Saturday, December 31, 2011

December Award Candidates

Player of the Month Candidates

Must be mentioned in Game of the Day posts. Listed in order from best to 25th best.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves--defending Player of the Year. Still the Wolves' best player, just not player of this particular month.

Tyus Jones, Apple Valley boys
Joey King, Eastview boys
D.J. Hamilton, Moorhead State men--has the darkest of darkhorses unbeaten and tied for 1st place in the NSIC.

Shayne Mullaney, Eden Prairie girls
Brittani Wiese, UM-Crookston women
Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women
Nia Coffey, Hopkins girls
Taylor Stafford, Duluth East boys

Tia Elbert, Tartan girls
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
Julian Welch, Minnesota Gopher men
Sean Scott, Spring Lake Park boys
Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls

Anders Broman, Lakeview Christian boys

Rodney Williams, Minnesota Gopher men
Ann Rynda, New Prague girls
Kiara Buford, Minnesota Gopher women

Clayton Vette, Winona State men

Phyllis Webb, Osseo girls
Jessica Thone, St. Mary's women
Pierce Peters, Macalester men
Seth Anderson, Gustavus men
Rashad Vaughan, Robbinsdale Cooper boys

Team of the Month Candidates

Must be mentioned in game, coach or player of the day posts.

Minnesota Timberwolves--hope springs eternal
Eastview boys
Hopkins girls
Moorhead State men
Hopkins boys

Benilde-St. Margaret's boys
Bethel women
Minnesota Gopher men--hope springs eternal
Perham boys
Augsburg women

Eden Prairie girls
Eden Prairie boys
Edina girls
Winona State men

Braham girls

Minnesota-Crookston women
Bemidji State women
Ellsworth boys
Gustavus men
Apple Valley boys

Lakeville North boys
St. Mary's women
Spring Lake Park boys
Bloomington Kennedy girls
Blake boys

Coach of the Month Candidates

They or their teams must be mentioned in game, coach or player of the day posts.

Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
Mike Roysland, Minnesota-Crookston women
Billy McKee, Augsburg women
Mark Gerber, Eastview boys
Chad Walthall, Moorhead State men

John Herbrechtsmeyer, Bethel women
Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls
Kenny Novak, Jr., Hopkins boys
Mike Curfman, Bemidji State women
Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men

Ron Gunderson, New Prague girls
Leah Dasovich, Minnetonka girls
Nick Rathmann, Blake boys
Mandy Pearson, St. Mary's women
Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls

Game of the Month

Must be mentioned in game, coach of player of the month posts.

Minnesota Timberwolves 117 Milwaukee Bucks 96--1st (pre-season) game of Adelman/Rubio era
Benilde-St. Margaret's boy 76 Hopkins 71--#1 vs. #1
Perham 51 Pelican Rapids 42--#1 over #2
Blake 50 DeLaSalle 44--nobody even remembers the last time Blake beat DLS
Moorhead State men 81 Augustana 76--the Dragons stay unbeaten

Hopkins girls 46 Lakeville North 41 (OT)--perhaps not unbeatable after all
Eden Prairie boys 89 Apple Valley 85--despite Tyus Jones' 38 points
Bethel women 52 Carleton 51
Oklahoma City 104 Minnesota Timberwolves 100--moral victory in 1st regular season game
Bemidji State women 69 Winona State 62--shocker

Spring Lake Park 63 Tartan 56--on Tartan's home floor and its own holiday tournament
Illinois men 81 Minnesota Gophers 72 (OT)
Ellsworth 71 Perham 57--#3A over #1AA
Providence girls 41 Lakeville North 33--#1AA over #5AAAA
UMD women 73 UMC women 72--otherwise UMC is a most unlikely undefeated team (in NSIC)

Irondale girls 55 Braham 50
Fairmont boys 81 St. Peter 77
Lakeville North boys 78 Mpls. Washburn 67
Edina girls 47 Lakeville North 38
Braham boys 85 Orono 75

Mankato East boys 81 Montevideo 77
Hopkins boys 100 St. Paul Johnson 74
Hopkins girls 83 Eden Prairie 51
Perham boys 62 St. Thomas 54
Bloomington Kennedy girls 61 Eden Prairie 55

Best Buy All-Stars Finals Day

This based only on play on Friday.

1st Team

C- Tim Gill, Mpls. Patrick Henry, 6-6, senior, 24 points, 21 boards
F- Joe Tuss, Las Vegas Durango, 6-7, senior, 25 points
     Zach Stahl, Hopkins, 6-5, senior, 28 points
G- Taylor Stafford, Duluth East, 6-0, senior, 35 points
     Siyani Chambers, Hopkins, 5-10, senior, 23 points

2nd Team

C- Kevin Jensen, Chanhassan, 6-5, senior, 11 points
F- Latrell Love, Minnetonka, 6-4, senior, 19 points
     Riley Dearring, Minnetonka, 6-5, junior, 19 points
G- Darius Hill, Mpls. Patrick Henry, 6-2, junior, 32 points, 11 boards
     Marcus Marshall, St. Paul Johnson, 6-2, senior, 12 points

Hopkins 100 St. Paul Johnson 74 in Best Buy Holiday Classic Final

Two years ago I saw these same 2 teams in this same game on this same court. Johnson won 86-78. I said it then and I'll say it again, it was one of the most exciting regular season games I have ever seen. I came prepared tonight to say that neither of these is the team that played in that game. Now, after seeing Hopkins demolish Johnson 100-74, I don't know. I mean, Johnson, sure, they're a shadow of that great team, missing Estan Tyler and Maxie Rosenbloom more than words can say.

But Hopkins? Sure, their stars, Joe Coleman and Marvin Singletary, have moved on. But this team is a lot like that 2010 team. They play at a high rate of speed, t they get up and down the court in a huge hurry. They create turnovers, they get to the rim at will and they swarm the offensive glass, and they get to the FT line. But unlike that team, they also shoot the 3-ball.

Let me repeat that. Hopkins plays at a high rate of speed and they beat you down the court. Their very 1st bucket the tone. They beat Johnson down the court and Zach Stahl scored the fast-break lay-up at 17:27, 7 seconds after a made Johnson basket at 17:34.

Hopkins creates turnovers and, more to the point, they convert. Johnson had 17 turnovers, and not a single one in the final 9:00, by which time Hopkins led 81-55. And the Royals scored 19 points off of those 17 opportunities.

Hopkins gets to the rim, they swarm the offensive glass. 16 of their 21 2-point baskets were inside of 5 feet. The Royals had 11 offensive boards and scored 12 points off of 8 of those opportunities.

They get to the FT line. Hopkins was 25-for-29 from the line, including 3 and-1s.

Finally, the shoot the 3-ball. Hopkins was 11-for-21 from behind the arc. (All of this according to my unofficial stats. The Best Buy Classic did not provide any official stats beyond than individual points on the scoreboard.)

