2018 Southside Showcase Notes

The 3rd annual Southside Showcase moved to Roseville and expanded to 2 courts for this edition.  Overall a fun day with some notable talent and fun games to take up the day. The box scores are often quite different than what I had on my sheet so I'll quote the official one.

Game 1: #6AAA Robbinsdale Cooper 72 St. Paul Central 69
After a tight 1st half, Cooper would take control of this one early in the 2nd. Cam Vaughn's offense comes alive and Daveonte Davis sits at 15:30 with his 4th foul thanks to Don Cheadle missing a flop by Vaughn in the post.  That's all part of a 17-0 Hawks run.  Only 1 Central FG in 6 minutes and they find themselves down 62-44 with 11:25 left after a Jalen Miller hoop.  But the tables turn quickly as Central counters with a 19-1 run.  Davis is on the bench for almost all of it but he comes back in with 4:30 left and promptly hits a 3 to tie the game at 63 late.  Bo Powell Jr with a late 3 point play for the lead for Cooper.  Luke McElroy has a 3 go around and out at the buzzer.  Dion Ford and Daveonte Davis carry the Central offense with 19 points each.  Ford was very active and when he gets to his left hand he's tough to deal with.  Cam Vaughn with 20, Jalen Miller with 18 to lead Cooper.  Once again liked the interior work of Damarri Bankhead for Cooper.

Game 2: #4AAAA Hopkins 77 Madison La Follette 63
The story here is simply too much Zeke Nnaji.  He goes for 35 and double digit rebounds.  Whenever Hopkins made a point of finding him in the post it was buckets.  La Follette with no size to deal with him.  Between Nnaji and Dane Zimmer, it was all Hopkins on the defensive glass.  But the Lancers guard play was solid and Hopkins was really sloppy turning the ball over.  Ben Probst with 4 3s and 20 points to lead La Follette.  Donneil Gray sat out 7 minutes of the 1st half after a nasty spill but he still finished with 17 points.  Troy Reeves added 3 triples and 17 points of his own.  Gritty performance from La Follette as they easily could have gotten blown out.  Andy Stafford and Kerwin Walton each chip in with 13 points for Hopkins.

Game 3: #5 D1 Madison East 59 Blaine 45
East improves to 9-0 with the win.  A 15-0 1st half run took care of things.  Blaine was pressured into a ton of turnovers and that was the difference.  Liked what I saw from junior Anthony Washington and once he adds a jump shot, he's got real upside.  He finished with 20 points.  Patrick Perrault with 15 points to lead Blaine.  Blaine played without top forward Jason Kaul.

Game 4: Spring Lake Park 66 #15AAAA Eastview 63
Spring Lake Park jumped out to a 16-3 lead thanks to 3 easy buckets off of turnovers.  Steven Crowl had 1st half foul trouble but in the 2nd half he led the comeback.  Eastview with an 18-4 run across the half to get right back in the game.  But it was Ryan Thissen would kept Eastview afloat as he's become the go to perimeter guy for the Lightning.  After a late missed front end, Eastview would get 1 last chance.  They draw up a great SLOB and get a wide open layup but miss it.  Steven Crowl and Ryan Thissen with 16 points each for Eastview.  Spring Lake Park gets 4 in double figures.  Gabe Myren and Blake Remme with 14 each to lead the Panthers.

Game 5: Burnsville 69 Benilde-St. Margaret's 59
Burnsville would have a 10 point 1st half lead but that was cut to 6 at the half.  The lead would grow to 11 but BSM would rally to tie at 43with just over 11 minutes left.  Burnsville would counter that immediately with a 12-0 run of their own and BSM would never be closer than 6 after that.  Hayden Johnson leads Burnsville with 17 points.  Julian Hutchinson adds 12.  Soph Derric Standifer with good minutes off the BSM bench at the point guard spot.  He leads the Red Knights with 15 points.  Dylan Drees with 14 and 2 other Red Knights also in double figures.

Game 6: #20AAA Columbia Heights 76 Minneapolis Patrick Henry 66
Columbia Heights would use a 14-3 run to end the 1st half and open a 15 point halftime margin.  Glentrell Carter would try to lead the Patriots back as they would cut the lead to 6 midway thru the 2nd half.  Carter would keep it going as the margin was cut the 3 with just over 4 minutes left.  Heights closes the door with 3 of 4 FTs from frosh Muja Burton and 5 critical points from Jarvis Wright.  A table snafu allows a Henry player to play almost 2 minutes with 5 fouls before he has to leave when he commits foul number 6.  Jarvis Wright 22, Muja Burton 15, Jordan Jones 14 for Columbia Heights.  Mark Cambell 14, Glentrell Carter 12 to lead Henry. 

Touring the city and finding a rivalry

I end up with a full hoops week in the city.  Back to back nights in the Minneapolis City conference ends it with trips to both ends of town.  I skipped concessions both nights as they are hit and miss at Minneapolis Henry.  But of course I still smuggled in Pepsi.  Southwest did have pizza on Thursday but I did pregame BBQ instead. Though with the late nights for both, the waistline might suffer.  Southwest in December is also my Christmas lights tour and that never disappoints.

Thursday: Armstrong 55 Southwest 40
An Armstrong run of 11-2 in the 1st half with a couple of Devyn Frye buckets would push Armstrong to a 12 point halftime lead.  Then a quick 7-0 for the Falcons right after halftime to push the lead to 36-18.  But the blowout wasn't on.  Christo Polydorou with 2 triples and Casey Peterson adds another for an 11-0 Lakers run.  That cuts the margin to 7 with just over 11 minutes left but Southwest gets no closer.  Frye slams the door with a pair of triples and another hoop down the stretch.  That's part of a late 12-3 run.  Devyn Frye with 15 points to lead Armstrong.  Adam Biewen chips in with 10 for the Falcons.  Christo Polydorou 3 triples and 16 points to lead the Lakers.  Southwest also lost at home to Edison tonight to fall to 0-5, ouch.  Edison 2-0 in the city as they beat Washburn this week too.  Break up the Tommies!  Back to back section wins for Armstrong to draw even at 2-2.

Friday: Minneapolis North 99 Minneapolis Henry 60
Gotta love the drumlines on hand and going back and forth on the court at halftime.  That went long but highly enjoyable.  The game itself was incredibly sloppy, especially on the Henry side.  Transition defense optional too.  3 point game midway thru the 1st half.  Then North broke it open to 14 at the half.  2nd half more of the same and run away from there.  A couple of frustration technicals as part of that as the score got out of hand.  Great balance for North as they had their entire 7 man rotation in double figures.  The backcourt of Eli Campbell and Nasir El-Amin with 14 each to lead the Polars. Glentrell Carter 15 to lead Henry.  Jamar Gardner and Yusuf Abdullah 11 each off the Patriots bench.  Henry 8-20 FTs compared to 28-40 from the stripe for North.  Henry 3-3 with the quick turnaround in the late game vs Columbia Heights in the Southside Showcase in a game I'll see.  North is off until Washburn next Thursday when they start 3 games in 3 days.  They have a good one coming up a week from Saturday (the 21st) vs ranked Chicago Orr.

A Royal block party

Its one of the monster regular non-conference games on the schedule as #2AAAA Hopkins visits #1AA Minnehaha.  Not even 2 weeks into the season and the 3rd time to see these 2 teams play.  Not like me to do that, especially in December, but the games are too good to avoid.  Standard Gatorade and Hot Dog on the menu.  Good crowd but not the wild crowd that one might have expected.  But being there always reminds of the coach Johnson recommendation for wild rice soup one afternoon.  Nice to be back at Bergstrom Court though I ended up going the long away around the building and thru the snow to find the new entrance which is the old secret passage I used.  So maybe I was fooled by the rocks they've got.

Song of the Day: Jenny From the Block - Jennifer Lopez

Number of Teams I've Seen: 39 (25 games, 13 days, 10 buildings, 2 online)

Beverage Ticker: 193.8 ounces (2140 Calories)

  • A&W Root Beer: 12 ounces (170 calories)
  • Dr. Pepper: 12 ounces (150 calories)
  • Fruit Punch Gatorade: 48.9 ounces (340 calories)
  • Pepsi: 72 ounces (900 calories)
  • Sprite: 48.9 ounces (580 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs: 5
  • Pizza: 1
  • Walking Tacos: 2 
  • Extras
    • Lays Chips (160 calories)
    • 2 Snickers (500 calories)
Game Time:
Andy Stafford productive early for Hopkins.  The Royals use a 10-0 run to take a 20-12 lead at 9:06 with a couple of Stafford hoops.  Minnehaha right back with their own 11-0 run and they're back in the lead 23-20 at 6:17.  Jalen Suggs once again living at the foul line.  But his night was different as his shots weren't falling.  Kerwin Walton with a 3 to beat the halftime buzzer.  That gives Hopkins a 35-32 lead at the break.

Walton and Stafford with triples.  Dane Zimmer and Walton add buckets and Stafford converts a turnover for a 47-35 Hopkins lead with 13:25 left.  Minnehaha rallies with 4 Suggs free throws and a converted turnover along with a Chet Holmgren jumper.  But Suggs has to sit with 9:49 left with his 4th foul.  Walton buries a 3 and Hopkins is up 10 and Minnehaha looks in trouble.  Holmgren with a tip dunk and he's swatting everything on the other end.  Zeke Nnaji sits with his 4th at 6:55 while Suggs is already back in.  Donovan Smith adds a 3.  Suggs up high to Holmgren for the dunk.  Then its Suggs for 3 and coast to coast for 2 free throws.  56-55 Hopkins hanging on to the lead with 3:40 left after the 12-3 Minnehaha run.

Zimmer and Nnaji with buckets to push the lead back to 5.  They look to hold with that lead but Holmgren with yet another block to give Minnehaha a chance.  Suggs misses a front end but recovers with a steal for 2 free throws and its a 1 possession game with 1:09 left.  But Suggs misses a couple late 3s and Hopkins makes enough free throws to seal it.  Hopkins wins 66-59.

