The Czar's Season in Review (All-Star Series style)

In the spirit of this week's all-star series, here's my season in review with my 4 all-star "teams". I've got 5 starters with an emergency sub on each team.

Maroon Team (MSHSL, insert your own joke)
  • Transfer Rule. As expected there was a major influx of transfers this year and some noteworthy ones at the state tournament level. Sedrick McBounds of Minnetonka and all 3 Bright brothers (Jeff, Joe and John) at 3 schools in 3 different classes. Do we know the impact yet? No. I want to see the Star Tribune follow up on their article by showing the numbers the year before the transfer, this year and for next season.
  • New Rules Emphasis. Handchecking and physical play were the big points this season. It was ugly early but teams adjusted. I had an official tell me that it actually made officiating the game easier as it eliminated a lot of the griping over hand checks. Easy call, its all a foul. But the officials got scolded twice during the season about it so there was some adjustment for the zebras too. I was disappointed that the off-ball chucking of cutters emphasis wasn't called, especially with 2 officials. I would think with the 3rd official that this is something that would be picked up on.
  • Seeding the state tournament. I liked it and it gave the best game. But if there's enough knowledge to do 4 teams, why not do all 8. With the amount of information out there, I don't think that seeding A and AA would be as painful as the coaches make it out to be.
  • Shot Clock. Only 40 games out of 5849 games statewide used it. Now that number isn't totally fair because of conference games not allowing it. But it still shows that even at an experimental level, I don't think the teams are buying in (and I'm not either for the record). I saw only 1 shot clock game all year and it wasn't a factor. Granted that was 2 good teams.
  • Mariucci Arena for the State Quarterfinals. Despite the Xcel Energy Center court, this was a great environment for the tournament with 11,663 showing up on the 1st day. I can't help but like the idea of using Williams and Mariucci with all the semis and finals at Williams. Great for Quarterfinal fans too as these buildings are right across the street from one another.
Gold Team (Coaches)
  • John Gray, Breck. Dismissed in February after an incident on the trip home from a game at Mankato East.
  • Kurt Pauly, Cooper. Dismissed in February after inappopriate language at halftime of Columbia Heights game. Did the punishment fit the crime and how much politics were involved in that?
  • Ross Ihry, Brooklyn Center. BC went 9-18 last year and started 9-3 this year before sliding to a 12-15 finish. But he's clearly turning around this program which had no more than 4 wins in the 2 season previous to the 9 wins last year.
  • Willie Braziel, Columbia Heights. CH improved from 4 wins and a miserable year last year to 13-14 this year finishing with a close loss to St. Anthony in the tournament opener. This earned him the 3AAA coach of the year award, congrats to him on that. With star Jacob Thomas only a sophomore now and coach Braziel's track record with the Roosevelt girls, things are looking up for the Hylanders.
  • Dave Johnson, interim coach Cooper. Have to mention the job he did as he took them all the way to the state semis. After losing his 1st game by 1 point at Spring Lake Park, the Hawks won 10 of 11 (only loss was a blowout at BSM) before the semifinal loss to Sibley. He earned a shot at the job fulltime and with all 5 starters back next year including Rodney Williams Jr, watch out for the Hawks next year.
  • Tim Theisen, Osseo. Despite a weak NW Suburban, the Orioles got big wins over Sibley and a terrific Sioux City Bishop Heelan team during the season and ran the table which is never easy. They also got thru the late season loss of Carrington Tankson, who despite no legs at the end of the section final, still almost led them past Cooper.
Blue Team (Teams)
  • Minnetonka, #1 preseason, they lose at home to Hopkins and then come from way behind in the section final vs Hopkins and in the state title game vs Sibley to take home the hardware. They built that team for 3 years, including taking their lumps with basically the same lineup 2 years ago vs the toughest schedule in the state and were 9-17. They lose a ton, but with Cole Stefan returning amongst others, they'll still be dangerous.
  • Benilde-St. Margaret's. On a mission all year. They take care of business in the title game in the N. Suburban by blowing out Cooper and then rolling to the state title despite a late hiccup vs St. Thomas. To think they did it with major injuries (Stu Neville, Alex Miller), terrific job there.
  • Minnesota Transitions. 1st charter school to make it to state, they get past the nay-sayers (including me) and make it all the way to the state title game. Kevin Noreen with a big year, but Virgil Baker was a great story for them. He's a tough replacement for them next year.
  • St. Bernard's. Only 2 tough losses (1 buzzer beater and 1 late OT loss) before the state semifinals. Jordair Jett dominant for them and an extremely athletic team. They return many pieces of that squad too.
  • Henry Sibley. Great job by coach Dasovich. They lose the heart-breaker early at Osseo and then another tough one at home to Minnetonka before being blownout at Hopkins. After a loss to Mounds View at Christmas they were 4-4. But they got healthy and rolled into the state final winning 22 of 23 including a tough win over a very good CDH team in the section final. That's all without varsity contribution from soph prospect Jake Kreuser who returns next year with Mike Bruesewitz and Chris Halvorsen.
  • Hopkins, 1-2 vs Minnetonka, 26-0 vs everyone else and not really challenged. Enough said. With Royce White coming in next year, yikes.
Green Team (Events)
  • Cody Schilling breaking the all-time scoring record at Mariucci Arena. That will really add to the history as I have a hard time believing that there will be another high school tournament game there in my lifetime.
  • Royce White's departure from DeLaSalle. He's now landed on his feet, let's hope it works out for him.
  • Official Dale Wakasugi collapsed during a game in Fridley in December, but made his return to the court in February.
  • Mobile LeFlore team accused of sexual assault after the Timberwolves shootout. Members of the team were pulled off a plane and questioned but ultimately released.
  • Red Wing girls set the national record for FTs in a game vs Holy Angels. If you prefer a boys record, how about the Central boys putting up a record number of points in the Twin Cities game vs Henry.

Cory Johnson leaves Iowa State

Cory Johnson (of Duluth East) is leaving Iowa State, this link is from the Iowa State site. That makes 2 of the 5 from the salad days gone from original destinations (Dahlman, Webster, Mbakwe, Aldrich and Johnson). In this case if I recall correctly Johnson was not recruited by current ISU coach Greg McDermott. It'll be interesting to see where he ends up. Should be interesting to see if any these kids starting breaking out next year.

The Czar's AAU Coverage and Season Totals

And so the Czar's 2007-2008 season ends. Record numbers for me this season across the board and what fun it was. Both as a fan and this labor of love. At risk of haters ripping me for saying it again, thank you all for reading.

But I'm not totally done. After all, before going into hibernation for the offseason, I have a whole bunch of splinters to get out of my backside. This week I'll be doing a 07-08 season in review post so look for that and I still have to do the final QRF evaluation. I'll also chime in as news items come up. I'll start back up with full regular season 08-09 coverage in October when I start my section and conference previews leading into the season. Also, from time to time over the spring and summer, I'll be going back thru game tapes that I have from the season as voted on by you the loyal readers to help us all get thru the withdrawal of having no basketball.

Things will quiet down here somewhat as there won't be any early week activity, but I will be attempting to do some AAU coverage over the summer. That's a much tougher thing, especially since I'm not at all familiar with the local AAU scene and the fact that no one seems to have programs at these things. I know right now of 3 events I'll be interested in, the MN Magic Event at the end of April, the Howard Pulley Sabes Invite the 2nd weekend of May and the 43 Hoops Twin Cities Summer Classic after the 4th of July. If you have suggestions for events or information on an event you'd like me to cover, please feel free to email me about it. I'm looking forward to seeing what the local AAU scene is like and seeing kids develop during the off-season against different competition. We'll see how it goes, but I hope to have some interesting stuff to post here during the AAU season.

One of the things I get asked often when I'm out and about doing this is how many games and teams I've seen, how many places I've been, etc etc so a couple of years ago I decided to track it. A game counts as seen if I pay for it or see at least half of the game time go off the clock. So without further delay, the Czar presents...

The Czar's 2007-2008 totals (complete version)

137 total games in person split as follows
  • 109 Minnesota
    • 93 Boys
    • 16 Girls
  • 28 Wisconsin
    • 24 Boys
    • 4 Girls
157 teams split as follows
  • 114 Minnesota
    • 91 Boys
      • All 5 Classic Lake teams
      • Top 4 Classic Suburban teams
      • 7 of the top 8 Lake teams
      • 4 of top 5 and bottom 4 teams in the MCAA
      • 6 Minneapolis City teams
      • 4 Missota teams
      • 7 North Suburban teams
      • 4 Northwest Suburban teams
      • 5 St. Paul City teams
      • 6 Suburban East teams
      • 11 Tri-Metro teams
      • 67% of the 11 local conferences that I pay attention to (which ironically is exactly 100 teams)
      • 7 metro "independents" (CHOF, MTS, PACT, Spectrum, Ascension, Minnetonka Christian, Oh Day Aki)
      • 4 Mississippi 8 teams
      • 1 Minnesota River team
      • 9 Other MN teams, non-metro (e.g Rocori, BOLD etc)
    • 23 Girls
  • 37 Wisconsin
    • 29 Boys
    • 8 Girls
  • Other States
    • 5 Boys
    • 1 Girls
53 buildings, 12 that I had never been to before
2 Genders
  • 55 JV games
  • 21 Bands
  • 95 National Anthems
  • 49 Hot Dogs
  • 18 slices of pizza
  • 4 buzzer beaters
  • 6, the maximum number of times I saw any 1 team in person (MTS, DLS and BSM)
  • 18, most games in 1 building (Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee)
  • 9 games at the Target Center, 7 at DLS
  • 1 kid climbing a backboard
  • 1 broken shot clock
  • 1 game with a shot clock
Drinks (size not included)
  • 36 Pepsi
  • 12 Coke
  • 20 Fruit Punch Gatorade
  • 13 Fruit Punch Powerade
  • 17 Other
1960 ounces of beverages consumed assuming 20 oz per drink
Seeing the dentist in the offseason: Priceless

Royce White to Hopkins is now officially being reported

The Star Trib is reporting that Royce White has moved to the Hopkins district and will enroll there this week. Wow, the last thing Hopkins needed is another stud. Look at this lineup for next season

Mike Broghammer
Royce White
Raymond Cowles
Trent Lockett
Marcus Williams

All 5 seniors, all at least mid-major D1 recruits with top 100 studs Lockett and White

Then the following on the bench
DJ Peterson (jr)
Marvin Singleton (soph)
Moses Sundufu (I may be spelling that wrong, senior)
Aaron Anderson (junior)
Siyani Chambers (freshman)

That's just sick and wrong. That's a serious top 15 or so nationally ranked team. I think its deeper and better than the Dan Coleman, Darren Clarke, Kris Humphries, Mitch Henke team which is really scary.

Minnetonka vs Sibley Thoughts (AAAA Final)

Total 4 day tournament attendance 69,637 and 11,663 on Day 1 at Mariucci Arena. 6,953 for the A and AA finals. 10,272 for the AAA and AAAA finals. By contrast, the total attendance for the 3 day Wisconsin tournament was 94,100. Noah Kaiser guarding Anthony Tucker. Sibley starts out on a 12-0 run thanks to an offensive rebound dunk by Mike Bruesewitz and then he finishes the run at 12:36 with a monster 1 hand dunk driving from the left wing and 1. CJ Erickson finally gets Tonka on the board at 10:26 with a layup to make it 12-2. I could never imagine that Tonka team going scoreless for 7:34. Bruesewitz all over the glass in this game. Maurice Hernandez hits a sick stepback 3 on UT Udo @8:07 and its 22-4 Sibley. Tucker counters with an NBA 3 to make it 22-7. Hernandez makes a great hustle play which leads to an offensive rebound + 1 for Kavon Martin and holy mackeral its 33-11 Sibley with 3:16 left in the half. Peter Leslie is on the bench with foul trouble and Tonka goes on a 9-0 run capped by a buzzer beating 3 by Andy Burns and after all that its only 33-20 Sibley at the half. 6-24 shooting for the Skippers with 12 turnovers. Anthony Tucker with 7 points. Kavon Martin with 7 points in a very productive half.

