Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MIAC Women Lose a Lot of Talent

The story among the MIAC women in 2011-2012 will be, Where did everybody go? A tremendous number of 2011 seniors have graduated and gone on in life, leaving St. Ben's, St. Kate's, Concordia, St. Mary's and others without a lot of experience. That, in turn, means that those teams that happen to have some experience coming back are in a good position to move up. I'm talking St. Olaf, Bethel and Carleton, for example.

Pre-Season Forecast

1. St. Thomas. I've already written about the Tommies and their "embarrassment of riches." 22-0 is not out of the question.

2. Gustavus. No stranger to the upper reaches of the MIAC, the Gusties slumped (for them) to 4th place and 15-7 last year, though they did push the Tommies down to the wire before losing in the MIAC play-off semis 50-48. Now, senior guards Molly Geske (Cretin) and Colleen Ruane (Benilde) will match up favorably with any guards in the conference, and sophomore guard Julia Dysthe (White Bear Lake) figures to have a breakout year. The front line is also not bad with junior Abby Rothenbuhler (Mankato West) ready to step in for the graduated Molly Mathiowetz, and Eli Benz and Kelsey Florian (Roseville) also returning. And coach Mickey Haller, 206-87 in 12 years, knows what to do.

3. St. Olaf. The long-suffering Oles have won but 1 MIAC title ever, and that a 3-way tie way back in 1983. Now coach Dave Stromme has them poised to contend with one of the league's better inside-outside combinations. That would be 5-7 junior guard Mackenzie Wolter (Norwood-Young America) and 6-2 sophomore post Elise Raney (Eagan). Wolter scored 13 points per game last year with 3 assists, while Raney scored 8 with 7 boards and 3 blocks plus a 50 percent shooting percentage. Another 21 ppg are also back in the persons of Erin Haglund (Hastings), Kirstee Rotty (Farmington), Eileen O'Donoghue and Brittany Webber (Lion's Gate).

4. Concordia. The Cobbers lost seniors Erica Nord, Maggie Baurnfiend, Brittany Jossert and Lindsay Schultz from last year's MIAC playoff champions, but the cupboard is far from bare. Remember the name Alexandra Lippert, who may just be the best play in the MIAC already as a sophomore. The 6-4 post from Willmar scored 9.5 points with 7 boards and 4 blocks as a freshman last year. And Tricia Sorenson and Emily Thesing (Brainerd) each scored 7 points off the bench.

5. Bethel. Bethel is another one with limited success over the years (1 title in 1994), but under coach John Herbrechtsmeyer there has been slow but steady progress. (The Royals were 17-70 in the 4 years prior to Herbrechtsmeyer's arrival, 79-93 since.) Now with post Scotti Moats (Waconia) and guard Taylor Sheley (Pine River-Backus), they'll have another of those great inside-outside combinations. The 2 combined for 28 ppg a year ago. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of help last year and depth will not be a strong suit in the coming year.

6. St. Ben's. I'm not sure the Bennies' talent is even this good but I can't bring myself to slot the perennially powerful Blazers any lower than this. Still, 2011 was a disappointment with post Heather Gillund and forward Amy Stifter, not to mention Joelle Waytashek, Abby Richardson, Laura Canton and Devin Bowlin all in their senior years. Now, with all of those gone, it will be up to Whitney Canton (Pine Island), Morgan Dale and Jamie Wollin (Litchfield), who among them scored just 14 ppg last year. Still, both Dale and Wollin shot 48 percent and 46-47 on 3s. So there is hope. Presumably there's also a large freshman class coming in, though I don't have those names at this point in time.

7. Carleton. Tammy Metcalf-Filzen led Carleton to a 226-122 record over 8 years, but with her departure the Knights are 11-36 over the past 2 years. But coach Cassie Kashiba is in the process of making this her team, and with a new identity may come a few more wins. Junior forward-guard Akemi Arzouman leads the way with 14.5 ppg and 5 boards with 40 percent shooting. Sophomore center-forward Emma Purfeerst is also a good one with 9 points and 8 boards on 53 percent shooting as a freshman. Sophomore point guard Jenny Ramey (New Life) also returns with her 8 ppg and 4 assists.

8. Hamline. In her 2nd year as Hamline coach, Kerri Stockwell is now transitioning from inherited players to women whom she has recruited. She's still got 2 inherited guards in Stephanie Robinson and Kara Poirer. Also back is guard Je'Naya Brown, while 6-2 sophomore post Veronkia Jakubovie (Maple Grove) is also expected to contribute. Beyond that, everybody is new and unknown. 8th place would be a good showing, but the cellar is not impossible. Hamline is almost a blank slate now. We'll just have to wait and see.

