2019-20 Metro West Conference Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Its now time for the big schools with the mostly class AAAA leagues featured in this 3rd week of previews.  In this preview, a look at the Metro West Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Benilde St. Margaret's Red Knights (2018-19 season 9-19, 4-10 Conference, 6th)
Hans Hoeg takes over the head job from longtime coach John Moore.  He spent time as an assistant at Augustana.  While leading scorer Dylan Drees (13.5 PPG) departs from a wing spot, most of the rest of the rotation returns.  Seniors Walker Johnson (9.1 PPG), Nick Peterson (10.2 PPG) and Nels Birkeland provide scoring punch on the wing.  Junior Derric Standifer returns at the point.  There's no clear post presence but there's plenty of scoring elsewhere.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2018-19 season 11-15, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Wing Isaiah Watts and his 12.5 PPG are the biggest loss.  Soph Hayden Holland runs the point.  Evan Lind will man the middle.  Manny Montgomery is a lanky wing who lead the team in scoring last year at 15.9 PPG.  Hunter Burgess also saw rotation time last season.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2018-19 season 7-21, 2-12 Conference, 7th)
The Eagles lose their man in the middle Laronte Mormont (8.6 PPG).  Top scorer Jaylen Williams and his team high 16.6 PPG also needs to be replaced.  Isaiah Subah returns at the point along with junior Amarion Hanspard.  Tyvan Klinger is another perimeter option.  Habil Farah gives them length inside.  Jake Husting is another returning frontcourt option.

Chanhassen Storm (2018-19 season 17-10, 10-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Storm have to replace 4 starters.  That includes the duo of Regan Tollefson and Carson Hollowaty who combined for over 26 PPG last year.  Guard Luke Gitzen (12.2 PPG) is the key returnee.  Guard Vincent Manuel is the only other rotation guy coming back.  Juniors Ben Giles, Ryan Maschka and Adam Strobel are options to fill the open spots.  Seniors Sawyer Smith and Spencer Dieken are also rotation possibilities.

Chaska Hawks (2018-19 season 21-6, 13-1 Conference, 1st)
Coach Dana Kallman has to replace his high powered duo of Cole Nicholson (23 PPG) and sharpshooter Connor Krenos (13.1 PPG).  But the Hawks will still be a force in the league thanks to the next 7 leading scorers returning.  Guards Zach Lea and Ben Kallman return to the backcourt.  Junior Spencer Goetz and big soph Brady Nicholson will hold down the frontcourt.  Juniors Jack Frick and Luke Strazzanti are solid perimeter role guys.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2018-19 season 13-12, 7-7 Conference, Tie 4th)
Coach Bo Powell needs to replace lots of guard offense.  The top 4 scorers including Jalen Justice and Jalen Miller are gone.  That's almost 50 PPG that needs to be replaced.  Junior guard Bo Powell Jr (8.8 PPG) will see a much increased role to replace that.  Damarri Bankhead (6.9 PPG) is a big body to move around inside.  Juniors Majay Murphy and Tyson Dallas will also slot into the rotation.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2018-19 season 19-9, 12-2 Conference, 2nd)
St. Louis Park has to replace 4 of their top scorers.  Junior wing Paris Johnson was tops on the squad last year with 15.6 PPG.  Cole Ewald and Erik Piehl will man the guard spots.  Aaron Ellingson and soph Deontez Ross also return on the wings.  Big man Anthony Rayson inside (14.8 PPG) is the toughest one to replace.  Junior Will Kietzman is an option there.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Chaska
  2. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  3. St. Louis Park  
  4. Chanhassen
  5. Robbinsdale Cooper 
  6. Bloomington Jefferson  
  7. Bloomington Kennedy
Conference Overview
Richfield leaves the conference but no other realignment so far.  Chaska is the heavy favorite with a ton coming back.  Benilde-St. Margaret's has a lot of good pieces returning so I'll pick them to be the best of the rest.  St. Louis Park also has notable pieces back so I'll give them the nod for the 3rd spot after underestimating them last year.  Chanhassen and Cooper have lots to replace.  Coin flip that for the middle spot.  Jefferson is well coached and boring enough to squeeze out a few wins.  That's a running joke here for those of you who are new readers. I respect the methodical style and think its a good fit for the talent available.  Kennedy remains at the bottom.

Conference MVP: Zach Lea - Chaska

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Kinsey - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Hayden Holland - Bloomington Jefferson
  • Ben Giles, Adam Strobel - Chanhassen
  • Brady Nicholson - Chaska
  • Davion Evans - Robbinsdale Cooper
  • Deontez Ross - St. Louis Park
Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Benilde-St. Margaret's - Feb 4th
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's at Chaska - Feb 28th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Chaska at Eastview - Dec 5th
  • Chaska vs Shakopee - Dec 27th (Eden Prairie tourney)
  • Eden Prairie at Chaska - Jan 3rd

2019-20 Metro East Conference Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Due to the annual MEA break, I'll also take the 2 day hiatus and end week 2 with a look at the Metro East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and an explanation of how the previews are generated, click here.

Hastings Raiders (2018-19 season 9-18, 7-9 Conference, 5th)
The big front line of Isaac Rabaey and Matt Schottman along with Sully Levos are gone.  That costs the Raiders their top 3 scorers from last year.  Guard Devon Haraldson returns from injury to lead the offense.  Colby Zak (7.6 PPG) and Trey Swanson (8.0 PPG) return to the lineup.  Jackson Kirchoff and Izzy Arnold also saw rotation time last year.

Henry Sibley Warriors (2018-19 season 6-21, 6-10 Conference, 6th)
Its a rebuilding year for the Warriors.  7 of the top 8 scorers are gone.  That includes 16.4 PPG from forward Malik Spearman.  Junior forward Cameron Latvis averaged 5.9 PPG last year to lead all returnees.  Dewayne Thompson is the only other returnee with significant experience.

Hill-Murray Pioneers (2018-19 season 3-24, 0-16 Conference, 9th)
Scott Wadie comes over from the Park of Cottage Grove girls program to be the 3rd head coach in 3 years for the Pioneers.  Leading scorer Octavius Wilson and his 14.6 PPG graduated.  Forward Kenny Larmie (13.3 PPG) and guard Mitch Gutknecht (10.7 PPG) lead the group of the next 5 top scorers coming back.  Most of the roster back but its a major rebuilding project.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (2018-19 season 25-7, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
The Zephyrs lose 4 starters including star wing J'Vonne Hadley who transferred to Cretin-Derham Hall.  His 28.6 PPG leaves a big hole in the lineup along losing 2 other double figure scorers.  Center Cole Chapman (5.5 PPG) returns inside.  Forward Luke Ricker will be a primary option on the front line.  Forward Cal Greene and guard Brody Fox are options to fill the open spots.

North Polars (2018-19 season 16-11, 11-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
Coach Damien Johnson has the Polars primed for a big year and a brutally tough schedule in the first 2 weeks of the season to prove it.  Bombadier Dajuan Carter's 28.4 PPG need to be replaced.  Expect Shaheed Muhammed to step right into the main offensive role after averaging 15.1 PPG last year.  The rest of the roster is a bunch of athletic interchangeable pieces that can give a team fits.  Forward Brendan Lankford-Johnson is the most versatile of those pieces.

St. Thomas Academy Cadets (2018-19 season 17-12, 11-5 Conference, Tie 3rd)
The Cadets have to replace almost everybody.  That includes Sioux Falls recruit Jack Thompson 18.4 PPG at the point and 16.1 PPG from Noah Chamberlain (now at SW MN State).  Yenika Fondungallah is the only notable rotation returnee at 3.7 PPG.  Stephen Betts and Jamie Smith will look to fill guard spots.  Soph Nathan Johnson and junior Ryan Chamberlain look to fill frontcourt spots.

Simley Spartans (2018-19 season 10-17,4-12 Conference, 7th)
Longtime coach Ben Bushaw recently resigned so there's no head coach at the time of this writing.  Guard Isaiah Robinson (17.2 PPG) departs but there are a couple double-figure pieces to work with.  Soph RJ Jioklow (15.8 PPG) returns on a wing.  Junior guard Breyton Buysman (13.5 PPG) is another double figure scorer coming back.  Junior Luke Vandermeer takes over in the middle.  Junior Ben Vujovich and soph Devin Robinson will also contribute.

South St. Paul Packers (2018-19 season 8-19, 3-13 Conference, 8th)
Coach Matt McCollister hits the ground running after coming over from Brooklyn Center.  Talented soph guard Alonzo Dodd (14.4 PPG) and wing Marquise Gleb (16.8 PPG) lead a group that graduated only 1 player.  Freshman wing Maximus Wilson transfers in from Brooklyn Center and will be a significant piece as well.  The group will still be young but very dangerous.

Tartan Titans (2018-19 season 25-3, 15-1 Conference, Tie 1st)
Star point guard Antwan Kimmons and his 20.8 PPG needs to replaced.  Defensive minded forwards Dante Aganmwonyi and M'Akil Weems also graduated.  This year's offense will be more balanced that we've seen in a while with point guard Dorian Singer (11.3 PPG) and wings Joseph Kearney (11.6 PPG) and Langston Binns (7.9 PPG).  Beyond 6'10" junior Evan Meskill there's little size on the roster.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Tartan
  3. Mahtomedi 
  4. South St. Paul
  5. Hastings 
  6. Simley 
  7. St. Thomas Academy     
  8. Henry Sibley 
  9. Hill-Murray 
Conference Overview
North is just too deep for everybody else in the league.  Tartan's perimeter play and tradition keep them second.  In a very down year for the league, South St. Paul makes a big jump despite their youth.  Mahtomedi and Hastings are top half quality as well.  Simley with their returnees looks to jump into that mix.  The Mendota Heights neighbors both have years where they'll be starting fresh.  Hill-Murray presses the reset key once again but will have experience coming back.