Tonka carries the momentum of that 9-0 run to the 2nd half with the 1st couple of buckets of the 2nd half. But Hernandez and Bruesewitz counter and its 37-24 with 16:17 to go. Chris Halvorsen picks up his 4th foul with 16:02 to go. Now Anthony Tucker goes nuts. He gets 2 straight buckets and then a sick dribble move to get a 3 and 2 more with 12 minutes to go and its 41-36 Sibley. Marcus Garcia makes 1 of 2 to make it 42-36 with 11:41 left. Andrew Latzke gets a tough hoop, then a steal leads to a breakaway dunk for CJ Erickson and Tucker steals the inbounds and knocks down a cold-blooded 3 and out of nowhere its 7-0 in 20 seconds and Tonka leads 43-42. Sedrick McBounds gets a steal for 2 and Andy Burns knocks down a 3 after Bruesewitz misses 2 FTs and its 48-42 Tonka with 9:31 to play. All totaled its a 37-9 Tonka run over 12:45. Sibley gets the next 2 buckets from Martin and Leslie to cut it to 48-46. Tonka gets 10 of the next 13 to make it 60-49 with 4:10 left (17-24 FGs for Tonka in the half so far). Amazing how explosive they are offensively.

But Sibley doesn't go away. They get the next 6 points but hurt themselves with missed FTs (missing 6 in a row at 1 point in the 2nd half). They're within 5 after a Peter Leslie bucket, but then he goes down with some head or eye injury with 2:13 left and doesn't return. That's unfortunate as Chris Halvorsen pulls Sibley to 62-59 with 1:40 left and you don't have Sibley's floor leader out there. Especially when he led them in scoring with 17 points. But Tucker hits 6 of 6 from the line late and Tonka wins 68-59.

Anthony Tucker with 20 in the 2nd half to finish with 27. Kevin Lynch made the comparison to Dell Curry during the game. Could he be a Stephen Curry for Iowa in the future? Mike Bruesewitz played well on the big stage, gotta like how he can handle it and shoot it. The more I watch the more I like him and on the must see list for next season. He finished with 9 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks.

Benilde St. Margaret's vs St. Thomas (AAA Championship)

Interesting matchups for the game. Jake Szymanski on Armond Battle, Fritz Waldvogel on Jordan Taylor, Armond Battle on Mike Fitzgerald. After Alex Schneider gets a bucket to tie the game at 4, Stu Neville with a big dunk from Jordan Taylor to start a 10-2 BSM run. STA starting off 2-12 FG shooting. Matt Thomas 2 3s in the run for BSM. Jordan Taylor with a pretty backcut and 1 with 10 minutes left in the half to make it 20-8 BSM. Schneider getting touches at will and doing all the scoring for STA. Halftime score 35-21 BSM. Schneider with 14 points but too many shots to get them (15). Jordan Taylor with 10 points on 4 for 9 shooting in the half. Ironically, BSM led the points in the paint 14-6 despite all of Schneider's touches.

Schneider looks to pass in the 2nd half as he hits Fitzgerald and Szymanski for 3s before getting 10 straight STA points. He had a half dozen kickout passes in the 1st 2 minutes of the half. After 6 of those 10 straight points for STA, its 38-33 BSM with 12:23 to play. With about 10 minutes left BSM tries to exploit the Battle/Szymanski matchup inside and they get a bucket out of it. Schneider hits Mike Ratelle for a 3 to make it 46-40 BSM with 7:30 left. Schneider gets put on Battle and fouls him on a 3 and Battle makes 2 of the 3 FTs for a 50-42 BSM lead with 4:17 left. Jordan Taylor making FTs down the stretch, but after Schneider tips in a Fitzgerald missed FT with 30.1 seconds left, its 55-52 BSM. Taylor hits 3 of 4 and STA can't score again. BSM wins the AAA title 58-52.

Alex Schneider with 27 points but needed 27 shots to do it and only 9 FGs. Absolutely amazing that BSM played behind him all night and he touched it on every possession until the end. I've never seen a kid get as many post touches in a game. He really struggled on any move he made over his right shoulder. He was much better on moves (including a reverse layup) when he went left shoulder. But he almost always went right (right handers usually want to go left). Last FG for him before the late tip-in was at 8:15. Armond Battle with 14 for BSM. Jordan Taylor with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. He gets 8 of the last 12 BSM points in the last 6 minutes to seal the deal. No doubt in my mind that he's Mr. Basketball regardless of what Anthony Tucker does in the AAAA final.

Crosby-Ironton vs New London-Spicer thoughts (AA championship)

Great battle and AA was a terrific tournament. 1st half was the story of runs back and forth for CI to go to halftime with the lead. In the 2nd half, what a half by Skylar Wachter. His penetration and buckets against the CI 2-3 zone really was the difference in NL-S in them getting the lead. CI got cold with only 2 buckets in a 9 minute stretch but NL-S was able to get all those rebounds against the big beasts from CI like Derek Swanhorst. Poor FT shooting in the 2nd half didn't help the CI cause either. Bryce Tesdahl is quite the player and its a shame he wasn't on the Mr. Basketball list.

MN Transitions vs Ellsworth thoughts (Class A Championship)

Interesting that MTS started out in a diamond and 1 on Cody Schilling doubling him on every touch. Nice job by Schilling against that to get a backdoor layup @12:45 to give Ellsworth a 10-2 lead. MTS really cold in the half with 0-9 3s, 28% shooting and the most telling number for me, no assists. 29-19 Ellsworth at the break thanks only to Virgil Baker's 12 points. Cody Schilling doing a nice job on Kevin Noreen. Kyle Noreen with 0 3 pt attempts and 1 of 2 on drives to the bucket for 2 points. That's how you defend him. Huge props to Coach Okeson for that. Ellsworth doing a nice job of being unselfish and cutting up the MTS zone defense. Cody Schilling with 7 points. I was shocked at halftime to hear coach Sherman say he was happy with their defense. The defense reminded me of the Minnehaha game. Dave Lee said that he didn't think MTS got held down like that before, the Minnehaha game was an example (without 2 normal MTS starters). Also Dave, MTS plays their games at Green Central Park (former Minneapolis Central HS).

MTS comes out man in the 2nd half. But it doesn't matter as Cody Schilling carves it up with side pick and roll. Schilling starts the half with a cut for 2 and then gets an assist for a layup. He then finishes a run with a drive for 2 and another assist to Trevor Gruis. 44-25 Ellsworth with 12 minutes left, Ellsworth with 11 assists, MTS with none. Kevin Noreen came out much more aggressive in the 2nd half but its not keeping MTS in it. Kavarian Williams finally hits a 3 for MTS, their 1st of the day, with 11:40 left. Schilling controls the 2nd half and MTS tries to foul for the last 5 minutes (much to the disgust of many fans), but Ellsworth makes their FTs to win their 2nd straight Class A title, 81-63.

Virgil Baker with 34 for MTS, Kyle Noreen with only 6 FG attempts thanks to Adam Van Der Stoep. Kevin Noreen with 17, but many of them late as he only had 3 in the 1st half. Cody Schilling what a game. 31 pts, 10 rebounds, 7 assists on 9-19 shooting. He finishes his career with 3428 points and the all-time state assist leader. But he did a great job on Kevin Noreen in this game which shouldn't be overlooked. Trevor Gruis with a nice double-double (12 and 11) for Ellsworth before fouling out with 3:12 to go. MTS 5-28 from 3 in the game (started 1-18), not like the section final vs Maranatha where they hit 9 3s in the 1st half. Final assist total, 15-2 Ellsworth.

A and AA Finals semifinal thoughts

WOW, what an ending to the New London-Spicer/Maple River game. The putback on 1 end to get the lead and then the block on the other end to win it by the same kid. The NLS vs Crosby-Ironton game should be terrific. Great season for St. Bernard's with all 3 losses very tough ones. Jordair Jett is one of my must see seniors next year.

Ellsworth getting it done, Cody Schilling with 30 more points to raise the career total to 3397. Useless factoid here, that total surpasses the 3391 of Wisconsin's all time leader Anthony Pieper (8 minute quarters and 20 game regular seasons). Pieper is more than 650 points ahead of the 2nd place guy who set the record in the 70s. So unlike the Minnesota record, don't expect the Wisconsin record to fall anytime soon. You can follow the record for the next couple of seasons as I've added the Kevin Noreen tracker to the right side of the page.

Speaking of Minnesota Transitions, can't say enough about Virgil Baker. After a big section tournament (22 vs New Life, 25 vs CHOF in the semis and 27 vs MCA in the 4A title game), 20 points yesterday vs JWP and 26 today. He's really the difference maker for them. But 7 of 11 3s and 23 points for Kyle Noreen is what killed Cass Lake-Bena. To continue beating the already dead stable of horses, there's no good reason for him to get those cheap points. You cannot allow a standstill shooter to shoot. CLB gets beat by 10 and Kyle has 23. If I were coach Ninham, I'd lose sleep over that. I'll be totally shocked and dumbfounded if Kyle comes close to that vs Ellsworth in the title game.

Nice battle of seniors and sophs in the Class A title game. Baker vs Schilling outside, Kevin Noreen vs Trevor Gruis inside. Not to mention the irony of the career scoring title. MTS plays well from in front, but I'll be watching to see if Ellsworth puts Schilling in the middle of the MTS zone and picks it apart early forcing MTS to adjust and play from behind. Regardless of the outcome, hopefully the MTS fan base will give Kevin Noreen his due after the game. At the section final, you could hear crickets when his name was called to receive his medal. I've never heard a team's star get a smaller reaction.

Thoughts from the AAA and AAAA semis

I sum up the early game for Henry in 1 word, embarrassment. I talked about their defensive issues during the season and sure enough it came to a head tonight. They give up the Twin Cities game record in their previous loss and tonight they give up 100 after being down 29-3 in 7 and half minutes. Granted BSM was hot and played extremely well, but layups are still layups. Sophomore Jordan Hughes is a star in the making for Henry, but he showed he still can make major strides on the defensive end.

I predicted a defensive struggle in the STA/Willmar game and that's what we got. STA's defense gets it done in the 2nd half of the late game. Willmar also not good from the FT line in the 2nd half. No surprise that STA goes as their 3 go in. Funny to hear Dave Lee talk so much about the MTS/CLB game tomorrow. He joked about 4 corners in that game. I can't wait until he sees the MTS set with Kevin Noreen at the FT line and 4 guys wide. Research guys. These teams will score, but I don't expect more than 90 on either side. Something in the 70s is probably more like it. But it will be entertaining.

Tonka rolls in the 1st AAAA semi, no surprise there. They get the rematch with Sibley who gave up a big 2nd half run to let Cooper tie it (a big lob dunk for Rodney Williams included, must see on tape). But Williams got a T in the 2nd half which allowed Sibley to go on a run and they seal the deal late to win easily.

In AA, that CI vs SB game is one I'm really looking forward to. Bryce Tesdahl vs Jordair Jett, fantastic. I'm guessing SB will try Averey Duncan on Tesdahl.

STA vs Willmar halftime thoughts

I thought the Casey Sussenguth bucket was no good live and sure enough, but what a play. 15 of the 16 Willmar points. STA with 6 3s and a foot on the line. Billy Chapman with 2 big buckets late in the half to help STA keep the lead. A defensive struggle as I thought it would be. Interesting that at one point, STA put Alex Schneider on Taylor Filipek and Mike Fitzgerald on Sussenguth. That seems like 2 mismatches in Willmar's favor to me.