How do you beat all of that? Well, I suppose you could ask Benilde. But add it all up and it was a lethal  stew for Johnson. Granted, the Governors are 4-3 and unrated, but they've lost only to 3 AAAA teams with a combined 19-5 record and they've beaten 2 other AAAA teams, albeit with a 7-10 record.

Johnson led in the early going, as late as 8-6, and stayed within 14-13, 21-18 and 30-26 before Hopkins began to pull away. A pair of 3s by Siyani Chambers off of his own defensive rebound and sophomore Jacob Wright from Nick Jorgenson made it 36-26, and the score at the half was 40-32. Hopkins shot 45 percent in the 1st half and Johnson 50, but Hopkins was winning the possession game with 7 offensive boards and 5 turnovers to Johnson's 2 offensive boards and 11 turnovers. Hopkins was also leading 3-1 in 3s and 9-5 from the FT line.

Hopkins opened the 2nd half scoring on their 1st 8 possessions, hitting 3-for-3 from behind the arc and 6-of-6 from the line. Suddenly it was over at 60-40. But Hopkins kept on coming, scoring on 10-of-their-next-13 possessions as well, with 3 3s, an and-1, 4 2-point baskets and 4-for-4 from the line. 11 of 36 points through the 8:00 mark came off of Johnson turnovers. Only 2 came off the offensive glass but remember that Hopkins made 12-of-15 FG attempts during this run.

And, so, at the 8:00 mark it was Hopkins 83 Johnson 55. Marcus Marshall tried to keep the Governors in it, hitting 4 3s during this same period. In fact, Marshall shot 8-for-15 during this period including 5-for-6 3s, but couldn't get a stop.

Hopkins shot 69 percent from the field in the 2nd half (56 percent for the night). They committed just 5 turnovers playing at a rapid pace against a team that, like themselves, specializes in creating turnovers.

Stahl led Hopkins with 28, Siyani Chambers added 23, Demetrius Martin 16 and Jamal Davis 11. Stahl, a 6-5 senior, and Chambers, the smallish 5-11 guard (think Tyler Nicolai only a bunch quicker), are both underrated, I think. Little brother Kamali Chambers comes off the bench and contributes. A sophomore, he and fellow sophomores Wright and Stephon Sharpe represent the next generation of Hopkins state champions, I suppose. Davis is the only contributor from what must be accounted as a weak junior class.

Hopkins lost to Benilde, who lost to Eastview, so the Royals #2 ranking at this moment is well-deserved. And this team can't really be regarded as the equal to the Royals 3-time defending state championship teams until it, too, earns another trophy. But don't count these Royals out. They are at least a more versatile bunch than the one that won those state titles in 2010 and 2011.

Game of the Day Friday December 30: High School Tournaments Conclude

What Happened

Best Buy for Boys

There are full game reports on all 4 games, but briefly:

Hopkins thrashed Johnson 100-74 for the title. Zach Stahl and Siyani Chambers scored 28 and 23.

Chanhassan thrashed Henry Sibley 66-43 for 3rd place.

Minnetonka rallied past Duluth East 80-73 for 5th place, though the Greyhounds' Taylor Stafford lit it up for 35.

Las Vegas Durango  defeated Mpls. Henry 79-71 for 7th though Darius Hill and Tim Gill of the Patriots combined for 56 points.

Dick's Sporting Goods for Girls

Hopkins thrashed Eden Prairie in a repeat of last March's state title game. This time it was 83-51 as the Coffey girls out-scored EP's Shayne Mullaney and Jackie Johnson 35-28.

Osseo beat St. Paul Central 64-61 in OT for 3rd as Mikayla Bailey scored 20 for the winners.

Milwaukee Rufus King took 5rd place 58-55 over Prior Lake.

Hutchinson beat Maple Grove for 7th 57-54.


A pair of huge upsets. Well, Wayzata's win over Hill-Murray in the Pioneers' own tournament was a shocker only by virtue of the margin of victory, 66-27. It was 43-14 at the half. Marissa Grossfeld scored 18 for Wayzata.

And Spring Lake Park won the Tartan tournament, beating the hosts 63-56. Sean Scott scored 22 for the winners.

And the Wayzata boys also came up big, beating Cretin for the Catholic Spirit tournament title. The score was 75-71.

Player of the Day: Zach Stahl with his 28-point effort against St. Paul Johnson.

Coach of the Day: Kenny Novak, Jr., and Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins boys and Hopkins girls, winners of the 2 biggest prizes of this holiday tournament season.


Several of the "big" (8 team) tournaments conclude today. It seems like most of them can offer a pretty appealing championship game. But whose got more than 1 really good game to offer? Nobody? So here are some finals.


Best Buy--Hopkins vs. St. Paul Johnson. 2 years ago these 2 teams played in this same finale, and Johnson won one of the best regular season games I've ever seen 86-78. P.S. One Web site has today's games starting at 2 p.m., but the official Web site for the tournament says the 1st game is at 3 p.m. I will be at Augsburg today for all 4 games. Watch for my reports late tonight and/or early tomorrow morning.

Tartan--Tartan vs. Spring Lake Park
Catholic Spirit--Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Wayzata


Dick's--Hopkins vs. Eden Prairie in a replay of last year's AAAA title game.
Hill-Murray--Hill-Murray vs. Wayzata
Roseville--Buffalo vs. Eau Claire Regis. Roseville was upset by Buffalo yesterday.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Chanhassan, Minnetonka and Las Vegas Durango win in Best Buy consolation play

Chanhassan hammered Henry Sibley 66-43 for 3rd place, Minnetonka rallied past Duluth East 80-73 for 5th, and Las Vegas Durango beat Mpls. Patrick Henry 79-71 for 7th place in the 3rd annual Best Buy boys basketball holiday tournament.

Chanhassan 66 Henry Sibley 43

The roller coaster ride continues for Henry Sibley. Up and down all year, the Warriors knocked off former coach Tom Dasovich and his Minnetonka Skippers 65-63 in the 1st round here Wednesday, then got buried by St. Paul Johnson and, now, Chanhassan. This is the same Chanhassan team that defeated Sibley in the 1st game of the year, but just by 7. Here the margin was 7 before I'd finished my pre-game hot dug.

Sibley led 4-3 when Chanhassan began to heat up, scoring on 6-of-8 possessions, the last 2 on Sibley turnovers that the Storm converted into home run baskets. Suddenly it was 18-7. Chanhassan scored on 4-of-its-next 5 possessions and Sibley on just 2-of-6, and now it was 28-13. And that was before another 10-0 Chanhassan run.  So you get the idea. the half-time score was 42-17.

Mainly, Sibley couldn't seem to get its defense set up. I couldn't tell sometimes if they were in a man or a zone. Rotations didn't happen. 3-point shooters were left wide open. No wonder the Storm shot 52 percent for the half.

The 2nd half was better, Sibley actually out-scoring Chanhassan 26-24 and, early in the half, scoring on 5-of-6 possessions. But unable to get a stop on defense, the Warriors still trailed 52-31. The scoring pace declined precipitously later on, however, as the Storm managed just 1 bucket inside of 5 minutes.