Post Game
Jalen Suggs finishes with another huge night at the line with 15 of 18 FTs and 25 points.  I had him 4-16 from the floor on my sheet.  I also had him for 6 rebounds and 4 assists.  Chet Holmgren gigantic night with 18 points, 9 blocks on my sheet and others had 10 rebounds for him.  He gave Nnaji and Zimmer fits at the rim all night.  Saying breakout game is too much since he's already known but doing this against the high level front line of Hopkins was eye opening.  The rest of the roster with only 16 points.  Will teams start playing off the big 3?  Minnehaha falls to 3-1 overall.  They'll host St. Louis Park on Friday and then be done until the Augsburg Holiday Tournament.  That championship game is mapped out to be a likely rematch of this game.

Kerwin Walton leads Hopkins with 21 points.  He knocks down 4 3s and seals the game late with 3 of 4 FTs.  Andy Stafford with 17 points in another solid supporting effort.  Zeke Nnaji with 13 points and 10 boards on my sheet.  But Holmgren's length helped hold him to 6-16 FGs as well.  Overall they took care of the ball and limited the transition opportunities for Minnehaha.  When you can run your stuff and not turn it over, Minnehaha will break down defensively.  Hopkins will host #3AAA Robbinsdale Cooper on Thursday before playing Madison LaFollette in the Southside Showcase on Saturday afternoon at Roseville.

The Lions share of the buzzer

An unexpected second visit to Hope Academy to see them take on Legacy Christian.  My original trip of AFSA at Chesterton was a wreck, show up and nothing there, oooof.  But at least we still get some TCAC representation.  A&W Root Beer tonight and another Snickers to squash my travel issues.  That means we've already hit the 2000 calories mark for beverages.

Song of the Day: All The Ways - Meghan Trainor

Number of Teams I've Seen: 39 (24 games, 12 days, 9 buildings, 2 online)

Beverage Ticker: 173.8 ounces (2000 Calories)
  • A&W Root Beer: 12 ounces (170 calories)
  • Dr. Pepper: 12 ounces (150 calories)
  • Fruit Punch Gatorade: 28.9 ounces (200 calories)
  • Pepsi: 72 ounces (900 calories)
  • Sprite: 48.9 ounces (580 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs: 4
  • Pizza: 1
  • Walking Tacos: 2 
  • Extras
    • Lays Chips (160 calories)
    • 2 Snickers (500 calories)
Game Time:
Legacy jumps out to a 9-0 lead.  Hope coach Kelby Brothen not happy and he takes 2 quick timeouts.  That jump starts Hope with Caleb Hoilien scoring the next 12 points of the game to put Hope on top.  The rest of the half is back and forth.  Jordan Sperl with a late 3 (looked easily on the line) to send Legacy to the half with a 26-24 lead.

Hoilien with the 1st 8 of the half for Hope but Legacy extends the lead to 43-32 with just over 12 minutes left.  Carter Franze with 2 free throws and converts a turnover in that spurt.  Justin Demars with a putback and jumper to keep the Legacy lead at 12 with 10:40 left.  But Hope would fight their way back.  Hoilien with 2 bombs around a coast to coast bucket from frosh guard Elijah Wade.  Wade with a 3 point play and its Hoilien from the deep beyond again.  57-56 Hope regains the lead inside 4:30 to play.  That's an 11-2 run in just 2 minutes. 

Wade adds bonus free throws and Hope with 2 more freebies at the 2:09 mark for a 4 pt lead.  Total run is 16-2 in 4:18 for a 61-56 lead.  Legacy rallies with 2 Trenton Harrison free throws and a Harley Kendall freebie off a turnover.  Hope had a timeout called to avoid that turnover and the officials didn't see it.  Wade makes 1 of 2 with 35 seconds left.  Legacy goes quick and Demars scores inside with 20 seconds left to cut the lead to 1.  Hope inbounds and gets it across the timeline to Hoilien.  He gets trapped and throws it to the backcourt for an Over and Back violation with 10 seconds left.  out of the Legacy timeout, PG Carson Sharp goes left baseline and Nash like under the rim.  He kicks out to the right slot to a wide open Primeau Hill who buries the 3 at the buzzer.  Legacy steals one late 64-62.  They trailed by 5 with under 2 min left.

Post Game
Caleb Hoilien another big night for Hope Academy.  He hits 6 3s and finishes with 33 points.  19 of those points with 5 3s in the 2nd half.  Frosh guard Elijah Wade with 11 of his 14 in the 2nd half.  Both players are sleepers to watch.  Hope as usual living by the 3 point shot with a total of 11 of them tonight.  This loss will hurt though as they missed a free throw and committed 2 turnovers in the last 45 seconds.  The Lions fall to 1-4 overall.  Cleveland comes calling tomorrow.  2 years ago these teams played a classic with Hope winning at the buzzer.  Teams are having success faceguarding Hoilien so they'll need to find a solution for that.  They really don't move much or set screens which makes the tactic more effective.

Legacy improves to 3-1 with the win for new coach Nate Bellefeuille.  They also have the quick turnaround with St. Paul Academy making the trip north tomorrow.  Then a tough league trip to St. Croix Prep on Friday.  Great balance for Legacy with Jordan Sperl, Justin Demars and Harley Kendall all scoring 13 points.  Loved how they moved the ball and played their game.  They aren't overly talented, quick or big but they're unselfish and don't make crazy mistakes.  They made a nice adjustment in each half to put a bigger defender on Hoilien when he took advantage of a smaller guard in the post.

2018 Tipoff Classic Notes

What a day at the 2018 Boys Tipoff Classic.  Its always the biggest day of the season and this year didn't disappoint.  Now granted there wasn't the gigantic big game appeal of past years so you didn't have the total zoo atmosphere we've seen in other years.  But don't let that fool you, there was plenty to see in the 16 games.  I took in bits and pieces of the east court and the full day on the main court.  The number of outstanding individual performances really stuck out to me.  Here's a recap of the day.

The Star Performances
  • Tartan - Antwan Kimmons 45 pts
  • Minnetonka - Cam Steele 43 pts (19 rbs)
  • Rochester John Marshall - Matt Hurt 42 pts
  • De La Salle - Jamison Battle 40 pts (11 rbs)
  • St. Thomas Academy - Jack Thompson 37 pts
  • Edina - Jack Middleton 34 pts
  • Minnehaha - Jalen Suggs 34 pts
  • Eastview - Steven Crowl 30 pts 
  • St. Thomas Academy - Noah Chamberlain 27 pts
  • Champlin Park - Bennett Otto 26 pts
  • North Woods - Cade Goggleye 25 pts
  • Prior Lake - Dawson Garcia 25 pts (15 rbs)
  • Hopkins - Zeke Nnaji 25 pts (11 rbs)
  • Lakeville North - Tyler Wahl 24 pts (12 rbs)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall - Amari Carter 23 pts  
  • Breck - David Roddy 22 pts (11 rbs)
Quick Notes from the East Court
  • Brooklyn Center played without Maxsamus Wilson in their loss
  • Big day for Cam Steele for Minnetonka but Mayo getting blown out by giving up 52 in the 2nd half was a surprise.
  • Roosevelt was without Deszi Sims in the loss.
  • Resume win for Perham over Caledonia in AA. This one was tight the whole way and would be really fun to see a rematch at state.
  • Solid win for Edina over Tartan with Jack Middleton coming up large to offset a monster day from Antawn Kimmons.
  • The late game between Minneapolis North and Eastview was an overtime thriller that Eastview pulled out.  Funny that the during that ending, the Minnehaha game was warming up.  The main court turned to watch the ending while the 2nd court turned to watch Minnehaha warmups.  North with no good answer for Steven Crowl in that game.
Main Court Notes
Game 1: #16AAA St. Thomas Academy 78 #3AAA Robbinsdale Cooper 77
Jack Thompson and Noah Chamberlain on fire in this one for St. Thomas Academy.  They combined for all but 4 of the Cadets 1st half points.  Cooper would trail by 16 with 9:30 remaining but make a big comeback.  The Hawks quickness should have been a major advantage but somehow they gave up a enough easy layups to fill the vaults at Fort Knox.  The dynamic Jalen duo for Cooper (Miller and Justice) held to 9 points each.  The post play of Damarri Bankhead was a nice highlight for Cooper in the 2nd half.

Game 2: #10AA Breck 57 #4AA Lake City 52
Lake City with 42 of their 52 points from the 3 point line (14 3s).  Nothing in the paint for the Tigers.  David Roddy was passive in the 1st half but took his play inside in the 2nd half where there was no answer for him.  Lake City's shooting would rally them from 12 down.  They had 1 last chance at the end but couldn't get a look at a 3 to tie.  Roddy sealed it with 2 free throws with 2.1 left.

Game 3: #1AAA De La Salle 70 #7AAAA Wayzata 49
De La Salle played without star PG Tyrell Terry who's out with an injured arm until sometime late in the season.  No problem for the Islanders though.  Jamison Battle goes absolutely nuts for 27 of his 40 points in the 1st half.  Terrific movement without the ball and a quick release.  Didn't help Wayzata that they couldn't but a shot either.  They hit only 3 triples and the 1st was until almost midway thru the 2nd half.  Wayzata would use a mid 2nd half run of 15-2 to cut a 26 point margin in half.  But Battle would slam the door with 7 straight points.

Game 4: #8AAAA Cretin-Derham Hall 81 #10AAAA Rochester John Marshall 64
Matt Hurt 42 points in this one but he doesn't have much help around him.  But I do like how they move him around in their 2-3 high offense to try to get different looks.  Curtis Jones with 7 3s for his 21 points in the game including 4 of them early as CDH jumped out to a 21-4 lead.  JM was able to hang around in the 1st half when PG Tre Holloman sat the last 13:35 with 2 fouls.  Amari Carter had 23 points.  The junior is reminding me of how Sy Chatman broke out last year.  Very similar usage and he's been very productive so far.

Game 5: #2AAAA Hopkins 78 #3AAAA Lakeville North 72
Hopkins with a 16-2 run late in the 2nd half to put this one out of reach.  Zeke Nnaji with a big 2nd half to lead the Royals.  Tyler Wahl largely cancelled him out. Tommy Jensen and Kerwin Walton each with 5 3s and 17 points to cancel each other out.  Andy Stafford with 16 points and nice offense to offset the 4 3s for Jack Rusch off the Lakeville North bench.  North tried to double Nnaji in the post but he handled that fairly well getting the ball out without turning it over.

