annandale shifts to 6AA next season. They were the dominating pick at the start of the season and did everything expected. The beat AA champ Minnehaha and their only 2 losses were to Hopkins and AAAA champ Apple Valley.
Speaking of AA and Minnehaha, the Redhawks were also a big favorite and didn't disappoint. They put away solid Lake City and Crosby-Ironton teams and crushed a very good Annandale team. The Redhawks started the season 7-5 but won their last 19 games to win the title. With only 1 role player graduating, Minnehaha will be the favorite to repeat next season. They won't see North in the tourney until state as Minnehaha remains in 4AA.
De La Salle handled Austin in the 2013 and 2014 title games by double figures. Some thought this was the year that the Packers could make a run at the Islanders. Not so much as the Islanders rolled 72-44 to their 6th straight title. Once again the suffocating defense was too much. They lost to loaded IMG Academy plus AAAA final 4 teams Champlin Park and Maple Grove.
Class AAAA was the most wide open with any of 7 teams that would not have been a surprise as the winner. It was Apple Valley who avenged regular season losses to the same 2 local teams as De La Salle. The Eagles knocked off Maple Grove in the semis in impressive fashion and then Champlin Park in a great final. Nothing like a tied championship game with under a minute to go. Apple Valley gets a hoop and harm and rebounds the missed free throw to basically win it. Apple Valley also knocked off CDH in the 1st round for a 2nd time this season. CDH went on to knock off Lakeville North in a rematch for the consolation championship. Apple Valley loses 3 role guys but they have an incredibly deep junior class that includes Tre Jones coming back. Clear preseason favorite next season.
Tre Jones (Apple Valley)- Any mention of players for the state tourney and for the season has to start here. Jones averaged 25.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 6 assists in the 3 state tourney games. He put the games away vs CDH and Champlin Park and dominated Maple Grove. As the point guard, he set the school single season record for rebounds. The role players did their thing but it was Jones who put everybody at a completely different level this season. You knew he had to step up this season but he played at a level far beyond lofty expectations.
Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha) - He carried the Redhawks to their title. In the semis vs Annandale, the switch of him to defend Cardinals star Jared Wilken changed the game. Then in the championship game, he took over after Crosby-Ironton had rallied to within 1. He sliced and diced the Rangers zone and had an impressive and critical helpside block to take away a Rangers change to go ahead. Huge momentum changing play. His potential is through the roof.
Theo John (Champlin Park) - He averaged 13.7 points, 11 rebounds and 5.3 blocks in the 3 games. He had 14 blocks (plus plenty more uncounted) in the last 2 games. That showed a dominating prescence that many thought he'd develop into over the years. That shot blocking was disruptive but the Rebels gave up 43 offensive rebounds in the tourney. Apple Valley ended up with 23 points on 21 offensive rebounds in the title game.
Goanar Mar (De La Salle) - He took his game to another level this season including a monster 40 point outing against Armstrong. He was the catalyst in the tourney too. He averaged 20.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2 blocks in the 3 wins. Those steals were often game changing and leading to runs. A major factor on both ends and definitely deserves to be on the Mr Basketball final 5.
McKinley Wright (Champlin Park) - After a pair of high level performances in the 1st 2 rounds of the tourney, Tre Jones got the better of him in the final. It was unfortunate to see the news about Dayton head coach taking the Indiana job on the same day as the final. Wright did look to be off in the final and while Jones certainly was part of it, I hope the whole college thing wasn't a distraction. He ended up at 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds but only 3.3 assists for the tourney. That was the shooters for the Rebels not knocking down shots. Shooting always seems to rear its ugly head during the tourney.
Other Random Thoughts
I usually don't talk much about the outstate but some noteworthy items there too.
- 13,893 was the attendance for the AAA/AAAA championship session. Big crowd in the upper deck. That's the biggest crowd at state that I can recall in my time at the tourney. Great to see the turnout. Austin fans brought 25 fan buses, wow.
- Loved the Austin band, great variety.
- Crosby-Ironton band also deserves a mention. Hearing a quality rendition of Thriller on each of the last 2 days was well worth it. The band director taking multiple roles directing with 1 hand, playing lead trumpet with the other. Then picking up signs and pom poms to cheer the Rangers on during play.
- Center Noah Gindorff of Crosby-Ironton was a nice outstate player that I hadn't seen. He was the key to all of the Rangers offense. When JaVonni Bickham got in foul trouble in the championship game, I thought he should have received far more post touches to take advantage. While Crosby-Ironton missed some open looks, I thought Gindorff's lack of touches hurt their final chances.
- The future is bright. North Woods, North, Minnehaha, Apple Valley, Lake City, Cretin-Derham Hall, Austin and more all return plenty of talent from state qualifiers.