Chanhassan put up a well-balanced effort, meaning that 4 players scored in double figures (Joey Stark 14, Cole Otto 11, Kevin Jensen 11 and Steve Gitzen 10) and also meaning that they scored inside and out, in transition and in the half court. Jensen, 6-5 and mobile, was especially impressive for the Storm, though it's true that he missed his 2 big moments, an alley-oop and a dunk attempt within about 1:30 early in the 2nd half.

Minnetonka 80 Duluth East 73

It was the Taylor Stafford show as Duluth East took a 43-38 half-time lead over the Skippers. Stafford finished the half with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

With their marching orders for the 2nd half crystal clear--if you wanna win, stop Stafford--'Tonka did, well, just enough of that. Stafford didn't score until the 11:40 mark, by which time the Skippers had a 51-47 lead. Stafford's 3 2 minutes later tied it up at 55, and he did score 15 in the 2nd half for a total of 35 but, most of the damage was done after 'Tonka had taken the lead.

Not that it was a safe lead by any means. The Greyhounds tied it up again at 65 but Tommy McDermott hit a 3, Riley Dearring a 2 off the offensive glass, and Andrew Turnblad a 2 to make it 72-67, and East never got off a shot that might have tied it up after that.

'Tonka shot 46 percent for the night, East 42, and Tonka won the battle on the boards with 15 offensive rebounds to just 6 for the Greyhounds. The Skippers made 21-of-26 FT, East 13-of-14. Riley Dearring and Latrell Love dominated inside with 19 points each, shooting 15-of-20 between them.

Las Vegas Durango 79 Mpls. Patrick Henry 71

It was 2-against-2, almost. Henry's 6-6 senior post Tim Gill and 6-2 junior guard Darius Hill combined for 56 points, out-scoring Vegas' 6-7 Joe Tuss and 6-0 Tyler Watts by 10 points. But Durango's supporting cast was better.

Gill was especially impressive, though his teammate Hill out-scored him 32-24. Gill is a big strong kid who looks and plays bigger than 6-6, and despite those skinny little ankles. He was dominant down low, especially on the offensive glass. His 24 points came on 9-of-19 shooting plus 5-of-8 throws, with 21 rebounds (10 offense and 11 defense) and 7 2nd chance points. Hill scored 32 on 12-of-23 shooting including 8-of-10 from the line but 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. He added 11 boards, 8 on the offensive end with 12 2nd chance points.

Vegas countered with the mobile Tuss who, despite his size, is fundamentally a perimeter player who has an offer from Air Force. He was the best player on the floor and finished with 25 points. Watts, described as a "crafty left-hander," and scored 21. Apparently, Durango's best player, Tre'Vonn Wells, is out of action.

Durango shot 14-of-24 (58 percent) in the 1st half to take a 41-33 lead. Henry shot just 11-of-44 (44!? Yes, 44 shots, many of them coming after 17 offensive boards.) The Patriots turned it around in the 2nd half, shooting 48 percent, but Durango better than matched that at 56 percent. Henry was within 5 at 44-39 when Durango scored 10 straight to lead 54-39. Henry battled back to within 5 again at 60-55 but turned it over their next 2 possessions. They were down 10 again at 65-55 by the time they scored again. But again they got within 5 at 71-66 but had 3 more turnovers before their next score, which didn't come until they trailed 74-66 inside of 1 minute.

In the end, Henry's 23 offensive rebounds were not enough to overcome Durango's hot shooting.

Spring Lake Park to Challenge Tartan for Holiday Tournament Title

Spring Lake Park (7-1, #4AAA) will meet host Tartan ((6-1, #8AAAA) in the final of the Tartan Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament. Both advanced easily Thursday evening. The Spring Lake Park Panthers took it to the Hayfield Vikings 76-46, while the home team won by an almost identical score 76-49 over the Columbia Heights Hylanders.

Spring Lake Park Panthers 76 Hayfield Vikings 46

Hayfield was no match for the Panthers' quickness nor for Sean Scott's offensive fireworks. That quickness forced Hayfield into 23 turnovers and numerous hurries and a 31.5 shooting percentage. Meanwhile, Scott made 5-of-5 3s before intermission en route to a 31 point effort, 6 points above his average.

Scott already had 12 points at 11:30 of the 1st half--more than any of the Vikings would score on the night--including the ever-popular dunk off the fast break, and the Panthers were well in command at 17-0. The Vikings were 0-for-9 to open, with 6 turnovers. Hayfield's Brady Kramer finally broke the ice off the offensive glass at 11:00, making it 17-2. The Panthers extended their lead steadily throughout the half, with their largest lead being 43-17 at intermission. Scott had 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-6 3s, plus 5 boards and 2 steals.

The teams mostly traded baskets in the 2nd half though the lead got as high as 33 at 67-34, 69-36, 72-39, 74-41 and 76-43. Reserves Deon Wilson and Abbass Osman each scored twice during this exchange, Scott having departed the game for good at the 8:00 mark and his fellow starters followed over the next 2 minutes.

The Vikings provided the night's biggest highlight--that was an unexpected alley-oop dunk from Kramer to Cole Kruger in the 1st minute of the 2nd half. One would have expected such a play from the Panthers, who in fact attempted to match the Vikings' play a minute later. Scott settled for 2 FT on the play. And the next time Hayfield tried the alley-oop, Scott intercepted the ball at the rim and started a fast break the other way, leading to a Bryce Williams lay-up. Later the Panthers attempted a fast break alley-oop off the glass but that pass went awry.

The Panthers finished up with a 29-for-64 shooting night (45 percent) to Hayfield's 31.5. After making 7-of-15 3s in the 1st half, however, they were 1-for-8 in the 2nd. Hayfield made its living at the FT line, making 20-of-36, including 15-of-25 in the 2nd half.

Tartan Titans 76 Columbia Heights Hylanders 49

Columbia Heights led 10-8 in the early going and trailed just 11-10 at 10:30 mark, when a pair of 3s by guards Darrion Strong and Mike Hudspeth got Tartan going. They never trailed again.

Then, 6-8 sophomore post Brody Jackson entered the game and, in just 2 minutes, scored on the fast break, then on a nifty baseline drive and dish by Xavier Hall. Next he scored not once but twice off the offensive glass, then recorded a steal leading to a Marshawn Wilson FT. 4 minutes later, Hall closed out a 16-1 run with a 2 + 1 off the fast break and it was 36-17.

It was more of the same in the 2nd half. The 2 teams traded baskets from 40-21 to 55-40, then Tartan ripped off 11 points, Strong scoring 5 of them and Jackson 2 more. The Titans shot 54 percent in the 2nd half, and 50 percent for the game, making it unlikely that the Hylanders were going to come back from that 19-point half-time deficit.