Game 6: #6AAAA Prior Lake 70 #1AAAA East Ridge 62
Another day, another day of too much Dawson Garcia inside.  I had him for 25 and 15 just about all of them inside.  I'd still like to see his shot develop.  Robert Jones with another double double of 13 and 13.  Much better shot selection for him this week.  Kendall Brown and Courtney Brown each with 20 points to lead East Ridge.   Kendall Brown with steals early to generate his offense.  Courtney Brown struggled with his shooting at 6 of 21 on my sheet.  Ben Carlson no field goals but 10 rebounds on my sheet.  So with 2 of the big 3 struggling East Ridge was still able to stay close the entire way.

Game 7: #5AAAA Park Center 49 #4AAAA Eden Prairie 46
Offense was hard to come by in this one.  Park Center had 1 FG in the last 9:25 of the 1st half.  Eden Prairie had 1 FG in the last 7 min of the 1st half.  A 9-0 EP run during the half would push them to a 27-21 lead at the half.  The lead would still be there late.  Dain Dainja with a dunk off strong post position.  Then Park Center stops EP on a 1 minute possession and Emmanuel Tamba takes the turnover for a layup to tie the game at 44 with 3:20 left.  Big momentum swing there.  We come down to the end tied.  Park Center advances the ball and takes time with 9.6 left.  Eden Prairie comes out in a zone but blows the coverage.  That leads David Ijadimbola wide open at the top of the key for the straight away 3 with 2 seconds left for the win.  Eden Prairie threw the ball in and hit a 3 from halfcourt but it was after the buzzer.  Detavious Frierson with 10 early points including 2 3s and 16 total to lead Park Center.  Drake Dobbs 21 to lead Eden Prairie.

Game 8: #1AA Minnehaha 79 #16AAAA Champlin Park 68
Minnehaha would pull away with a 14-2 run in the 2nd half.  Once again the story was Jalen Suggs playing very well.  He finishes with 34 points and 16 of them from the charity stripe.  He drew a ton of handcheck calls With Lithgow on hand evaluating refs at courtside its no shock that the game was tightly called.  Chet Holmgren with 18 points, Prince Aligbe 17 as well for Minnehaha.  Bennett Otto was very good for Champlin Park too along with Jacob Johnson.  Johnson is a sleeper worth keeping an eye on. 

Green with envy

Its off to Concordia Academy for their all green showdown in section 4AA with New Life Academy.  Dr. Pepper and a 1/4 pound Nathan's Hot Dog on the menu. Concordia coach Eric Schutte dapper as usual but shockingly outdressed by a member of his own staff wearing a bowtie.  I'm told an emergency staff meeting will be called to address this serious breach of protocol.  Speaking of clothing protocol, when did warmups with short-sleeves and hoods become popular?  Not a fan.  Kevin Hart one of the officials on the call for the game.  All of this accompanied by holiday music during throughout the night.  We get the Boston Pops, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and even some Gloria Estefan for that theme.  But you can never go wrong with a traditional classic.

Song of the Day: Carol of the Bells - Manheim Steamroller

Number of Teams I've Seen: 30 (15 games, 9 days, 8 buildings, 2 online)

Beverage Ticker: 125.8 ounces (1380 Calories)

  • Dr. Pepper: 12 ounces (150 calories)
  • Fruit Punch Gatorade: 28.9 ounces (200 calories)
  • Pepsi: 36 ounces (450 calories)
  • Sprite: 48.9 ounces (580 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs: 3
  • Pizza: 1
  • Walking Tacos: 2 
  • Extras
    • Lays Chips (160 calories)
    • Snickers (250 calories)
Game Time:
Luke Raymond with a nice start inside for Concordia with 7 of the 1st 9.  Then Concordia turns on the Diamond press. That opens the margin up to 26-9 at the 8:20 mark.  Then foul trouble sets in and New Life is able to stabilize for the rest of the half.  40-27 Beacons at the break.  Michael Reader the beneficiary of many of the fouls as he shot 14 FTs tonight.  He makes 2 and Cooper St. Cyr buries a 3 and New Life is within 10 with about 13:30 to go.  But the Eagles go the next 7+ minutes without a field goal.  Concordia pounces with a set play for a Barnabas Preble layup, a nice simple BLOB for a Luke Raymond layup vs the zone and back to back Aaron TerHaar triples.  Preble adds a triple and TerHaar again from deep.  The run is 18-2 and blows the game wide open.  Concordia goes on to win 72-51.

Post Game
New Life falls to 1-1 with the loss.  They have the Big 10 like early conference opener vs Heritage on Tuesday.  Cooper St Cyr 3 triples and 12 points to lead the Eagles.  Forward Michael Reader attacking inside for 9-14 free throws and a field goal for his 11 points.  Like last year, New Life had trouble handling the press and it cost them in the 1st half.  They lose a couple of guards but have a nice group coming back next year to start Skyline play.

Concordia improves to 2-1 with the win.  They host PACT and visit old Tri-Metro foe St. Paul Academy in a section game next week.  Forward Barnabas Preble leads the Beacons with 21 points.  Forward Luke Raymond controlling the blocks with 14 of his 18 in the 1st half despite some foul trouble.  Guard Aaron TerHaar hit 4 of his 5 3s in the 2nd half on the way to 17 points.  Fouls were a 1st half issue and likely took them out of the press in the 2nd half.  Despite some sloppy turnovers, I like their discipline looking for great shots over good shots.  Fun to see a very unselfish group.  TerHaar is one of the better shooters that people don't talk about.  Raymond is as good in the post as anybody in their league.  The Beacons will definitely be there in the Tri-Metro East and a tough out in sections.

Packers put away the Lions

Its the 2nd Thursday of the season and another night in the city with South St. Paul visiting Hope Academy.  No concessions and another night where a JV team scores 2 points in the 1st half.  Off.  Czar have a Snickers, you know how you are in a blowout.  A small bottle of fruit punch Gatorade to go with it.  Its the final opening night at Hope's gym.  They open a new gym next season.

Song of the Day: Leader of the Pack - Shangri-Las

Number of Teams I've Seen: 28 (14 games, 8 days, 7 buildings, 2 online)

Beverage Ticker: 113.8 ounces (1230 Calories)
  • Fruit Punch Gatorade: 28.9 ounces (200 calories)
  • Pepsi: 36 ounces (450 calories)
  • Sprite: 48.9 ounces (580 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs: 2
  • Pizza: 1
  • Walking Tacos: 2 
  • Extras
    • Lays Chips (160 calories)
    • Snickers (250 calories)
Game Time:
As to the game itself, not much to talk about here.  South St. Paul out to a 17 point lead midway thru the 1st half.  Its 43-23 at the half.  The lead pushes to around 30 before the Packers win 74-47.  Both rosters very young with both teams only having 1 senior each.  Hope with only 1 junior on the roster as well.  South St. Paul with only 1 junior in their rotation too.  Loved the activity of forward Marquise Gleb for South St. Paul.  His 100% motor got him a ton of rebounds inside.  Elijah Wade is a nice freshman guard with quickness off the bounce for Hope Academy.  Between him and big shooting guard Caleb Hoilien, that is a nice duo to build around for league play.

Post Game
Hope Academy falls to 1-3 with the loss.  They continue a stretch of 8 straight home games into mid-January with Legacy Christian on Monday.  Elijah Wade with 19 points to lead the Lions. Caleb Hoilien with 15.  Lots of 3s is expected from Hope Academy but 4-38 according to the online box score makes for a very long evening.  Makes putting the ball on the deck for 15-27 look even better but its a young group who will learn that.

South St. Paul improves to 2-0 with the win.  They have the quick turnaround at Mounds Park Academy on Friday.  Then section games with Kennedy and Richfield before the tough league opener vs Mahtomedi in the final week before the holidays.  Marquise Gleb 18 points and had to have double digit boards to go with it.  Tim Smith 4 bombs on his way to 14 points.  Freshman guard Alonzo Dodd with 12.  The Packers definitely better than the complete doormat years.  They may be young but they have some quickness and more talent in players like Dodd than they've had in the past.

Walking Tacos, Pizza, Eagles, Bears and Scots

Its been a busy week bouncing around the metro from Bloomington to White Bear Lake to NE Minneapolis.  Let's get caught up on the 3 games I've seen this week.

Game 1: Bethany Academy 61 Math and Science Academy 51
An outstanding walking taco, my 1st of the year, on the menu.  Mix your own salsa and sour cream and they had raw onions on the side too.  I added a spoonful.  Very interesting addition.  Bethany's enrollment has shrunk over the years. To the point where they have a girl playing with the boys as the 1st one off the bench.  Not sure how that works when the girls program is listed as a co-op with New Life.  But there's a 1st for everything.  As to the game, Seth Peters works inside and Chase Bixel attacks the rack for Bethany's points.  Soph Nate Stephen 4 triples for Math and Science.  Bethany scores the last 6 of the game after the Dragons cut it to 4.

Game 2: White Bear Lake 96 Cambridge-Isanti 76
Not a trip I'll normally do during the week but the Donatelli's pizza always makes it worthwhile.  The thick slice was the right choice.  Henry Abraham with a couple early 3s for C-I but ice cold after that.  Jeremy Beckler totally dominated the inside for WBL.  He ends up with 32 points and somewhere around 20 rebounds.  I'd love to know the real total.  Sam Schwartz adds 27.  The Bluejackets hit 10 3s to hang around in the 1st half.  But in the 2nd half the roof caved in.  WBL would go on a 36-3 run with only 1 Cambridge field goal in a 9 minute stretch.  The lead grew to 35 that stretch ended.  Cambridge closing the gap in the last garbage time 3 minutes. Henry Abraham with 18 points but a deceptive night.  After 2 early 3s he couldn't hit anything until after the big run.  Plus I had him a shocking 6-15 from the charity stripe.  As one of the state's top shooters, I don't think you'll see him shoot worse all season.  But credit White Bear Lake's defense too as he didn't get many clean looks.  But man Cambridge can shoot it.  Micah Ladd 6 triples, Luke Malamusiro 21 points with 5 3s of his own.  But size was the Bluejackets downfall as they had no answer for Beckler.