Conference MVP: Shaheed Muhammed - North

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Rashad McKinley Nino Johnson - Hill-Murray
  • Shawn West-Zimpel, Kenny Daily - North
  • Nathan Johnson, Michael Kirchner - St. Thomas Academy
  • RJ Jioklow, Devin Robinson - Simley
  • Alonzo Dodd, Maximus Wilson - South St. Paul
  • Jaylon Washington- Tartan
Conference Games to Watch
  • Tartan at North - Jan 14th
  • North at Tartan - Feb 14th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at North - Dec 3rd
  • De La Salle at North - Dec 5th
  • North vs Spring Lake Park - Dec 7th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Minnehaha at North - Dec 11th
  • Eden Prairie at North - Dec 17th
  • Tartan at Mound-Westonka - Feb 6th

2019-20 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the 7th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  The Minneapolis City Conference is up next as we move west across the metro.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2018-19 season 15-10, 8-4 Conference, 3rd)
The Tommies were a great story last year jumping all the way up to third in the city.  Forward Jackson Rusnacko, guard Tenzin Oden and Antonio Simmons graduate from that roster.  Jermaine Cornell, Jabari Langley and Jeremiah Thompson lead the returnees.  8th grade guard Hanif Muhammed also returns to the rotation.  No dynamic scorer with lots of interchangeable parts

North Polars (2018-19 season 23-10, 12-0 Conference, 1st, Class AA Runner-Up)
The leadership of guards Eli Campbell (18.4 PPG) and Nasir El-Amin (12.1 PPG) will be missed in addition to their scoring.  Sophomore Willie Wilson and junior Clifford Brown are next up to fill those spots.  Junior center Davon Townley will man the middle after putting up 12 PPG last year.   Its a young group but all 3 levels won the Twin Cities game last year so don't expect much decline.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2018-19 season 16-12, 9-3 Conference, 2nd)
Coach Jamil Jackson returns most of his roster.  He has a talented guard group led by seniors Glentrell Carter (14.9 PPG), Mark Cambell, Jamar Gardner and Yusuf Abdullah.  Anton Barr gives them an effective option inside.  Biggest loss is guard Rashaud Rollins and his 13.8 PPG.

Roosevelt Teddies (2018-19 season 10-14, 4-7  Conference, 4th)
All the starters depart and only a couple of reserves return.  High scoring wing Deszi Sims and forward Luke Barnes are the major losses from the roster.  Montgomery Booth and Nelson Ladd are the returnees at the perimeter slots.  The JV roster was tiny last year so expect very little size to be available.

South Tigers (2018-19 season 8-17, 4-8 Conference, 5th)
PG Jaylen Blakley (11.5 PPG) and Deshawn McArthur lead the returning starters.  Soph Lukas Johnson returns at a power forward spot.  Junior Demetrius Seay will see time at a guard spot.  Soph guard James Misterek will also see minutes.

Southwest Lakers (2018-19 season 4-22, 3-8 Conference, 6th)
Former Rosemount coach Keenan Shelton takes over the program.  Leading scorer Christo Polydorou is back to lead the offense.  Kentrell Gaulden and soph Camden Holter are other offensive options.  Guard Ben Elias also returns to the starting lineup.

Washburn Millers (2018-19 season 3-23, 1-11 Conference, 7th)
Washburn had to go young last year and now most of the roster returns.  Wing Josh Rogers is a league MVP candidate after averaging 15.1 PPG last year.  Guards Jamar Nelson and Sir'vell Miller also averaged double figures.  David Worman returns in the post.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. North
  2. Henry
  3. Edison
  4. Washburn 
  5. South 
  6. Southwest  
  7. Roosevelt
Conference Overview
North is still the favorite.  Henry and Edison will be a fun battle for second.  Then it drops off to Washburn and South fighting to stay out of the bottom 3.  Southwest will try to jump up into that group but I think they're just a step behind the previous 2.  Roosevelt looks like they'll struggle.

Conference MVP: Davon Townley - North

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Hanif Muhammed - Edison
  • Willie Wilson, Mario Sanders - North
  • Lukas Peterson, James Misterik - South
  • Camden Holder - Southwest
Conference Games to Watch
  • Henry at North - Dec 14th
  • North at Henry - Jan 25th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 29th (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • North vs Lake City - Dec 7th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • North at St. Croix Prep - Dec 13th
  • De La Salle at North - Jan 7th
  • Mound-Westonka at Henry - Feb 3rd
  • Hopkins at North - Feb 24th
  • North at Minnehaha - Feb 27th

2019-20 St. Paul City Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 2 begins with a look at the city schools.  That starts with a peek at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2018-19 season 22.7, 12-0 Conference, 1st)
Central loses almost the entire rotation from last year but they'll reload with a JV squad that won the conference last year.  Caron Crowe and Gavin Gothard will man guard spots.  Curtis Favors gives them a solid wing.  Jaelen Thomas is a breakout candidate inside.

Como Park Cougars (2018-19 season 6-21, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
Mike Landers was going to take over after being an assistant with Edina.  He got an assistant AD job at Maranatha.  So now JV coach Donnell Gibson is the head man.  All 3 double figure scorers including 18.8 PPG from guard Josh Ward need to be replaced.  Tyroun Sain provides an option at the point guard spot. Isaiah Long provides length up front.  Soph Jountay Kibble is a young piece to build around.

Harding Knights (2018-19 season 14-11, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Assistant Kenny Olafeso takes over for long time coach Dean Keenan.  Point guard Jovan Christian graduated in a tie for the school's all-time scoring record.  Leading scorer Simeon Sharp (18.8 PPG) returns on the wing.  He'll pair with forward Alex Addai (8.7 PPG) to form a nice 1-2 punch for the Knights. No experience coming back beyond those 2 however.

Highland Park Scots (2018-19 season 8-19, 5-7 Conference, 4th)
Jesse McCann takes over the Scots program.  The top 3 scorers depart but 5 juniors and freshman Ishmael Powell saw a ton of time last year so expect much of the same.  Forward Carter Owens averaged 9.4 PPG to lead the returnees.  Joey Kottke averaged 8.8 PPG and Powell put up 5.5 PPG. This group of juniors did play in the Twin Cities freshmen game so that gives the Scots hope.

Humboldt Hawks (2018-19 season 11-16, 4-8 Conference, 5th)
Junior Brian Williams almost doubled his scoring output to 16.8 PPG to lead the Hawks.  Two other double figure scores are back for the mostly intact rotation including the guard duo of Desmond Lugo (12.9 PPG) and A'Kei Pippins (11.6 PPG).  Tom Hobday and Andre Johnson fill in the interior spots.

Johnson Governors (2018-19 season 15-11, 8-4 Conference, Tie 2nd)
Leading scorer Jordan Mobley (11.7 PPG) graduated and freshman DeWayne Givens (11.6 PPG) is now at Minnehaha.  Guard Terrel Turner also graduated.  Larry Harris is the top returning scorer at 10.6 PPG.  4 other underclassmen from last year will see big minutes at guard slots.  That includes Jordan Gaultney, Treyvon Mollette and Julian Borney.  Jeremiah Knox and Daniel Foster will be the interior bangers. 

Washington Eagles (2018-19 season 6-19, 2-10 Conference, 7th)
Center Da'Quan Grimes needs to be replaced.  PG Zaveon Smith (21.6 PPG) and wing Drew White (17.2 PPG) are the offensive spark.  Guard Kshui Harris provides another offensive option.  La'Kendrick Reed (6.4 PPG) will take the power forward spot.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Central 
  2. Johnson
  3. Harding
  4. Humboldt 
  5. Highland Park
  6. Washington
  7. Como Park
Conference Overview:
I'm picking Central here despite the lack of experience.  Still plenty of talent.  Johnson and Harding should hold their spots as well.  Humboldt with all they have back gets the nod.  The bottom 3 are going to struggle.  Washington is far more talented than 6th but last year was a disappointment.  I'm putting them behind a Highland team that they should beat.  Como Park is in a rebuilding year.

Conference MVP: Simeon Sharp - Harding

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Adam Belden, Jaylen Cardenas - Central
  • Jountay Kibble, Amir Plair, Jermaine Walker - Como Park
  • Ishmael Powell - Highland Park
  • Jordan Gaultney - Johnson
Conference Games to Watch
  • Johnson at Central - Jan 10th
  • Central at Johnson - Feb 4th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 29th (at St. Paul champion)
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • St. Croix Prep at Central - Dec 17th
  • Central at Minnehaha - Feb 6th

2019-20 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week long series concludes with a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2018-19 season 26-5, 9-3 Conference, 2nd West)
The Stars were a big improvement story of last season going from 9 wins to 26 wins and a trip to state.  Three double-figure scorers from a very balanced lineup need to be replaced including interior presence Thor Holien (14.5 PPG) and defensive ace Charles Johnson (11 PPG).  Wing Matt Banovetz (14.2 PPG) and star soph guard Emmett Johnson  (13 PPG) return to the starting lineup.  3 members of the 4 man bench mob return as well.  Aaron Engel is one of those and will be a very productive replacement for Holien inside.
Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2018-19 season 10-17, 4-8 Conference, 5th West)
Justyn Burgess comes over from the Tartan girls to take over a program in major flux.  With Matt McCollister taking the South St. Paul job, there's been an exodus from the program so who knows what's left from last year's youth movement.  2 major pieces of the movement, Maxamus Wilson and De'Mari Larkins are definitely gone.  Ben Wehyee is one of the notable returnees after averaging 5.7 PPG last season.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2018-19 season 10-15, 5-7 Conference, Tie 3rd West)
Coach Willie Braziel has to replace 3 members of his rotation.  That includes forward Jarvis Wright and his 11.3 PPG.  Leading scorer Jordan Jones and his 14 PPG return at the point.  Then you add in the talented sophomore trio of W Muja Burton  (12.3 PPG), F Spencer Alvarez and Jamez Garner.  Elijah Williams (8 PPG) also returns to the rotation.
De La Salle Islanders (2018-19 season 27-5, 12-0 Conference, 1st West, AAA State Champs)
De La Salle returned the AAA title to the island last year.  Now they have to replace a pair of 21+ PPG scorers in Tyrell Terry (Stanford) and Jamison Battle (George Washington).  While the offense may not have a clear go to guy, the Islanders reload and will look to make another run.  Seniors Amir Whitlock, Andrew Irvin and Semaj Hart will combine with talented juniors Keijuan White and Cade Haskins on the perimeter.  Those juniors could very well be  their top offensive options. Jalen Travis returns in the middle after almost averaging double figures last year.

Fridley Tigers (2018-19 season 9-17, 5-7 Conference, Tie 3rd West)
New Hall of Fame coach Jim MacDonald needs to replace 5 of his top 6 scorers.  That includes star soph Hassan Kamara (15.8 PPG) who transferred to Osseo.  Lefty guard Isaac Burns (15.4 PPG) will be the focus of the offense.  Junior guards Micah Niewald and Christian Crockett along with soph guard Eli Nelsen will see bigger roles as well.  No real obvious size option to replace Harrison Blum  (6.9 PPG) inside.