Tartan's 5-headed monster at the guard slots includes Hall, Khaire Kirkland, Wilson, Hudspeth and Strong. All 4 are quick and strong. They gummed up the Hylanders' offensive patterns and launched fast break after fast break, most often finishing same with style. Hall led the way with 15 points, 7 in the 1st half, 8 in the second. Kirkland scored 8 in the 2nd half for a total of 10, Hudspeth 6 of his 7 in the 1st. Wilson scored 5 and 6 for 11, while Strong scored 6 and 8 for a total of 14. Strong is usually their leader, scoring 18.5 ppg to 10 for Wilson and 9 for Hudspeth.

All are juniors, except Marshawn Wilson who is a freshman. And with the 6-8 Jackson also back, Tartan could contend for a state title next year, if not this.

Meanwhile, Columbia Heights' best player, Deon Sanstad, is also a junior guard. He led all scorers with 20 points. But the Hylanders shot just 31 percent, including 3-of-17 from behind the arc. Still, they're a sound team that committed just 10 turnovers against a fairly high level of defensive intensity, and gave up just 7 offensive boards to the other side. But Tartan shot too many lay-ups--ergo the 50 FG percentage--for the Hylanders to really make a game of this.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Game of the Day Thursday December 29, 2011: More High School Action


The Lakeville North boys pulled away from a 31-30 half-time lead to a 78-67 win over Mpls. Washburn. North had 4 players in double figures to 3, led by Nick Anderson's 20 points, for Washburn.

The Mankato East boys edged Montevideo 81-77.

The Benilde-St. Margaret's boys beat Eden Prairie in their (EP's) own holiday tournament 80-68.

Class AA Providence girls beat Class AAAA Lakeville North 41-33 to win the Rochester Rotary tournament.

Meanwhile, the Big Two tournaments (Best Buy boys and Dick's girls) went like this.

Best Buy (Boys)

Championship Semis: A pair of blowouts. St. Paul Johnson 82 Chanhassan 56 and Hopkins 91 Henry Sibley 62. Marcus Marshall scored 23 for Johnson.

Consolation Semis: Duluth East 85 Mpls. Henry 76 as Stafford scored 40, and Minnetonka 99 Las Vegas Durango 57.

Dick's (Girls)

Championship Semis: Eden Prairie 51 Osseo 43 and Hopkins 61 St. Paul Central 31. Sydney Coffey scored 22 for Hopkins.

Consolation Semis: Milwaukee Rufus King got its sea-legs under it after a terrible performance against Eden Prairie. King 98 Hutchinson 68 as Alexis Eckles scored 27. And Prior Lake surprised, well, they surprised me, beating Maple Grove 50-39.

Player of the Day: Tyus Jones scored 39 points in leading the Apple Valley boys over Rocori 100-74.

Coach of the Day: Ray Finley of the Providence girls for leading his team over AAAA Lakeville North and winning the Rochester Rotary tournament.


The tournaments just keep on coming. The best tournaments--Dick's for the girls and Best Buy for the boys--move into the semi-final round. See my report for yesterday--game times are the same again today, though obviously the match-ups are different.

Still, today's Best Bets for individual match-ups look like this:

Boys: Lakeville North vs. Mpls. Washburn at Lakeville North. #4AAAA vs. #2AAA.

Mankato East vs. Montevideo at Southwest State. #7AAA vs. #3AA. East beat "home team" Marshall 89-80 last night. Monte won 62-35.

Girls: Providence vs. Lakeville North at Rochester. #1AA vs. #4AAAA. Each pulverized its opponent yesterday, Providence beat Jefferson by the unlikely score of 60-17 while North dominated White Bear Lake 55-30. Despite the 2 class difference, this is a toss-up.

Game of the Day Wednesday December 28, 2011: Best Buy or Dick's Holiday Tournaments

What Happened

 I spent my day at the Dick's holiday tournament at Hopkins, featuring the girls game. Eden Prairie, Osseo, St. Paul Central and Hopkins advanced to tomorrow's semi-finals, all but one (Osseo, which needed overtime to defeat Hutchinson) doing so with relative ease. I wrote a full report of these games and they'll be posted on (not here on MinnesotaHoops).

Results for Dicks' as well as Best Buy are summarized below. But the game of the day, as it turns out, well, on a day with around 200 high school games, the games (plural) of the day would have to be:

Boys: Ellsworth 71 Perham 57 in the championship of the Worthington tournament. Ellsworth is, of course, a 2-time Class A state champ (2007-2008) and home of the Schillings--Curt, Cody and, now in his senior year, Casey. Ellsworth came into the game rated #3A. Perham is the defending Class AA champ and rated #1AA going into last night's game. 

Girls: Irondale 55 Braham 50. Braham is also the defending state champ in AA, and came into the game rated #2AA. Senior forward Jana Norgren came up big for Irondale, scoring 22, while super-duperstar Rebekah Dahlman scored 24 for the Bombers.

Player of the Day: Shayne Mullaney and Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls, combined for 54 points, while Johnson added 21 boards and Mullaney 11 assists in a 77-66 win over Milwaukee Rufus King in the Dick's Sporting Goods tournament at Hopkins.

Coach of the Day: JD Roberts, Ellsworth boys. Last year was a disappointment for Ellsworth (24-5, and a loss to Hills-Beaver Creek in the sectional quarter-finals). There was even talk of dissension. There is no such talk this year as the Panthers have started 8-1 and now with a big win over the defending state champs and #1AA-rated Perham Yellowjackets.

Best Bets

The holiday tournament season goes full tilt. Among the boys the Best Buy classic at Augsburg is your best bet. First round games:

4 p.m. St. Paul Johnson vs. Durango (NV). Johnson won easily 94-75 as Marcus Marshall scored 20.
5:30 Chanhassan vs. Mpls. Henry. Chanhassan came from behind to win 63-58.
7 Duluth East vs. Hopkins. The Royals cruised 102-73.
8:30 Henry Sibley vs. Minnetonka. Tom Dasovich's former vs. his current team. This had to be a big thrill for the kids from Sibley to upset their old coach 65-63.

I will be at Augsburg for the final day of action in the Best Buy on Friday. Reports will be published here at MinnesotaHoops.

Among the girls, the Dick's Sporting Good tournament at Hopkins is almost always the best show. First round action:

2 p.m. Eden Prairie vs. Milwaukee Rufus King. EP out-scored King 43-15 in the middle section of the game, then held on to win 77-66.
4 Hutchinson vs. Osseo/. Hutch pushed Osseo into OT before succumbing 62-52.
6 Maple Grove vs. St. Paul Central. Central prevailed 63-60.
8 Hopkins vs. Prior Lake. The Royals cruised 67-29.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Game of the Day Tuesday December 27, 2011: Minnesotan Hoopsters Fall Short on the Road

What Happened

The Minnesota hoopsters shot the ball miserably and fell behind--way behind--in the early going. They caught fire in the 2nd half, roared back to make a game of it, but couldn't make the plays down the stretch.