Willmar doing a nice job getting Sussenguth 2 buckets off inbound curls (ball to corner, then top and inbounder curls over the post). Look for this again in the 2nd half as they also got hoops with it last night in the quarters.

Henry vs BSM 1st half thoughts

Wow, 56-27 BSM at the break. 18-3 after 4 minutes (Henry got the needed TV timeout), 29-3 after 7:30. 12-18 FGs for BSM, 1-11 for Henry at that point. Matt Thomas with 5 3s in the half and Jordan Taylor dominant again. Henry just miserable defensively as they got run out of the building by not getting back in that early stretch. Henry just spreading the floor looking for 3s, not really getting any good offense. With these performances, it'll be hard to vote against Jordan Taylor for Mr. Basketball. Nice to see the BSM MASH unit healthy and to see Jerry Sweezy back for Henry.

And would somebody please get into Rod Simons earpiece. New Prague got beat by St Thomas Academy, not Rochester Mayo and this is NOT a good game Rod, criminy. I've already focused my attention on the UNC/Wash St game with this game being timeout fare.

Thoughts on opening day of state

AAAA: Minnetonka has a poor late showing after getting a big early lead vs Kennedy. Message material for Coach Hedstrom? St. Cloud Tech blows out Cambridge-Isanti, no surprise there. CI just outmanned. Mayo gave Sibley a battle but ultimately Sibley moves on. Rodney Williams with 17 and 10 and Cooper comes back vs Burnsville to win a surprisingly low scoring game 54-52. Did I read 3-17 FTs for Tarell Clark and awful FT% for Cooper correctly? Ouch. Tonka vs Tech should be high-octane and fun to watch.

AAA: Como Park stays close to BSM despite minimal numbers from Greg Morse. But Lewis Johnson is a beast inside and one of the most unheralded players in the metro. But the story is 43 from Jordan Taylor, WOW. Will that motivate Anthony Tucker in the Mr. Basketball race? Willmar and STA win easily as expected. Henry has now won 13 of 14 as they beat STMA. STMA was able to hold down Jordan Hughes and Mandela Jackson (27 points combined) but couldn't make a shot and therefore couldn't hold a small halftime lead. I'm really looking forward to the BSM/Henry matchup. Henry has enough offense to gun their way thru this game. Mandela Jackson vs Jordan Taylor, premier talent on display there. Willmar vs STA is a really good semi too. I look for a low scoring defensive war there. Casey Sussenguth vs Alex Schneider inside is fun and will Taylor Filipek break out on the big stage.

AA: All the favorites move on and Maple River holds Montevideo to 2-21 from 3 in the toss up game. Crosby-Ironton vs St. Bernard's on Friday night may just get me out to watch it in person. It won't get much better than Tesdahl vs Jett. Maple River vs New London-Spicer isn't anything shabby either. Great game there.

A: Great day at Mariucci coming up starting at 11 AM. Future all-time scoring leader Kevin Noreen on display in the 1st game, then the monster matchup with Bertha-Hewitt vs Cass Lake-Bena, then Cody Schilling becoming the all-time scoring leader, then the story of the McDonald's continues with Chisholm playing in the 5 PM game. I'll be trying to track Cody Schilling's progress as the day goes on.

St. Thomas vs Little Falls (AAA Quarterfinal #2)

Continuing the young theme of the night for teams who are a surprise to be here, Little Falls has only 1 senior. They certainly traveled better than Grand Rapids did. The Flyers only have 1 guy 6'4 so that's a concern going up against 6'7 Alex Schneider of STA.

Nick Erdrich gets the 1st 5 Little Falls points including a nice back cut for a layup that makes it 5-3 Little Falls with 15:40 left in the half. But 6'4" soph Dan Kornbaum already is gone with 2 fouls. STA gets the next 8 points including 2 by Schneider and a steal for 2 from Fritz Valdvogel. That makes it 11-5 STA with 13:48 to go in the half. Erdrich with another bucket and another steal and 2 for Valdvogel lead into a deep 3 for Alex Scott. 13-12 STA with 11 minutes to play in the half. STA then goes on a 14-2 run over the next 7:09 with Schneider getting a couple of buckets. 27-14 STA at 3:51. The rest of the half is blah and its 31-19 STA at the break. Schneider with 9, Valvogel with 8. Mike Fitzgerald had 3 3s go in and out and STA missed 4 FTs in the half so this could have been much worse. Erdrich with 10 for Little Falls. LF turned the ball over and had no answer for Schneider in the 1st half.

STA gets the 1st 6 of the 2nd half (4 from Schneider) to push the lead to 18 with 16 minutes to play. The lead stays there until 8:25 to play when its 47-29 STA. Little Falls then gets the next 7 points and their crowd is in to it. Schneider is flustered and things aren't going STA's way. STA tried to spread the floor with about 10 minutes left and it bit them. After Schneider breaks the run at 5:49, STA is back to normal offense. Little Falls then misses 2 front ends between 4 and 5 minutes left and the deficit only 11 points. After that STA wakes up and finishes it. St. Thomas moves on with a 59-44 win.

Little Falls finishes 14-15 but let's give props to the Central Lakes Conference for having 3 teams at state. St. Cloud Tech in AAAA and Willmar and Little Falls in AAA. Nick Erdrich with 13 points and Alex Scott with 12 for the Flyers. STA advances to play Willmar in the 8 PM semifinal. Alex Schneider with 18 to lead the Cadets but this was a game where he could have had 25-30. Mike Fitzgerald with 13 points, but 6 of those from the foul line. Cold shooting night for him and they'll need him to hit shots. Fritz Valdvogel was a defensive terror and finished with 13 points. I wonder if teams will guard Jake Szymanski and how STA will deal with that issue if it comes up. His defense earns him playing time and is valuable, but at some point they may need to look for more offense.

Willmar vs Grand Rapids (AAA Quarterfinal #1)

So Grand Rapids has their band and Willmar has an absolute army of fans and a monster size band. Grand Rapids has no seniors on the roster and Willmar has star soph Taylor Filipek so youth is on display. And who says Mariucci is a bad environment. Willmar filled a whole side with their fans and most of the gigantic area behind the baskets with their band. Interesting to see them using the Xcel Energy floor (Xcel Energy and St Paul Minnesota logos included), looked goofy but I can't blame them for that. And best of all we have the Willmar Cardinal (mascot).

Grand Rapids starting in the world's WORST offense (the flex, I hate it with a passion and while I'm a Wisconsin guy, I hate its sister, the Swing Offense, too). We go back and forth with Grand Rapids taking a 9-7 lead on a Matt Sjostrand hoop on the block with 13:10 to go. Willmar is then sparked by Taylor Filipek. He gets a steal which leads to a Casey Sussenguth bucket, then a pretty assist for a Jordan Smith layup and then 2 of his own which includes missing the FT since he got fouled. He gets a block when turns into a 3 for Adam Lindblad and Smith finishes the 13-2 run with a steal and bucket. 20-9 Willmar with 10 minutes to go in the 1st half. Jared Sutherland tries to keep Grand Rapids in it as he gets 8 of their next 10 points. But Corey Sussenguth is doing a layup drill inside. He gets 1 of those with 4:30 left in the half to extend the lead to 33-19. But Brian Akre makes 2 FTs with no time on the clock to make 35-23 Willmar at halftime. Sussenguth with 12, Jordan Smith with 6 and he's cleaning the glass. Filipek only 2 points, but he's playing defense, being unselfish and when he turned it on, it was fun to watch. Sutherland with 8 for Grand Rapids.

Willmar starts the 2nd half on a 14-2 run thanks to Ryan Degree being open inside off dump offs and on the offensive glass. The run concludes with a Sussenguth block leading to a Isaiah Streed bucket and 1, but FT is no good and gets tipped out with Michael Dunham knocking down a 3 to make it 49-25 with 11:25 left. Grand Rapids gets 7 in a row to pull within 53-36 with 6:34 left. Its all garbage time until the end. Willmar rolls 63-42.

Grand Rapids has everybody back from a 13-18 squad. Look for their record to be much improved next year. Jared Sutherland with 12 and Eric Stark 9 for the Thunderhawks. Willmar improves to 24-5. Casey Sussenguth with 15, Michael Dunham with 10. Taylor Filipek with only 4 points, but he did lots more than those 4 points. Very unselfish, mobile, good vision, good handle. A couple of bad 3s, but overall a nice game for him.

Thoughts from the 1st afternoon of the state tourney

No huge surprises from the Target Center. Tonka lets Kennedy back in, Tech blows out CI and Sibley holds off Mayo. St. Bernard's with a good win over La Crescent as Jordair Jett performs well. Crosby-Ironton handles Rockford to set up a huge semi with St. Bernard's. Maple River gets it done vs Montevideo (2-21 from 3, ouch).

Off to Mariucci for the AAA games where I'll have full reports later tonight. I'll also be taping the Cooper/Burnsville game for later viewing. If you can't catch the games anywhere, the McDonald's All-America game is tonight.

Thoughts for the State Tournament

My thoughts on the state tourney

Class A:
I look for Ellsworth to get thru on the bottom half. The big story there is Cody Schilling breaking the all-time state scoring record on Thursday afternoon vs GHEC at Mariucci. The top half is tough as that 1st round matchup between Bertha-Hewitt and Cass Lake-Bena is a monster game. I think MTS gets thru their quarterfinal and if they would play Cass Lake-Bena, hire a couple of extra scoreboard operators and have a couple of extra clocks on hand. I'll take Ellsworth to win it all.

Class AA:
I've read a lot about Rockford and while I didn't see them this year, I did see them last year with basically the same team. I'm hard pressed to believe that St. Bernard's isn't the same thing, only better. The Bulldogs aren't big, but they're very athletic and play bigger than their size and they have a star in Jordair Jett. Not to mention, they're a buzzsaw right now with blowouts of Concordia and Breck in the 4AA tournament. An SB or La Crescent vs Crosby-Ironton semifinal is terrific, but so is a Montevideo or Maple River vs New London-Spicer game. Should be a really good AA tourney.

Class AAA:
I don't like the quarterfinals here. I think BSM, STA and Willmar all roll. While STMA vs Henry is interesting on paper, an athletic group of guards from Richfield handled STMA in January. Henry could win in a rout or both teams could put up 90 in this one. For history sake I will be at Mariucci on Wednesday night covering the STA and Willmar games. BSM in the semis could have their hands full with Henry. STA vs Willmar is a real nice matchup. That leaves us with the potential BSM vs STA rematch. BSM is just too much right now, I'll take them to take what they missed out on last year.

Class AAAA:
In the quarters, you've got Tarell Clark vs Rodney Williams which is really fun. Sibley got a really tough draw as they have to deal with Jordan Hicks and Lucas Kuipers of Mayo. I would have liked to see Osseo get thru for a possible rematch with Sibley. Osseo won that game at home on a buzzer beater by Carrington Tankson. Sibley is playing too well right now to pick against them in their half. St. Cloud Tech and Minnetonka should be a high scoring semi after both teams roll in the quarters. So I see a rematch of Dec 18th with Minnetonka playing Sibley for the state title. Sibley was missing a couple of important pieces for that game and still only lost by 4. Sibley still the only MN team to stay within 6 points of Tonka besides Hopkins. I said Tonka was the #1 team at the start of the year and I think they have too many weapons, so I'll take them to win it. But Sibley will make a really good game of it and I wouldn't be surprised if Sibley won.

TV thoughts from the 5AAAA and 6AAAA finals

So I caught some of the Osseo/Cooper (5AAAA) and Tonka/Hopkins (6AAAA) games on TV, including both endings. Some quick thoughts as I may do full reports on these games during the summer.