9. St. Kate's. Okay, it's St. Catherine's and it's St. Kate's. I got it now. And like Hamline the Kate's will have an all-new look. Laura Kalbfell, Sonja Ellingson and others are gone. Megan Zillmer, Kristen Lee and others return. But 13 freshmen will tell the tale over the next 2 to 3 years if not right away. 9 of them are from Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas, and like Sgt. Schultz "I know nothing" about any of them. But 3 are Minnesotans, and among those Sarina Baker (Minnehaha, formerly DeLaSalle) has the potential to make this her team. Again, maybe not this year--.500 would be terrific this year, along with sorting out all the bodies and figuring out who can play. But there's gotta be a couple more who can play among 13 freshmen, so the future looks bright. Having a proven coach like Gary Rufsvold doesn't hurt, though last year's 5-17 MIAC record was a deep disappointment. Surely this group is gonna be better, someday.

10. Macalester. This feels like I'm underestimating the Scots, especially with coach Ellen Thompson in the lead. She has proven herself to be one of the better coaches in the MIAC, and that is saying something. There is a lot of coaching talent in this conference. But the Scots have lost a bundle of talent over the past 2 year, adding post Majra Mucic to that great class of 2010. Remaining are 3 pretty good guards in twin sisters Jessica and Shannon Rene (18 points between them but just 33 percent shooting), guard Kayana Jones (also just a 32 percent shooter) and 6-0 senior forward Holly Schiedemayer. But this is a small group and not great in the shooting category. Thompson's got her work cut out for her.

11. St. Mary's. Coach Mandy Pearson is 24-76 in 5 years and the talent level may have taken a step backwards this year. Starters Jessica Thone (5-8 junior guard from Woodbury) and Brittany Begrowicz (5-9 senior forward) combined for just 13 points per game last year plus 10 boards. Begrowicz shot 41 percent, Thone just 28. She'll get better, she was a fine shooter in high school. Jamie Stefely came off the bench last year but will be counted on for a lot more this time. The good news is she shot 54 percent last year, so she is probably the main hope for some improvement for the Cardinals.

12. Augsburg. The Auggies will be back with a terrific new/old coach Bill McKee (new to Augsburg, but St. Thomas University [assistant], Cretin, Blaine, Anoka-Ramsey and Mounds View over the last 26 years; in his final year at Cretin, he was 29-2; at Blaine 25-4; at Mounds View the girls were 16-36 the 2 years prior to his arrival, 62-18 in his 3 years at the helm). But not in 2012. The Auggies will be building around guard Serenae Levine (5-5 senior guard from Eden Prairie) who led the team with 10 points, 7 boards and 4 assists, but shot 35 percent. Also returning are Brittany Dyshaw (6-0 junior post, Eagan) and Tracee Schrank (5-6 junior guard) who shot 36 and 28 percent, respectively.

Playoff Picture

Look for the home teams, St. Olaf and Concordia, to survive the 1st round but not the 2nd, as St. Olaf will surprise Gustavus. #1 St. Thomas will preserve some semblance of order by beating Concordia and then St. Olaf at home in the semi and final games.


C- Maggie Weiers, St. Thomas, soph.
Alexandra Lippert, Concordia, soph.
F- Taylor Young, St. Thomas, soph., MVP
G- Molly Geske, Gustavus, sr.
Mackenzie Wolter, St. Olaf, jr.

2nd Team

C- Scotti Moats, Bethel, jr.
F- Sarah Smith, St. Thomas, sr.
Akemi Arzouman, Carleton, jr.
G- Jessica Rene, Macalester, sr.
Taylor Sheley, Bethel, sr.

3rd Team

C- Elise Raney, St. Olaf, soph.
F- Abby Rothenbuhler, Gustavus, jr.
Emma Purfeerst, Carleton, soph.
G- Julia Dysthe, Gustavus, soph.
Jessica Thone, St. Mary's, jr.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sweet 16 Goes A-Begging

The Sweet 16, sponsored by Pacesetter Sports, has been a stellar event for several years now. Held in late July-early August, it matches 16 of the best boys and 16 of the best girls high school teams in Minnesota--usually 4 each from the 4 size classifications.

It didn't quite work out that way last year, as a 5th AAA team was recruited in the boys tournament because only 3 AA teams could be signed up. Among the girls, 2 extra AAAA teams and an extra AA team filled in when only 1 AAA team was recruited.

Now comes word that the 2011 girls Sweet 16 is 5--count 'em, 5--teams short.