We're talking about the Minnesota Gopher men, of course...and about the Minnesota Timberwolves, too. Both used the same script and came to the same disappointing conclusion--a loss. You can't do all the bad things that both did, and win on the road against a Big 10 or an NBA opponent. It's that simple.

First, the Gophers. Tubby's crew shot 25 percent (8-for-32) for the 1st half, and trailed by as many as 13 at 37-24. The Illinois lead was still 13 at 48-35 when the Gophers ripped off runs on 10-0 and 19-6 to tie it up at 54. It stayed close from there until the Illini pulled away to an 81-72 double OT final. Julian Welch scored 15 points with 3 assists, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 FT opportunity with Minnesota leading by 2 and 15 seconds on the clock in regulation. Then with the score tied 70-all and 15 seconds remaining in the 1st OT, he missed a layup. Illinois out-scored the Gophers 11-2 after that.

Then there's the T-Wolves. They shot 35 percent (12-for-34) in the 1st half and trailed 60-48. Halfway through the 3rd the Bucks lead reached 20 points (at 75-55 and 79-59). But Minnesota scored the last 9 points of the 3rd to get within 9, then got within 2 at 94-92 with about 2 minutes remaining. But they then missed 4-of-their-last-6 shots. The final was Milwaukee 98 Minnesota 95.

Player of the Day: Nobody played 4 solid quarters for the Gophers or Wolves, so the Player of the Day is Whitney Tinjum of the Chisago Lakes girls, who scored 38 points as her team beat Park 64-55. Sydney Lamberty scored 25 for Park.

Coach of the Day: Bob Newstrom, Lakeview Christian. The Lions and star Anders Broman are erasing any doubt that they're for real this year. Now 6-0 after stepping up to Class AAA and thrashing Cambridge-Isanti 104-88. Broman scored 50.


For the next 4 days, the high schools take the spotlight with an annual glut of holiday tournaments for both the boys and girls. With Christmas on a Sunday this year, the week gets off to a slow start with no tournament games on Monday and just a few on Tuesday.

Today's best best is the Irondale girls tournament featuring Braham, Irondale, Mounds View and St. Paul Humboldt.

Or if you prefer the boys Benilde, Eden Prairie, Holy Family and Waconia square off at Eden Prairie.

Game of the Day Monday December 26: The T-Wolves New Era Officially Underway

What Happened?

The Old T-Wolves would have declared a moral victory. Hell, I'll declare a moral victory, as the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder held on to defeat Minnesota 104-100 on Monday night December 26. The Wolves led 24-23 at the quarter break and took their biggest lead at 37-30 and 39-32. The Thunder used a 14-2 run to take the lead (almost) for good at 46-41, and led 52-46 at the half. The Thunder extended their lead to a high of 12 points at 67-55, but the Wolves came back to lead momentarily 94-93 and 96-95, but the Thunder answered each time, outscoring the Wolves 8-4 inside of 3 minutes.

Minnesota out-scored Oklahoma City in the paint 60-36, out-rebounded them 53-47, and had more 2nd chance points 13-8 and fewer turnovers 12-19. But the Wolves shot 3-of-22 from beyond the 3 point arc (Derrick Williams was 0-for-4 and Anthony Tolliver and Kevin Love each 0-for-3). Michael Beasley led the way with 24 points. Love added 22 with 12 boards.

Coach Rick Adelman went with a rotation similar to that which defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at the Target Center in its 1st exhibition win. In other words, Beasley, Love, Darko Milicic, Luke Ridnour and Wesley Johnson started, but guards J.J. Barea and Ricky Rubio ended up playing more minutes than Ridnour or Milicic. A small lineup of Love, Williams, Beasley, Barea and Rubio was on the court for the final 6 minutes, but was out-scored 13-12. After leading 96-95 they made 2-of-their-final-6 shots with 1 turnover, while the Thunder shot 2-for-4 and 5-of-5 from the line with 2 turnovers.

Player of the Day: Barea with 14 points and 2 assists.

Coach of the Day: Rick Adelman.

Best Bet

The Rick Adelman-Ricky Rubio-Derrick Williams era of the Minnesota Timberwolves officially gets underway as the Oklahoma City Thunder come to the Target Center. The Thunder, of course, feature all-star Kevin Durant. But for the moment fans are coming to the Target Center to see the Timberwolves again including the above-named plus Kevin Love. As much as one might anticipate some improvement, it's going to be hard to see initially as the Wolves have drawn a truly brutal early-season schedule. 7 of the 1st 10 are at home, to be sure, but the opponents include:

Oklahoma City 55-27 last year (7th in the NBA)
Miami 58-24 (3rd)
Dallas 57-25 (4th, but playoff champions)
San Antonio 61-21 (2nd)
Chicago 62-20 (1st)

So come out to see the Wolves, but stay to see Durant, LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and last year's NBA MVP Derek Rose.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Game of the Day Friday, December 30, 2011: The High Schools Still on Center Stage

Some possible match-ups:

Hopkins girls vs. Osseo in the finals of Dick's Sporting Goods tournament
Hill-Murray vs. Wayzata in the finals of the Hill-Murray tournament

Hopkins vs. Mpls. Henry in the finals of the Best Buy classic
Lakeville North vs. Mpls. Washburn in the finals of the Lakeville North tournament

Monday, December 19, 2011

Game of the Day Friday December 23: NJIT Women at Minnesota Gophers

What Happened

The Gopher women hammered New Jersey Institute of Technology 71-46 as Rachel Banham scored 20 points with 7 boards and 4 assists. The Gophers now go into Big 10 play with an 8-6 record.

Kiara Buford added 12 points, and has scored in double figures in all 14 Minnesota games this year. Katie  Loberg added 10 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals.

Player of the Day: Joe King, Eastview boys, scored 24 points as Eastview beat Moorhead 64-46.

Coach of the Day: Mark Gerber, Eastview boys, has his team off to a 6-0 start and a #1AAAA rating.

Friday's Best Bet

Like the Gopher men, the women are back from a 9-day lay-off for their final tune-up before the Big 10 season opener at Purdue on 12/30. The opponent is the Hylanders of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. They're 4-5 with a 3-game losing streak, and get out-scored by an average of 61-58. They shoot just 35 percent from the field. Uju Nwankwo is the only player who averages in double figures at 10.7 and, considering that she shoots 54 percent, the rest of the roster must be particularly dreadful from the field. Still, with these Gophers one can never tell. It could be a game and it probably should be a grinder, if NJIT has anything to say about it.

Game of the Day Thursday, December 22, 2011: NDSU Men at Minnesota Gophers

What Happened

Well, it was indeed a game as NDSU stormed to an early 14-2 lead. The Gophers came back to lead at the half 32-29, but the Bison still led late 53-52. Minnesota took the lead for good on a 2+1 by Maverick Ahanmisi, and made enough FT down the stretch to hold on 63-59. Ralph Sampson scored 15 points for the Gophers, Rodney Williams added 14 plus 8 boards, and Ahanmisi scored 13.