5AAAA: Osseo looked lost on offense when Carrington Tankson wasn't going off. He had a big stretch early in the 2nd half and then brought them back at the end. Interesting that him and Sam Dower were on the bench in offense/defense situations. I wish Osseo would have figured out more ways to take advantage of their size by using Dower/Peterson together (that's a season observation not just this game). Give Tankson credit, he was clearly gassed but he was still getting it done. Cooper started 5 juniors in the game and new coach Dave Johnson (who looks like a bald version of the wacky scientist from the Simpsons) deserves tons of credit for the job he did. Cooper had a really tough time down the stretch taking care of the ball which is why Osseo got back in it and frankly only Rodney Williams spectacular block of Tankson at the end saved them.

6AAAA: I was really surprised to see Hopkins lose based on turnovers, offensive rebounds and lack of execution. Losing Broghammer obviously hurt in the rebounding area. With 2:30 to go their up 5 with the ball and Raymond Cowles takes a 3 from the corner. It was open and went in and out, but that's a bad shot. I don't care how good a shooter he is, points are secondary there. Time is more important. On the ensuing possession, Andy Burns is left wide open for 3 and they give up the offense rebound to Kyle Risinger (who made 1 heck of a 1 handed effort on it). Lockett turns it over by just losing it and the foul he was called for on Tucker's layup should have been a no call. After Tucker's 2 FT to pull within 2, Cowles only makes 1 of 2 and then they leave Tucker on a sideline break which gets him to the rim for 2 more FTs. After a spectacular CJ Erickson block on Singleton, Tucker gets a long outlet from Burns and makes an absolutely sick headfake at the 3 point line to send Marcus Williams flying by at 10,000 feet (thank you for flying Tonka airlines) and he hits a runner to give them the lead. Cowles with an OK look at the end which Marvin Singleton out hustles Burns to and he makes the 2nd of 2 with 1.5 to go to send us to OT. Cowles hits a really clutch and quick catch and shoot 3 from Singleton for the lead with 47 seconds to play. CJ Erickson then hits an elbow jumper on a kickback from Risinger and then strips Cowles on the next possession. After Risinger hits the FTs with 7.5 to go, Hopkins knows what they want to run and Cowles gets a decent top of the key 3 look which goes off back iron for the Minnetonka 74-71 win. The North Metro TV guy goes nuts after being calm acting as if Chaminade had beaten Virginia. Didn't anybody tell him Minnetonka won at Hopkins just over 2 weeks ago?

Seeding the brackets

Here's how I'd seed the AAAA and AAA brackets.

1) Minnetonka
2) Sibley
3) St. Cloud Tech
4) Rochester Mayo
5) Cooper
6) Kennedy
7) Burnsville
8) Cambridge-Isanti

1 and 2 seem pretty straight forward and Cambridge is an easy pick for #8, I would not want to draw any of the teams I listed 3-7. Tech and Mayo have been around #5 in the polls the 2nd half of the year, Cooper and Kennedy on the fringes of the poll. Cooper ahead of Kennedy because of head-head win in the Edina Christmas tourney. Kennedy ahead of Burnsville due to 2 head-head wins.

AAA, this was tougher

1) Benilde-St. Margaret's
2) Willmar
3) St. Michael-Albertville
4) St. Thomas Academy
5) Minneapolis Henry
6) Como Park
7) Little Falls
8) Grand Rapids

BSM was easy at #1, I struggled with 2-4. Those could go in any order. Henry had to be #5 because of their record, but nobody will want to see them in round 1 and it wouldn't shock me to see them make a big run. Little Falls and Grand Rapids was a coin flip for the last 2 spots which left Como Park at #6.

Scoreboard Watching the section finals

What a great night of section finals last night, let's take a look at how I did on my predictions.

Section 2AAAA:
Kennedy pulls the major upset on Shakopee 74-62 via 25 from Alfred Jaryan. Kennedy much improved late in the season. The Czar gets the double bagel here as I had Eden Prairie in my original prediction and Shakopee in the my finals preview.

Section 3AAAA: I got Burnsville right and it was a terrific game as the Blaze won by 4, 63-59. Tarell Clark gets it done with 22.

Section 4AAAA: Luck falls upon the Czar again as Sibley wins a terrific game vs CDH holding off a late rally. Mike Bruesewitz with 19, 11 in the 2nd half to lead Sibley to the 60-57 win.

Section 5AAAA: Cooper bests Osseo 60-59. Carrington Tankson large for Osseo but Rodney Williams swats away his last effort and Cooper moves on. Quincy Bethea again big for the Hawks. Double bagel again for the Czar as I had Mounds View and Osseo. Rick Majerus in the house for this one. Interesting. Did anybody warn them to have more food?

Section 6AAAA: Wow, game of the year. As I heard on TV today, many games like this don't live up to the hype, this one did and more. CJ Erickson comes up huge with a late block and then makes the game winning jumper.

Section 7AAAA: I covered this one here, but I go double-bagel again as I had Blaine and Forest Lake.

The Czar's AAAA predictions: 3-3 original and revised. In a cruel twist of fate, I went 0-3 in 2nd chance picks of the teams I got wrong the 1st time around.

Overall results of my picks in AAAA: 27-11

Section 3AAA: Henry moves on 85-75 over Spring Lake Park as their guards are too much.
Section 4AAA: Como Park pulls the upset on Johnson winning 72-61. Double-bagel here for me.
Section 6AAA: BSM by 10 on Holy Angels, no surprise here.

The Czar's AAA predictions: 2-1

Overall results of my picks in AAA: 14-7

Section 4AA: I covered this one here. I get SB right on both, but so much for my 2nd chance prediction that it would be close.

The Czar's AA predictions (semis and final): 2-1

Overall results of my picks in AA: 12-3

Section 4A: I covered this one here. I got CHOF wrong the 1st time, but I got MTS right on the 2nd chance.

The Czar's AA predictions (semis and final): 1-2

Overall results of my picks in A: 12-4

FINAL RESULTS: 69-25 overall, 6-5 (7-4 in final previews, 8-4 if you count the STMA bonus selection) in the section finals.

Forest Lake vs Cambridge-Isanti Observations (7AAAA final)

Tonight takes the Czar and his good friend the Caveman (yes there are peasants in the Czar's kingdom) to Elk River for the 7AAAA championship. CI with a couple of guys who have hit a bunch of 3s this year against Forest Lake's methodical style.

Forest Lake comes out 1-3-1 and CI goes 0-5 against it for a 7-0 Rangers lead with 14:15 to go in the half. The Bluejackets get 8 of the next 10 to close to 9-8 via a Christian Metz steal and 2 with 11 minutes to go in the half. Ryan Brown then hits 2 3s around a steal that leads to a Griffin Lentsch layup and 1. That 9-0 FL run makes it 18-8 @ 8:30. Rest of the half is back and forth. Zak Mathson misses a layup at the 1st half buzzer for CI and that is fitting considering they couldn't get anything going or to go in against the FL 1-3-1. 26-16 Rangers at the break. Ryan Brown with 8 and Griffin Lentsch with 7 to lead Forest Lake. Braden Johnson with 7 for Cambridge-Isanti. Only 1 FT attempt between the 2 teams in a very quick and cleanly played 1st half.

FL leading scorer Brad Kopp has been quiet tonight but he opens the 2nd half with a bucket to give FL their biggest lead of the night, 28-16 with 17:10 left. Braden Johnson with a 3 in a 9-2 CI run to make it 30-25 with 11:30 to play. Sophomore Zach Riedeman of FL gets a steal for a Kopp layup and then makes a bucket after another Johnson 3. Add on a Lentsch bucket for FL and its 36-28 FL with 9:05 to play. Johnson hits back to back 3s and Mathson gets his 2nd hoop of the night to finish an 8-0 CI run. We're tied at 36 with 5:35 to play. Riedeman and Mathson trade pairs of FTs to tie it at 38 with 4:21 left. After a Forest Lake turnover, CI makes a great save on the end line off a FL player to keep possession. The CI player was probably out of bounds, but give them the ball just for the terrific effort. And wouldn't you know it, bombs away again for Johnson as he hits his 5th triple of the half and CI has their 1st lead of the night 41-38 with 3:40 to go and the roof is going to come off this place. Riedeman misses and Johnson knocks down 2 FTs and Sam Soderman gets a layup to make it 45-38 CI with 1:20 to go. Brandon Phelps finally breaks an 8 minute drought from the field for FL with 1:05 to go to pull FL within 5. CI hits their FTs down the stretch and they move on to state with a 52-43 win.

For Forest Lake, Griffin Lentsch and Ryan Brown both with 11 points. I've talked about their offense here, but I must admit that the more I saw it, the more it grew on me. I'm beginning to take a liking to it. You can see the attention to detail in it. FL finishes 19-10. With 2 starters and Zach Riedeman back for next season, they'll be solid next season.

For Cambridge-Isanti, Braden Johnson with 19 of his 26 in the 2nd half. 5 3s and 4 FTs in the 2nd half, en fuego. Zak Mathson with 8 inside for the Bluejackets. 3 starters return for next year including Johnson, Metz and Mathson. Leading scorer Chadd Mathson with only 3 points. They win with a 17-2 run during the 8 minute FL drought from the field in the last 9 minutes. Great fans, great environment, definitely section final basketball.

Maranatha vs Minnesota Transitions Observations (Section 4A Final)

A matchup of class A heavyweights in the metro as MN Transitions takes on MCA for the Section 4A crown. MCA with the experience of being here, MTS with the excitement of being here after missing out the last 3 years.

Right off the bat Kyle Noreen knocks down a 3 and then gets a 4 point play (GRRR!) and its 7-0 MTS 1:07 into the game. Am I watching a CHOF replay from Saturday? MCA gets the next 6 points before a MTS FT makes it 8-6 at 12:37. Then the 3s pour in for MTS over the next 9+ minutes. Virgil Baker with 3 3s, Kevin Noreen with 3 3s and Kavarian Williams joins the act with 1 and wow, its 33-13 MTS with 3:25 left in the half. David Hanson matches 4 MTS points before Josh Hanson knocks down a triple of his own before getting a steal that leads to a Darian Pittman layup. But Montrail Marshall gets a putback at the horn and its 39-22 MTS at the break. Chicks dig the 3 ball as MTS hits 9 of them in the half. Kevin Noreen with 11 points, Baker with 9 on 3 3s and Kyle Noreen with 7 via his 2 3s. 27 of the 1st 33 MTS points from behind the line. Caution, Flammable! David Hanson with 8 and Josh Hanson with 6. MCA is cold from the field and really struggling against the MTS zone.

But there's a reason why MCA is top 5 in the polls. Josh Hanson with a 3 pt play and then a 3 ball to force an MTS full timeout at 17:25, MTS steps on the end line to turn it over at 17:23, 30 second timeout MTS. Josh Hanson has an open layup on an inbound (same thing from Saturday and I called it out of the timeout) but he finds Darian Pittman for a 3 ball at 17:15 to force another MTS timeout. Its a 9-0 MCA run in the 1st 45 seconds of the 2nd half, 39-31 MTS. The teams trade buckets before Baker hits a deep 3 to push the lead back to 9. But 4 MCA FTs sandwiched around a deep 3 from 8th grade PG Darian Pittman give MCA the next 7 points and all of a sudden its 44-42 MTS with 12:08 to play and we've got a game. Its a 20-5 MCA spurt over just under 6 minutes.