Richfield Spartans (2017-18 season 6-21, 1-13 Conference, 8th Metro West)
Richfield will open their Tri-Metro run in rebuilding mode.  They added 5 wins last year and they have some young pieces to build with.  Junior wing Ryan Miles returns after leading the team with 13.7 PPG last year.  Fellow junior Lamar Grayson is also a top scorer for the Spartans.  Junior Isaiah Casey Hammond provides size.  Sophomores Mitchell January at the point and Jaden Wollmuth will be big contributors as well.

St. Anthony Huskies (2018-19 season 13-14, 4-7 Conference, 2nd East)
Chris Satterlie returns to Minnesota to take over the program after coaching in Arizona.  He'll have a small shooting backcourt of Tait Nelson and Max Kachman to build around.  Nelson averaged 20.9 PPG and Kachman 8.9 PPG.  Dylan Manning is another guard who will see time.  Junior Luke Omodt will man the middle.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2018-19 season 15-13, 8-3 Conference, 1st East)
St. Croix Lutheran returns 4 of their top 6 scorers from last season.  That includes the talented perimeter trio of PG Zach Longueville and wings Xavier Garcia and Owen Bushaw.  They combined for 37 PPG last year.  Mert Cula provides defense and another perimeter shooter for this 3 point reliant sharp-shooting squad.  Last year's JV squad will provide solid depth.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. De La Salle
  2. Holy Angels
  3. St. Croix Lutheran 
  4. Columbia Heights
  5. St. Anthony 
  6. Fridley
  7. Brooklyn Center    
  8. Richfield     
Conference MVP: Matt Banovetz - Holy Angels

Conference Overview:
The league is now at a nice even number of 8 teams.  Concordia and St. Agnes moved to the new Skyline Conference.  Richfield joins from the Metro West to make a league that is now almost all AAA schools..  The schedule returns to a standard 1 division round-robin format after being a 2 division setup in recent years.  De La Salle is too deep for the rest and have to be the pick until they are knocked off.  Holy Angels and St. Croix Lutheran will battle not only for 2nd but for the top seed in section 3AAA.  Columbia Heights is another year or 2 away from a high level season but they'll make you work for it.  St. Anthony's solid guards put them in a battle with Fridley for the next spot.  Brooklyn Center and Richfield continue with youth movements and will battle each other to stay out of the cellar.

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Muja Burton, Spencer Alvarez, Jamez Garner - Columbia Heights
  • Eli Nelsen, Daniel Pobuda - Fridley
  • Emmitt Johnson Aidan Smith - Holy Angels 
  • Mitchell January, Jaden Wollmuth, Joe Miller - Richfield
Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 16th
  • Holy Angels at St. Croix Lutheran - Jan 21st
  • De La Salle at Holy Angels - Jan 31st
  • St. Croix Lutheran at De La Salle - Feb 11th
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Holy Angels - Feb 14th
  • Holy Angels at De La Salle - Feb 25th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • De La Salle vs Waseca - Nov 30th (Big 12 at Champlin Park)
  • St. Croix Lutheran at Mound-Westonka - Dec 3rd
  • De La Salle at North St. Paul - Dec 5th
  • De La Salle vs Mankato East - Dec 7th (Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Holy Angels at Cristo Rey - Dec 12th
  • De La Salle at Minneapolis North - Jan 7th
  • De La Salle at Hopkins - Jan 10th 
  • Eden Prairie at De La Salle - Feb 1st 
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 15th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd

2019-20 IMAC Preview

This is the 4th preview in my 2019-2020 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series chugs along with a look at the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Blake Bears (2018-19 season 13-15, 3-6 Conference, 5th)
The Bears 3 amigos, Gabe Ganz, Jasper Liu and Robert Grace all return on the perimeter.   They combined for almost 42 PPG last year.  Soph Theo Liu fills in nicely when 1 of those 3 gets a breather.  Sam Deignan and David Bix also return to the lineup.  Size and depth remain an issue.

Breck Mustangs (2018-19 season 22-6, 7-3 Conference, 2nd)
Tim Sension returns to lead the program after most recently spending time with the St. Louis Park girls.  He had the head job previously from 1996-2002.  He has to replace beast forward David Roddy and his huge numbers.  No double figure scorers return but the cupboard isn't bare.  Junior PG Jaren Morton returns along with wings Andy Ott and Jimmy Koch.  Alex Demaris returns inside.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2018-19 season 29-2, 6-0 Conference, 1st)
The 3 time defending conference and class AA champs once again have an embarrassment of riches.  Isaiah Davis comes in from Apple Valley and soph Chase Carter (son of former Gopher Randy Carter) comes over from Maranatha.  Guard Terry Lockett returns after a year at prep school.  Not to mention the big 3 high-major trio of PG Jalen Suggs (24.2 PPG), SF Prince Aligbe (10.5 PPG) and F Chet Holmgren (18.6 PPG) all returning.  Plus a shooter in soph Donovan Smith and football star Kaden Johnson to do dirty work.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2018-19 season 4-20, 0-9 Conference, 6th)
The Panthers have to replace 2 of their top 3 scorers.  That includes high jumping forward Yahya Madar and 17 PPG.  Junior Jack Paulson is the top returner with 14.9 PPG  Senior guard Shane Fruchterman will provide most of the rest of the scoring.  Austin Lee, Ayoub Mahamoud and Hunter Erickson also return to the rotation.

Providence Academy Lions (2018-19 season 16-12, 6-3 Conference, 3rd)
Ariel McDonald moved on to take the head job at Maranatha so the Lions don't have a coach as of this writing.  7 of the top 8 scorers graduated including forward Mark Richelsen (17.3 PPG) and 2 other double-figure scorers.  Guard Jacob Halek and forward Sean Rocheford are the only 2 returnees that saw significant minutes.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2018-19 season 17-11, 4-5 Conference, 4th)
Kevin Keto takes over the program.  He was recently an assistant at Forest Lake.  Junior guard Adam Holod and his team high 15.7 PPG return to the lineup.  The next 3 scorers, including 2 double figure scorers, need to be replaced.  That includes power forward Ryan Moore.  Liam Will, Alex Herrmann and Griffin Thissen all return to the rotation.  Sophs  Clarke and Brandt Baskerville could step into contributing roles.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Minnehaha
  2. Breck
  3. Blake 
  4. St. Paul Academy 
  5. Providence 
  6. Mounds Park Academy 
Conference Overview
Half of the league has new coaches.  As to predictions, everybody is just playing for second here.  Minnehaha arguably the best team in the state regardless of class.  I think that race for second comes down to rivals Blake and Breck.  Call that a coin flip as I can make a case for either here.  Then it progressively drops off.  St. Paul Academy has more back than Providence and Mounds Park Academy will find it hard to match last season.

Conference MVP: Jalen Suggs - Minnehaha

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Theo Liu - Blake
  • Jimmy Koch- Breck
  • Prince Aligbe, Donovan Smith, Chase Carter, DeWayne Givens - Minnehaha
  • Brandt Baskerville, Clarke Baskerville - St. Paul Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Breck at Blake - Jan 7th
  • Blake at Breck - Jan 24th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnehaha vs Cretin-Derham Hall- Dec 7th (Tipoff Clasic at Hopkins)
  • Minnehaha at North St. Paul - Dec 11th
  • Minnehaha at East Ridge - Dec 28th
  • Park Center at Minnehaha - Jan 3rd
  • Sierra Canyon (CA) at Minnehaha - Jan 4th
  • Eden Prairie at Minnehaha - Feb 18th
  • De La Salle at Minnehaha - Feb 22nd
  • Minneapolis North at Minnehaha - Feb 27th

2019-20 Skyline Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2019-20 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at brand new Skyline Conference in the east metro.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Concordia Academy Beacons (2018-19 season 11-17, 3-8 Conference, 3rd Tri-Metro East)
Concordia has to replace the front line duo of Barnabas Preble (16 PPG) and Luke Raymond (11.5 PPG).  But they return sharpshooter Aaron TerHaar (12.9 PPG) and guard Essay Hagos (11.6 PPG). Gary Legvold will look to replace the front line minutes lost.  Brandon Bonk returns in the backcourt and junior PG Thomas Ghidey adds depth.

Cristo Rey Jesuit Pumas (2018-19 season 19-8, 12-0 Conference, 1st TCAC D1)
Cristo Rey's high-powered backcourt is back for another season.  Senior PG James Sommer leads way with 23.8 PPG.  Wings Derek and Erick Burgess combined for over 28 PPG.  Most of the front line is gone though including Victory George and center John Williams.  But the backcourt was tops on the team in rebounds anyway.  Expect them to play small and fast.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2018-19 season 23-6, 12-0 Conference, 1st MCAA division)
Former Gopher Ariel McDonald takes over from Providence Academy after Rob Ware moved on to an admin job.  He played a very slow style last year but don't expect that with this group.  Its a team that needs to play fast and create turnovers.  5 seniors plus forward Chase Carter, now at Minnehaha, have to be replaced.  PG Maciah Harut (7.2 PPG) and F Hakim Daniels return to the starting lineup.  Daniels was the team leader in scoring and rebounds last season.(11.3 and 7.9).  Forward Tristan Lee should expand his role into being a double-figure scorer as well.

New Life Academy Eagles (2018-19 season 11-16, 6-8 Conference, 4th MCAA division)
New AD Jed Moseman also takes over the head coaching duties.  Its a logical fit since he has spent time as an assistant at Bethel.  He has plenty to work with since the top 5 scorers all return.  Senior forward Michael Reader averaged 16.4 PPG.  Konner Ware added 13.8 PPG.  Soph wing Kollin Kaemingk will see a significant offensive role as well.  They'll miss the leadership of Colin Quirk at the point.

Nova Classical Academy Knights (2018-19 season 13-13, 8-4 Conference, 2nd TCAC D1)
The 40+ point a night duo of Mathieu LaFrambois and Shae Nelson needs to be replaced.  Junior Jack Monroe is the top returning scorer at 4.7 PPG and nobody else listed at higher than 2.7 PPG.   It will be an inexperienced roster of largely sophomores and juniors building for another season.