Game 3: St. Paul Highland Park 71 Minneapolis Edison 69
Another city game, another night with The Rev for this one.  Another walking taco too.  Highland Park's JVs get blown out something like 76-6.  The Edison JV coach kept his press on in the 2nd half to the point where the Highland Park JV coach had something to say and the ref actually had to tell him to stop.  But the kids still looked for double teams in the front court.  Plus letting one of his reserves try to mixtape embarass an opponent at halfcourt in the final minute.  All of this with no timeouts or instruction from the Edison JV coach to try and stop the nonsense.  Bottom line, it was incredibly bush league.  It has to be said.  Totally disrespected the game and the opponent and there's no place for that.  Its shocking too that its Edison considering they've been on the wrong end of blowouts for many years.

As to the varsity game, Edison jumped out to a 20-7 lead but then foul trouble mounted.  Highland Park would shoot 22 FTs in the half but only make 10.  Edison would stretch the lead back to 14 with under 13 minutes left but another Scots rally would be on hand.  Benny Hughes for 3 and the foul but missed the free throw.  He scores on a turnover and then flashes to the top of the key vs trap and a cold blooded 3 with 4:10 left.  Highland Park back on top 61-60.

Edison counters with a 3 of their own for the lead.  Center Abdalla Mohamed with a short jumper.  Hughes with an assist for a layup.  Then after an Edison missed front end, Mohamed makes 2 free throws on a nice BLOB set.  Jeremiah Thompson both ends of the bonus for Edison and then a Tommies steal for 1 of 2 free throws with 52 seconds left.  Mohamed with 2 more clutch free throws around a pair of Edison icing timeouts to keep the lead at 3.  Thompson 2 more freebies  and then he grabs a miss off a turnover.  He makes 1 of 2 with 20 seconds left to tie the game.  Highland Park takes timeout and their possession is a scramble that almost results in a turnover.  But it ends up in Carter Owens hands for a putback with 7 seconds left.  Edison throws long and a 3 is back iron no good. 

Benny Hughes with 21 points for Highland Park to lead all scorers.  The Scots played 5 sophs and an 8th grader, Ishmael Powell, so despite the JV result the future actually looks bright.  Remember that soph group won the freshman Twin Cities game last year.  White Bear Lake also has a talented 8th grader in lefty point guard Jack Janicki.

2018 Big 12 Classic Thoughts

This year the Breakdown decided to split off the boys games that used to be part of their annual Girls Tipoff Classic.  That means we have the inaugural Big 12 Classic with Cretin-Derham Hall being the hosts.  12 teams with none ranked lower than 11th in the state.  So a great field that will all be at the Boys Tipoff Classic next weekend.  3 cans of Pepsi get me thru the day and you can never go wrong with a hot dog at CDH.  The size of the building at CDH makes crowd size look deceptively small but the weather had to be a factor.  Definitely not the same kind of atmosphere that the tipoff classic has.  While the gym is a perfect size, the rest of the setup at CDH (parking, concessions, Baller.tv broadcast with no score and from the balcony etc) leaves plenty to be desired.

Game 1: #4AAAA Lakeville North 70 #11AAAA Edina 62
This game was tight into the late minutes of the 1st half.  Then Lakeville North used an 18-0 run across halftime to break the game open.  Scary thought is that it took only 90 seconds on each side of the break.  Tommy Jenson a pair of 3s in the run to go with a pair of hoops, a triple and 2 free throws from Tyler Wahl in that time.  The lead was 16 at that point and no danger for the Panthers from there.  Wahl with 23 of his 28 in the 2nd half to go with 12 rebounds.  Tommy Jenson adds 17 points with 4 3s.  Edina shoots a highly improbably 19 of 53 for the day including a shocking 6 of 22 from sharpshooter Jack Middleton.  Middleton still ends up with 24 points though thanks to 11-12 from the foul line.  Charlie Haff 4 3s on his way to 20 points for the Hornets.  Center Jacob Hutson 0-5 and scorelesss.

Game 2: #1AA Minnehaha 78 #3AA Perham 48
2 big stories in this blowout.  Jalen Suggs came to play with 30 points, 4 triples and 8 steals.  He was fantastic.  Overall Minnehaha with 15 steals.  They continually jumped the reversal pass in Perham's Euro ballscreen offense for easy layups.  Chet Holmgren 20 points, 7 boards and 4 blocks for Minnehaha as well.  For Perham, their dymanic duo of Jensen Beachy and Josh Jeziorski held to a total of 18 points.  Soph Elijah Morris with 5 of 6 3s off the Perham bench for 19 points on the day.  But the chinks in the armor are there for Minnehaha.  They still gamble a ton on defense and can give up backdoor cuts.  Plus they settle for a ton of 3s (9 of 25 in the game).

Game 3: #5AAAA Park Center 66 #6AAAA Prior Lake 64
This was a tale of 2 games, with Dain Dainja and without Dain Dainja.  Dainja with 3 early 3s as Park Center opened up a 22-6 lead.  But he missed time in the 1st half with 2 fouls.  That allowed Prior Lake to stabilize.  In the 2nd half, the 2 Pirates big men Dainja and Detavius Frierson both went to the bench with fouls with over 11 minutes left.  Dawson Garcia exploded inside from there against the Park Center guards.  That was in front of Texas head coach Shaka Smart who is in hot pursuit of him.  He scored 26 of his 32 in the 2nd half and Prior Lake was able to take the lead after trailing by 17 at the half.  Dainja would come back in for crunch time and he drew 2 fouls on Garcia for 4 FTs.  That would Park Center back on top and they hung on to win.  Dawson Garcia 32, Robert Jones 17 as the big Prior Lake front line was productive.  Dain Dainja with 15 points to lead Park Center but most in 2 quick stretches.  Tommy Chatman with 13.

Game 4: #8AAAA Wayzata 69 #7AAAA Cretin-Derham Hall 63
Wayzata would jump out to a quick 9-0 lead but with Jacob Beeninga sitting the last 9:27 with 2 fouls, CDH would recover for a 31-30 lead.  Beeninga with a nice cut for 2, a triple and 2 freebies to keep Wayzata close but CDH would still lead 63-59 with 3:40 left.  Wayzata would close the game on a 10-0 run.  Luke Paulson with 2 layups running out in that stretch.  Loved Tre Holloman's moving of the ball and you can tell he's holding back his own offense.  Plus he added a sensational block after his own turnover.  CDH was very sloppy turning the ball over and taking a ton of quick and bad shots.  Their talent will win them plenty of games but the details will bite them.  Jaeden King with 16, Tre Holloman 13 and Karsten Broadley 12 off the bench to lead the Raiders.  Jacob Beeninga leads Wayzata with 14 of his 18 in the 2nd half.  Soph Kody Williams was terrific attacking with 17 points.  Luke Paulson adds 11.

Game 5: #1AAAA East Ridge 74 #2AAAA Hopkins 65
No Kerwin Walton for Hopkins due to injury.  East Ridge used a 9-0 1st half run to take the lead  Courtney Brown with 7 points in that run for the Raptors.  But this game was tight the entire way.  A 12-3 Hopkins run mid second half would take them from 5 down to 54-50 up with 7 minutes left.  Jalen Dearring with a couple buckets during that run.   Courtney Brown with a triple to break the run.  Then Kendall Brown with a steal for a dunk, another bucket and a bomb for a 65-60 East Ridge lead with 2:20 left.  Late free throw make the final margin.  The benches combine for a big donut on the day which is a concern for both teams.  Hopkins only playing 7 guys and both bench guys are sophomores.  Zeke Nnaji 21 points to lead Hopkins.  Jalen Dearring and Andy Stafford add 17 and 14 respectively.  Soph Kendall Brown outstanding for East Ridge with 18 of his 26 in the 2nd half.  Courtney Brown adds 17.  The bigs never really went at each other in this one.  Ben Carlson 12 points but never seemed to touch the paint.

Game 6: #1AAA De La Salle 76 #3AAAA Eden Prairie 66
I caught the 1st half of this one in person before beating the weather and watching the ending online.  As expected Tyrell Terry and Jamison Battle carried the De La Salle offense.  Eden Prairie with their entire rotation ready to come back next year with 7 juniors and a soph seeing time.  Eden Prairie did throw in 1 possession of triangle and 2 in the 1st half.  That's something I would expect much more of during the season against the Islanders.  Semaj Hart looked like a player would could be that 3rd guy though.  Connor Christensen providing some offense while still getting the tough task of guarding Battle for the night.  The Dobbs guarding Terry matchup was also fun to see.

Still Rooting for Spartans

Day 2 of the 18-19 season continues my 4 classes on the 1st 4 nights of the season tour.  Last night it was AAA.  Tonight its a 4AA matchup as St. Paul Academy makes a short trip east down Randolph Ave to Nova Classical Academy.  Plenty of coaches on hand for this one.  I see a limo on my way in and sure enough the joke is on me as St. Agnes coach Chris Hopkins makes an appearance.  Concordia and New Life on hand as well.  No concessions which is disappointing as I've had nice pulled pork at Nova in the past.

As to the game itself, not much to see hence the abbreviated writeup.  St. Paul Academy playing without top forward Ryan Moore but no problems.  Alex Hermann 3 trips and all 15 of his points in the 1st half as the Spartans opened up a 39-21 halftime lead.  Soph guard Adam Holod with an outstanding night with 13 of his 18 in the 1st half.  Only 2 Knights score in the 1st half including 14 of the 21 and the 1st 10 for Nova from guard Mathieu LaFrambois.  St. Paul Academy extends the lead to 25 in the 2nd half and cruises to a 71-51 win.  LaFrambois leads all scorers with 23 points.  Holod 18, Hermann 15 to lead SPA.  Shae Nelson adds 12 for Nova but was off all night which hurt the Nova offense.  Nelson will be a key offensive piece for the Knights after being a double figure scorer last season.  Next up for Nova is a trip to New Life on Tuesday while SPA will host Como Park.

An opening night Spartan rallying cry

A quality start to the 2018-19 season as I take in a 6AAA battle between Minneapolis Roosevelt and Orono.  Its the 1st game for new Roosevelt head coach Mike Walker.  He comes out in style too with the bowtie on.  Bowties never get old.  Only fitting for a star night in the city that we get The  Rev on duty for the game as well.  Kevin Britt joins him.  Solid hot dog at the concession stand to go with the metric edit of Sprite (500 ml).  Concession stand was talking about how they should have had Walking Tacos.  I could have stayed for the discussion all night.  Quality PA music all night with Ah Ha and Nu Shooz representing the 1 hit wonders.  But I'll go old school random for tonight's tune.