Another Kyle Noreen 3 off the infamous inbounds play (GRRR!) gives MTS a 52-47 lead at 10:25 and kills some MCA momentum. Milos Ristanovic with 2 straight hoops for MCA to pull them within 1. Baker responds again, this time with a tough 10 footer in the lane. David Hanson misses 2 FTs short but Pittman finds Ristanovic on the next possession and MCA is still within 1, 54-53 with 5:45 to play. After the teams trade misses, Kavarian Williams gets blocked and David Hanson gets 2 on the block on the other end and MCA gets their 1st (and only) lead of the night. Baker right back within 10 seconds for a bucket, Kevin Noreen hits 2 FTs and after an MCA turnover, MTS spreads the floor and Baker converts a layup with 3:17 to play to make it 60-55 MTS. Baker with 2 and fouled with 2:44 left but he misses the FT and Kyle Noreen misses the front end of a 1 and 1 which allows Tyler Campion to get a bucket from David Hanson and its 62-58 MTS with 2 minutes left. But David Hanson is wore out (he had to guard Kevin Noreen for much of the night) as he misses a 3 ball short. MTS hits their free throws before David Hanson ends his career with a 3 just inside half court with 14 seconds left. MTS wins 72-64.

For MTS, Virgil Baker comes up huge again with 27 and made all the clutch plays. Kevin Noreen with 17. They advance to play the winner of Spring Grove/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton next Thursday, 11 AM at Mariucci Arena. For MCA, Josh Hanson with 18 and David Hanson with 15. They finish 28-2 and while they lose David Hanson and a couple of other role playing seniors, they do return 6 players led by Josh Hanson from their rotation, 5 of whom are sophomores or younger.

Breck vs St. Bernard's Observations (Section 4AA Final)

The St. Bernard's fans have taken up most of the building and with Breck on spring break this week, they basically have no students in attendance. Breck 11-3 in their last 14 and playing well and they gave SB a game early in the year. Would this game be close or another blowout like last year's Holy Family/St. Croix Lutheran final?

Breck opens up in a 2-3 zone to try and combat the athleticism of SB. After Dakota Tidd makes it 4-3 with a sweet post move on John Bright at 15:30, Peter Morrissey and Brian Sandifer hit 3s and its 12-5 SB with 13:30 to go in the half. John Bright gets a layup, Jordair Jett drains a 3 ball and Averey Duncan makes 2 FTs to make it 23-9 at 10:06. Tidd gets another 2 on the block, Thomas Smolenski gets a steal and layup to pull Breck within 23-13 with 9:10 left in the half. Averey Duncan goes strong from the short corner and then gets a layup from Morrissey and the lead is 35-20 with 3:30 left in the half. Vargas gets a late bucket but Duncan gets a bucket and then Morrissey beats the buzzer after a Breck turnover. SB goes to the break up 43-26.

Averey Duncan with 12, John Bright with 8, Jordair Jett with 5. Blake Johnson leads Breck with 5. After a Smolenski 3 starts the half, the rest of the 2nd half is a total beatdown by SB. Breck gets outscored 39-12 over the next 11 minutes and its 82-41 Bulldogs with 6:50 to play. Smolenski gets a picture perfect layup from Tidd on a perfect backcut on the next Breck possession and that may be their highlight of the night. This game is the same beatdown as last year, in fact its worse. St. Bernard's rolls 96-60.

Everybody in the book for the Bulldogs. Jordair Jett with 20, Averey Duncan with 19. They advance to state to play the winner of La Crescent/Stewartville at Mariucci Arena, 10 AM next Wednesday. Breck finishes 19-11 and loses most of their rotation. They do return Blake Johnson and John Baker so Coach Woods has a couple of pieces to work with next year.

Section Final Previews

In honor of Dick Vitale's VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index), the Czar would like to note that he used the CBI (Czar's Blindness Index) to do all of the section predictions. The Emperor has also issued a statement saying that he has no affiliation with the Emperor's Club. Speaking for myself, being client #9 may not have been a bad thing.

All of these games are Tuesday night unless noted

Section 2AAAA: #4 Kennedy vs #2 Shakopee 8 PM at St. Olaf. Kennedy doesn't have any real size to give a small Shakopee team trouble. This game is very similar for me to the Richfield/Shakopee game in the quarters in terms of the matchup. Shakopee wins with their discipline.

Czar's Original Prediction: Eden Prairie
Czar's Updated Prediction: Shakopee easily, but not necessarily a blowout.

Section 3AAAA: #1 Burnsville vs #2 Eastview 8 PM at St. Olaf. These teams played a couple of classics during the regular season with Burnsville winning by 6 in OT at Eastview Jan 17th and then at home 62-59 Feb 26th. Eastview still doesn't have an answer for Tarell Clark and Devon Knopke is playing well right now.

Czar's Original Prediction: Burnsville in another classic.

Section 4AAAA: #1 Cretin-Derham Hall vs #2 Henry Sibley 8 PM at Concordia-St. Paul. No surprise here with these 2 teams making it thru a tough bracket. These have been 2 of the better teams in the metro all season so this game is definitely worth watching.

Czar's Original Prediction: Sibley in a great game unless Michael Floyd's injury on Friday night is still an issue. Sibley with so much balance inside (Bruesewitz), outside (Leslie) and role players (Kaiser, Hernandez). Not to mention Chris Halvorsen.

Section 5AAAA: #1 Osseo vs #3 Cooper 7 PM at Rogers. This game was no contest last year as Osseo blew the Hawks out in the semis. Don't think Cooper has forgotten that. But don't think Osseo has forgotten that Armstrong blew them out in the section final last year. Carrington Tankson has returned to give Osseo a major lift and they have too many weapons, especially inside.

Czar's Original Prediction: Mounds View (on the assumption that Tankson was out)
Czar's Updated Prediction: Osseo easily with the chance that its a blowout.

Section 6AAAA: #1 Hopkins vs #2 Minnetonka 8 PM at Osseo. No surprise here either and obviously the game of the night. These teams split during the regular season as each team won on the road. Expect this game to be up even another level from the regular season games.

Czar's Original Prediction: Minnetonka due to experience.

Section 7AAAA: #1 Forest Lake vs #2 Cambridge-Isanti 7 PM Wednesday at Elk River. Much to my surprise everything went according to form here. This is the least compelling of the local AAAA finals.

Czar's Original Prediction: Blaine
Czar's Updated Prediction: Forest Lake as they've shown the ability to beat the top teams (Stillwater and CDH).

Section 3AAA: #1 Spring Lake Park vs #2 Minneapolis Patrick Henry 5:30 PM at Osseo. No surprise here as these are the best 2 teams. The HUGE matchup inside of Cory Polta (SLP) and Alonzo Melton (Henry) will be fun to watch. SLP will need huge games from Taylor Hall and Shaun Jensen to keep up with the explosive offensive of Henry guards Mandela Jackson, Jordan Hughes and Louis Cox. I don't see it happening though as I don't like this matchup for SLP. Jerome Vaughn should give Taylor Hall problems, Melton is maybe the biggest Polta will go up against all year in terms of bulk so I think that works in Henry's favor. I don't see SLP being able to slow down the Henry guards.

Czar's Original Prediction: Henry in a blowout despite the fact that they don't defend.

Section 4AAA: #1 Johnson vs #2 Como Park 7 PM at Arlington. No surprise here, but this is the one section final I don't want to see. Johnson won 2 close regular season meetings including a 46-41 debacle at Johnson Jan 23rd. Como Park didn't win the big games vs city teams during the regular season, I don't see it here either. This game will be competitive, but not pretty.

Czar's Original Prediction: Johnson wins ugly again.

Section 6AAA: #1 Benilde St. Margaret's vs #2 Holy Angels 5:30 PM at Concordia-St. Paul. These teams played a great game where BSM won only by 2 at home on Jan 10th. One of the few times all year where BSM was challenged at the 3A level (their 3 losses are all to 4A teams). Holy Angels can win this game with the guard play of Stoddard Barnhill and James Pfitzinger inside but BSM is playing well right now and has more weapons.

Czar's Original Prediction: Benilde-St. Margaret's wins, but no blowout.

Section 4AA: #1 St. Bernard's vs #2 Breck at Holy Angels 8 PM. These teams played a 57-53 game with SB winning at Breck on Dec 11th. Breck has been much improved the 2nd half of the season and despite a couple of losses while adjusting to the departure of coach John Gray, they've won 11 of 14.

Czar's Original Prediction: St. Bernard's wins, but this is closer than many might think.

Section 4A: #1 Maranatha vs #1 Minnesota Transitions at Holy Angels 6 PM. For MTS, will they be able to rebound with MCA's size? Who else scores for either team besides the stars Kevin Noreen and David Hanson? The longer MCA goes without having to put David Hanson on Kevin Noreen, the better their chances are. MCA will come in as prepared and well coached as anybody MTS has played so expect them to have a plan for Virgil Baker and Kyle Noreen. Do we potentially see something strange like 3 guys man-man with 2 playing zone?

Czar's Original Prediction: CHOF
Czar's Updated Prediction: Minnesota Transitions as they continue to get it done in a magical run. MTS gets more from the supporting cast and their unique defensive scheme disrupts 8th grade PG Darian Pittman of MCA. Expect this one to be close.

Bonus Selection
Section 5AAA: #1 St. Michael-Albertville vs #3 Monticello Wednesday at St. Cloud State 7:30 PM. Monticello got blown out at STMA, but only lost by 4 at home in the 2 regular season Mississippi 8 meetings. This game will be all about pace. If STMA can get out and run, they win. If Monticello can make it a half-court affair with their Princeton set, they can make it very interesting. But ultimately Theo Rothstein gets it done for STMA to advance.

Czar's Prediction: STMA

Section finals schedule for the Czar:

Tuesday: 4A/4AA section finals at Holy Angels.

Wednesday: 5AAA/8AAA section finals at St. Cloud State. I was hoping that Princeton and Rocori would be in these games so I could see those teams again. But not all is lost as I have seen Monticello and STMA.

YTD Stats
  • 132 games (104 MN split 88 boys and 16 girls, 28 WI split 24 boys and 4 girls)
  • 51 buildings
  • 153 teams (121 boys and 32 girls, 110 MN teams split 87 boys and 23 girls, 37 Wisconsin split 29 boys and 8 girls, 6 outstate split 5 boys and 1 girls)
  • 2 Genders

AAA and AAAA section semifinal scoreboard watching

From Friday's games, let's look at the results and see how the Czar did on his original predictions.

Section 2AAAA:
Kennedy pulls the major upset on Eden Prairie. EP blew them out twice in the regular season including a game I saw. Alfred Jaryan again has a big night against EP with 30 pts. Ethan Wragge with 27 and a shot to win it in the last 10 seconds that missed.

As predicted Edina did scare Shakopee again as the Sabers had a 1 pt lead with 11 seconds left before making FTs and avoiding an Edina chance to tie. The Czar goes 1-1 thanks to Kennedy

Section 3AAAA:
I get both games in 3AAAA correct as Burnsville and Eastview both win. Apple Valley holds Tarell Clark to 11 but soph Devon Knopke goes 20+ again in the tourney as he had 23. Johnie Sanders with 22 for Eastview in their win over Rosemount.

Section 4AAAA:
The Czar goes 2-0 here as well. But these certainly weren't the nailbiters that I expected.

Section 5AAAA:
Osseo rolls over Champlin Park 73-55. Carrington Tankson returned with 9 pts for the Orioles. Zach Peterson with 12 as he continues to play well. Ditto for Ryan Spading as he leads them with 14 and has been in double figures 6 of the last 7 games. Mounds View holds Rodney Williams to 15 in the other semi but Quincey Bethea goes off for 24 to lead Cooper to 73-62 win. Mounds View gets 20+ from 3 players but no more than 3 from anyone else. The Czar goes 1-1 as I get Osseo but miss Cooper.