St. Agnes Aggies (2018-19 season 8-19, 2-9 Conference, 4th Tri-Metro East)
It could be a rough move to the Skyline for the Aggies.  5 of the top 6 scorers have graduated.  Guard Jacob Brezny will be a main offensive threat after averaging 13.5 PPG last season.  Guard Sam Masek will be eligible after a transfer from Trinity last year.  Jevon Jones is another guard who should see a significant role.  Luke Planmann returns to the lineup after being out last year.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2018-19 season 22-7, 12-2 Conference, 2nd MCAA Division)
The Lions are prepped for another big season.  Lefties Daniel McCarrell and Addison Metcalf combined for 31 points a game.  They can both run the show or be knock down shooters.  Barrett Benson and Zach Doely  (12.2 PPG) provide good size on the front line.  Andrew Howard gives them another option at the guard spots.

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2018-19 season 20-9, 9-5 Conference, 3rd MCAA Division)
Trinity needs to replace all 3 double-figure scorers from last sesaon.  That includes 18.6 PPG from guard Ben Maslow.  Juniors Lewis Gerrity, Ben Erickson and Paul Wessel all return to the rotation.  Senior Isaac Showalter returns to man the middle. Despite the losses, many players return who saw time.  I expect the dropoff to be less than one may expect.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. St. Croix Prep
  2. Cristo Rey
  3. Maranatha  
  4. New Life
  5. Concordia
  6. Trinity 
  7. St. Agnes
  8. Nova Classical
Conference Overview
The new Skyline Conference is to the east metro what the IMAC is to the west metro.  Can we get a Mounds Park for Maranatha trade to save the geography?  The league is top heavy with 3 teams worthy of a top 10 ranking in a deep year in AA.  New Life has a ton coming back and will battle for the top tier with Concordia.  Trinity has too many losses to reach the top tier but could surprise in the middle.  St. Agnes will battle them for 6th and the Aggies did beat Concordia twice last season..  They too could be better than expected.  Nova is in store for a long year.

Conference MVP: Daniel McCarrell - St. Croix Prep

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josh Kirchoff - Concordia
  • Kollin Kaemingk, Max Briggs - New Life
  • Charlie Matthews, Rayan Taha, Spencer Frost - Nova Classical
Conference Games to Watch
  • Maranatha at Cristo Rey - Jan 14th
  • St. Croix Prep at Maranatha - Jan 16th
  • Cristo Rey at St. Croix Prep - Jan 28th
  • Cristo Rey at Maranatha - Feb 4th
  • Maranatha at St. Croix Prep - Feb 11th
  • St. Croix Prep at Cristo Rey - Feb 18th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Holy Angels at Cristo Rey - Dec 12th
  • Minneapolis North at St. Croix Prep - Dec 13th 
  • St. Croix Prep at St. Paul Central - Dec 17th
  • Spectrum at St. Croix Prep - Jan 3rd
  • Maranatha at Minneapolis North - Feb 1st 
  • St. Croix Prep at Hudson (WI) - Feb 25th
  • Maranatha at Minnehaha - Feb 28th

2019-20 MCAA Preview

This is the second preview in my 2019-20 season preview series.  Week 1 of the 6 week series moves on with a look at the slightly renamed Minnesota Classic Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eagle Ridge Academy Gryphons (2018-19 season 3-22)
The Gryphons join the MCAA after splitting off from their co-op with International School of Minnesota.  Not sure which kids were at which school so we'll treat this all as one though ISM may now be with Chesterton Academy.  Regardless, 2 double figure scorers will have to be replaced including long time offensive spark Preston Dahlen.  Senior Charles Wilkowske is the top returner at just over 9 PPG.  Sophomores Tommy Chevalier and Soren Habel will see expanded roles.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2018-19 season 9-19, 3-11 Conference, 3rd in Division)
Senior TJ Guggenberger is top returning scorer at 10.8 PPG.  Most of the rest of the starting lineup, including 2 other double figure scorers have to be replaced.  Juniors Ethan Virshek and Steph Sawtelle will make up a small backcourt.  Senior Evan Jacobson provides experience in the backcourt as well.  Junior Jack Wicht gives the Eagles a banger in the post.

Legacy Christian Academy Lions (2018-19 season 9-18, 2-12 Conference, 5th in Division)
Most of last year's roster was underclassmen.  That development project continues this season.  Leading scorer Jordan Sperl is now at Cambridge-Isanti.  Guard Harley Kendall is the top returnee from last year at 8.2 PPG.  Junior guard Jake Wald transfers in from St. Francis after averaging 6.4 PPG there last season.  Seniors Carson Sharp and Primeau Hill are a pair of experienced ball handlers.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2018-19 season 13-13, 7-7 Conference, 2nd in Division)
Last year's season was torpedoed by an early shoulder injury to star Michael Ziermann.  That experience should help them this year.  Leading scorer Evan Lee returns as a double figure scorer.  Dylan Ruzicka will be another primary offensive option.  Alex Heimerl gives the Bulldogs size in the middle.  Frosh Tanner Scheevel will see plenty of time as well.

North Lakes Academy Huskies (2018-19 season 16-11)
North Lakes won 15 of 19 after losing their first 5.  The Huskies have to replace their star forward Cole Donelan.  He was one of the top players in the 2nd division of the TCAC last season.  The rest of the starting lineup returns.  Point guard Ethan Crandell should be a primary option this year.  Alex Ten Napel is another scoring option.  Forward Stephan Ndirangu also returns to the starting lineup along with guard Asher Luebke.

PACT Charter Panthers (2018-19 season 5-22, 2-12 Conference, 5th in Division)
The Panthers return 3 juniors to the starting lineup.  That features 11.9 PPG from wing Jordan Stone.  Tyler Cowden and Gio Santiago return to the backcourt.  Calvin Churchill provides interior size.  Parker Maahs and Matt Johnson are important losses.  Most of the roster will be juniors so look for a year to progress forward toward next year.

Spectrum Sting (2018-19 season 24-5, 12-2 Conference, 1st in Division)
Assistant Justin Femrite takes over after a banner year for the Sting.  He has a big task to replace 4 starters including the high scoring perimeter duo of Matt Kruse and Cole Elrod.  They combined for almost 38 PPG.  Guard Max Lawrence and his 15.8 PPG lead the returnees.  Soph Titus Skistad will see a much expanded role.  Jonathan Gertz is the lone other returner to the rotation.

West Lutheran Warriors (2018-19 season 14-13, 4-10 Conference, 4th in Division)
Bruising power forward Brett Vollrath is a big loss as the 2nd double figure scorer and 2nd best rebounder.  Forward Troy Kokkinen appears poised for a big year after putting up 14.7 PPG and 6.7 PPG last year.  Not much firepower around him though.  Lefty guard Sam Bjorlin appears to be next best option.  Joe Paul provides a size option.  Soph Christian Schmidt saw time in 25 games last year.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 
  2. Spectrum
  3. West Lutheran
  4. Legacy
  5. PACT
  6. Heritage
  7. North Lakes
  8. Eagle Ridge
Conference Overview
Its a new look in the MCAA this year.  Now that private schools no longer make up a majority of the league (4 charters, 1 public, 3 private), the C in MCAA now is Classic rather Christian.  North Lakes and Eagle Ridge join the league from the TCAC.  Long time members New Life, Trinity and Maranatha plus St. Croix Prep have all departed for the new Skyline Conference.  That at least makes for easier travel with the exception of the long trip to North Lakes in Forest Lake.

Overall its a down year in the league with many teams losing star players.  Despite that being good for the TCAC teams moving in, it won't help them in the standings.  Eagle Ridge and North Lakes have to replace high scoring wings.  Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity has plenty of options coming back so I like them there.  Spectrum with Max Lawrence being my league player of the year takes second.  The next 4 spots I think will be very competitive.  Troy Kokkinen is the best player in the group so West Lutheran gets my pick.  Legacy's guard play gives them the last spot in the top half with a strong push from PACT.  The new members will struggle in their inaugural season in the league.

Conference MVP: Max Lawrence - Spectrum

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Soren Habel, Tommy Chevalier - Eagle Ridge
  • Tanner Scheevel - LP/HT 
  • Josh Schmidt - North Lakes
  • Titus Skistad - Spectrum
  • Christian Schmidt - West Lutheran
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Spectrum - Jan 21st
  • Spectrum at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Feb 14th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Eden Valley-Watkins at Spectrum - Dec 17th
  • Spectrum at St. Croix Prep - Jan 3rd
  • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Mayer Lutheran - Feb 8th
  • Maranatha at Spectrum - Feb 20th

2019-20 EMAC and Independents Preview

This is the first preview in the 2019-2020 season preview series.  This year is the 13th annual edition of this preview series.  Over the next 6 weeks, I'll post 28 previews covering 13 metro area conferences and 14 sections leading up to the start of practice on November 18th .  The previews will be done starting with small schools and working up to the big schools.  That means the Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference (EMAC) goes first.  Only fitting since I usually start my week with a game from this league.

The league reverts back to its old name and 1 division as it closes the 2 or 3 division TCAC era.  10 teams now make up the EMAC with many of the others going independent.  In this preview, I'll look at newly revamped league plus those local independents with apologies to MSAD and Shattuck-St. Mary's who won't appear here.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.


Chesterton Academy Knights  (2018-19 season 14-8)
Most of the roster returns.  Junior posts Mitch Laxen and Landon Ahlquist give the Knights a couple of pieces to build around.  Kolbe Lelemsis returns at a guard spot as well.

CHOF Lions (2018-19 season 23-7)
The Lions lose 2 double figure scorers from last year's state qualifier.  That includes star forward McCaleb Alleman and 17.1 PPG.  Expect returning wing Isaac Collins to fill that role this year after putting up 12.4 PPG last season.  As their biggest player, he'll have to have a big year rebounding as well.  Guards Clay Bluhm and Preston Alleman (13.6 PPG) also return to the starting lineup.  Junior Drake Eckman also returns to the rotation.

High School for Recording Arts Falcons (2018-19 season 14-7)
HSRA loses a ton of high powered offense.  That includes guard Lewis McCaleb and a bunch of other seniors.  Sherman Powell and Cole Foss look to pick up the slack.