Girls 2011 Sweet 16 Field

AAAA--Hopkins (my pre-season #1), Kennedy (#4), Wayzata (#7) and one opening. EDIT: Prior Lake has signed on and fills out AAAA. Prior Lake hardly seems like at top 4 teams with the huge losses to graduation in the classes of 2010 and 2011. One wonders if Osseo (#2) and Eden Prairie (#3) were invited? Or White Bear Lake (#5) or St. Paul Central (#7), all 4 of whom look better than Wayzata, not to mention PL. No matter, I suppose. Hopkins is going to run rough-shod over the field. Last year, Eden Prarie topped Hopkins 64-56 in the final. Too bad the Eagles won't be there this year.

AAA--#9 Fergus Falls and unranked New Prague are coming, while unrated Marshall and Simley have been invited. Surely that must mean that #1 DeLaSalle, #2 Benilde-St. Margaret's, #3 Hill-Murray and #4 Richfield have all turned down the Sweet 16.

AA--Braham and Providence (#1 and #2, respectively) may renew their bloodletting in the Sweet 16, where Braham beat Providence 65-60 preparatory to its 46-45 regular season win plus its 59-50 win in the state tournament. Otherwise you've got #10 Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and unranked Staples-Motley signed up. Where are #3 New Richland-H-E-G, #4 Jackson County Central and #5 Caledonia?

A--Here you've just got #6 Sebeka and #8 Fulda, and 2 openings. One would hope to see #1 Maranatha, #2 Goodhue, #3 Hancock or #4 Nicollet. EDIT: I had reported here that Alicia Boe of Sebeka was injured but I was mistaken. Thanks to skeeter and Kevin Anderson for setting me straight. Alicia Boe is not injured.

Among the schools committed so far, only Kennedy and Braham have any hope of making it a ballgame against the Hopkins Royals.

Boys 2011 Sweet 16 Field

Here at least we've got a full field of 16 teams.

AAAA--#1 Hopkins, #4 Eastview, #5 Duluth East and #6 Osseo are signed up. Apparently #2 Cretin and #3 Apple Valley and wunderkind Tyus Jones said, "No thanks."

AAA--Here you've got #1 Benilde and #2 Grand Rapids, but then 2 unranked teams in Rocori and Mankato East. One would have to assume that #3 DeLaSalle and #4 Mpls. Henry passed on the opportunity.

AA--#1 Perham is coming, thank goodness, plus #4 Pelican Rapids. After that it's all the way down to #15 and #16 in Windom and Montevideo. #2 Redwood Valley, #3 Waterville-E-M and #5 Braham might have been more fun.

A--#1 Maranatha, #5 Ellsworth and Casey Schilling, and #6 Rushford-Pete will play, plus unrated Spring Grove. #4 Lakeview Christian and Anders Broman were at the top of my list of teams and players to see, but they're not coming.

I'd have to say this one is wide open. Hopkins' defending champs are favored but it will be close. Last year they defeated Apple Valley 96-89 and Eastview 69-50. This year any of the AAAA teams could be the one to spring the surprise.

But the bigger surprise will be if the girls' field does not have some glaring weaknesses in it. Whatever the problem, the Sweet 16 ain't quite what she used to be. Here's hoping the girls' field gets back to where it was a few years ago.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shows What I Know

OK, I'm an idiot. After losing to Phoenix at home, 112-105, last week, and after I pretty much guaranteed a Phoenix win, the Lynx instead turned the tables on their Western Division rival down in Phoenix yesterday, 106-98.

Seimone Augustus led the way with 25 points, though Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekah Brunson all also scored in double figures.

The Lynx take over 1st place at 10-4, while Phoenix drops to 10-5. San Antonio can match the Lynx at 10-4 tonight with a win at the Seattle Storm.

EDIT: And not only that but Seattle surprised San Antone so at the All-Star break the Lynx are all alone in 1st at 10-4, Phoenix is 10-5, and San Antone is 9-5.

The Lynx pulled away from a 51-50 half-time deficit to an 80-66 3rd quarter lead by doubling up on the Mercury 30-15 over the 1st 10 minutes of the 2nd half. Augustus hit 3 buckets in 3 minutes, including a pair of 3s, while Candice Wiggins came off the bench to hit a 3, followed by a steal and 2. 4 Lynx steals helped to fuel the run, and the Lynx also had 6 assists on 9 buckets--Whalen 3, Augustus 2 and Brunson 1. The closest Phoenix got after that was the 8 points of the final score.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WNBA Has High Expectations of Lynx

So lemme get this straight. The American League had a 33-man roster for major league baseball's mid-summer classic, and the Twins got exactly 1 of those 33 slots (or 3 percent). The Western Division of the WNBA will have a 11-woman roster, and the Minnesota Lynx took 4 of those 11 slots, or 36 percent.

Joining starting forward Maya Moore, elected by the fans, are all-star reserves Seimone Augustus, Rebekah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen, selected by the WNBA coaches. All of this from a team that is tied for 2nd in the West, and the 3 reserves all played for a 13-21, 5th place, non-playoff team a year ago.

