Friday, January 21, 2011

Minnesota 2 Wisconsin 1 in 1st Day of East Metro Showcase

Three Minnesota #1s played three Wisconsin teams in day one (of two) of the East Metro Showcase at St. Paul Johnson High School, and Minnesota came out slightly the better. Hopkins and St. Paul Johnson were victorious--Hopkins with ease, Johnson with difficulty--while Minnesota Transitions lost to St. John's Military of Delafield, WI, 61-56.

Hopkins, in fact, did Minnesota proud, hammering Wisconsin's #1 team, previously undefeated Milwaukee Riverside 92-68 as Joe Coleman scored 28. Johnson, on the other hand, staggered across the finish line, a 56-41 second-half lead having melted away to almost nothing at the end.

St. Paul Johnson 70 Superior 66

Now, I know what you're going to say. Johnson's not rated #1 anymore, and that's true of the so-called AP poll, where they're now #2 to DeLaSalle. Johnson is 11-2 after losing to Chicago Hyde Park and Milwaukee King, but it says here that until they lose to a Minnesota Class AAA (or lower) school, they're #1.

So it was a shock to see Superior pushing Johnson, hard, down the stretch on the Governor's home court. 70-66. Superior came in at 9-3, ranked #24 in Wisconsin by one rating service, with a 22-point win over #6AAAA Eastview but losses to #1AAA DeLaSalle and unranked Duluth East.

Johnson set the tone by forcing turnovers on 2 of Superior's first 3 possessions for a quick 6-0 lead and a Spartans timeout just 56 seconds in. The Governors scored on 5 of their 1st 7 possessions for an 11-2 lead as Estan Tyler and Roosevelt Scott were everywhere. Superior fought back to within 21-18, but the Johnson extended it to 42-31 with 48 seconds left in the 1st half. But Johnson missed 4 FT and Superior scored to quick buckets to get within 42-36 at the half.

Johnson forced 16 1st half turnovers, scored 9 points off 7 offensive boards, and made 5-of-8 3s. But it made just 15-of-37 FG and 7-of-13 FT. Superior did exactly 1 thing well. It got 10 fewer FGA than Johnson but made the same number of FG overall, 15, and made 3-of-4 from 3 point land. Tyler had 16 1st half points, 4 on put-backs, and 3 assists. Marshall, after a slow start, scored 11, 9 of them on 3s.

Both teams started the 2nd half slowly but, suddenly, a pair of put-backs by reserves Trey Coffman and Waylon Johnson made it 56-41 t 10:45. Two minutes later it was 60-47. But Superior responded with a 9-0 run, and a Rob Kraft 3 made it 60-56. A minute later Kraft made 3 FT, and another minute later a Josh Kimmes bucket made it 64-61.

Johnson shifted into a zone for the 1st time, but a Kimmes 2 from Joel Lindberg and another Kraft 3 gave Superior their 1st lead of the night, 66-64 at 3:00. But the Spartans would not score again, finishing with a turnover and 3 misses. Kimmes' short-armed a 5-footer that would have tied it up at :05. Meanwhile, Tyler penetrated for 2 at 2:30, then hit 2 FT off an offensive board at 1:16. The Governors then missed a pair of FT on the front of a 1-and-1 at :38 and :17 to set up Kimmes tying opportunity. Marshall snared that rebound and did not miss his FT at :03.

I was all set to write that Tyler is a better ballplayer than Joe Coleman until he (Tyler) disappeared during Superior's big rally. The Spartans were tired, mentally and physically, as the 2 Governors' put-backs around the 11 to 12 minute mark were barely contested. Tyler took his only rest of the night for 2 minutes from 11 minutes down to 9. Johnson had Superior right where they wanted them.

But no, it was the other way around as the Spartans suddenly found new energy and Johnson seemed to be running on fumes. And between re-entering the game at 9:10 ant 4:20, when Superior went on a 16-8 run, Tyler's name only appears in my play-by-play 3 times, with a turnover, a steal and a miss, and an assist. He reasserted himself down the stretch, fortunately for Johnson.

Tyler finished with 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, with 6 assists and only 1 turnover, despite handling the ball all night long. I would say he is more valuable to his team than Coleman, as he (Tyler) runs the show from baseline to baseline and gives his teammates the advantage of having a coach on the floor. Marshall finished with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Scott scored 10, but tried to do too much resulting in 5-of-17 shooting and 6 turnovers.

In sum total, this Johnson team is nowhere near last year's. Something is missing. The killer instinct, or just the ability to finish whether off the defensive pressure or off of the offensive board. The set offense and 3 point shooting, on the other hand, seem fine. But maybe whoever had Maxie Rosenbloom as the player of the year last year was smarter than I thought.

Kraft's 3-point shooting brought Superior back into the game, and he finished with 22 points. Kimmes added 13. The real news was the Spartans' refusal to back down. Whenever their back got pushed up against the wall, they responded with their best basketball.

Hopkins 92 Milwaukee Riverside University 68

Wisconsin's #1 team according to 1 poll came out with a starting lineup of 4 juniors and a sophomore. Add in sophomore post RaVonn Posey, who at 6-8, 300 is a major league load, and this is a national power a year from now. And 10-0 coming in ain't bad. But Hopkins picked the Tigers apart and made their own case for a national top 10 rating right now.

The Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead as 4 different players scored, and forced a Tigers timeout at 16:01. Hopkins quickly made it 14-4 as Joe Coleman, Zach Stahl and Marvin Singleton each got his 2nd bucket. Riverside crawled back to within 22-20, but the Royals quickly ripped off a 20-6 run. Coleman scored off the offensive board and then off a steal. Two-and-a-half minutes later, leading 28-22, reserve Nicholas Jorgensen hit 3 3s around a Coleman 2 in transition, and suddenly it was 42-28. It was 42-31 at the half.

The Royals made 17-of-31 FG in the half and scored 5 points off 6 offensive boards. 12 turnovers gave the Tigers hope, though they had 11 of their own.

Hopkins put it away early in the 2nd half as Siyani Chambers scored 7 of the 1st 12 Royals' points, and at 14:55 it was 55-33. At 9:55 it was 67-41, and at 6:20 it was 79-46. Coleman added 15 2nd half points to 13 in the 1st for a total of 28. Jorgensen added a pair of 2s for a total of 15 on the night. Chambers scored 12 in the 2nd after just 1 in the 1st for a total of 13.

The Royals matched their 17-of-31 shooting in the 1st half, exactly, for an enviable total of 34-for-62 or 55 percent. They scored 13 2nd chance points off 13 offensive boards. They hit 7 3s and 17-of-24 FT. The only chink in their armor was their 19 turnovers.

Coleman is, of course, a specimen, a strong, powerful, explosive 6-4 athlete who excels near the rim, finishing in transition and pounding the offensive boards. Chambers is their 2nd most valuable player, his on-ball defense creating havoc for the opposing offense, and he too can score from almost anywhere.

The most amazing thing about this team, however, is its defensive intensity. I mean, this is the sort of defensive intensity that is de rigueur for elite teams. But Hopkins does it with, essentially, six guys. Jorgensen was virtually the only reserve to see the court until garbage time. Of course, garbage time came early.

Last year I saw Hopkins and Johnson on the same floor at the Best Buy tournament in December, and Johnson beat the Royals in one of the greatest regular season games I've ever seen. This year, having seen them on the same floor on the same night once again, Hopkins would have no difficulty in avenging last year's loss.

St. John's NW Military Academy 61 Minnesota Transitions 56

Transitions took an early 13-2 lead, but St. John's rallied quickly to tie at 21 at 6:00. It was 26-all at the half.

In the 2nd half it was tied at 29 and 54, and the lead flipped 5 times. The biggest lead either way was 35-29 St. John's on a pair of 3s by Chris McFarlane and Miles Holmes. Transitions came back to led 50-45 at 5:00. Rodney Owens scored 11 points during that 21-10 run by driving into the lane more or less at will.

But it was St. John's who laughed last, closing things out on a 16-6 run as 5 different players did the damage. Kevin Mays, a strong 6-5 inside player, hit a throw. Zach Detmer hit 2 throws off of an offensive board. McFarlane hit a 3, the Mays put the Lancers ahead with a 2+1 off a nifty drive along the right baseline. With the score tied at 54, DJ Mlachnik hit a 3 and St. John's had the lead for good. Holmes, a skinny 6-6 fellow who does a little bit of everything, hit 4 FT down the stretch.

The big news from the Transitions side is that there's no full-court defensive pressure, no big transition push, no run-and-gun...okay, they've got 3 games over 100 this year and 3 more over 90. But, today, against an elite opponent, they are a walk-it-up, grind-it-out, half-court team. But maybe 1 weapon short of being a really good walk-it-up, grind-it-out, half-court team. Kevin Noreen scored 21, Matt Lanier 19 and Owens 12, but 3-on-5 doesn't quite cut it. For the Lancers, Mlachnik scored 19, Holmes 16 and Mays 14, and the supporting cast out-shot Transitions' supporting cast 12-4.

All-Stars for the Day

Estan Tyler, St. Paul Johnson, 6-2, PG, MVP
Joe Coleman, Hopkins, 6-4, SG
Jalen Currie, Milwaukee Riverside, 6-3, SG
Trinson White, Milwaukee Riverside, 6-7, F
Siyani Chambers, Hopkins, 5-11, PG

Tyler is rated as a top 100 point guard. There were rumors at one time of Gopher interest in Tyler but nothing came of it. Then there's a rumor that NDSU had their pick of Tyler or Superior's Joel Lindberg and preferred Lindberg. Say what? Tyler played rings around Lindberg today, out-scoring him 30-6. Tyler is going to Missouri-Kansas City. He has to be the most underrated player I've seen out of Minnesota in a long long time. I guess I don't know much, because he is a Big 10 talent in my opinion.

Not a better Big 10 prospect than Joe Coleman, don't get me wrong. But close. And a better high school player.

Then there is Chambers, who is as yet uncommitted. Described as a top 15 or 20 point guard, Chambers is indeed a highly skilled and very athletic fellow and a true 1. Not a Big 10 player, but if I were NDSU I would also prefer him to Lindberg. Night and day on quickness, just as good a shot as Lindberg. I just don't see how you could possibly prefer Lindberg. Sorry, Joel. Chambers is said to have offers from Santa Clara, Nebraska, Central Michigan, Cal Davis, St. Louis and Cal Poly, with rumors of interest by Tubby Smith and the Gophers. Chambers lacks the size of former Hopkins point guard Trent Lockett and brings a different kind of game, but he has been more valuable even than Lockett to this Hopkins program. And yet, if it were up to me, I'd take Tyler over Chambers in a heartbeat.

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