Hope Academy Lions (2018-19 season 15-16, 5-7 TCAC D1, 3rd)
Hope lost the section title game last year but the Lions return everybody except for grinder forward Samuel Ojebode.  He was their dirty work guy inside.  6'5" Caleb Hoilien and his 24.9 PPG return to the lineup.  He's a triple-double threat on any given night for this small roster.  They have a bunch of small talented guards to go with him.  That includes soph Elijah Wade (16.5 PPG) and freshman Nehemiah Davis (7.5 PPG).

Kaleidoscope Comets (2018-19 season 8-15)
The Comets return the high scoring duo of senior forward Jacob Donnett and sophomore guard AJ Kargel  They both went for 40+ in the playoff opener at Groves last season.  They return the entire rotation but its young and a major dropoff.  That rotation included 3 8th graders last year. 

Lakes International Language Academy Dragons (2018-19 season 12-14)
LILA moves into its 2nd year of varsity play.  The Dragons return their top player Strom Norcross and post Ethan Maring. 

Lincoln International Eagles (2018-19 season 2-7)
No information available

Metro Schools College Prep (2018-19 season 4-10)
No information available

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2018-19 season 17-7)
Michael Emery-Minor and Kyriaun Christian combined for over 30 points a game for MTS last year and need to be replaced.  They'll still have firepower with senior guard Lashone Patterson (17.1 PPG) leading the way.  Expect junior Malachi Wilson  (8.3 PPG) to have a much bigger role to help replace the losses. Linday Brown (7.3 PPG) gives them an option on the front line.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2018-19 season cancelled)
Prairie Seeds had a late coaching resignation last year and couldn't find anyone to replace in time.  That caused the season to be cancelled.  Many of the top players ended up at other locations and had to sit out.  Will they return and will they be eligible are major questions.


Academy for Sciences and Agriculture Eagles (2018-19 season 1-18)
The AFSA roster was young again last year so they'll have plenty coming back.  Senior forward Jake Colestock is a piece they'll look to.

Avail Academy Valor (2018-19 season 15-7)
Starting center Hans Dykstra has to be replaced inside but the Valor return everybody else.  Plus the rhino mascot is one of the best around.  Soph wing Josiah Schaap leads the way.  Junior Joey Ritzema also provides scoring.  Junior Josh Kroeze returns to run the point.  The Valor will now play their home games at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

Community of Peace Academy Tigers (2018-19 season 4-22, 2-10 TCAC D1, 6th)
Junior guard Tyrell Green returns after leading the team in scoring at 18.8 PPG.  He can play both guard spots.  The scoring punch from wing GeanCarlos Pujols (17.6 PPG) is the biggest loss.  Soph Osasumwen Ero (5.9 PPG) returns to the front line along with Chris Williams.  Junior Angel Sanchez returns on the wing (7.7 PPG)

Groves Academy Griffins (2018-19 season 5-18)
Groves loses their 2 double figure scorers in guard Larry Mohamed and forward Sam Goldstein to graduation.  That's almost 32 PPG that has to be replaced.  Senior Gabe Gordon is the top returning scorer at 9 PPG.  Nick Maiers (7.1 PPG) gives the Griffins a big option inside.  Guard Robert Hall returns to the tiny backcourt as well.

Hiawatha Colliegiate Wolves (2018-19 season 14-8)
The Wolves had a breakout year behind 2 very talented 8th graders.  PG Jessye Lewis averaged 23.2 PPG.  Wing Jaheim Houts averaged 15.6 PPG and still plenty of upside in his game.  Junior Jose Amigon also returns to the starting lineup.  They'll need to find size and replace the scoring of Talib Taylor-Bey (15.1 PPG).

Hmong Academy Warriors (2018-19 season 4-18)
Hmong Academy opened their brand new gym last year.  Minimal wins followed that but they do have a few pieces coming back.

Liberty Classical Academy Lions (2018-19 season 17-7)
Liberty features one of the best 1-2 punches in the league with guard Ben Horn and center Thomas Conroy.  Horn averaged 15.1 PPG and Conroy put up video game numbers of 36 PPG and 10 RPG inside.  2 starters have to be replaced.  The Lions will have to find somebody outside of the big 2 to be a scoring threat.

Math and Science Academy Dragons (2018-19 season 10-14)
Math and Science returns 3 starters and a bunch of reserves.  Seniors Charlie Eng and Jagar Hansen man the front line.  Guard Nate Stephen and soph Dylan Goff return to the backcourt.  Kaden Demer is also a key returner to the rotation.

Twin Cities Academy/Great River Tigers (2018-19 season 12-16, 6-6 TCAC D1, 5th)
Another team with almost everything coming back.  Senior F Akpevwe Avwunuma should have a big year for the Tigers as the top post player in the league.  He's really developed over the last 2 years.  Sophs Carmello and Carrington McNeal return in the backcourt with junior Tre-Vionne Allen. 

United Christian Academy Thunder (2018-19 season 24-27 combined, 7-5 TCAC D1, 4th for Christian Life)
This is the program formed by the merger of Bethany Academy and Christian Life Academy.  They will play out of the Bethany Academy gym  Shooting guard Jacob Kyllo should be the go to guy for the roster after averaging 12 PPG last year.  Junior Zach Corley gives them a big body inside.  Chase Bixel is the top returner from the Bethany side.  Drew Adamek and soph Canyon Johnson provide depth from that group as well.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Twin Cities Academy/Great River
  2. Avail Academy
  3. Liberty Christian Academy
  4. Hiawatha Academy
  5. Community of Peace 
  6. United Christian Academy 
  7. Math and Science 
  8. Groves Academy
  9. Hmong Academy
  10. AFSA
Conference Overview
This could be one of the most competitive conference races around.  With everybody back and playing in the upper division last year, I give TCA/GR the edge. I've bet against TCA in the past, I'm not doing it again.  Having an experienced backcourt, tougher schedule and the top player in the league in my estimation gives them the nod.  Avail, Liberty and Hiawatha all have major pieces back as well and are very evenly matched.  Hiawatha's young guys could push them up the list but they lost to both Avail and Liberty last year. Community of Peace is the most talented team remaining and will look to jump up into the top 4.  Then a notable drop off to the bottom half.  United Christian and Math and Science are the best of the rest.  The bottom 3 is another drop and will all really struggle.

Conference MVP: Akpevwe Avwunuma - Twin Cities Academy/Great River

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Josiah Schapp. Josiah Loge  - Avail 
  • Osasumwen Ero - Community of Peace
  • Jessye Lewis, Jaheim Houts - Hiawatha
  • Elijah Wade, Nehemiah Davis - Hope Academy
  • AJ Kargel - Kaleidoscope
  • Dylan Goff - Math and Science 
  • Carmello McNeal, Carrington McNeal - Twin Cities Academy/Great River
  • Canyon Johnson - United Christian Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Liberty at TCA/GR - Dec 10th
  • Hiawatha at Avail - Dec 19th
  • TCA/GR at Avail - Jan 14th
  • Liberty at Hiawatha - Jan 14th
  • Liberty at Avail - Jan 16th  
  • Hiawatha at TCA/GR - Jan 21st
  • TCA/GR at Liberty - Jan 28th
  • Avail at TCA/GR - Jan 30th
  • Hiawatha at Liberty - Jan 31st
  • TCA/GR at Hiawatha - Feb 17th
  • Avail at Liberty - Feb 20th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Rockford at TCA/GR - Dec 5th 
  • Hope vs Rushford-Peterson - Dec 14th (Southside Showcase at Hiawatha)
  • Liberty at Hope  - Feb 24th

Welcome to Czar Season 13

Its a couple weeks late due to my annual visit to Las Vegas happening right after the labor day holiday, but its time for a lucky 13th season.  With the start of a new school year that means we flip the page to a new season for 2019-20.  The usual list of all fall events is now posted on the Fall Hoops page.  That also includes notable local camps/expos/showcases for kids to attend.

The schedule for my annual longest running season preview series in the metro is posted on my Season Previews page. Those previews will begin on October 7th and as always span the 6 weeks leading right up into the 1st week of practice in November.  That link will be in the header menu from now thru the early part of the season.  You can find all 28 previews and when they'll be posted there.  That's where I'll try to make sense of the numerous conference changes this year and the biennial section movement.

15 players from the very talented 2020 class have already committed (behind last year's pace).  That list can be found here.

The list of this season's holiday tournaments can be found here.  As always I'll fill that out with detailed schedules and matchups.as the holidays approach

I've also done all the usual clean up of links.  That includes updating the current recruiting rankings from all the major services.  See that on my Players page.

That cleanup also includes all the links on the left hand side of the main site or for those of you on mobile, check out the Resources page (always 1st in the main menu too).  That includes links to anything and everything you may want to know about Minnesota hoops during the high school or grassroots seasons.  It includes national sites, recruiting calendars, signing dates, records and award winners just to name a few useful things that can be found there.

Toasting the 2010 decade in Vegas

Peppermill Lounge
A different experience in Las Vegas with no basketball going on during my annual visit.  With this year's new rules, we saw the usual events fall during a non-open period that was replaced with camps run by the NCAA.  Then another event that wasn't open to D1 or D2 schools popped up the following week.  That was an invite event trying to determine a mythical national champion from across the shoe companies.  So with the Fab 48/Las Vegas Classic era basically coming to an end, I'll take the opportunity here to look back at the best of what I saw in Vegas during that time from 2011 to present.

This year's gambling came out a reasonable plus at blackjack but lots of meat left on the bone.  Up big at the big table in 2 different sessions on the last day but came back to even.  A memorable jerk taking up 2 spots then refusing to play the 2nd spot plus a foolish drunk make for memorable spots.  The gains made up for a minor loss at the craps table.  A trip to the new Las Vegas Ballpark for the AAA playoffs on an absolutely gorgeous final night.was one highlight.  A trip to T-Mobile Arena for another viewing of Elton John's farewell tour was also outstanding.

The Compton Magic vs Team Takeover game at the Fab 48 Showcase was a monster.  A game with a ton of hype with the best of Adidas vs the best of Nike.  Best part is that it matched that hype at the game, team and individual levels.  One of the top 2020 kids Evan Mobley was outstanding for Compton Magic as they won the battle in an overtime classic.  If its Fury Wilde 17s, that means an upset.  They took out Houston Hoops in a classic opening round bracket game.

The disappointment of seeing Lavar Ball behave.  The night before I saw him was the big LaMelo vs Zion Williamson game that had a ton of people turned away at the Cashman Center.  The following day was the disgraceful event with him demanding the removal of a female referee.  The trip was also memorable on a personal level.  I got to see a group of kids in their final AAU tourney that I had coached in their middle school AAU days.  Not to mention breaking my glasses on day 1 and somehow losing half a tooth on the way home.