Song of the Day: Gimme Some Lovin - Spencer Davis Group

Number of Teams I've Seen: 2 (1 game, 1 day, 1 building, 0 online)

Beverage Ticker: 16.9 ounces (200 Calories)
  • Sprite: 16.9 ounces (200 calories) 
Food Ticker:
  • Hot Dogs:1
Game Time:
High profile guys for each lineup start the game on the bench.  That's Blake O'Connor for Orono and Deszi Sims for Roosevelt.  Both would enter early and O'Connor started the 2nd half.  Scoring at a premium as Orono isn't on the board until 2 O'Connor FTs at the 11:27 mark to trail 6-2.  Orono not able to hit a thing.  Then its a Sims steal for a 3 point play.  O'Connor and Eli Sustacek have 2 fouls each for Orono.  Roosevelt with the 14-2 lead before the 2nd foul on Sims at the 6:51 which sits him down.  Finally the 11th guy for Orono, Tyler Nyquist hits a jumper at about the 4:30 mark for Orono's 1st FG.  Roosevelt counters with a triple and Kalid Ahmed converts a turnover for a 21-4 Teddies lead.  Orono would finally get their footing with an O'Connor 3 and a putback in a 7-0 run in the last 3:35 of the 1st half.  21-11 Roosevelt at the break in an ugly half.  Orono with only 3 field goals.

Orono continues the momentum out of the locker room with the 1st 7 points of the 2nd half.  Nick Prentice with a great tip pass out of the post that leads to a 3 and then a layup of his own.  The Orono run is 14-0 as Roosevelt goes 8 minutes, 4 on each side of halftime, without a point.  Orono from 17 down to within 3.  Ahmed breaks the ice with a triple and TJ Williams converts a turnover to push the Roosevelt lead back to 26-18.  Orono timeout with 12:49 left and coach Wohler not pleased with his team not taking care of the ball.

Orono once again slowly grinds their way back as Roosevelt just can't find any offense.  O'Connor scores on a drive and then Mitchell Hirchberg makes both ends of the bonus and then is fouled with 6:40 left and goes to the line with a chance to tie but only makes 1.  So Roosevelt with an 8 minute drought and then 2 buckets in 15 seconds to break it.  But now another 8 minute drought.  It looks bad as coming the other way Sims charges for his 4th foul with 6:16 left and Roosevelt clinging to the 1 point lead.

Coach Walker rolls the dice and leaves him in.  On a turnover, he spins, big contact and somehow the ball goes in.  Its The Rev on the whistle so what do we have?  Theatric deal AAAAAANND....Its a block but its on the floor so no basket.  The front end is no good but Roosevelt gets one of their many offense boards and it leads to a Sims triple.  MoKiller timeout Roosevelt up 30-26 with 5:53 left.

Luke Barnes with great hustle to track down a long offensive board and he'll make 1 of 2 to push the lead back to 5.  O'Connor counters with 2 freebies.  Sims converts a turnover to keep the lead at 5 inside of 3 minutes.  Forward Simon Rice with the open 3 that gets the high and soft members bounce to go in with 2:11 left to cut the Roosevelt lead to 2.  Timeout Orono with 2:11 left trailing 33-31.  They'll come out of the timeout in a 2-3 zone but coach Walker immediately pulls his guys back and Orono has to quickly go man.  Prentice with great hustle to track down a loose ball and he's fouled going the other way.  He has a chance to tie it with 1:31 left but for the 2nd time only 1 of 2 are good and the Spartans still can't get back to even.  Roosevelt turns it over.  Rice has a great look at a 3 that misses.  O'Connor grabs that and can't finish the putback with a minute left.  But Roosevelt turns it over again with 33.3 left.  Timeout Orono down by 1 to get organized.

Orono draws up a set that has Hirschberg building a mansion under the rim he's so open.  He gets the ball late but is able to convert a tough finish with 20 seconds left.  That gives Orono their first and only lead of the night.  Roosevelt takes time with 13.5 left and they'll go right wing iso for their star Sims.  His drive banks too hard and a great look at a putback is no good.  Ball out of bounds to Orono with 2.7 left.  Roosevelt gets one last chance as Sustacek misses 2 free throws.  Roosevelt uses a timeout to get the ball to half court and then draws up a final look with 1.5 left.  Its Sims off 1 driible from the bottom of the center circle and its just off to the left.  Orono wins an entertaining if not pretty affair 34-33.

Post Game
For Roosevelt, they fall to 0-1 and have the back to back at Humboldt.  Then they visit Columbia Heights on Monday before playing New London-Spicer in the boys tipoff.  That's all before a big home tilt in conference play on Dec 11th vs Henry.  Deszi Sims and Kalid Ahmed lead the way with 9 points each for the Teddies.  But definitely a quiet night by Sims standards.  Their quickness definitely bothered Orono.  I also liked the 5 out they ran with Luke Barnes being the top guy setting curl screens and popping.  But that's a different way of getting Sims the ball vs the euro ball screen stuff they'll run.

Orono starts 1-0 despite an ice cold night of shooting.  Many quality looks that not only didn't go in but many that even missed quite badly.  That's unlike many of the Barry Wohler teams I've seen.  But they found a way to steal one on the road which will help them long term.  This win will loom large in 3 months at the section meeting where head to head is a big deal when you have 5 leagues all at the table.  Orono goes on the road to Monticello and Hopkins before a big section tilt at home with Henry next Thursday.  Tough games at St. Paul Central and hosting Marshall follow that.

2018-19 Season in a Nutshell

The Czar's 2018-2019 Season Preview series concludes with the traditional season overview for the casual fan.  This is a higher level preview for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe hoops like the rest of us.  Its what and who you need to see and when and where to see it.  If you missed any of the 121 team previews over 12 conferences or the 14 section previews, a full list of them can be found here.

10 Local Events
  • Dec 1 - Breakdown Big 12 Classic at Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Dec 8 - Breakdown Boys Tipoff Classic at Hopkins
  • Dec 15 - Southside Showcase at Roseville
  • Dec 21-22 - Above the Rim Classic at Minneapolis North
  • Dec 29 - Augsburg Tournament Championship
  • Jan 12 - Super Showcase at Columbia Heights
  • Jan 21 - MLK events (Totino-Grace and Roosevelt)
  • Jan 26 - Border Battle at East Ridge
  • Jan 26 - Between the Lines Classic at Trinity
The Big 12 replaces the boys games that used to be at the Girls Tipoff Classic.  That along with the Boys Tipoff are both loaded with too many games of the top teams to mention here.  The Southside Showcase moves to Roseville this year and has 2 courts going all day.  St. Paul Central vs Cooper is a nice opener there.  Minneapolis North hosts Hopkins and 2 Chicago teams as some of the teams in their pre-holiday tournament.  The Augsburg championship projects to be the 2nd meeting of the month between Minnehaha and Hopkins.

Hopkins vs St. Paul Central highlights the Super Showcase at Columbia Heights.  Then the usual MLK events.  Buffalo and Matt Willert playing St. Paul Central in the Totino-Grace event that day is a highlight.  The Border Battle returns to Minnesota to end January.  Both Brookfield (WI) teams will be a treat to see plus a battle of Northern Kentucky commit Marcus Domask vs the Madsen twins of Rochester Mayo.  Trinity also hosts the renamed Between the Lines Classic on the same day.

10 Other Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Minnehaha - Dec 11th
  • East Ridge at Eden Prairie - Dec 18th
  • Eden Prairie at Lakeville North - Dec 21st
  • Minnehaha at Eden Prairie - Jan 8th
  • Minneapolis North at De La Salle - Jan 8th
  • Caledonia at Minneapolis North - Jan 12th 
  • Wayzata at Park Center - Jan 16th
  • Hopkins at De La Salle - Jan 29th
  • Minnehaha at Minneapolis North - Feb 19th
  • Minnehaha at De La Salle - Feb 23rd
Despite all the big games that are in the Breakdown events, there are many worthwhile standalone games on the non-conference schedule.  All of these feature state tournament level teams.  Hopkins at Minnehaha kicks off the list.  Then a couple of tough matchups for Eden Prairie that look like state tournament games.  Then the Eagles get their shot at Minnehaha to start January.  That same night we see a big Minneapolis battle with North and De La Salle.  North also gets a big class AA matchup later in the week vs Caledonia.  Minnehaha will also visit Caledonia right after that as part of their trip to Midwest Players Classic in La Crosse (WI) in mid-January.

Park Center's top standalone non-conference game comes up next as they host Wayzata on a quiet January Wednesday night.  Then the battle of titans that never happened as Hopkins visits the island to end January.  Minnehaha visits the island on the final Saturday of the regular season.  But that's right after their huge rematch with North.

10 Conference Games to Watch
  • Eden Prairie at Wayzata - Jan 11th
  • Lakeville North at Prior Lake - Jan 22nd
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 29th
  • Mahtomedi at Tartan - Jan 31st
  • Park Center at Champlin Park - Jan 31st
  • Eden Prairie at Hopkins - Feb 8th 
  • Chaska at Robbinsdale Cooper - Feb 12th
  • Prior Lake at Lakeville North - Feb 22nd
  • Hopkins at Wayzata - Feb 22nd
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie - Mar 1st
While Hopkins and Eden Prairie are heavyweights in the Lake Conference, Wayzata is plenty good enough to spoil it for both of them.  The Trojans can do that when they host both teams and possibly take the top seed in 6AAAA .  East Ridge and CDH looks like it will not only be for the Suburban East title but also for the top seed in 4AAAA.  If Tartan wants anything more than a 3 seed in that section they'll need 2 wins over Mahtomedi to take the Metro East crown.  They host the 2nd meeting on Jan 31st.  On that same day, its the only regular season meeting between the likely division champs in the NW Suburban.  That also should lock up the top seed in section 5AAAA for the winner as a possible section final preview.

Chaska and Cooper in their 2nd meeting should decide the Metro West title.  Prior Lake gets a massive test and possible chance to steal the 1 seed in 2AAAA and win the South Suburban if they can win at Lakeville North.  Hopkins not only has the Wayzata test but on the final Friday night of the season they have to visit Eden Prairie in their 2nd meeting.  That could decide the Lake Conference winner and have a top seed on the line for both teams.