Section 6AAAA
No surprises here as Hopkins and Minnetonka both roll. Damarius Cruz with 24 for Armstrong in the loss to Hopkins. Minnetonka uses a big 2nd half to beat Wayzata. Andy Burns with 24, Anthony Tucker 22 for Minnetonka. This sets up the big showdown Tuesday in Osseo. The Czar goes 2-0 here.

Section 7AAAA
Cambridge-Isanti beats Blaine 72-60 despite big nights from Billy Giddings (19) and Dylan Rodriguez (23). Forest Lake beats Coon Rapids 69-57. Brad Kopp with 19 for the Rangers. The Czar goes 1-1 here.

AAAA total: 9-3

Section 3AAA
I was already doomed in 1 half as I had Columbia Heights here, but Spring Lake Park handles St. Anthony 65-50. Henry handles Fridley 75-60 in the other semi setting up the 1 vs 2 matchup. The Czar goes 1-1 as I had Henry.

Section 4AAA
Johnson survives Hill-Murray 77-72 and Como Park beats Highland Park 71-62. This sets up the 1 vs 2 matchup here and a 3rd meeting between these teams. I already had Mahtomedi wrong, but I did get Johnson for a 1-1 mark.

AAA total 2-2 (3-3 if you include 6AAA from the previous night)

AAAA: 19-5 in Quarters, 9-3 in the semis ==> 28-8
AAA: 9-3 Quarters, 3-3 in the semis ==> 12-6
AA: 7-1 Round of 16, 3-1 Quarters, 1-1 Semis ==> 11-3
A: 8-1 Round of 16+, 3-1 Quarters, 1-1 Semis ==> 12-3
TOTAL: 63-20 thru all of the semifinals

Previews for the 11 metro section finals coming up tomorrow.

Scoreboard Watching from 4AA semifinals

Wow, the girls AAAA championship has just ended with Central pulling the upset. The bigger story there is the officiating at the end. An absolutely brutal continuation call with 1 minute left gives Central the lead and then a questionable jump ball call with 35 seconds left. Central had the arrow and that's your ball game. But South had their chances with a lead so they can't complain.

As to the AA semis at Holy Angels, St. Bernard's suprisingly rolls over Concordia 98-75 thanks to 24 each from Jordair Jett and Trent Davis. 5 players in double figures for the Bulldogs. Zach Towle with 19 for the Beacons.

In a major shocker, Breck absolutely destroys Holy Family 73-46. 5 guys in double figures for Breck led by 19 from Blake Johnson. 10 from Trent Johnson for Holy Family. A friendly Breck fan sent me this. I've slightly modified it for posting here, but all of the information I got is included.

The Mustangs totally played like they had something to prove after last year, when they led Holy Family by 12 and lost in OT, not to mention in light of all that's happened in the last month. Breck led by 12 at the half and got the lead to 20 before Holy Family made a run and got it down to 12 with 10 minutes left. They would get no closer.

Holy Family simply couldn't play at Breck's pace. No answer for an aggressive 2-3 zone. Trent Johnson picked up his 4th foul early in the 2nd half and Cameron Cain fouled out with 8 minutes left. Thomas Smolenski, Blake Johnson and Matt Vargas hit their shots (after some early shakiness) and Alex McDonald forced the Fire guards into mistakes.

Holy Family is a classy team. The played hard and clean the whole game. They had to throw up too many outside shots with Trent Johnson on the bench or playing cautious and were they cold.


The Czar's predictions go 2-2 as I got MCA and St. Bernard's right, but Breck and MTS wrong. Overall, 51-15 as I haven't counted the Friday night games yet.

CHOF vs MN Transitions Observations (Section 4A East Subsection Final)

Game 2 of the day has CHOF vs MTS in a rematch. MTS won 77-72 at CHOF on January 15th. Kevin Noreen with 25 in that game for MTS. Peter Otten led 4 players in double figures with 17 for CHOF.

MTS gets out to a quick 16-4 lead with 13:20 left in the half. CHOF left Virgil Baker wide open for 3 3s, Kavarian Williams had a 3 and Kyle Noreen started the game with a 4 point play. Nick Butler picks up his 3rd foul @ 10:50 and he's done for the half. Nate Fiscus makes 1 of 2 FTs after tweaking a knee and its 19-8 MTS with 10:24 left in the half. After Peter Otten makes a 3 and then a FT, MTS goes on an 8-0 run. The run sees Kevin Noreen get his 1st 2 of the day. 27-12 MTS with 6:55 to go in the half. CHOF staying tough as Otten hits another triple and Cole Piepkorn hits a 3. MTS gets 2 charging calls (Kevin Noreen's 2nd foul at 5:49 and Baker's 2nd at 5:34) and 2 bad looks in 1 on 1 play. Fiscus with a bucket and a FT and Piepkorn with 2 FTs. All of this is a 11-0 run for CHOF to make it 27-23 MTS with 3:30 left in the half. MTS really struggling with fouls as Kyle Noreen has 3, Kevin Noreen has 2 and Baker is on the bench with his 2 fouls. Kyle Noreen still in there with the 3 fouls and gets another 4 point play at 2:50 to kill the CHOF momentum and I'm off the deep end. The half finishes with MTS having a 31-25 lead. Virgil Baker with 14 on 4 3s, Kyle Noreen with 8 on the 2 4 pt plays and Kevin Noreen with only 2 (offensive rebound). Peter Otten with 9, Cole Piepkorn and Nate Fiscus with 8 each. Fiscus starting to get good looks vs the MTS 2-2-1 as the half progressed. CHOF holds Kevin Noreen to 2, but they give 17 inexplicable and horrible points (the 1st 3 Baker 3s and the 2 4 pt plays). Baker and Kyle Noreen are known shooters, make them dribble. Poor preparation by the CHOF coaching staff and/or poor execution by the players.

Nate Fiscus with a 3 pt play with 17:07 left to make it 34-30 MTS. Kevin Noreen with a 3 pt play for Butler's 4th foul with 16:09 to go. Butler stays in and they switch him on to Kyle Noreen. Jake Okerstrom who did a great job on Kevin Noreen in the 1st half, picks up 3 quick fouls in the half and he goes to the bench with his 4th with 13:53 left which gives Kevin Noreen 2 FTs to make it 42-32 MTS. MTS doing a nice job with Kevin on top of a flat 3-2 zone here in the 2nd half. Fiscus goes down after 2 straight defensive rebounds and he goes to the bench with under 11 minutes left. Coach Sherman surprisingly still has Kyle Noreen in there with 4 fouls. After Piepkorn takes a bad 25 footer, Kevin Noreen gets a 3 pt play to push the lead to 49-37 with 10:35 to go. Nick Butler is trading buckets with Kevin Noreen and he draws the 5th on Kyle Noreen at 10:15. 49-40 MTS. Kevin also gets the next 6 MTS points and Butler gets 4 in a row for CHOF and its 55-48 MTS with 7:33 remaining. Kevin picks up his 4th with 6:53 to go. Jake Okerstrom who came back in at 8:36 makes the 1st of 2 FTs and Nick Butler gets the miss and makes 2 FTs of his own to make it 55-51 MTS with 6:51 to go. After a Baker layup with 5 minutes left, the MTS bench picks up a bad technical. Nick Butler makes the 2 FTs, but CHOF can't convert on the possession and its 59-53 MTS. Okerstrom is gone with his 5th foul at 4:35 and you know they now have no one (since Butler has 4) to guard Kevin. Kevin puts back a missed FT on a front end and Baker gets a layup with 4 to go to push the lead to 63-53 MTS and CHOF will get no closer. 77-65 Minnesota Transitions wins.

Nick Butler with 23 of his 24 in the 2nd half to lead CHOF. Nate Fiscus who sat out from 11 minutes left to 3 minutes left before coming back in to gut out the ending finished with 13. Peter Otten also with 13. Cole Piepkorn with a rough day at the point as MTS went after him to force turnovers and he gave up both 4 point plays to Kyle Noreen in addition to taking a couple of bad 3s. They finish 22-6 with 3 starters (including Piepkorn and Fiscus) coming back next year so they'll still be a team to be reckoned with next season.

Kevin Noreen with 24 of his 26 in the 2nd half. Virgil Baker with 25 as he demonstrated that he's more than just a 3 point specialist. Kevin Noreen gets the spotlight for them but Baker is averaging 20 a night too. MCA will have to find an answer for him in the section final. MTS finally makes a section final after having some very good teams over the last 3 years and not getting there. This is a nice step for their program.

SW Christian vs Maranatha Observations (Section 4A West Subsection Final)

After seeing the big boys last night, we get the little guys today as The Czar travels to Spring Lake Park for the Section 4A semis. Game 1: a rubber match and a revenge match as these teams split 2 regular season games with SW Christian getting the best of MCA in the MCAA tournament championship game by 3. MCA won the regular season matchup at SWC by 2.

David Hanson out of the gate quickly as he gets 11 of MCA 1st 13 points for a 13-7 lead with 11 minutes left in the half. SWC is ice cold as they start 2-9 from the field vs the MCA 2-3 zone. A Caleb Palkert bucket is the only SWC bucket in a 14-2 MCA run that sees David Hanson with 7 more points and Josh Hanson with 5 in a row of his own. The Palkert bucket is the only SWC FG in an 8 and a half minute stretch. So its 27-9 MCA with 3 minutes to go but David Hanson picks up his 2nd with 2:44 left in the half and sits. But SWC stays cold and can't make a run in that limited time. 32-16 MCA at the half. David Hanson huge with 18 points. Griffith with 5 and Palkert with 4 for SWC. SWC couldn't buy a bucket but they had good looks.

David Hanson is still on a roll as he gets the 1st 3 MCA buckets of the half. For some reason, SWC went to a curious strategy where they had 5'11 Austin Petersen trying to faceguard David Hanson but no backside help in the man defense. Hanson got an offensive rebound, drew a foul on Petersen on an offensive rebound and had 2 buckets against this. The strategy makes sense if you're diamond and 1 with a big guy behind (see Armstrong vs Cooper from the 06-07 season and how they played Dennis Williamson) but the SWC strategy was shredded here. 38-22 MCA with 14:17 to play and SWC is back to the 2-3 zone they played for most of the 1st half after a timeout. They heard something in the timeout because they go on a 7-0 concluded by a Palkert 3 ball and its 38-29 MCA with 11:20 to play. Its 41-31 MCA with 7:22 to go when SWC makes another curious move, Palkert goes to the bench for rest. He gets the advantage of an MCA timeout but he stays out for rest as play continues. Garrett Nordling with a 3 pt play for SWC @ 6:53 and then they get 2 straight steals and go the other way but they miss a layup and 2 FTs. Tyler Campion hits 2 FTs to push the lead back to 12, 46-34 with 6:26 as Palkert finally comes back in the game. It doesn't matter as SWC will get no closer. Josh Hanson gets his 2nd bunny off the same inbounds play and a Darian Pittman layup push the lead to 50-35 with 4:40 to go. The rest is elementary as MCA wins 60-41.

SWC gets 11 from Garrett Nordling. 9 from Caleb Palkert as there was nothing run for him and he got limited touches. This is the same issue I had with their coaching staff when I covered their game at Minnesota Transitions. He's their star player and he's not getting touches when they need him to in their offense and they're not running any set plays for him. SWC finishes 17-11 with most of those losses being good losses in close games (MCA, Bethlehem, PACT, St. Agnes, NLA). With Palkert and a couple of sophomore guards returning look for them to be near the top of the MCAA again next year.

David Hanson all that for MCA with 26 points. They played a lot of zone which was surprising. Coach Wall has really tightened up his rotation. Darian Pittman plays about 9000 miles per hour at the point. That can be dangerous as they advance in the tournament. The final is Tuesday 6 PM at Holy Angels.