This was memorable for the epic travel nightmare getting home with Spirit's flight not showing up.  Needless to say, I've flown Delta on every flight since.  Nothing like having to stay up all night and catch an early morning flight home via Seattle in the middle of row 40.  OOOOOOF!  Our loaded 2017 class had huge success that year.  Pulley made the top championship game.  D1 MN won the Creators Cup.  Comets Lewis won the NY2LA event there.  That included a memorable comeback vs the MN Warriors in bracket play.

This was the 1st edition of seeing Lavar Ball in Vegas.  Opening game at Cashman with Lonzo vs Dennis Smith.  Smith's team won big that night.  No circus, no charade, no media, no big mouth.  Who would have seen the major Lavar blowup coming 2 years later  Fury Wilde 17s took out Meanstreets in a bracket game at Rancho.  One of the final games I saw at that classic Vegas venue that for some reason fell off the top list over the final years.

The MN Cyclones vs Team Loaded 757 game has to get the mention here.  This was a game I didn't even have planned as it was a Friday watching Nike teams at Bigfoot for me.  But a last minute chance to see this 9:20 PM game couldn't be passed on and it didn't disappoint.  Team Loaded coach gets tossed for stepping on the court to tell his point guard a play to run.  Cyclones coach Tom Critchley Sr almost turns into Don Zimmer during a late game melee that somehow ended with no technicals and a mysterious jump ball.  Epic fail of officiating that even had the college coaches howling.

Another classic at the Fab 48 showcase was the top game.  Mo Williams Academy with the loaded backcourt of Malik Newman and Emmanuel Mudiay going up against Belmont Shore and Daniel Hamilton, Tyler Dorsey and home gym guy Stephen Zimmerman (who had played earlier in the night with his normal DreamVision squad).  101-93 Belmont Shore wins in a track meet that was a full time highlight reel.

Fury Dixon buzzer beater over the MN Pump N Run 16s in the round of 16s.  Storm the court Fury guys as they had lost 3 other games vs MN PNR that year.  Fury Davis 17s with a big win over the Dallas Mustangs that year before MN PNR knocked them out in the 17s round of 16 if I remember correctly.  This also had the infamous Urban DFW vs Compton Magic brawl that made it questionable if MN PNR would advance on Sunday by forfeit or if they'd have to play.  Also a story of tragedy on this trip with the deaths of Drake Bigler (SW MN State coach Brad Bigler's son) and former Minneapolis Patrick Henry stars Jordan Hughes and Mandela Jackson

Year 1 memorable for being foolish enough to think I could do all the partying, basketball and gambling.  Rookie!  Marcus Smart and Phil Forte winning the Super 64 with their non-super pooled Texas Assualt squad was super fun.  The loaded super pool of Andre Drummond, Kaleb Tarczewski, Isaiah Austin and Cameron Ridley was crazy good head to head matchups of big guys.  The locals also turned out in force for Shabazz Mohammed.

2019 July Period 1 Results

The July 2019 road adventure has completed for our summer teams.  Here's how Minnesota did around the country in this year's summer open period.

Adidas Summer Championship (Birmingham, AL)
D1 Minnesota 17s, 5-2 split super pool games and lost championship bracket semifinals
D1 Minnesota 16s, 0-4
D1 Minnesota 15s, 3-1, won pool and 1st bracket game.

UA Finals (Atlanta)
Grassroots Sizzle 17s 5-2.  Won last 2 UA league games, swept championship pool.  Lost in quarterfinals then played final game without Chet Holmgren and Jalen Suggs who were at another camp for the day.

Peach Invitational Tourney (Augusta, GA)
Howard Pulley 17s 3-1, swept pool lost 1st bracket game.
Howard Pulley 16s 4-0, no result available after bracket quarterfinals.

Big Shots 1 and 2 (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Mpls FAB 8-0 won Gold Championship in both (4 games each)

Best of the South (Atlanta)
Fury Zurn 17s 7-0 as this was a 8 team round robin pool format.
Fury Wilde 15s, 7-0 won Orange Championship with all games decided by double figures.
Heat MacDonald 15s, 5-2 Black Silver bracket runner up.

Elite 32 (Atlanta)
Grassroots Caldwell 17s 5-1 lost in semifinal, then won 2 more games and another forfeit win.
Grassroots Weston 16s  3-2 lost in semifinal and split 2 other games.
Grassroots Jett 16s 4-0
Grassroots Suggs 15s 0-6 lost 1 bracket game then 5 additional games.

Mullen's Tournament (Dallas)
Heat Vang 17s 3-2, lost in semifinals
Heat Tauer 16s 4-0 won championship

Adidas Invitational (Indianapolis)
Heat West 17s 2-3

Chicago Summer Jam
(Note lots of Sunday results not posted so only available results included here)
Crossfire Jorgenson 17s 3-2
Crossfire Slagter 17s 2-1
Mentality MN 17s 3-1
MN Suns Blocker 17s 3-1
Crossfire Hedberg 16s 0-4
Crossfire Stone 16s 2-1
Crossfire Barker 15s 1-2
Howard Pulley Black 15s 3-0
Howard Pulley Blue 15s 1-2
MN G Ballerz 15s 0-2 with a forfeit win.
MN Suns Richardson 15s 3-1

Summer Slam (Sioux Falls)
MN Knights 2-3
MN Lightning Schwartzkoff 17s 2-3
Rip City 2-3
MN Matrix 5-0 won championship
Fury Kallman 2-3
MN Rise 2-3

Heat Bohrer 1-4
Heat Fluery 4-1 runner up
Select Edwards 3-2
Fury Syverson 5-0 won championship
MN Lightning Swiggum 3-2
MN Lightning Studer 3-2
Fury Poppen 4-1 runner up
Heat Wiley 2-3

SE MN Thunder 3-2
SW MN Stars 2-3
Fury Kaupa 3-2 runner up
Heat Unger 1-4
WOTN Renta 2-3
Select Mantay 1-4
UVA Navy 5-0 won championship (round robin pool)
Select Rush 2-3

Midwest Live Summer Showcase (Omaha)
D1 MN Prospects 15s 2-2
D1 MN Prospects 16s 1-3
Heat Dimond 17s 2-2
Heat East 16s 3-1
Heat Engen 15s 1-3
Heat Grow 15s 0-4
Heat Johnson 16s 3-1
Heat Presbi 17s 0-4
Heat Sheehan 17s 3-1
Magic Scales 17s 3-2
Magic Hannah 16s 4-0 won championship
SW MN Stars 16s 3-1 runner up
SW MN Stars 17s
WOTN Bertsch 16s 3-1 runner up
WOTN Davis 17s 2-2
WOTN Erickson 15s 3-1
WOTN Jonas 17s 4-1

Summer Showcase (Ames)
MN Comets 0-4
Heat Nelson 16s 1-3
Heat Tietz 16s 2-2
Heat Rabaglia 16s 2-2
Heat Krona 16s 3-2 runner up

NY2LA (Milwaukee)
Comets Lewis, gold bracket runner up
Comets DLR won 1st 2 bracket games, both Comets teams lost to champion.
Gain Elite won pool, lost 1st bracket game
Select Cave won pool, lost in platinum bracket semis
Team GetShook lost in silver bracket semifinals
Comets JL 2nd in open division pool, lost 1st bracket game
Select Koch 2nd in open division pool, lost 1st bracket game
Select Brown 3rd in open division pool, lost 1st bracket game

Gain Elite won pool and lost in platinum championship
Comets Servaty won pool, lost in platinum semifinal
Select Robinson lost 1st round platinum bracket with 1 pool win
Comets Kirchner 3rd in open division pool, gold division runner up
WI Playmakers Deadrick 7-0 won platinum open division title.

Comets Stumpf 2nd in pool, lost platinum semifinal
Team GetShook won pool, lost to Gain Elite in 1st round platinum bracket
Gain Elite won pool, lost in platinum semifinal
Select Davis won pool lost 1st round platinum bracket.

2019 July Road Tripping

The 4th of July holiday is now behind us for 2019.  That means its time for our local teams to hit the road again for the July recruiting period.  This year the major change is that this week is the only open period for teams this month.  The 2nd open period has been eliminated and the 3rd period is now 4 national level player camps rather than AAU events that the coaches can go watch.  Though many high level players are skipping those camps to still play some of the old events like Las Vegas.

The other change for this week is that the open period starts Thursday at 8 AM local time rather than 5 PM local time on Wednesday night.  Events like the Peach Jam will still start play Wednesday night but that won't be open to the D1 college coaches.   Here is where you'll find the local squads.

Adidas Summer Championships (Birmingham, AL)
D1 Minnesota has their top teams here.  The 17U crew is in a dynamite super pool with Indiana Elite and Compton Magic for games on Thursday before bracket play begins on Friday.

Under Armour Session 4 and Finals (Atlanta)
Grassroots Sizzle has their 17s in Atlanta and hopefully has Jalen Suggs after a USA U19 title this weekend overseas.  Sizzle has already qualified for the UA finals.  They have their final 2 league games on Thursday before the finals begin on Friday.

Peach Invitational Tournament (Augusta, GA)
This is the event for the EYBL squads that do not make the Peach Jam.  Howard Pulley 17s and 16s are here.

Chicago Summer Jam
Howard Pulley 15s will play in Chicago.  Crossfire with 2 17s, 2 16s and a 15s crew playing there.  Mentality MN is also there with their 17s.

Best of the South (Atlanta)
Fury Zurn 17s will be here with a bunch of other non-shoe teams playing in the middle of the 3 big shoe events going on in the southeast.  Heat MacDonald and Fury Wilde are both here in 15U but in different divisions.

Elite 32 (Atlanta)
Grassroots-Caldwell 17s along with the top 2 Grassroots 16s.
Mullen's High Profile (Dallas)
Heat Tauer 16s and Heat Vang 17s.  Only 16 teams here in the 15U and 16U divisions for a really good event that has dropped off and moved south.

NY2LA (Milwaukee)
17U teams include Gain Elite, Comets Lewis, Comets DLR, Select Cave and Team GetShook in the association division.  Comets Lillequist, Select Koch and Select Brown will be in the open division.