10 Local Players to Watch
  • Ben Carlson - East Ridge
  • Steven Crowl - Eastview
  • Dain Dainja - Park Center
  • Dawson Garcia - Prior Lake
  • Zeke Nnaji  - Hopkins
  • David Roddy - Breck (Colorado St)
  • Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha
  • Tyrell Terry - De La Salle (Stanford)
  • Tyler Wahl - Lakeville North (Wisconsin)
  • Kerwin Walton - Hopkins
5 Underclassmen You Need to Know
  • Prince Aligbe - Minnehaha
  • Kendall Brown - East Ridge
  • Tre Holloman - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Chet Holmgren - Minnehaha
  • Riley Mahlman - Lakeville South
11 Local Teams to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall
  • De La Salle
  • East Ridge
  • Eden Prairie
  • Hopkins
  • Lakeville North
  • Minnehaha Academy
  • Minneapolis North
  • Park Center
  • Prior Lake
  • Wayzata
Current 10 Games or More Streaks In Conference Play
  • De La Salle - 28 wins
  • South St. Paul - 28 road losses
  • Minneapolis North - 27 wins
  • Minnehaha Academy - 26 wins (12 in a row overall)
  • Park of Cottage Grove - 23 losses total and 19 in a row at home
  • Cretin-Derham Hall - 18 wins
  • Nova Classical Academy - 16 wins
  • Apple Valley - 15 wins
  • Hopkins - 14 wins
  • Maranatha Christian Academy - 13 wins
  • Champlin Park - 12 wins
  • Legacy Christian Academy - 12 losses
  • Math and Science Academy - 12 losses
  • St. Paul Johnson - 12 wins
  • St. Agnes - 11 losses
Last year saw 2 long losing streaks broken with South St. Paul and Mounds Park Academy breaking their long droughts in overall league play.  South St. Paul still has a long road losing streak to break after both league wins were at home last year.  They have only 2 league road wins in the last 10 seasons.  That said, their 2 home league wins last year doubled their total of the previous 9 seasons.  Apple Valley saw a 40+ game league winning streak snapped which left Tre Jones at 88-2 and all 5 league titles in his league time with the Eagles

Season Thoughts
Class AAAA looks to be very deep this season with no real clear cut favorite.  Hopkins has a loaded starting 5 but questions and youth beyond that.  Not to mention the black cloud of back to back section final losses to Wayzata hanging over them.  Park Center and Eden Prairie each have a bunch of experienced, talented and versatile pieces for this year and next.  East Ridge and Prior Lake boast big lineups and are ready to contend for the AAAA title as well.  The battle of Mr Basketball contenders Tyler Wahl and Matt Hurt should be very interesting in section 1.  But can Rochester John Marshall finally figure out Lakeville North after losing 6 straight section finals to the Panthers?  How quickly does Cretin-Derham Hall and their new roster come together?

As to the other classes, does De La Salle return to the top in AAA?  Certainly their road in section 6 won't be the meat grinder that it has been in recent years.  Can anybody take the throne in AA from Minnehaha.  Perham gets the 1st shot at that question on the 1st Saturday of the season in a dynamite AA matchup.  Minneapolis North will also have a say late in the regular season.

Lastly, how much more conference realignment is in store for next season?  We already know the moves for Rogers (NW Suburban), Richfield (Tri-Metro), Irondale (Suburban East) and the new Skyline Conference.  Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville were just added to the Lake Conference.  Though I wish they would have gone to the NW Suburban so that league could finally split into 2 groups of 8.  What happens with the 7 team Metro West and does that impact the Wright County East?  The small schools get it too with the MCAA losing all its eastern members and its flagship program Maranatha to the Skyline.  That league is now down to 7 and that includes Bethany who's playing as an independent this year.  Is it the end of the league?  How do changes there end up impacting the TCAC with that league also losing 2 top members to the Skyline.  Kaleidoscope and Eagle Ridge will soon need homes, would the MCAA take them to stay alive?

2018-19 Section 8AAAA Preview

This is the 27th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Its the final class AAAA preview, a look at section 8AAAA.  Tomorrow the series wraps up with a season overview.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 8AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Maple Grove

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at St. Cloud State
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Neutral Site (based on teams)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Buffalo
  2. Maple Grove
  3. Elk River  
  4. Moorhead
  5. Rogers
  6. St. Cloud Tech
  7. St. Michael-Albertville
  8. Brainerd
Buffalo made a run to the section final starting 4 sophomores last year.  That includes star forward Matt Willert who can go off on any given night.  Maple Grove with Jared Rainey and a NW Suburban schedule is enough for 2nd.  Elk River has plenty coming back but they are in the weaker division of the NW Suburban.  Moorhead is dangerous with athletic wing Maleeck Harden and Drew Hagen coming back but they also lose a couple of important guards.  Rogers has to replace their star F Jordan Belka and Tech has to replace their top 5.  But Tech does have G Nate Trewick to build around.  STMA has much improved Austin Jentzen in the middle but lots to replace around him.  Brainerd returns Joey Sauer but has to replace 2 other double figure scorers.

Sleeper: Moorhead.  They've been young but were a bucket away from the section final a year ago.  Harden is a monster athlete on the wing that will be tough to deal with and could lead the way thru the section.

Section Winner: Buffalo.  Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bison!  Sorry Chris Berman.  They made an early step with their section final appearance last year.  This year they get over the top.  Matt Willert gets his proper introduction on the big stage.

2018-19 Section 7AAAA Preview

This is the 26th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews move on to section 7AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 7AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Forest Lake

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Chisago Lakes
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Chisago Lakes

Predicted Seeding
  1. Cambridge-Isanti 
  2. Blaine
  3. Coon Rapids
  4. Duluth East
  5. Forest Lake
  6. St. Francis  
  7. Andover
  8. Anoka
Cambridge-Isanti has been looking ahead to this season and for good reason.  They have their 2 double figure scorers coming back from an 18 win season.  That includes one of the state's best shooters in Henry Abraham (20.9 PPG).  A drop off to the second group follows.  Jason Kaul should lead Blaine to 2nd spot.  Coon Rapids and Duluth East with their returnees get the other home games.  Everybody else has a ton to replace.  St. Francis with Wyatt Schroeder leading the way takes a step up with Andover and Anoka needing to replace top guys.

Sleeper: Duluth East.  The Greyhounds struggled last year but they do return everybody.  They also had that shocking double figure win over Cambridge-Isanti in the final game of the regular season so potential is there.

Section Winner: Cambridge-Isanti.  In a bad section anything can happen but I'll go with chalk here.  They go on the road to visit a few of the Lake Conference teams which will be a big help come tourney time.

2018-19 Section 6AAAA Preview

This is the 25th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The class AAAA previews roll along with a look at section 6AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAAA (7 teams)
Defending Champion: Wayzata

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at High Seed
Finals: Wednesday, March 13th at High Seed

Predicted Seeding
  1. Hopkins
  2. Wayzata
  3. St. Louis Park
  4. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  5. Minneapolis South
  6. Minneapolis Southwest
  7. Minneapolis Washburn
Very little changes in this section.  The big drama is can Hopkins get past Wayzata in the section title game.  Wayzata has pulled the upset the last 2 seasons.  Both are far and away the best 2 in this section again this year.  Everybody else has major losses.  St. Louis Park and Armstrong will battle for the 3rd slot but should have no problem getting the home games.  Its a rough year in the Minneapolis City with the last 3 spots going to them.  South has a piece or 2 back.  Southwest and Washburn have to replace everything.

Sleeper: Robbinsdale Armstrong.  New coach Jon Bryant has some young pieces to work with.  By the time the tourney comes around they could gel into something above where they are now.

Section Winner: Hopkins. The starting 5 is big and as talented as any in the state.  I've liked the size in the past and it hasn't paid off.  A 3rd time upset in the section finals?  That seems like too much to ask.

2018-19 Section 5AAAA Preview

Happy Freshman tryout day.  That means we're 1 week away from the start of the 2018-19 official practice season.  This is the 24th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  In this final week of previews, I complete the class AAAA section previews and then finish up with the annual season overview on Friday.  Today its section 5AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Osseo

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 12th at Coon Rapids
Finals: Friday, March 15th at Rogers

Predicted Seeding
  1. Park Center
  2. Champlin Park
  3. Osseo
  4. Roseville
  5. Spring Lake Park
  6. Centennial
  7. Mounds View
  8. Irondale
Park Center is a heavy favorite here and a state championship threat with all the pieces.  They also haven't been able to get out of this section the last couple of years which should be great motivation.  Champlin Park is the best of the rest with Bennett Otto leading the way.  Osseo, Roseville and Spring Lake Park will battle for the remaining 2 home games.  I wouldn't be shocked to see Centennial jump into that group either.  Mounds View and Irondale will battle to stay out of the last seed.

Sleeper: Centennial.  They lost a truckload of close games last year and have that experience coming back.  They run quality offense and they have the ability to shoot you out of the gym.

Section Winner: Park Center.  The Pirates look to get back to the big dance and make noise like they did in the Quentin Hooker days.  Too deep and talented and Champlin Park and Osseo have too much to replace.

2018-19 Section 4AAAA Preview

This is the 23rd preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 4.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Cretin-Derham Hall (defending AAAA state champion)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Hastings
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Hastings

Predicted Seeding
  1. East Ridge
  2. Cretin-Derham Hall
  3. Tartan
  4. St. Paul Central 
  5. White Bear Lake 
  6. North St. Paul
  7. Woodbury
  8. Stillwater
This is another section where you could end up with 3 conference champions all battling it out.  Certainly the Suburban East champ will be here.  Tartan hopes to be that team from the Metro East.  Central is the heavy favorite in the St. Paul City.  They could get an interesting 1st round matchup as the weaker St. Paul City schedule always knocks their seed down.  Cretin-Derham Hall has a bunch of talent so they won't drop far despite losing a ton from the state championship squad.  Schedules and Suburban East voting pretty much ensure that Tartan and Central won't end up higher than 3rd and 4th respectively.  White Bear Lake is the best of the rest.  Woodbury at North St. Paul on Dec 22nd should be for the 6 seed with both having to replace most of their lineups.  Stillwater remains in rebuild mode.

Sleeper: White Bear Lake.  They have a very good duo of Sam Schwartz and Jeremy Beckler that needs to be dealt with.  Not a team you want to see in the 4 vs 5 game.

Section Winner: East Ridge.  This is the start of what could be a big run for the Raptors.  Their size and experience prevails here in a tough section.