Player of the Day: But the player of the day is Tessa Cichy of the Hill-Murray girls. Cichy out-scored Benilde-St. Margaret's guard Grace Coughlin 20-16 to lead the Pioneers to a 49-39 win. You may recall that the 2 teams met in the 2010 AAA state title game, Benilde winning on a pair of buckets inside of 10 seconds. Going into today's game Benilde was rated #1AAA and Hill Murray #5AAA. But Benilde's Khadidja Schumpert was held to 4 points. Benilde needs more from her inside to justify that #1 ranking.

Coach of the Day: Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls. EP defeated Lakeville North 62-56 as Jackie Johnson and Shayne Mullaney each scored 22. Taylor Stewart scored 20 for North.

Best Bet

The Minnesota Gopher men get back into action after a 9-day layoff, as the North Dakota State Bison visit Williams Arena. These are the same Bison who defeated the Gopher football team 37-24 this past fall, though it's true that the Gopher roundballers beat the Bison a year ago 84-65. These Bison are now 8-2 and out-score their opponents a decisive 75-62. Four players score in double figures including Minnesotans Marshall Bjorklund (from Sibley East) and Mike Felt (of Redwood Valley) with 12 and 11 points, while Dylan Hale from Mpls. Washburn scores 8.5 with a team-high 2 blocks. This will be a game, and it will be the 11-1 Gophers' final tune-up before the Big 10 season opener at Illinois on 12/27.

Game of the Day Wednesday December 21, 2011: Timberwolves Roar Back from 11 Down with 2:00 to Go

How It Went Down

Down 84-73 with 2:00 remaining, the Wolves scored the game's last 12 points--Kevin Love 10 and Michael Beasley 2--to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat 85-84. Love led all scorers and rebounders with 22 and 16.

Still, this was a 20 point turnaround from Friday's 21-point win, when J.J. Barea and Ricky Rubio combined for 20 points and 13 assists. Overall the Wolves guards had 41 points, 15 assists and 6 turnovers. Tonight, with Barea and Rubio playing 0 minutes due to minor injuries, the Wolves guards had 33 points, 12 assists and 8 turnovers, down from 2.5 assists/turnover to 1.5.

Still, it's a great and improbable win, the kind you (if you're Rick Adelman) can build on. 

Player of the Day: You're kidding, right? Kevin Love.

Coach of the Day: Rick Adelman. Doh!

Best Bet

The Minnesota Timberwolves, fresh off an impressive 117-96 exhibition win over the Milwaukee Bucks, get a 2nd and final exhibition contest in this truncated season versus the, er, Milwaukee Bucks. (Then, of course, their 2nd regular season contest on Friday 12/30 will also be against these same Milwaukee Bucks.) The big news out of the Timberwolves camp was, of course, the play of Ricky Rubio. The other newcomers--J.J. Barea, Derrick Williams and coach Rick Adelman--also get passing grades so far.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Game of the Day: Tuesday December 20, 2011: High school stars come out


There were 4 great high school games in the metro area Tuesday night.

1) In our Preview Game of the Day, the #2-ranked Edina girls beat White Bear Lake as expected 59-52. Alexis Foley scored 29 for the Bears, who have yet to find a 2nd source of reliable offense, while Katybeth Biewen scored 21 for Edina, who is still without MC McGrory. A win over a quality opponent with 1 of its dynamic guard duo out more than justifies Edina's high rating.

2) The #2AAAA Eastview boys hammered #4AAA Spring Lake Park 86-63 as Joey King poured in 36 points.

3) #4AAAA Eden Prairie boys took its first loss to #6 Lakeville North 69-62. Brett Rasmussen scored 35 for North.

4) #1AAA Benilde-St. Margaret's boys gave #9AAAA Minnetonka its 1st loss 71-68. It was tight all the way, as Benilde held a 28-26 half-time lead. Tonka's Latrell Love led all scorers with 20 points, while Tommy McDermott of Tonka and Isaiah Gray and Sanjay Lumpkin of Benilde all added 18.

Finally, the Benilde girls also gave Minnetonka its 1st defeat, 55-48. Grace Coughlin, already a Gopher verbal as a sophomore, won the battle of the big name guards, out-scoring Joanna Hedstrom, rated #3 among the juniors by one rating service, 23-6.

Player of the Day: Joey King, Eastview 36 points

Coach of the Day: Tom Dasovich, Minnetonka boys. In transitioning from John Hedstrom to Dasovich a year ago, Tonka was dreadful. Add Riley Dearring, formerly of Hopkins and DeLaSalle, and voila! Tonka is back, despite its loss to Benilde last night.


The White Bear Lake girls opened the season ranked #5 and Edina #8. Since then, they've gone in different directions.

Edina has beaten 7 opponents by an average of 69-38, including a 47-38 win over then-#3 Lakeville North a few days after the Panthers had taken #1 Hopkins into OT. Edina is led by senior guard Katie Biewen and junior MC McGrory, each of whom is rated as the #8 Minnesota guard in her class.

White Bear is 5-2 and has fallen out of the top 10. A pair of upset wins--over #1AAA DeLaSalle in OT and at #6AAAA Wayzata--have been matched by a pair of upset losses to Prior Lake and Roseville. Senior guard Alexis Foley, an Illinois State commit, leads the way.

By next March, I expect the fortunes to have changed again. White Bear should return to the state tournament whereas Edina will face Eden Prairie and others in the tough Section 2, so it's touch 'n go for the Hornets. But as for now, Edina should be able to defeat the Bears on their home court.

Game of the Day Monday December 19, 2011: Boys Champs Square Off


The Springfield boys broke away from a 29-28 half-time lead to a 76-66 win at Minnesota Transitions Charter. It was the 2011 Class A state champs over the 2010 Class A state champs. Alex Fink led Springfield with 24 points.

Player of the Day: Takendra Elbert of Tartan scored 34 points, but it wasn't enough as the Titans lost to St. Paul Highland Park 78-65. Elbert had scored 48 points in a game last week.

Coach of the Day: Lance Larson, Springfield boys


The are 27 boys games throughout the state. The best of them match-ups the last 2 Class A state champions, as the Springfield Tigers journey back to Minneapolis to take on the host Minnesota Transitions Charter.

Game of the Day Sunday December 18, 2011: NSIC Action

The Big Game

Going into today's game, the UM-Crookston Eagles and Wayne State Wildcats were the only 2 NSIC women's teams left with just 1 loss. Wayne, of course, is the defending regular season champion and #9-rated nationally, while UMC has never won a thing. So, I guess, Sunday afternoon could be described as more of the same. Wayne 66 UM-Crookston 37. It was 16-4 at 12:37 and 38-16 at the half. Crookston's closest approach of the 2nd half was 21 points at 45-24 and 51-30. All-American Ashley Arlen led Wayne, as usual, with 19 points and 8 boards. None of the Eagles scored in double figures. Wayne is 5-1, Crookston 3-2.