16U teams include Gain Elite, Comets Servaty and Select Robinson in the association division.  Comets Kirchner, WI Playmakers Deadrick will be in the open division.

15U teams include Gain Elite, Comets Stumpf, Select Davis and Team GetShook.  Comets Gagner is in the open division.

Summer Slam (Sioux Falls)
17U: MN Knights, MN Lightning, Rip City, MN Matrix, MN Fury Kallman, MN Rise.  The last 3 all play in the same pool so a Fury Kallman vs Matrix game sticks out there.

16U: MN Lightning-Studer, Heat Wiley, Fury Poppen, Select Edwards, Heat Bohrer, Heat Fleury, Fury Syverson, MN Lightning-Sviggum

15U: SW MN Stars, SE MN Thunder, Heat Unger, Fury Kaupa, WOTN Renta, Select Mantey, Select Rush, UVA 2022 Navy 

Midwest Live Summer Showcase (Omaha)
17s: Heat Presbi, Heat Sheehan, Magic-Scales, SW MN Stars, WOTN-Davis, WOTN-Jonas
16s: D1 MN Prospects, Heat East, Heat Johnson, MN Magic Hannah, SW MN Stars, WOTN-Bertsch
15s: Heat Engen, Heat Grow, WOTN-Erickson

Midwest Summer Showcase (Ames)
17s: Comets Bagnal
16s: Heat Rabaglia, Heat Krona, Heat Nelson, Heat Tietz

Adidas Invitational (Indianapolis)
Minnesota Heat West 17s

2019 MBCA Camp Thoughts

The first real direct in person impact of the NCAA recruiting calendar changes came into view this weekend.  The new rules provide for high school based events that are open to the D1 college coaches during the final 2 weekends of June.  These events are run by the individual states. 19 of those events were scheduled for the 1st weekend with 10 more on the 2nd weekend.  Due to issues of ensuring all kids were able to participate, many states chose not to put on any event.  The rest of the layout is like the old July events where the coaches can only evaluate and not talk to the kids.  This event is also important because there's only 1 of those July open period events this year rather than 3 like years past.  You could argue 2 events in July but the big regional camps at the end of July are too big to be effective.

The Setup
Here in Minnesota, the event was put on by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA).  The states did have flexibility to choose between multiple formats.  Georgia, for example, chose to run theirs as a high school team camp.  The MBCA event was put on as a player camp with individual players from Minnesota and South Dakota being invited and then being placed on 1 of 12 teams.  Those 12 teams each played 1 game on Friday night and 3 games on Saturday.  This worked out into a nice every other session playing schedule at the 3 court setup used at Anoka Ramsey Community College.  The event saw most of the top 60 2020, top 30 2021 and top 10 or so kids from the state plus the South Dakota stars like Matthew Mors.  As with any event and especially a new one, were there some kids that were missed?  Of course, but overall those were on the fringes and there were no super ridiculous omissions.

Not enough credit can be given to the MBCA for the hard work they put in to get kids to show up and to provide them with a really well done setup.  High profile coaches from the MBCA participated including Travis Bledsoe (DLS), Jerry Kline (CDH), Barry Wohler (Orono), Willie Braziel (Columbia Heights), Mike McDonald (Cambridge-Isanti) and Hall of Fame coaches Larry McKenzie and Mark Klingsporn.  One of the state's most well-respected trainers in Mitch Ohnstad was one of the camp trainers as well.  But with the top kids showing up, the top coaches came out.  Not only did we have all the regional D1 guys plus nearby big boys Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa but plenty of other high major D1 schools showed up too.  That included Indiana, Michigan, Marquette, Texas Tech, Arkansas, and Oklahoma just to name a few.  At one point despite sitting under the main balcony where the coaches were perched, I could still count 35 coaches (across all levels) on the rail.  For a 1st year event, this far exceeded expectations and was a smashing success.

The Action
For any camp where college coaches can attend, the usual speech about playing unselfishly and playing defense is a given  But in a camp setting where you've never played with guys that can be difficult.  Credit to the kids as a whole for largely being almost unselfish to a fault.  3 games in 5 sessions can be tough and at the end of the event it did show but that's understandable.  Now some individual stream of unconsciousness thoughts.

Not sure if it was guys not stretching or just the wear and tear of year round play but it seemed like there were an abnormally high number of guys getting injured.  I saw half a dozen kids end up with some sort of ailment.

Plenty of guys had moments where they really heated up from the 3 point line.  Here are some of those names in no particular order
  • Donovan Smith (Minnehaha)
  • Cade Haskins (De La Salle)
  • Josh Streit (Eden Valley-Watkins)
  • Carter Bjerke (Wayzata)
  • Camden Heide (Wayzata)
  • Kobe Busch (Huron, SD)
  • Jayden Bernard (Virginia)
Tre Holloman showed what we all know of him as a point guard.  When his jump shot improves he'll be really really scary.

Prince Aligbe played a ton of point guard for his team and filled that role admirably.

Detavious Frierson (Park Center) also handled the ball a ton more than usual.  A very good athlete, that's usually not him.  I'm not sure what you do with him in terms of position at the next level (small ball PF?), but he's productive and continues to improve.

At 7'1", Calvin Sisk (Rockford) is a guy you have to project out on.  But the work he's put in has definitely paid dividends.  He had some productive moments using his size to finish close to the rim despite getting some tough matchups like Dain Dainja.

Speaking of Dainja, he went to the Pro Am league for his 2nd game of Saturday vs his team's 2nd game of the day.  But he did make it back in time for the final game of the event where he took on Dawson Garcia in the premier matchup of the weekend.  The 2 didn't really go at it much but the couple of encounters were fun.  Dainja had to shoot a fallaway over Garcia's length in the post.  On the other end, Garcia tried to bully Dainja but Dainja went brick wall on him and didn't budge an inch on 2 hard bumps.  That forced Garcia to spin back to his off hand for a tough bank finish. Both Garcia and Dainja were both impressive in their outings on Friday night as well.  Garcia getting it done in the post and out to the 3 point line in that instance.  Dainja with a couple of nice dribble attacks against Sisk leading to dunks.

Another fun matchup of bigs was on Saturday with Minnetonka's Cam Steele taking on Aberdeen (SD)'s Andrew Bergan.  Bergan is longer and more athletic but Steele's physical play to attack was enough to put that matchup at a draw.  Good outing for both.

Jacob Jennissen (Sauk Centre) is another quickly developing big man at 6'11".  Loved his footwork and am very interested to see what he does in the next month.

Will Tschetter (Stewartville) and Matthew Mors (Yankton, SD) both very productive front court play on the weekend too.

2019 Opening weekend AAU Results

The 1st weekend of the 2019 AAU season is in the books.   Here how's the Minnesota teams fared as many warm up for shoe circuit play or the Comets tourney next weekend.

NY2LA SWISH N DISH - Milwaukee
GetShook 1-2 (lost both bracket)
Gain Elite 2-1 (lost 2nd bracket game)

Gain Elite 4-2 (lost Silver bracket semi)

Gain Elite 2-2
Get Shook 3-3 (lost 1st 2 games, lost in Silver semis)

SUPER 16 - Ames17U
Crossfire-Slagter 3-2 (lost 68-65 in pool to Phenon/Prodigy Elite, lost in semis)
Crossfire-Jorgenson 1-4 (the win was by forfeit)
Phenom/Prodigy Elite 3-1 (lost to Pulley bracket semis, swept pool, beat Crossfire Slagter 68-65 in pool)
Howard Pulley 5-0 won championship, beat Phenom/Prodigy Elite 69-63 in semis.

Phenom/Prodigy Elite 2-3
Crossfire Stone  3-1 (swept pool, lost 71-66 to Pulley in semis, beat Crossfire Hedberg 63-54 for 3rd)
Crossfire Hedberg 3-2 (swept pool, lost to Crossfire Stone in 3rd place game)
Howard Pulley 5-0 won championship

Phenom/Prodigy Elite 3-2, won 5th place game, lost to Pulley Black 65-41 in qtrs
Crossfire Terhaar 1-3, lost to Pulley Blue 73-55 in qtrs
Howard Pulley Blue 3-1, lost in semis
Howard Pulley Black 4-1, lost championship game

There was also 1 local event of note
Select Cave 5-0, beat MN Matrix and Northern Lakers in bracket play to win the championship
Northern Lakers 4-1 lost championship game
MN Matrix 3-2, won 3rd place game

Mpls Hawks went 4-1 and won 3 bracket games to win the 16U title.

MN Rush and MN Select Davis ran thru the event undefeated until they met in the championship game.  No result available.

Stars and Lions punch their state tickets

Its 2 nights of section finals to close out the non-Target Center portion of the 2018-19 season.  First its section 3AAA final between St. Thomas Academy and one of the season's great surprise teams, Holy Angels.  Then the section 4A final at Anoka-Ramsey between top seed CHOF and 11 seed Hope Academy.  Though the seeding in 4A needs to desperately change as there was no way Hope was anything close to 11th (they beat the 5 on the road by 35 as an example).  Pepsi provided for the final night makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday 3AAA Final: 1 Holy Angels 85 2 St. Thomas Academy 78
Jack Thompson with 11 early points as St. Thomas Academy opens up a 26-18 lead at the 8:20 mark.  But Holy Angels counters that with a 2-3 zone and the top guards in that zone despite not applying a ton of ball pressure cause a ton of havoc deflecting passes.  Forward Aaron Engel off the AHA bench with a pair of hoops.  Matt Banovetz for 3 and 2 free throws as Holy Angels ties the game at 31 at the 5:51 mark.  Banovetz with the 3 point play attacking the hoop and why not from 3 in transition and he'll add a FT.  11-2 AHA run and that allows the Stars to build a 48-41 halftime lead.