It's cool. But it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, too, in that it hasn't really been earned yet. It's a hedge against the upside potential that this team has, but hasn't really demonstrated yet. I mean, given the checkered history of the Lynx, we're going to have to come back in September and see if all the hooplah is really deserved. They ain't done nothin' yet.

Still, it's cool.

I suppose you could say that Moore has in fact earned her starting spot by virtue of her fabulous career at UConn, where some regard her as the greatest college player ever. As a Lynx, she's been inconsistent with a team 3rd-best scoring average of 14 ppg in 29 minutes. She's had her moments, to be sure, but everybody knows that the Lynx MVP has been Brunson, who opened the season with a WNBA-record 7 straight double-doubles. She's now averaging 13 points and a league-leading 11 boards while shooting 58 percent. The WNBA's own MVP Tracker has her at #4 right now.

Augustus, meanwhile, is #12 and Whalen #13 in the MVP Tracker. Moore is not rated in the top 15. Whalen is probably the Lynx #2 MVP with 14 ppg and 6 assists, while Augustus is their leading scorer by a smidgen at 15 ppg.

In fact, it's quite likely that Brunson will end up starting, too, as post Candace Parker of LA is out with an injury and will not play. Brunson at #4 and Penny Taylor of Phoenix at #9 on the MVP Tracker are among her possible replacements, though the WNBA could also announce another all-star to replace Parker both on the roster and in the starting lineup.

The Lynx are now 9-4 and tied with San Antone one-half game behind Phoenix, and the Lynx close out the 1st half at Phoenix tonight. A win would be a surprise but with these Lynx cannot be ruled out. What can be ruled out is the idea that Phoenix will score another 122 points on the Lynx, as it did at the Target Center last week. That loss, and specifically the Lynx' abominable defense, should provide some motivation for a reversal. But, on the other hand, Phoenix still has Diana Taurasi (#3 on the MVP Tracker), Taylor (#9) and Candice Dupree (#10), and so they'll be tough to beat.

Look for the half-way standings to be Phoenix 11-4, San Antone 10-4, Minnesota 9-5.

The Lynx had best make a move early in the second half, what with 4 of their 1st 5 games at home. Then comes a brutal stretch in which 7-of-10 are away from home, before they finish up with 3-of-5 at home.

Early on I said the Lynx would be 10-7 at the end of July and 21-13 overall, which was meant to be faint praise. Now I see 'em at 11-6 at the end of July and 13-6 on August 4, when that road stretch begins. A 5-5 record over those next 10 games will be disappointing but, frankly, acceptable, paving the way for a final record of 22-12. Their chances of doing better than 22-12 depend entirely on those 10 games.

But if I'm right and they indeed finish 22-12, that one extra win from my earliest forecast goes back to that June 9 game in Seattle, in which the Lynx took a 20 point lead en route to an 81-74 shocker over the defending WNBA champs. Unfortunately that win doesn't look quite so impressive now as the Storm are just 7-7 and without the injured 2010 MVP Lauren Jackson. Of course, Jackson played against the Lynx that night, but was ineffective. But so she was generally averaging (for her) a paltry 9 points and 6 boards before going on the DL.

So if Jackson and the Storm come storming back, the West will be a tough, tough place to make a living. That 22-12 record (projected) could even fail to secure the home court for the 1st round of the playoffs. It won't win the division. So right now I'd envision the Lynx starting the playoffs on the road, at San Antone. The good news is that I still see them beating the Silver Stars in that series. A series against Phoenix would follow and I'm not sure that winning 2-of-3, with 2-of-3 games being down in sun city, is in the cards.

So, yes, the Lynx have made tremendous strides this year. Their 4 all-star selections is a solid endorsement of where they're heading. But that's the point. It has little to do with anything they've accomplished so far. They've still got everything to prove. And that surprise win at Seattle is no longer their signature game. Phoenix 122 Minnesota 115. That's the new signature. And until and unless they can beat the Mercury in the playoffs, it will remain so.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Embarrasment of Riches

There's no other way to describe the St. Thomas women's basketball program right now but "an embarrassment of riches." The defending MIAC regular season champions return 7 women who played 10 minutes or more and scored 46.5 points per game among them. Two of them, Maggie Weiers and Taylor Young are entering their sophomore years after scoring almost 20 points per game between them as freshmen. Coming out of high school, they were generally regarded as Division 1 prospects. The MIAC is too good for them to "dominate," but they'll be among the top half dozen players in the conference the next 3 years.