Still, Crookston under coach Mike Roysland have been a terrific success story, building steadily over several years now from doormat to contender.

The other big game went the other way--the underdog visitor from Minnesota (Moorhead State, picked for 5th place in the coach's pre-season poll) shocked the pre-season favorite Augustana. The Dragons pulled away from a half-time tie (and a final tie at 62-all as late as 7:21) to win 81-76. The Winona and Moorhead men are the last unbeatens in the NSIC. Moorhead is 5-0, Augie is 5-1.

The Wayne men (2-4) beat UMC (0-5), while the Augie (4-2) women hammered Moorhead (1-5) 98-66 in the other 2 NSIC games today. Angela Christianson came off the bench to score 15 for Moorhead. She should be cracking the starting lineup shortly for the disappointing Dragons.

Player of the Day: Charlie Chapman and Jake Lindfors, Moorhead men 18 points each on a combined 13-of-23 shooting.

Coach of the Day: Chad Walthall, Moorhead men, again.


There are 2 NSIC double-headers. Minnesota-Crookston at Wayne State, matching 2 women's contenders but 2 men's also-rans. And Moorhead State at Augustana, matching 2 men's contenders but also a disappointing (so far) Dragons women's team against yet another Augie contender.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Game of the Day: Saturday December 17, 2011: Timberwolves Open a New Era

Saturday December 17

The Minnesota Timberwolves opened the Adelman-Rubio-Derrick Williams era with a 117-96 exhibition win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Coach opened with a starting lineup of holdovers Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic and Luke Ridnour. But he had said prior to the game that starting doesn't matter, it's who finishes.

And the minutes went to: Johnson 30 Beasley 27 Love 27 Barea 26 Rubio 24. Meaning Love in the post and Beasley at the big forward spot, with newcomers manning the guard spots. Williams and Anthony Tolliver also played better than 20 minutes. Of course, it could all change before the Wolves' regular-season opener against Oklahoma City on Monday, December 26.

The Wolves led pretty much throughout including 62-52 at the half and 92-78 after 3. Beasley and Love scored 21 points each, Love led in rebounds with 15, while Rubio had 7 assists and Barea 6. Barea shot 5-for-10 for 14 points, Rubio 1-of-4 for 6.

Player of the Day: Anders Broman, Lakeview Christian, scored 48 in a 99-77 win over Heritage Christian. Broman is well on his way to breaking Kevin Noreen's all-time Minnesota boys career scoring record of 4,000 points, and this effort didn't hurt.

Coach of the Day: Who else but Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves.


The Timberwolves finally make their 2011-2012 debut vs. the Milwaukee Bucks at the Target Center. Finally, after 2 years, you'll begin to understand whether Ricky Rubio is the savior of this franchise or one of the biggest busts in NBA history--or, simply, somewhere in between. But you'll also get to see the other new point guard J.J. Barea, rookie Derrick Williams and new coach Rick Adelman. For my money, Adelman is the newcomer who really is going to make a difference, starting tonight.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Game of the Day: Friday December 16, 2011: High School Boys #1 vs. #1 and #1 vs. #2

Friday December 16

A great night for boys basketball. Two #1s meet, and a #1 and a #2.

#1 vs. #1. It's always news when Hopkins loses. I mean, it happens about once a year, a true man-bites-dog tail, er, tale. This time it can hardly be described as an upset, however. When #1AAAA goes on the road to meet #1AAA, you'd have to think #1AAA would have a pretty good shot.

Well, the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights gave it better than a pretty good shot, rolling out to a 43-31 half-time lead. Hopkins threatened in the 2nd half before falling 76-71. Sanjay Lumpkin scored 22 for the winners, and Isaiah Zierden 20, Will Dunn 17 and Isaiah Grey 13. Demetrius Martin scored 22 and Siyani Chambers 17 for Hopkins, who was without the services of Zach Stahl tonight.

#1 vs. #2. Here it's the 2 top-ranked teams in AA meeting at Perham, defending state champs. Surprisingly, the Yellowjackets were the underdog at home against the #1-rated Pelican Rapids Vikings in what was billed up in those parts as "the game of the century." But the home team, Perham, emerged victorious 51-42.

Player of the Day: Tessa Cichy, Hill Murray girls, scored 33 points as the Pioneers edged Chanhassan 69-66 of the Day.

Coach of the Day: Mike Leaf, Winona State men. The Warriors ventured out on to the road, yet remained unbeaten in the NSIC. Winona clawed back from a 37-33 half-time deficit to defeat Southwest State 79-72. Clayton Vette scored 22 with 11 boards.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Apple Valley boys 80 Henry Sibley 62, or Tyus Jones Puts on a Show

By the time of the final buzzer, it had become the Tyus Jones show.

But over the first 8:30, when the game was decided, it was the Harry Sonie show. Sonie, an unsung 5-10 junior guard for the Apple Valley Eagles, scored 10 points as Apple Valley sprinted to a quick 21-3 lead over the Henry Sibley Warriors.

Sonie opened the scoring at 16:40 with a fast-break lay-up off a Dustin Fronk feed. A minute later Fronk scored another fast-break layup off of a steal, and another 40 seconds later he added a 3 off a feed by Robert Tobroxen. Sibley's Nick Golberg scored 3 points, then the Eagles went back to work. Jones scored yet another fast-break layup off a steal, then Sonie hit a 3 from the top of the key as Sibley dared him to shoot. Mitch Hechsel scored off the offensive glass on another fast-break opportunity, Then Sonie hit a 3 off the fast-break, Hechsel hit a 2 off a Jones feed and Sonie a pair of throws after an offensive board.

As you can see, Sonie had lots of help, and not only from Tyus Jones, who ultimately scored 32 points to Sonie's 20. But Fronk was also in double figures with 13 and Hechsel with 12, and both helped trigger the Eagles fast break that broke the Warriors right out of the gate.

And they had lots of help from the Warriors themselves. Sibley started off playing with poise, protecting the ball and getting good looks at the basket. But only 1-of-their-first-18 good looks went down and stayed down. And, as the shots refused to go down and Sibley fell further and further behind, the shot selection quickly deteriorated. A timeout finally was called at 10:43 and at 17-3. but Apple Valley scored the 1st 2 buckets coming out of the timeout.

Sibley's Adam Heussner hit a pair of 3s for Sibley, who was able to trade buckets the rest of the half. But that's also when Jones also took over, hitting a 3 from the left wing, 2 on a drive into the lane, a fast-break layup off the defensive glass, then another fast-break layup off a Jones steal, making it 34-12 at 5:44. Later, as the final seconds of the first half ticked away, Jones got trapped at the top of the key. He split the trap but lost control of the ball, which bounced toward the Sibley defender in the lane. Jones put it into another gear to beat the Warrior to the ball, and touch-passed it to Hechsel underneath the basket for the final 2 that doubled up the half-time score 46-23.