Thor Holien dominating inside early in the 2nd half for AHA.  2 deep postups for easy hoops.  Run the floor for another easy score.  He'll add 3 FT and another hoop for a 62-52 AHA lead with 11:50 left.  Then St. Thomas Academy has their run.  Jack Thompson goes bonus free throws and later a steal for 2 FTs to put the Cadets ahead.  Soph Jamie Smith great bench minutes for the Cadets as well in the run with a couple of hoops and a free throw.  Thompson with a jumper to close the 20-6 run.  72-68 St. Thomas Academy ahead with 3:50 left.  Thompson backdoor off a set to keep the lead at 4.  Banovetz then steps behind a drive and behind the line for a 3 with 2:32 left to put AHA back on top. Frosh Emmett Johnson with a big time 3 with just over 2 minutes left for a 78-74 AHA lead.  STA scores and takes timeout.  Then the clock doesn't start out of the timeout.  Meanwhile the teams trade layups.  Somehow thru a long stretch of the clock not running, the officials only take 5 seconds off.  Holien with a layup and then AHA blocks a rim attack at the other end.  Emmett Johnson closes it with a free throw and layup.  Terrific night for the frosh Emmett Johnson with 28 points and he was a total nuisance on the defensive end too.  Thor Holien with 15 of his 23 in the 2nd half.  Jack Thompson with 21 points to lead the Cadets.  Charlie Fafinski adds 20 points for St. Thomas Academy.

Friday 4A Final: 1 CHOF 65 11 Hope Academy 50
CHOF boys trying to get a win in the section final that the girls couldn't get last week.  10-2 CHOF run to build a 19-9 lead midway thru the 1st half.  Hope sees the 3 ball start to fall with 3 those from Caleb Hoilien and 1 each from Elijah Wade and Kaleb Dube.  Its a 19-5 Hope run and they take the lead 28-24.  Wade gets in the post and adds 2 free throws for a 30-28 Hope lead at the half.

CHOF goes on a 16-0 run after Hoilien starts the half with a putback.  Drake Eckman off the CHOF bench with 7 in a row during the run.  Hope center and rebounding ace Samuel Ojebode sits with 4th foul during the run.  CHOF was tough crashing the glass all night vs the Hope 1-2-2 zone and Ojebode's foul trouble didn't help that.  3 putbacks for CHOF during the run.  44-34 CHOF with exactly 10 minutes left.  The lead grows to 11 but Hope has a late rally in them.  Its the freshman Wade with the jumper and a putback that he's fouled on.  He misses the free throw but Hope gets it back and he'll convert that too.  He adds another jumper for 8 in a row.  That cuts the lead to 50-45 with 4:47 left.

After a couple missed Hope triples, CHOF will take timeout and go 4 corners with 3:10 left.  Clay Bluhm with a layup, then an over and back call on Hope with 1:56 left.  A frustration kick of the ball to get the call and its a technical.  The rest is free throws.  McCaleb Alleman with 11 of his 18 in the 2nd half to lead CHOF.  Isaac Collins with 14, Preston Alleman with 10 of his 12 in the 1st half.  Caleb Hoilien with 22 points.  Elijah Wade with 17 points.  But those 2 had no help as the rest of the roster combined for 13. It will be very interesting to see where CHOF gets seeded.  On 1 hand you say their section was awful and therefore they get no seed.  But a deeper look reveals they play a mostly AA schedule that has inflated their QRF and they beat fellow tourney entrant Spring Grove head to head.

2019 2AAAA Semifinals Thoughts

To a PACKED house at Prior Lake for the 2AAAA semifinals.  The rivalry between Prior Lake and Shakopee starts the night and then a 3rd meeting of Lake Conference foes Edina and Eden Prairie in the 2nd semifinal.  People 3 deep on the rails once we get goign and the stands were full 40 minutes before game when I arrived.  As much as I love a band it would have taken up a ton of needed room.  But still great music all night with Ozzy Osborne, Journey, Scorpions and the Beastie Boys.  Plus a jelly filled cupcake in the stands too.  Why not since it was too full to deal with concessions.

Game 1: 1 Prior Lake 75  5 Shakopee 59
A very tight 1st half.  Shakopee using an 11-2 run to take a 17-15 lead.  Will Cordes with a bucket and pair of free throws in that run.  Brooks Allen doing a very nice job harassing Dawson Garcia on the defensive end.  Allen also doing it on offense with a triple and late bucket in the half.  24-23 Prior Lake at the break.

In the 2nd half the Prior Lake size and defense takes over.  Robert Jones layup, Tyree Ihenacho putback, an offensive board for a Sam Nissen triple, Garcia scoring in the post. 36-27 Prior Lake with over 13 minutes left.  Ihenacho a 3 point play, Nissen a triple, Ihenacho to the reverse and a Garcia free throw.  52-37 Prior Lake with 7:30 left as Shakopee has no defensive answer.  Shakopee with a couple of 3s to hang around.  But Ihenacho with the breakaway dunk of a turnover, Garcia lays in a dump off pass and why not Robert Jones for 3.61-45 with under 4 minutes left and no real danger from there.  Robert Jones with 17 of his 23 after halftime.  Dawson Garcia adds 21 for Prior Lake.  Brooks Allen outstanding with 20 points for Shakopee.  Will Cordes adds 14 for the Sabers.

Game 2: 2 Eden Prairie 63 3 Edina 40
Story of this one was the Eden Prairie defense.  Edina goes scoreless for the last 7:30 of the 1st half as they couldn't buy a shot or many good looks.  That allows Eden Prairie to double a 10 point lead to 20 at the half and they cruise from there.  Ariel Bland was terrific with 14 of his 20 points in the 1st half.  Eden Prairie wanted to use his quickness and that of Austin Andrews to attack Jacob Hutson off the bounce.  Hutson was the only notable offense for Edina with 17 points.  Jack Middleton held to 2 1st half points and a game total of 12 with only 3 field goals.  The defensive work of Drew Edwards off the EP bench deserves a ton of praise for that.  Drake Dobbs with 14 of his 21 in the 2nd half to keep the game out of reach.  Just to show how much the Edina offense struggled.  They had only 2 games this year under 60 points (59 vs BSM a couple weeks ago when I watched and 57 vs Orono) before tonight.  The other 2 games vs Eden Prairie they scored 71 and 77.

That means Prior Lake will host Eden Prairie on Friday night for the 2AAAA championship and a trip to state.  Expect a big time grind it out defensive struggle there as both teams are really good on that end.  But how does Eden Prairie deal with the big front line of Prior Lake?  A shame that this game is a section title game because its worthy of being a state title game.  EP has now won 5 in a row including wins over Minneapolis North and Hopkins in that stretch to go with Edina and Minnetonka twice.

2019 4AAAA Semifinals Thoughts

Its a rare final playoff Monday of the season.  Usually this is an off night but thanks to the weather a bunch of games rescheduled for tonight.  That includes the 4AAAA semifinals with an early start in Hastings.  T-Rod and Stoney get whistles for the games.  Hot Dog and Powerade on the menu.

Semifinal #1: 2 CDH 81 3 Tartan 76
Early pace favored Tartan.  I like them going to 5 out curls with Antwan Kimmons being the top guy popping back.  Jaeden King with a crazy 3 point play and puts back his own miss.  He'll add a floater, a tough 2 and a big time 3 for a 25-14 CDH lead at the 6:17 mark.  Kimmons not letting Tartan go away.  He'll go coast to coast for 2 and add a pair of FTs.  M'akil Weems with a drive for a dunk and another nifty finish scooping around defenders for 2 more.  Tartan within 32-28 at the half.  Kimmons and King carrying the offenses but more help for King thanks to Amari Carter knocking down a pair of 3s in the half.

That theme continues in the 2nd half.  Critical sequence in the middle of the half.  Will Burke scoring in the post, Kimmons misses 2 FTs, King with a pretty cut for a layup, Kimmons misses a dunk after a steal and Ben Gallaher buries a 3 on the other end for CDH.  All of a sudden the lead is 13 with 9:30 left and Tartan is in deep trouble.  Kimmons keeping it interesting with a 3 point play and another bucket.  Weems with a nice backcut for a layup on a BLOB.  He's fouled, Tartan gets the board but misses an open 3 that would have cut the lead to 6 with just over 6 minutes left.

CDH closes from there.  Tre Holloman finds Carter running the floor for a layup.  Holloman adds a floater and then a frozen rope from halfcourt to Burke for a layup to push the lead to 64-50.  Carter adds another triple and another floater from Holloman keeps the lead at 13 with 2:37 left.  A couple late 3s don't matter and CDH advances.  Jaeden King with 27 points and 4 triples.  He hit a bunch of really tough shots.  Amari Carter adds 17 with 3 triples of his own.  He definitely has taken his game up a notch this season.  Quiet night for Curtis Jones adding 12 for the Raiders.  Antwan Kimmons leads Tartan with 41 points and 3 triples.  He was aggressive on the glass too.  Langston Binns turned in a great outing with 18 points off the bench.  M'akil Weems adds 13.  But 3 starters go for 1 basket until the final 12 seconds.  Just not enough offense for the Titans.  But CDH also shot it very well which didn't allow Tartan to take those and run the other way.

Semifinal #2: 1 East Ridge 64 St. Paul Central 52
Central flat out running East Ridge out of the building and out working them in the 1st half.  East Ridge with a couple of early time outs trying to get their bearings.  Dion Ford back to back hoops, Daveonte Davis pops a jumper and Khai West with a layup off a double clutch Ronnell Porter feed.  23-19 Central at 7:35.  East Ridge counters with a tough 2 and lob dunk from Kendall Brown.  Ben Carlson adds a putback, post hoop and a swat as East Ridge gets their rhythm.  West for 3 and then he'll leak out for a layup to put Central up 30-29 going to the half.

Second half is all East Ridge.  Carlson in the post.  Kendall Brown with his big height advantage on Porter bullies him in the post for 2.  Carlson with 1 bucket and then flashes to the elbow for another jumper.  Then a Carlson dunk. Courtney Brown scores and he'll add a 3 after a Carlson block.  49-39 East Ridge takes control.  Davis with a 3 and a nice cut from Ford cuts the lead to 5.  But the Raptors fly away with another Courtney Brown 3.  Kendall Brown with a free throw and an open court bucket.  Carlson caps the 8-0 run with a dunk.  57-44 East Ridge at that point and no more danger.  Ben Carlson with 14 of his 22 in the 2nd half as he was the major factor in East Ridge pulling away.  Kendall Brown with 16 points.  Courtney Brown with a pair of 3s in the 2nd half as part of the big run as well.  He finishes with 15.  Dion Ford leads Central with 16.  Daveonte Davis finishes with 14. 

The Final
East Ridge vs Cretin-Derham Hall part 3 for the 4AAAA section title is Thursday night in Hastings. East Ridge won both regular season meetings by double figures.  Jaeden King with 29 in the 1st meeting and did not play in the rescheduled game at CDH due to injury.  Ben Carlson and Courtney Brown had big games in both meetings.