So, with all of that talent on hand, what have the Tommies done? They've added a freshman class that, playing as a unit, wouldn't finish last in the MIAC. There's 6-3 post Abbey Knisely of New London-Spicer and forwards Anna Smith of Bloomington Jefferson and Laura Margarit of Holy Angels. And at guard you've got the next 2 Tommies stars, Jenna Dockter from Eastview and Carley Emery of Siren, WI. They won't start together for at least a year, but one day they might be remembered as one of the the MIAC's best guard tandems ever. Dockter, for sure, is going to rip it up at this level.

Center--Knisely will battle Roz Chromy (Esko) and Courtney Falk for back-up minutes to Weiers (New Prague).

Big Forward--Anna Smith will battle Maggie Bryant (Sartell) and Emmy Eschrich (Prior Lake) for back-up minutes to Sarah Smith. Sarah, by the way, would be a star in most places, having scored 9 points on 58 percent shooting with 6 rebounds a year ago.

Small Forward--Taylor Young (Edina) and Ali Johnson (St. Louis Park) will keep Margarit mostly on the bench during her (Margarit's) freshman year. Johnson is a former starter, having relinquished that spot when Young came aboard.

Point Guard--Caroline Dienhart (Cretin) will handle the point again with Kellie Ring in reserve. The 2 combined for 36 minutes, 3 assists and 3 boards last year despite a composite 36 percent shooting percentage. But the Tommies don't need scoring from the point to win.

Shooting Guard--Kelly Brandenburg will start early on, but either Dockter or Emery figures to be starting before March. There's an outside chance that Dockter could play the point, and both Dockter and Emery could be starting by the time the playoffs open up.

So, there, I've named 16 girls, all of whom can play. But just imagine a team that has upgraded from, say, Ali Johnson (8 ppg, 41 percent shooting, 3 boards and 1 assist) to Taylor Young (11, 46, 4 and 2 and 2 years younger). Then figure they've done the same, or better, at both guard slots, while returning 17.5 ppg on 54 percent shooting between the 2 bigs. And then figure that this is a team that went 18-4 a year ago.

Voila! You've got a team that could go 22-0 in the MIAC this year, though 20-2 is probably more realistic.

On the other side of the coin, this is a team that lost the MIAC playoff final at home to Concordia 71-61 last year and barely got by Gustavus 50-48 in the semis. Poor shooting was the culprit in both playoff games, especially against Concordia when Rachel Booth, Sarah Smith and Weiers combined for a just 3 FG. The fact is that the Tommies didn't have too many ways to score from the perimeter.

But with Taylor Young now having a year's experience and with Dockter and Emery on board, the Tommies figure to make it harder for teams to concentrate their defensive efforts inside. They'll take a giant step toward a return to national prominence in 2011-2012.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pick Your Favorite State High School Tournament Players, Coaches, Teams, etc.

You may be aware that 2012 will be the 100th year of the MSHSL state basketball tournament, which goes back to Carleton College in 1913.

To celebrate the tournaments' history, the MSHSL will be selecting the greatest players, coaches, teams, games, shots and finishes. You can help by nominating candidates in all of the categories for both boys and girls at

Watch this space for info about a proposed Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Plot Thickens for NSIC Women as Christianson Arrives

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) was founded about 90 years ago as the Northern Teachers Conference consisting of Minnesota's so-called teachers colleges at Bemidji, Duluth, Mankato, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Winona. Today the NSIC consists of these original 6 plus:

• Minnesotans Concordia, UM Crookston and Southwest State
• Outsiders Augustana, Mary, Northern, Upper Iowa and Wayne, plus Minot State and Sioux Falls who will be joining in the fall of 2012

Through it all, the balance of power historically has remained with the old Minnesota teachers colleges, though there are obvious exceptions, as in women's basketball. This past year Wayne, Northern and Augustana finished 1-2-5, and Wayne has a pair of 2nds in 2010 and 2008 to go with its regular season title this past year. And Augustana has a 3rd, a 4th and a 5th the past 3 years. Sanity was largely restored this past post-season, when Winona won at Augustana, then defeated Wayne. Meanwhile, Concordia defeated Northern and the 2 Minnesotans--Winona and Concordia--played for the post-season title.

With the arrival of "outside" opponents like Augustana, Northern and Wayne, plus Concordia (St. Paul), it has become harder for the Minnesotan "teachers" to dominate. But the NSIC has become a powerhouse conference--2 men's national titles (Winona), 1 in women's basketball (Mankato), 3 in volleyball (Concordia), a couple in football (UMD); you get the idea--and the "teachers" still account for most of that success.

Still, the NSIC has had a hard time in women's basketball with the Rocky Mountain Conference, with whom it is paired in the NCAA Central Region. It was only in 2009, when Minnesota-Mankato won the national title, that the NSIC has survived the region out of the last 5 years.