2018-19 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 22nd preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections, we move on to section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Apple Valley

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at Farmington
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Farmington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eastview
  2. Hastings 
  3. Park
  4. Henry Sibley 
  5. Apple Valley 
  6. Burnsville
  7. Eagan
  8. Rosemount
If you thought last year was down in this section, now Apple Valley loses everybody.  That leaves the section wide open for the taking.  Most teams here would be happy to end up with a winning record. Eastview is the default favorite but struggled last year despite their big front line.  Hastings has plenty of size too.  Nobody else projects to be in the top half of their league.  Park gets the next nod with the talented duo of Gorres and Block returning.  The top 3 play a round-robin during the 1st 2 weeks of the season so expect the seeding to shake out very early.  Apple Valley, Sibley and Burnsville will battle for the final home game.  Rosemount and Eagan still are rebuilding.

Sleeper: Burnsville.  Its a new system for a new coach but Rob Mestas was very successful in a tough job at Roosevelt.  Would not shock me to see them use the difficult South Suburban schedule as a springboard to tournament success.

Section Winner: Eastview. Too much from Steven Crowl and Tate Machacek on the front line to pick against them.

2018-19 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 21st preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Continuing our look at the class AAAA sections we stay in the south metro with section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 2AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Eden Prairie

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at High Seed
Finals: Friday, March 15th at High Seed

Predicted Seeding
  1. Eden Prairie
  2. Prior Lake
  3. Chaska
  4. Shakopee 
  5. Edina
  6. Chanhassen
  7. Minnetonka
  8. Bloomington Jefferson 
Its another deep year in section 2 and another possibility of 3 conference champs.  Eden Prairie with a ton back has to remain the favorite.  Prior Lake with their gigantic lineup also is a contender not just to win here but make noise at state as well.  Chaska and Shakopee stick out as the best of the rest.  Chaska gets the nod to due experience and not having a new coach.  Edina and Chanhassen can definitely compete with those teams.  Nice inside out duos for both of them.  Minnetonka and Bloomington Jefferson both have a ton to replace but are better than most 7 and 8 seeds.

Sleeper: Chanhassen.  They have a talented duo in F Regan Tollefson and G Carson Hollowaty.  Plus they're always solid defensively.

Section Winner: Eden Prairie. Too much firepower and experience but a matchup with Prior Lake would be very interesting.  Prior Lake's size is a problem, but its perimeter oriented enough that it negates the offensive advantage.  Plus its not a good matchup for chasing around Eden Prairie on the other end.

2018-19 Section 1AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  Now we begin our look at all of the class AAAA sections going in numerical order.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 1AAAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Lakeville North

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at Rochester Civic Arena
Finals: Friday, March 16th at Rochester Civic Auditorium

Predicted Seeding
  1. Lakeville North
  2. Rochester John Marshall
  3. New Prague
  4. Rochester Mayo
  5. Lakeville South  
  6. Farmington
  7. Owatonna
  8. Rochester Century
At the top of the section you could see 3 conference champions.  Lakeville North with Tyler Wahl will be a big factor in the South Suburban.  Matt Hurt and Rochester John Marshall will be big contenders in the Big 9.  New Prague should be right there in the Wright County East.  The Trojans return 4 of their top 5 for new coach Dan Peterka.  That includes a big and talented front line of Tyler Kemp and Nathan Brusseau.  Rochester Mayo returns their top 3 scorers including Gabe and Mason Madsen  who combined for over 35 PPG.  Farmington with the loss of Adam Weed due a knee injury gets flip-flopped with Lakeville South here but with Miles Mendes they don't drop further.  Owatonna has to replace 2 top scorers but are probably better than an average 7 seed.  Century remains at the bottom.

Sleeper: Farmington.  The Tigers were better than expected last year and they proved they could play with anybody.  Thanks to a nasty 1-3-1 zone, I could see them pulling a suprise.

Section Winner: Lakeville North. The Panthers have been the roadblock for Rochester John Marshall for the last 6 years in this section.  So I stay with them as the pick.  Matt Hurt still gets his but Tyler Wahl gets more help.

2018-19 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  The penultimate week of the season preview series begins with a glance at the final metro area section in class AAA, section 6.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 6AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: De La Salle

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Chanhassen

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Robbinsdale Cooper
  3. Minneapolis Roosevelt  
  4. Minneapolis Henry   
  5. Waconia
  6. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  7. Orono 
  8. Mound-Westonka
While the section isn't ridiculously loaded like past years, its still no picnic.  De La Salle remains the favorite behind their dynamic perimeter duo of Tyrell Terry and Jamison Battle.  I see Cooper and Roosevelt battling for the next 2 slots.  Dynamic perimeter play for both of those teams as well with Jalen Justice and Jalen Miller for Cooper and Deszi Sims for Roosevelt.  Then the battle for the last home game.  Henry gets the nod with a solid group returning.  Waconia with leading scorer SG PJ Hayes coming back will also contend there.  But they have to replace 2 top guys in PG Charlie Gove and F Nick Fulford.  Benilde-St. Margaret's could also make a run for that spot with Dylan Drees and Walker Johnson.  Despite losing F Jarvis Omersa and most of the rotation, I won't discount Barry Wohler's ability to have Orono make a run.  Blake O'Connor leads the returnees for the Spartans.  Mound-Westonka has to replace their leading scorer as they continue to build.

Sleeper: Orono.  In a section that is very perimeter oriented shooting will be at a premium.  Orono always seems to have shooters.  Plus you have coach Wohler with time to prepare a team that is better than most 7 seeds.  That gives them as good a chance as anybody to surprise.

Section Winner: De La Salle.  The Islanders will be on a mission to get the AAA title back.  The road still isn't easy but its not nearly as tough in past years and they still have 2 of the top players in the section.

2018-19 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  To end week 4 of this 6 week series, I take a look at section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: Columbia Heights (state runner-up)

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Wednesday, March 6th
Semifinals: Saturday, March 9th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at St. Paul Washington
Predicted Seeding
  1. Mahtomedi 
  2. St. Paul Johnson 
  3. Fridley
  4. St. Anthony 
  5. Columbia Heights 
  6. Totino-Grace 
  7. St. Paul Como Park
  8. Hill-Murray
Mahtomedi with most of their roster coming back and a solid Johnson squad are the 2 clear top teams here.  Then a big drop as the rest of the section has a ton to replace.  Fridley and St. Anthony should battle for the next 2 slots.  How Totino-Grace gets seeded by the coaches in this section is always entertaining if not often very suspect.  Como Park and Hill-Murray have very long seasons ahead.

Sleeper: Totino-Grace.  There is young talent for the Eagles that will be battle tested by the tough NW Suburban schedule.

Section Winner: Mahtomedi.  The Zephyrs vs the hectic trapping of Johnson and being played in Johnson's backyard makes this an interesting matchup.  Mahtomedi runs great stuff and if they don't turn it over they have to be the favorite.  But Johnson can find ways to get to you.

2018-19 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  As week 4 of the 6 week preview series moves along, I start my look at the local AAA sections with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 3AAA (8 teams)
Defending Champion: St. Thomas Academy

Tournament Schedule:
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, March 5th
Semifinals: Friday, March 8th at Bloomington Jefferson
Finals: Thursday, March 14th at Bloomington Jefferson

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Thomas Academy
  2. St. Croix Lutheran
  3. St. Paul Harding
  4. Holy Angels 
  5. South St. Paul
  6. St. Paul Highland Park
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
  8. Richfield
The defending champs St. Thomas Academy are still the heavy favorite here.  St. Croix Lutheran loses plenty but also has talent coming back.  Harding's run in the St. Paul City keeps them above the rest.  Holy Angels takes the 4 spot with their new talent.  Once again the bottom of the section will represent some of the worst of AAA.  South St. Paul is my pick to stay 5th with their young guys.  Highland Park will be another team reliant on sophomores.  Kennedy and Richfield will again struggle.

Staying with southeast AAA schools from the metro east, a note on Simley.  Down in section 1AAA, they could battle for a 1st round home game.  I'll say they get it and advance thanks to Isaiah Robinson.  But they'll go out in the semis.

Sleeper: Holy Angels.  With the Charles and Emmitt Johnson, that gives the Stars quality guard play which enough to beat many teams in this down section.

Section Winner: St. Thomas Academy.  The Cadets and Jack Thompson make another trip to state out of a weak section.

2018-19 Section 5AA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 5AA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 5AA (14 teams)
Defending Champion: Brooklyn Center

Tournament Schedule:
Round of 16: Thursday, March 7th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 9th at St. Michael-Albertville
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 12th at St. Michael-Albertville
Finals: Friday, March 15th 6 PM at St. Cloud State

Predicted Seeding
  1. Minneapolis North
  2. Maranatha
  3. Breck
  4. Litchfield
  5. Providence  
  6. Rockford  
  7. Blake
  8. Southwest Christian
  9. Holy Family
  10. Watertown-Mayer
  11. Brooklyn Center 
  12. HLWW
  13. PACT
  14. International School
This section had Brooklyn Center repeating written all over it.  Then all their stars ended up at prep school changing the entire dynamic.  That means Minneapolis North despite their youth is the favorite.  Maranatha and Breck with David Roddy will be handfuls again in this section.  Litchfield is poised to make a big jump with Owen Boerema leading a group of returnees.  The next group is very competitive with Providence, Rockford, Blake and SW Christian having solid returnees as well.  Beyond that, teams with plenty to replace.

In 6AA, I see Spectrum winning a 1st round home game before bowing out.

Sleeper: Holy Family.  Yes they lose a ton but playing in the tough Wright County East division always serves them well come tourney time.  With Nick Hendler and Jacob Zay returning that gives them a couple experienced pieces in a very disciplined system.