Cretin-Derham Hall vs Tartan Observations (4AAAA Semi #2)

Right to the action for game 2 as CDH takes on Tartan. CDH gets out to a qu-ick 11-0 lead in the 1st 3:20 thanks to 7 quick Michael Floyd points and 3 Tartan turnovers. Max Ryan and Marc Sonnen hit back to back 3s to make it 15-11 with 11:25 left in the half. But Tartan can't make a shot in this game. They go without a field goal the last 9:15 of the half and its 35-17 CDH at the break. Floyd with 13. Sam Ryan with 8 and Marc Sonnen the other 7 for Tartan.

More of the same in the 2nd half for Tartan. Another Floyd bucket makes it 39-19 with 14:25 left. Tim Lubke finally breaks a 14 minute period for Tartan without a field goal by knocking down a 3 at 13:08. But they go almost 6 minutes before their next field goal. With 9:50 left its 45-25, but Tartan turns up the D and gets as close as 50-38 with 6:15 left. But the finish is elementary. CDH wins 70-55.

Floyd with 17 to lead CDH. Seantrel Henderson had a rough night at the FT line (0-6) but did have 14 points and was a factor on the glass. Marc Sonnen with 22 for Tartan, Sam Ryan with 16. With about 9 minutes left Floyd comes back in the game and there's some wondering why (16 point game). He goes baseline with about 7 or 8 minutes left and gets called for a charge but he comes down very awkwardly and he leaves for the night. Something appeared to be wrong with the left leg after the treatment he got. Hopefully this isn't serious and he's fully ready for the big showdown Tuesday vs Sibley.

Tartan had a stretch across the 1st and 2nd halves where they had exactly 1 FG in 20 minutes. But they did hit 14 FTs including 9 of 12 from Sonnen during the stretch. Between 2 pt field goals they had a stretch of 23 minutes 10 seconds. 18-25 FTs, 15 FGs. Staggering numbers as I can't recall an offensive performance like this. The FG% numbers would be really be interesting to see for this game. Shawn Marlowe, James Pritschet and Manani Beavers combined for 6 points so not having an inside presence really hurt Tartan tonight.

Woodbury vs Sibley Observations (4AAAA Semi #1)

Woodbury played Stillwater tough twice and then beat them in the tourney and gave CDH 2 tough games. Could they do the same with Sibley? Full house tonight at Concordia-SP for my 1st trip ever the Gangelhoff Center. I just wish the PA system was better as its useless to those of us on the top row.

The first half is gun slinging so its only appopriate we have Aaron "Machine Gun" Myers. Sibley gets out to a 24-17 lead at 8:35 of the 1st half thanks to hot shooting from Maurice Hernandez. UW recruit Mike Bruesewitz with a nice half as he gets 3 buckets in the last 6 and half minutes. 39-36 Sibley at the break. Bruesewitz with 10 1st half points. Hernandez with 11 on 3 3s. Myers with 4 3s keeping Woodbury close via 14 points. Soph Nick Quicksell with 10 points.

Sibley tries to get out on a quick start but Woodbury keeps it at 47-42 with 13 minutes left. Sibley goes on a 13-2 run with Peter Leslie knocking down a 3 after Woodbury left him in transition and Bruesewitz with a couple of buckets. 60-44 Sibley with 9 minutes left. Woodbury shows zone and Sibley has Bruesewitz out high moving the ball which is a nice demonstration of his versatility. Myers gets a bucket with 5:25 to go to pull the Royals within 8. But with it still an 8 point game at 3:39, 65-57, Sibley runs off the last 11 points breaking pressure to win 76-57.

Bruesewitz with 18 and Peter Leslie with 18 for Sibley. Hernandez with 15 and Chris Halvorsen with 10. They have all the parts with good point guard play from Leslie, solid role players in Hernandez and Noah Kaiser and good size and options up front with Bruesewitz and Chris Halvorsen.

Tournament Quarterfinals Scoreboard Watching

How did I do in the quarterfinal round on my predictions?

Section 4A: No surprises here as the top seeds are all thru. NLA did appear to give MTS a tough game. But you can't give up 22 to Virgil Baker and expect to win. He got in the building range, so you must find him. Kevin Noreen with 19 for MTS. Max Banchy led NLA with 15. 5 guys in double figures as CHOF blows out St. Agnes. David Hanson with 17 to lead MCA over West Lutheran. I get the PACT/SW Christian game wrong for a record of 3-1.

Section 4AA: Also no surprises with the top seeds all in the semis and again I pick a 3 seed (Minnehaha) and lose. Trent Johnson and Cameron Cain both with 20 for Holy Family in their rout of Brooklyn Center. DeAngelo Potter with 18 in the loss for BC. Jordair Jett with 30 for St. Bernard's in their win over Roosevelt. Thomas Smolenski with 31 to lead Breck in their win over Edison. The Czar goes 3-1.

Section 6AAA (Semis): BSM gets 29 from Jordan Taylor and they hold Cedric Martin to 9 for a 17 pt win over Washburn. Controversy in the late game as DLS had a 10 point halftime lead and down 3 with the ball in the last 30 seconds, a no-call on a Jeremy Randle 3 gets DLS coach Dave Thorson tossed. Did he get fouled? You make the call by watching the video here and voting in the poll. The Czar goes 1-1 in predictions here. Overall, my predictions were 7-3. Total so far, 49-13.

Elk River with a surprising blowout of Maple Grove in the 8AAAA 4 v 5 game. Jack Gavin and Blaise Davis with 18 each for the Elks and Josh Pedretti with only 6 for Maple Grove.

Minnehaha at Concordia Observations

So I did AAA on Tuesday, I've got AAAA tomorrow and A on Saturday afternoon, which means that its only fair that I see AA tonight and it should be a good one. Minnehaha makes the trip to Concordia to one of the smaller gyms around (and the worst parking I'm told). But the fans are arriving early and we've got the Concordia band and students so the atmosphere is all there. In watching warmups, Taylor Sparkman just didn't look himself. He'd warm up a little and then we was by the bench.

Minnehaha comes out box and 1 on Towle. Minnehaha gets out to an early 4-1 lead @ 14:50 thanks to 2 Taylor Hanson (I only wish he was at MCA for the Hanson effect). Zach Towle with a bucket and a couple of FTs with an Andrew Harstad triple make it 10-4 Concordia 90 seconds later. Then catastrophe strikes. My scoresheet falls thru the bleachers (one of the few places where that can actually happen). Oh well, guess I'll reconstruct the scoring later. Greg Meyer (a name worth remembering) gets a couple baskets in a row to make it 10-8 Concordia @11:20. A Taylor Sparkman bucket at 10:27 pulls Minnehaha within 15-12. But Concordia goes on a 10-4 run with a Mitch Popko block leading to another Towle bucket during that run. 25-16 with 3:43 to go in the half. Minnehaha keeps it close thanks to 3s from Meyer and David Burnham (another name of note). We go to halftime with Concordia leading 29-25. Towle has 11 for Concordia. Meyer has 8 and Burnham has 6. The big issue is whether to go digging under the bleachers myself (something I haven't done in probably 20 years) or pay off a youngster to go track down my lost scoresheet. Let the record reflect that I did it myself. Minnehaha tried the box-1, 2-3 zone, man-man and a possession of 1-3-1 so the kitchen sink was not left on the bus. But they're getting hammered on the offensive glass.

Screech (Zach Houliston) gets 2 to start the 2nd half and Towle hits a pullup as Minnehaha is back to the box and 1. Towle then drills a deep triple and so much for the box and 1, back to man. Ryan Naylor gets 2 and its 38-27 Concordia with 14:40 left. 4 straight Minnehaha points from Hanson and a couple of Chris Anderson FTs make it 38-31 Concordia with 12:41 to go. Towle then takes over with 2 buckets and 2 assists that lead to 5 points all combined with 2 Popko tipins to make a 13-2 Concordia run over 5 minutes to blow the game wide open. 51-33 Concordia with 7:42 to play and the rest is just killing time as Minnehaha gets no closer than 14 the rest of the way. Minnehaha with 8 points in the first 10+ minutes of the 2nd half as they went dry ice from the field. Both coaches do a nice job of getting their seniors into the game during garbage time and Concordia got their seniors out for applause in their final home game which was a nice gesture. Final score is 67-49 Concordia.

Greg Meyer with 15 to lead Minnehaha. Taylor Hanson was the 1 guy who had a nice 2nd half for them, he finishes with 10. Sparkman spent his time off the court behind the bench stretching against the wall or moving around. While he did get some minutes in the 1st half, it was clear he wasn't himself and after a couple of 2nd half minutes, he went to the bench for good. I won't speculate, but something clearly wasn't right with him. They finish their season 17-10, 11-5 in the Tri-Metro West. With Burnham, Meyer, Sparkman (juniors now) and Hanson (soph) all returning next year, they should be at least as good next year.

Zach Towle with 26 to lead Concordia and there was just no answer for him. After taking some tough shots in the 1st half, he was outstanding in the 2nd half getting good looks in the paint or finding shooters. Both of those really allowed the Beacons to hammer the offensive glass. Surprising at 1st glance since Minnehaha started 4 guys 6'4+ while Concordia started Screech at 6'6 and then down to 6'2. But Screech, Popko and Ryan Naylor gave them great production inside. If they hit the boards like that vs St. Bernard's, they could beat them again. Semis are Saturday afternoon at Holy Angels.

Week 16 Tuesday Night Scoreboard Club

Its the opening round of the playoffs edition of the club this week. We'll also take a look at how I did on my predictions.

Section 2: #6 Edina handles #3 Prior Lake by 18 which is more than I expected. Kennedy suprisingly gets 43 2nd half pts on Jefferson to win handly in the 4 v 5 game. Eden Prairie and Shakopee roll. The Czar goes 3-1 getting Kennedy wrong. Shakopee should get a handful from Edina in the early game in Chaska on Friday.

Section 3: #1 Burnsville trailed at the half against #8 Lakeville S but they get a big 2nd half from soph Devon Knopke to win. Apple Valley builds a big halftime lead to hold on vs Eagan in a surprise. Park gives Eastview a tough game and Lakeville N gets blown out by Rosemount which matches an earlier season blowout at Lakeville N. The Czar goes 3-1 getting Apple Valley wrong. Semis are Friday at St. Olaf.

Section 4: The top 2 seed roll and Marc Sonnen has 29 to lead Tartan to a surprisingly easy win over Central. But #6 Woodbury gets a layup from Nick Quicksell in the last 10 seconds to get the win at #3 Stillwater. The Royals lost the 2 regular season games by a total of 10 pts so this isn't much of a surprise. They lost by 4 and 3 to CDH during the regular season so expect them to play tough. The Czar goes 3-1 getting the Stillwater game wrong. I'll be at these games on Friday night at Concordia-St. Paul and they both should be tight.

Section 5: The Czar goes 4-0 here as there were no surprises. Dan Brown with 22 and 10 in a big Osseo win. Emeka Okafor gets 10 and 19 in the Champlin Park win over Irondale. Semis Friday at Rogers with Osseo moving on with or without Carrington Tankson. Mounds View vs Cooper is a very interesting 2 v 3 game.

Section 6: Nothing but blowouts as Armstrong blows out North. St. Louis Park with only 10 second half points in their 25 pt loss to Wayzata. The Czar goes 4-0 and I expect 2 more blowouts at Cooper on Friday.

Section 7: Anoka costs me a pick as they go 1-12 from the FT line in the 2nd half and give up a layup with 8 seconds left in OT to lose 81-80 at Cambridge-Isanti. As expected Forest Lake rolls and Blaine wins. Only 2-2 for the Czar here as Coon Rapids beats Andover.