I have no idea if that is going to change, I don't know what the prospects are for those RMAC teams. But I do know this. Women's basketball in the NSIC--and, specifically, women's basketball at Minnesota's "teachers" colleges--is going to be better and deeper next year than it has ever been. Whoever finishes 7th may be the best 7th place team ever, and the balance of power will shift back toward Minnesota.

All of these thoughts were triggered, by the way, by the announcement that Angela Christianson, formerly of Alexandria High and Drake, is transferring to Minnesota-Moorhead. Christianson was the 2nd best girl in the coaches all-star game in 2010 (behind Katrina Newman of Barnum, who recently was named Freshmen of the Year in the NSIC for UMD) and she scored a respectable 8 ppg as a freshman last year at Drake. Clearly she could play D1 ball.

So throw Christianson and a variety of high-profile freshmen-to-be in to the mix and here's how it looks to me right now.

NSIC Women's Basketball Pre-Season Forecast 2011-2012

1. Winona State. The Warriors finished 4th at 14-8 last year, then won 3 games to win the post-season title. 6-0 junior forward Michelle McDonald was 1 of 2 women to make all-conference and all-tournament, and 5-6 sophomore guard Kate Wolff made the all-tournament 5. They scored 16 and 12 ppg during the regular season. They lose several seniors but have 3 more guards back who played more than 10 minutes, and their 10-minutes-or-more returnees accounted for about 44 ppg among them. And that doesn't count Michelle Tobin (Eden Prairie) and Lizzi Naumann (Totino-Grace, who also started her college career at Drake) in the post, but the fact is the Warriors will be looking for more production from the 2 of them in 2012. Still, this is a team that has already won a conference title and it has at least 8 productive women coming back, including 2 go-to type players. Plus Scott Ballard knows how to coach. He's been around for 30 years, including 6 at Winona during which time a program that had never won a thing has become a winner. That is a lot of plusses.

2. UMD. The perennially competitive Bulldogs were down for a few years after long-time coach Karen Stromme retired and her hand-picked successor, Sue Fiero, resigned and left coaching after just one year. Now, Annette Wiles is headed for her 4th year and she is bringing the Bulldogs back. Well, she's got lots of help. Exhibit A is Newman, the NSIC's freshman of the year who scored 11 ppg last year. That was 2nd on the team to junior guard Lindsay Miller with 12. 3 other players played 10 minutes or more and one of them, junior forward Shelley Stemper from Becker, made the all-tournament 5 in 2010. Their returning ten-minutes-or-more players scored 43 ppg last year. It's doubtful that freshmen-to-be Alyssa Kerkhoff (NRHEG) and Jessica Newman (Barnum) will make much of a difference next year, but someday they will.

3. Moorhead. The Dragons were 5th, 3rd and 5th but then 7th at 11-11 in 2011 despite having all-American Angie Jetvig on their side. Now Jetvig returns for her senior year, having scored 19 ppg in 34 minutes, and now her help will have a lot more maturity than last year. Mainly they include guards Haley Thomforde (Eastview) and Christianson. Thomforde was selected for the NSIC freshman all-star team. She and Christianson have the potential to be the dominant guard pair in the NSIC before they're done, unless it's Kerkhoff and Jessica Newman. Marissa Yernatich (Duluth East), Morgan Zabel (Northfield), Brittany Mayclin (Benilde) and Morgan Strese (Brandon-Evansville) also return, for a total of 64.5 ppg returning, not counting Christianson's 8 points in D1. Freshman Amber Huntington will also contribute in time, having scored 15 ppg for the South Dakota state champ. Coach Karla Nelson will match wiles, you might say, with Ballard and Wiles. She has won 194 games in 11 winning seasons out of 12 years on the job.

4. Wayne State. Wayne loses just about everybody except conference player of the year Ashley Arlen, but that is quite enough.

5. Concordia. Coach Paul Fessler loses his three-headed monster, guards Maurika Hickman, Jineen Williams and Zoraa Quoie, but he is reloading quite nicely, thank you. Leading the way will be all-freshman selections 6-1 center-forward Jodi Batzel (Dover-Eyota) and guard Rachel Hansen (Minnehaha). You can never count Fessler out, as is evidenced by his 10 Sweet 16s in 16 years on the job.

6. Northern. Northern returns all-conference post Krista Rabenberg and starting point guard Emily Becken (Centennia, MN). Curt Frederickson has been on the job for 31 years.

7. Augustana. The Augies have guard Molly Hayes and forward Alex Feeney returning, among others. Hayes was all-conference in 2011.

8. Mankato. The Mavericks will try to regroup after a precipitous fall from the top of the NSIC and D2 in 2009 to 8th and 9th place in the conference the past 2 years. Ali Wilkinson, Jennie Noreen (Albany) and Laura Weber (Eden Prairie) will lead the way, along with a big freshman class led by Aubrey Davis (Eden Prairie) and Jamie Bresnahan (Edina).