Section Winner: Litchfield.  Great tradition for the Dragons and tons of experience coming back with a go to guy in Boerema.  David Roddy is a handful for Breck but how much help he gets is a question.  North and Maranatha need to generate offense from the their defense and can be vulnerable in the halfcourt.  Very balanced section where the quarterfinal round on could see anything happen.  Therefore, I'll make another pick outside the predicted seedings

2018-19 Section 4AA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at section 4AA. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AA (16 teams)
Defending Champion: Minnehaha Academy (2017 and 2018 State AA Champions)

Tournament Schedule:
Round 1: Tuesday, March 5th
Round 2: Thursday, March 7th
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 9th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 12th at St. Paul Washington
Finals: Friday, March 15th at St. Paul Washington

Predicted Seeding
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Cristo Rey
  3. St. Croix Prep
  4. Concordia Academy
  5. Trinity   
  6. St. Paul Academy   
  7. New Life Academy  
  8. St. Paul Humboldt
  9. St. Paul Washington
  10. St. Agnes
  11. Minneapolis Edison 
  12. Nova Classical 
  13. Twin Cities Academy/Great River
  14. AFSA 
  15. St. Paul Prep/HSRA
  16. Math and Science
Read yesterday's 4A preview to see the playoff format of byes used in this section.  Minnehaha is still the runaway favorite here.  The group of teams behind them should be a good battle.  Cristo Rey and St. Croix Prep are rock solid at the guard spots.  Concordia has nice balance in their lineup.  After those 4 the section drops off significantly.  The bigger school schedules will move the next group up in the seedings.  The TCAC teams outside of Cristo Rey largely get pushed down the list. 

Sleeper: Twin Cities Academy/Great River.  They will be young but after a full season they may be able to steal a game or 2 before running into the top seeds in the quarters.

Section Winner: Minnehaha.  Its the same story of ridiculous talent.  Anything less than a state title is a disappointment.

2018-19 Section 4A Preview

This is the 14th preview in the 2018-2019 season preview series.  Phase 2 of the previews starts today and over the next 3 weeks I'll cover 14 sections, mostly metro based, including all 8 class AAAA sections.  That will include looks at some section teams that I haven't done yet plus some sprinkled comments about local teams that aren't in the 14 sections being previewed.  Let's start with a look at Section 4A.  If you missed any of the conference previews during phase 1, I previewed 121 metro area teams from 12 conferences and independents.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A (24 Teams)
Defending Champion: Heritage Christian Academy

Tournament Schedule:
Round 1: Monday, March 4th (number of games will be number of teams in section - 16)
Round 2: Tuesday, March 5th (16 teams left)
Round 3: Thursday, March 7th (12 teams left)
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 9th
Semifinals: Tuesday, March 12th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Finals: Friday, March 15th at Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Predicted Seeding
  1. Prairie Seeds
  2. CHOF 
  3. Christian Life
  4. Mounds Park Academy
  5. West Lutheran
  6. Hope Academy
  7. Minnesota Transitions
I'm going to assume 4A (and 4AA tomorrow) both go with the same NCAA small conference tournament format of byes they used last year.  The intent was to avoid the 130-12 type beatdowns that were happening in the 1 vs 16 games.  It actually added to the fun that was 4A last year with the 15 seed winning 3 games to reach the quarterfinals and the 16 seed winning twice to advance.  See if you can keep all of these byes straight.

Seeds 13-lower: Round 1
Seeds 9-12: Byes to Round 2 (play round 1 winners)
Seeds 5-8: Byes to Round 3 (play round 2 winners)
Seeds 1-4: Byes to the Quarterfinals (play round 3 winners)

As is always the case in this section of tiny charter schools, the full list of teams won't be playing in the bracket.  With 20 teams the above structure still works.  However, if there's a 21st team and it looks like there will be, then I'm guessing that the 12 seed would lose their bye and have to play the 21 seed in round 1.

As to the games themselves, this section was a total tossup last year with 6 seed Mounds Park Academy making a cinderella run to the section final with a third of their wins being in the tournament series.  Not to mention 5 seed Heritage making state after not making their own conference tournament.  I think Mounds Park Academy could once again use the tough IMAC schedule to their advantage come tourney time to make another run.  Christian Life and CHOF will be tough outs with plenty coming back.  But its the guard play of Prairie Seeds Academy that sticks out to me here.  They're just so quick compared to everybody else in the section.  But they're also the type of team that keeps the game interesting up 20 or down 20.

A couple other previewed class A teams to note here.  MCAA member Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity is in section 2A.  I'll stick with last year's finish.  The Bulldogs win a 1st round home game but then go out in the subsection semis.  TCAC member Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, if they play the tournament series in section 1A, is likely looking at going out in a pigtail game.

Sleeper:  Minnesota Transitions.  The battle of the mangy coats is Dec 6th at Prairie Seeds Academy but it wouldn't be ridiculous to see these wolf creatures cross paths again come March.  But with everybody coming back and a weak section, another run during tourney time would not be a major surprise.

Section Winner: CHOF.  Prairie Seeds Academy is the pick on paper here.  But that's been the case for the Lycans the last 2 or 3 years.  I think CHOF's schedule will help them and in a wide open section, I'm going to go off the main path for the pick.

2018-19 Suburban East Conference Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2018-2019 season preview series.  In this preview, we reach the mid-point of this 6 week series.  The conference previews end here with a look at the Suburban East Conference.  Next week, we start looking at the metro area sections.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2017-18 season 30-2, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
The defending champions lose most of their lineup.  That includes 3 division 1 stars in Daniel Oturu (Minnesota), Ryan Larson (Wofford) and Sy Chatman (UMass).  They combined for 47 PPG.  SG Jaeden King returns with 14 PPG.  They reload with transfers G Curtis Jones (Minneapolis South), F Karsten Broadley (Fosston) and frosh star PG Trejuan Holloman (Minneapolis North).  Amari Carter, Lucas Ammons, Tristan Lee and Zion Guerra are others looking for rotation time.

East Ridge Raptors (2017-18 season 23-3, 13-3 Conference, 2nd)
The Raptors look to be a state title contender with their top 4 scorers returning. That includes mismatch combo-forward Courtney Brown (21.5 PPG) and F Ben Carlson (18.8 PPG) on a terrific front line.  The backcourt is solid with soph Kendall Brown (11.1 PPG) and senior Zach Zebrowski (8.4 PPG) both returning.  They'll need to replace the toughness of guards TJ Kelly and Joey Arndt.

Forest Lake Rangers (2017-18 season 20-12, 8-8 Conference, Tie 5th)
Forest Lake needs to replace their top 4 scorers and most of the rotation including SG Manny Jingco (17.4 PPG).  Face up 4 man Cooper Berg and Zach Hailey also graduated costing the Rangers their main size.  Guard Hunter Damon (8.6 PPG) and F John Schrader (8.5 PPG) will be the top offensive options.  Dorell Young also returns as a defensive minded guard.
Mounds View Mustangs (2017-18 season 5-22, 3-13 Conference, 7th)
After a down year, Mounds does have a couple of pieces to work with as their top 2 scorers return. G Josh Albers was the only double figure scorer at 11.5 PPG.  Expect him to get the ball in set play situations.  P Brendan Kauls more than doubled his scoring average to 8.4 PPG.  Juniors Thomas Gebhardt and Jake Radabaugh should also see significant role increases.

Park Wolfpack (2017-18 season 6-21, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
Things looking up this year for the Pack with 5 of their top 6 scorers coming back.  That includes UMD recruit Charlie Gorres (20.6 PPG) on the front line and guard Domenik Block (17.5 PPG).  Marshaun Campbell provides another option.  Joey Toth provides returning length inside.  Soph guards Norman Smith and Kaiah Brady will benefit from the time they saw last season.

Roseville Raiders (2017-18 season 16-11, 9-7 Conference, 4th)
The Raiders return a very experienced perimeter group.  That includes Jovan Hunter, Camryn Walker, Mario Dukes, Yohanes Gebeyehu, John Briggs and Camryn Walker.  I can see Walker or Dukes having a breakout season.  Spencer Nath will man the inside.  Forward Daevonte Monson's 10.2 PPG will be missed.

Stillwater Ponies (2017-18 season 4-23, 3-13 Conference, Tie 7th)
The Ponies have to replace a large chunk of their rotation.  Leading scorer Evan Parker (12.3 PPG) is the main loss.  PG Nate Shikenjanski (11.6 PPG) is the main piece to build around.  Forward Benjamin Recksiedler (6.6 PPG) is another top offensive option.  Trenton Attwood (5.8 PPG) returns to the front line.  Junior Matt Moore should see an expanded role at a guard spot.

White Bear Lake Bears (2017-18 season 15-12, 8-8 Conference, Tie 5th)
Coach Keith Lockwood has been building towards this season.  He has a quality 1-2 punch in PF Jeremy Beckler (19.4 PPG) and G Sam Schwartz (16.7 PPG).  They are part of the 4 returning starters.  Only major rotation loss is F Blake Charles and 10.8 PPG.

Woodbury Royals (2017-18 season 16-12, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Woodbury has to replace all everything forward Michael Jones (25.7 PPG) and almost their entire rotation.  Adam Mazur, McK Robertson and Shaheed Muhammed are options at the guard spots.  Junior Drew Bramlett (3.6 PPG) should be the top scoring threat as he's the top returning scorer.  Parker McMorrow is a front line option for a small and inexperienced lineup.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. East Ridge   
  2. Cretin-Derham Hall   
  3. Roseville
  4. White Bear Lake  
  5. Forest Lake 
  6. Woodbury
  7. Park
  8. Mounds View
  9. Stillwater
Conference Overview:
Once again CDH and East Ridge should battle it out as 2 of the teams at the top of a very deep class AAAA this season.  Roseville and White Bear Lake have a bunch coming back and should battle in the 2nd tier.  After that a significant dropoff as Forest Lake and Woodbury have entire rotations to replace.  Park could be a sleeper here if Gorres and Block stay healthy.  Mounds View will be better but will have to grind it out every night.  Stillwater continues to rebuild.

Conference MVP: Courtney Brown - East Ridge

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Trejuan Holloman, Tristan Lee - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Kendall Brown, Kendall Blue, Zac Thomas, Drew Adams - East Ridge
  • Kaiah Brady, Norman Smith - Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Dec 14th
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 29th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge vs Hopkins - Dec 1st (Big 12 at Cretin-Derham Hall) 
  • Wayzata at Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 1st (Big 12) 
  • East Ridge vs Prior Lake - Dec 8th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins) 
  • Rochester John Marshall vs Cretin-Derham Hall - Dec 8th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • East Ridge at Eden Prairie - Dec 18th
  • Brookfield Central (WI) at East Ridge - Jan 26th (Border Battle)
  • Wayzata at East Ridge - Feb 6th
  • Eden Prairie at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 14th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at De La Salle - Feb 16th