Class AAAA predictions turned out 19-5

Section 3: Fridley needs overtime to get a 2 pt win over neighbor Totino-Grace. Star soph John Crockett with 24 in the loss for the Eagles. And thanks to Charley Walters for retracting his story on Seantrel Henderson. He's now saying that Henderson is being told to stay at CDH. Henry rolls in the 2nd half vs Chisago Lakes. Mandela Jackson with 30 for the Patriots, but Josh Figini has 35 for Chisago Lakes. Spring Lake Park rolls. I jinxed myself as my game was only one I got wrong. The Czar goes 3-1. St. Anthony vs SLP on Friday night in Osseo will be interesting.

Section 4: Peter McKeown gets it done with 28 for Hill-Murray in their win over Arlington. Arlington missed a layup for the lead and 2 FTs to tie in the last 10 seconds. Wild finish there. Johnson (Frosh Estan Tyler with 20) and Como Park win big but 4-20 Highland Park pulls the major upset at Mahtomedi. That upset costs me the perfect mark. The Czar goes 3-1. Don't be surprised to see Johnson struggle or get beat by HM in the semis Friday at Arlington. Como Park rolls over HP in the other semi.

Section 6: The top 2 seeds roll to big wins, Armond Battle with 25 for BSM. DLS gets the low seed win at Orono and Washburn handles Waconia in the 4 v 5 game thanks to 19 pts from Cedric Martin. The Czar goes 3-1 as I didn't pick Washburn. Good semis tomorrow at Concordia-SP, DLS vs AHA in the late game will be interesting and Washburn has enough talent to upset BSM.

Class AAA predictions turned out 9-3

Section 4AA
In the East, the top 4 seeds roll. Roosevelt beats SCL by 13 despite 44 pts from Aaron Hulsebus and Chris Breuer. Xavier Jones with to lead 4 players in double figures for the Teddies. In the West, the 4 v 5 game was the only non monster blowout. Much to my surprise BC shows up and beats Jordan after losing to them at BC last week. DeAngelo Potter with 23 for the Centaurs. That game costs me the perfect slate. The Czar goes 7-1. This sets up a couple of fun 2 v 3 matchups tomorrow. Breck hosts Edison looking for revenge and my game tomorrow is the showdown with Minnehaha making the trip to Concordia in a battle of teams that are both good enough to win a section final vs just about anybody.

Section 4A
What's the old saying about it being hard to beat a team 3 times. West Lutheran spoils my clean bracket by getting it done with a 73-71 win at Heritage. No surprises around the rest of the bracket. The 2 vs 3 games here are both worth watching. PACT at SW Christian and St. Agnes at CHOF in repeats of earlier games. And the NLA at MTS game could be intersting as well. If NLA's Max Banchy lights it up and matches buckets with MTS star soph Kevin Noreen, that's a fun game. The Czar goes 7-1 for a grand total of 42-10 in round 1. We'll see how I do in the next round where the games are much tougher.

St. Anthony at Columbia Heights Observations

This takes us back to the good old days of the Metro Alliance where the teams were all over the place but you had this rivalry, Fridley/Brooklyn Center and Orono/Mound-Westonka. When Columbia Heights won the 1st meeting Jan 10th at St. Anthony 66-64, star soph Jacob Thomas had 28 in the win for the Hylanders and Chris Mullin (Calvin Walker) had 24 in the loss for the Huskies. Not to mention this is a 4 vs 5 game to open the tournament. Should be lots of fun.

St. Anthony comes out box and 1 on Thomas with Ryan Couillard getting the duty, how interesting. Thomas gets a defensive rebound and takes the ball the other way for a 17 ft pullup to give CH a 4-2 lead @ 16:30 of the 1st half. At 16:04, CH takes a shot and it goes up and over the backboard and gets stuck behind the board between the support and the backboard. After a couple of seconds of wondering what will happen, 5'8"CH senior Mike Sorenson comes out, climbs the net, the rim and the basket support and knocks the ball loose. All unassisted, pretty impressive. The teams go back and forth as St. Anthony is in... wait a minute, it might be, it could be, it is the Flex. Yuck, I'm not a flex fan, but it works. Thomas hits another pullup at 10:40 to make it 13-12 St. Anthony. Mullin with a bucket at 10:20 to push it back to a 3 pt Huskies lead. Thomas with a steal and 2 before he trades 3s with Dan Zurbey and its 18-17 SA @ 8:45. Mullin gets his 2nd foul on a charge at 6:29 and he'll go to the bench for the rest of the half with CH leading 22-21. Thomas gets 7 of the last 9 CH points and SA struggles to find offense. We go to the break 31-28 Columbia Heights. Thomas has 16, Harold Rainey (another good soph guard for Heights) has 7. St. Anthony soph starter Josh Pratt leads them with 8, Dan Zurbey with 2 3s for 6 and Mullin with 4 before sitting with fouls.

St. Anthony is now straight man-man. Center James Borchert starts the half for St. Anthony with a 3 pt play and another deuce on the block and SA has the lead again at 33-31 with 16:25 left. Rainey with 4 straight pts including a sweet fake to Thomas that gives him a layup, 35-33 CH @ 15:50. Dan Lundgren of SA takes a hard foul on Akrau Imbu and the intensity of the game goes up a notch. Imbu makes the 2 FTs to give CH a 37-35 lead @ 15:15. Borchert with a couple more buckets to make it 43-42 CH with 12 minutes to go. Imbu with a sweet spin for 2 and then a block that leads to a Thomas layup and then SA turns the ball over. Heights looks like they have a bucket, but Mullin gets the rebound and hits the home run to Zurbey for a layup that breaks the Hylanders momentum. 47-44 CH with 10:43 to go. Mullin then gets a hoop on the block off an inbound (did this in the 1st half too) and Lundgren gets a steal for 2 more. 48-47 SA has the lead back. Mullin drives right baseline and scores to make it 52-50 CH @ 8:05 Thomas has been quiet but he goes solo for a 3 pt play and after a Couillard hoop, he hits a 3 and Zaire Saunders gets a layup and its 62-54 Heights with 5:15 to play. 12-4 Heights run in 2:50.

Borchert with a quick bucket and then a Lundgren 3 pt play makes it 62-59 CH with 3:52 to play. Rainey then does a great job of reading a flare screen off a play for a 3 that Blaine ran for years. He gets the steal and 2 to push the lead to 64-59 with 3:25 left. Pratt gets a tip-in off a scramble at 3:05. Heights misses a shot and a scramble for the ball ensues which leads to a Mullin layup with 2 minutes left to cut it to 64-63 Heights. Thomas takes a tough shot at 1:33 and Saunders misses an open layup @1:20 to give the ball back to SA. Off an inbounds, a great call by Coach Bratland gets Zurbey a layup (4 across low, post guy falls back to high post like other inbound plays but then he gets a backscreen for weak side layup) for a 3 pt play @1:02 and SA leads 66-64. Saunders has a 15 footer go in and out with 45 seconds remaining. Mullin rebounds, gets fouled and calmly makes the 2 FTs with 38.8 to play. Thomas misses a rushed step back 3 with 30 seconds left for 2 more Mullin FTs and that's your ballgame. 71-64 St. Anthony moves on.

James Borchert with a monster 2nd half for the Huskies to finish with 17. Chris Mullin with 14 after the 1st half foul trouble. Dan Zurbey with 11 and Josh Pratt with 10. Nice balance. They move on to play the winner of Spring Lake Park/North Branch Friday night at 6 PM in Osseo. Don't be surprised to see St. Anthony win that game. They're tough, disciplined and have a goto guy in Walker. That's more than enough to have a chance vs anybody in this section.

Heights ends their season 13-14. Star soph Jacob Thomas with 24 to lead the Hylanders. Soph Harold Rainey with 15, Zaire Saunders 13 and Akrau Imbu with 10. They got outscored 12-0 in the last 3 minutes and took a couple of ill-advised shots down the stretch, but still had every opportunity to win. As this squad gets more experienced, look out. Thomas and Rainey make a very nice returning backcourt for Coach Braziel next year.

Today's news

We'll start with Charley Walters reporting this in his Pioneer Press column today.

"Look for 6-foot-7 Royce White, considered the top high school junior basketball player in the state and recently dismissed from DeLaSalle for behavioral issues, to switch residences with his mother and become eligible for his senior season at a suburban Twin Cities school. The Gophers, who have offered a tender, remain in the recruiting hunt." Note that Ken Lien on MN Preps reported that Wisconsin decided to go in another direction.

This would make him immediately eligible under the new transfer rules.

As I reported in last night's Ascension vs Spectrum post, Carrington Tankson looks to play Friday night. Nice article about him and the local sections in today's Star Tribune.

Ascension vs Spectrum Observations

Ah the thrill that is playoff basketball. Tonight takes me and the Twin Cities Hoops Insider to PACT for the 4A West play-in game between #8 seed Spectrum and #9 seed Ascension Academy. Nice small gym of 6 rows of bleachers on 1 side at PACT. These 2 teams played to a 94-91 Ascension win on February 9th so we expected a close high scoring game. Beau Emerson back at the point for Spectrum after missing the Providence game last Tuesday and seeing limited action vs MTS last Friday.

The 1st 3+ minutes are ugly as Ascension gets out to a 5-0 lead @ 15:14 thanks to a Dan Petit bucket. Spectrum is ice cold from the field but Tyler Bonnstetter gets them on the board at 14:55. Spectrum star Grant Spark gets 10 of their next 14 points capped off by an assist from Emerson via Ascension turnover. This give the Sting an 18-11 lead with 7:45 left in the half. He then hits another 3 and its 23-14 Sting @ 7:04. But Spectrum goes cold and LaVance Dixon leads an 18-4 run over the last 7:04. Ascension leads 32-27 at the break. Dixon with 17 in the half as he alone kept Spectrum from running away. Spark with 13 to lead the Sting. So much for the thought of a high scoring game.

Spectrum opens the 2nd half with an 8-2 run to take a 35-34 lead with 15:26 remaining. But the Sting have no answer for Dixon. He alone has an 11-2 run that gives Ascension a 45-37 lead with 11:09 to play. The teams trade pairs of buckets to make it 49-41 with 8:15 left. Spectrum gets the next 6 points capped by 2 Brad Ducommun FTs and its 49-47 Ascension with 6:03 to play. But Spectrum goes absolutely frigid from the field and they have to play man down the stretch after playing zone (1-2-2, 1-3-1 and 2-3) all game. This allows Ascension to spread the floor and use their superior athletes and Dixon continues to light it up. Spectrum gets 0 FGs between 6:45 left and 35 seconds left. Ascension takes care of the ball and makes FTs for a 69-52 win.

Spectrum is lead by Grant Spark's 17 points. Tyler Bonnstetter with 11. Spectrum finishes up 6-19 but with no seniors. They'll have 4 seniors and 1 junior starter back for next year. With Emerson at the point, Spark shooting it on the wing and the tandem of Bonnstetter and Ducommun inside, don't be surprised if they show great improvement next year.

For Ascension, they improve to 15-7. LaVance Dixon finishes with 36 in a monster night. Freshman center Dan Petit with 10 points but 0-6 from the FT line. Roland Willis with 11. Ascension moves on to play at Marantha in 4A west subsection quarterfinal action tomorrow.

The Czar goes 1-0 on his section predictions. The rumor mill has it that Carrington Tankson may play Friday for Osseo. If he's back, that changes the section 5AAAA dynamic drastically. Also big news from Ken Lien on the MN Preps forum that my beloved Badgers have decided to go another direction in the Royce White sweepstakes and stop their pursuit of him. One of the Howard Pulley coaches commented in the same thread that Royce's destination for next year will be known soon. Stay tuned.