9. Mary.

10. UM Crookston. The recently downtrodden Golden Eagles have made giant strides under coach Mike Roysland. Jamie Zelinsky and Bri Zabel led the charge and will be missed terribly now that they've moved on. Brittani Wiese and Carly Rothstein, both from St. Michael-Albertville, seem ready to pick up the slack.

11. St. Cloud State. Things have not gone well in the Granite City since coach Lori Fish jilted Mankato State to return home to St. Cloud. Or maybe it's since the graduation of Erika Quigley. But either way, the Huskies have missed the NSIC playoffs 3 of the past 4 years. Hopes for 2012 rest largely with guards Sam Price, Amanda Wagner (New Prague) and Nicole Anderson (Cannon Falls). Price made the all-frosh team last year.

12. Southwest MN State.
13. Bemidji State. Both made the playoffs as recently as 2008 but have had precious little success since. Bemidji seems to have the better of the recruiting classes with Erica Trabing, Prior Lake, and Jessi Corrick of Grand Rapids coming in.

14. Upper Iowa.


In the playoffs, watch for Concordia to surprise Wayne at Wayne, while #1, 2 and 3 Winona, UMD and Moorhead also advance. Winona and Moorhead meet in the finals, and #3 Moorhead is the surprise winner.


C- Krista Rabenberg, Northern, 6-6 senior
F- Ashley Arlen, Wayne, 6-2 senior
F- Angie Jetvig, Moorhead, 6-2 senior (Hawley), Player of the Year
G- Molly Hayes, Augustana, 5-6 senior
G- Katie Wolff, Winona, 5-6 junior

2nd Team

C- Laurie Tyson, Minnesota-Crookston, 6-4 junior (Rosemount)
F- Michelle McDonald, Winona, 6-0 senior
F- Katrina Newman, UMD, 5-11 sophomore (Barnum)
G- Angela Christianson, Moorhead, 6-0 sophomore (Alexandria)
G- Rachel Hansen, Concordia, 5-10 sophomore (Minnehaha)

3rd Team

F- Jodi Batzel, Concordia, 6-1 sophomore (Dover-Eyota)
F- Shelly Stemper, UMD, 6-0 senior (Becker)
F- Alex Feeney, Augustana, 5-10 senior
G- Haley Thomforde, Moorhead, 5-8 sophomore (Eastview)
G- Sam Price, St. Cloud State, 5-9 sophomore


Amber Huntington, Moorhead, G (Sisseton, SD), Freshman of the Year
Jamie Bresnahan, Mankato, F (Edina)
Valerie Sahr, SW State, F (United South Central)
Aubrey Davis, Mankato, G (Eden Prairie)
Riley Nordgaard, Augustana, G (Canby)

Coach of the Year--Karla Nelson, Moorhead

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best of State Tournament

Here by the way are the choices I sent in to the MSHSL for their 100th anniversary "best of" celebration.

Greatest Games


1997 Wabasso 117 Red Lake 113 (ot) Class A semi
1960 Edgerton 63 Richfield 60 (ot) semi
1946 Lynd 58 Crosby-Ironton 47 quarter-final


1979 New York Mills 69 Albany 52 Class A final
1997 Rochester Mayo 78 Bloomington Jefferson 70 Class AA semi
2008 Jordan 79 Crookston 74 Class AA semi

Best Players


Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North 1995-96-97
Jim McIntyre, Mpls. Patrick Henry 1944-45
Ron Johnson, New Prague 1955-56


Janet Karvonen, New York Mills 1977-78-79-80
Tayler Hill, Mpls. South 2007-08-09
Coco and Kelly Miller, Rochester Mayo 1993, 1995-96-97

Best Coaches


Jack Evens, Bloomington Jefferson
Harvey Roels, Chisholm
Butsie Maetzold, Hopkins


Myron Glass, Rochester Lourdes
Faith Johnson Patterson, Mpls. North, DeLaSalle
Terry Culhane, Tracy/Milroy, Marshall

Best Teams


Edina 1966-68
Red Wing 1915-33
Hopkins 2002-11


St. Paul Central 2007
Rochester Mayo 1997
Rochester Lourdes 1987-2005

Best Shots


Blake Hoffarber's butt shot, Hopkins 2005
Andy Snyder's 3/4 court shot, Gilbert 1951
Jeff Nessler's half-court shot, St. James 1972


Rey Robinson's game winner at :02, Becker 2007
Josie Dillon's 2 buckets (on Itisha Alexander's 2 assists) inside of :10, Benilde 2010
Erin Ditty's game winner, Hastings 1996

Best Finishes


Hopkins-Eastview including Hoffarber's butt shot, 2005
Glencoe over Chisholm on late steal and breakaway, 1931
Mpls. Washburn over Hopkins, 1994


Benilde's 2 buckets inside of :10 to beat Hill Murray 2010
Burnsville's comeback win over St. Paul Harding 1991
St. Michael-Albertville rallies from 20-5 down to beat Mpls. North 2009

Hopkins Girls Ready to Defend State Title

The Hopkins girls played together and won the Dakota Showcase at Augustana in South Dakota this past weekend, defeating 3 AAU teams from WI and NE. Everybody played from last year's state championship roster except (of course) the seniors and 8th graders Sam Trammel and T.T. Starks and 11th grader Aminah El. 2015s Trammel and Vivia Livingstone are on the summer roster, Starks and El are not.

The starting 5 returns post Gracia Hutson and the Coffey sisters, Nia and Sydney. Hutson and Sydney will be seniors, Nia a junior. Joining them in the starting 5 are juniors-to-be guard Taylor Anderson and 5-10 Mikaala Shackleford.

The bench consisted (last weekend) of senior-to-be Brianna Boileau, juniors-to-be Alexis Garcia and Erin O'Toole, and several girls who were not on last year's roster including McKayla Chandler, Molly O'Toole, Kelly Raines and Sarah Westman. 7 girls came off the bench to play in the quarter-final, 4 in the semi and only 1 (Erin O'Toole) in the final, so it remains to be seen how much this bench can contribute.

The starting 5, however, is beyond question.

Nia and Sydney Coffey scored about 16 ppg while Nia averaged about 11 defensive stops per game. Neither is what you'd call a distributor, however, with 2 ball distributions each per game.

Shackleford scored about 8 ppg with 7.5 defensive stops and 4 distributions.

Anderson scored 6 ppg with 6 distributions and 2 defensive stops.

Hutson scored just 2 points in the 3 games with 3 defensive stops and 1 distribution. O'Toole backs her up and scored 4 ppg with 1.5 defensive stops.

Also off the bench, Garcia scored 2.5 ppg, Raines had 3 defensive stops per game and Bileau 1 distribution per game.

Hopkins beat Fox Valley Hustle (WI) in the quarter-final 57-43 despite shooting 56 percent on FT. In the semi, they beat Pinnacle Bank (NE) 48-31 despite failing to convert a single 3.

In the final, Hopkins trailed Omaha Sparks 42-37 with 4 minutes left, and still trailed by 1 at the 2 minute mark. But the Royals closed it out with an 18-4 run to the final buzzer as Sydney Coffey made 8-for-8 FT inside of 2 minutes. Nia had 25 points and 17 boards in that game, Sydney scored 19. Shackleford and Anderson had 12 distributions between them.

Hopkins turned the ball over a bit, more than their opponents, in fact. Eden Prairie and Lakeville North should hope to do the same when they meet Hopkins next year. Otherwise, it's katy bar the door.

Nia Coffey will be 1st team all-state as a junior, Sydney 2nd or 3rd team all-state as a senior, Shackleford is a tremendous athlete who still plays basketball a little bit tentatively, and Hutson is very very solid despite the occasional lack of numbers on this perimeter-oriented team. Anderson is the one to watch in her 1st year as the starting point guard. Her quickness means the sky is the limit for her despite her 5-5 size, but the quality of the decisions she makes with the ball at very high speed will determine how high she actually goes. By the time they are seniors, she and Nia Coffey could be the best guard tandem this state has ever seen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Girls 2011 Summer Stars Through 14 Weeks

If you're interested in girls basketball, you of course need to be watching Kevin Anderson's Web site. That's where the action is. (There's a link on this page over to the right.)

But I hope Kevin won't mind if I simply note that so far, in 14 weeks, there are 6 girls who have made his weekly all-star teams more than once. They are:

Ellen Blacklock, Southern MinneMagic and Winona HS--1st team one week, 2nd another

Rebekah Dahlman, North Tartan Coury and Braham (2013)--Player of the Week twice, 2nd team once

Joanna Hedstrom, North Tartan Coury and Minnetonka (2012)--1st team once, 2nd another, and Distributor of the Week both of those times

Jackie Johnson, Metro Stars Reiter and Eden Prairie (2012)--1st team twice

Kali Peschel, Nike #2 and Sauk Centre (2012)--1st team once, honorable mention once; now comes word that she injured her knee and is out for the rest of the summer

T.T. Starks, North Tartan Kuppe and Hopkins (2014)--Player of the Week (among the younger classes) once, and 2nd team once

Perhaps the most interesting player this summer, however, is Megan DuBois of North Tartan West Theisen and Park Center, who is a member of the class of 2018 and is already making her mark. She was picked for Kevin's young 1st team at the AAU championships playing in the 10 & under class.