Sibley won the 2nd half 39-34 by dramatically improving their shooting, from 8-of-33 (24 percent) in the first half to 15-of-28 (54 percent) in the 2nd. Unfortunately for them, the Eagles shot 56 percent in each half. The Warriors also had 23 turnovers on the night to just 10 for the Eagles.

Sibley is not a young team, but they're a junior team. (Okay, 6-7 center Alex Stafford and guard Dante Grant are seniors.) In any event, they've got some pieces and some potential. Stafford has some nice offensive moves and plays solid on the defensive glass. Heussner has a terrific 3 point shot, and his teammates found him with the skip pass all night long. Still, when the game was still on the line, those darn shots just wouldn't go down. I mean, what's with that.

The bottom line would seem to be that they have some pieces, but no glue. Nobody who can orchestrate the pieces and get the ball to guys in the places where they need to be receiving it. Nobody to protect the ball. And the defense was pretty much non-existent. The Eagles beat 'em down the floor repeatedly, which is not a good thing.

Meanwhile, as one former coach said to me, Apple Valley's not a one-man team. Jones has lots of help. But, hey, we're gonna talk about Jones anyway. First, let's acknowledge that he turned the ball over 7 times. But, seriously, his ball-handling and passing are nothing short of spectacular, but you knew that. He gets to the rim anytime he wants, but you knew that. But I don't know if you knew that he can shoot out the lights. Last night, he made 12-of-15 FG attempts including 2-of-3 from outside the arc. And 4-of-4 FT. And there were 4 rebounds and 4 steals and 3 assists to go along with those 32 points.

What I like best is that he plays the game at a pretty good pace. But every now and then, when he needs a little bit extra, he shifts into a higher gear and he is just gone.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Full Breakdown Tip-Off Schedule and Results

Boys Breakdown Tip-off Saturday December 10 Minnetonka High School

West Court

11 a.m.--Duluth East vs. Eden Prairie. Johnny Woodard remains out with an injury, and EP took advantage 74-65. Taylor Stafford also took advantage of the opportunity to lead the Greyhounds and all scorers with 30 points.

12:30 p.m.--Champlin Park vs. Lakeville North. Lakeville won 63-50 as Rasmussen scored 25.

2:45 p.m.--Perham vs. St. Thomas Academy. The defending AA champs defeated AAA St. Thomas 62-54 as 6-7 Mark Schumacher scored 20 points

4:15 p.m.--Maranatha vs. Dawson-Boyd. Dawson-Boyd won 75-67 as Joey Lee scored 21.

6 p.m.--Montevideo vs. Spring Lake Park. SLP won 83-71 as Sean Scott scored 33.

7:45 p.m.--Apple Valley vs. Tartan. Tyus Jones scored 28 as AV defeated Tartan 79-69.

Main Court

10:30 a.m.--Roseville vs. Rocori. Roseville 77 Rocori 52.

12 noon--Braham vs. Orono. Braham defeats the defending AAA champs 85-75. Tyler Vaughan out-scores Brady Wohler 28-25. Vaughan also finished the game 2 3-point shots short of the state record held by Jordan Smith of, you guessed it, Orono.

1:45 p.m.--Osseo vs. Prior Lake. Osseo had to come from 9 points down with 6 minutes to go to win 70-67 in OT.

3:15 p.m.--Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Eastview. Trailing by 3 at intermission, Eastview came back to win 61-54.

5 p.m.--Cooper vs. St. Paul Central. Oops, DeLaSalle played Cooper and the Islanders won 64-61 despite 30 points from Cooper's Rashard Vaughan.

6:45 p.m.--Hopkins vs. Cretin-Derham Hall. The Royals win easily 74-45.

8:30 p.m.--Buffalo vs. Minnetonka. Minnetonka won 59-47.

Boys Tip-Off Stars

C- Mark Schumacher, Perham
F- Rashad Vaughan, Cooper
G- Tyler Vaughan, Braham
Tyus Jones, Apple Valley
Brady Wohler, Orono

Girls Breakdown Tip-off Saturday December 3 Hopkins Lindbergh Center

Sunnyday's Girls Tip-Off All-Stars
1st Team
C- Onye Osemenam, 6-1 junior, Maranatha
F- Khadidja Shumpert, 6-0 senior, Benilde
F- Tyseanna Johnson, 5-10 senior, DeLaSalle
G- Rebekah Dahlman, 5-9 junior, Braham
G- Brianna Rasmussen, 5-10 sophomore, Fergus Falls

2nd Team

C- Mariah Monke, 6-2 senior, Fergus Falls
F- Jade Martin, 5-11 junior, Kennedy
F- Maria Grossfeld, 5-10 senior, Wayzata
G- Shayne Mullaney, 5-9 senior, Eden Prairie
G- Mariah Adanane, 5-11 senior, DeLaSalle

3rd Team

C- Kayla Timmerman, 6-4 senior, Wayzata
F- Nia Coffey, 6-1 junior, Hopkins
F- Courtney Frederickson, 6-0 8th grader, Wayzata
G- Jaqlyn Poss, 5-9 junior, Roseville
G- Joanna Hedstrom, 5-11 junior,Minnetonka

Main Court

11:15 a.m.--DeLaSalle vs. St. Paul Central. DLS made it a track meet with its full court pressure defenses and won going away, 91-61.

1 p.m.--Sartell vs. Osseo. Sartell made more of a game of it than expected. In fact, Osseo didn't take the lead for good until the final score with 5 seconds remaining, 55-53.

2:45 p.m.--Braham vs. Maranatha. Maranatha led 64-63 when 6-1 junior Onye Osemenam fouled out, but Braham pulled away to win 77-70. Rebekah Dahlman scored 47 points for the Bombers, Osemenam 27 for Maranatha.

4:30 p.m.--Braham boys vs. Hopkins boys. Hopkins won 102-67.

6:15 p.m.--Hill-Murray vs. Hopkins. Hopkins made it 40 minutes of hell-murray, leading 39-19 at the half en route to a 77-37 en route.

Old High School Gym

11:30 a.m.--Parkers Prairie vs. Isle. Parkers Prairie won 66-57.

1:15 p.m.--Roseville vs. Bloomington Jefferson, Jefferson played without the injured Britney Scherber and looked lost. Roseville's Jaqlyn Poss was the difference as the Raiders prevailed 59-35.

3 p.m.--Cambridge-Isanti vs. Wayzata. Wayzata won easily 83-44.

4:45 p.m.--Minnetonka vs. Richfield. Richfield seemed in command until a 7 minute drought midway through the 2nd half. The Skippers' 19-1 run turned a 42-34 deficit into a 53-43 lead. The final was  68-57.
6:30 p.m.--Minnetonka boys vs. Rogers boys. Tonka prevailed 93-83.

East Court

11:45 a.m.--Bloomington Kennedy vs. St. Michael-Albertville. Kennedy demolished the Knights 82-28,
1:30 p.m.--Providence vs. Fergus Falls. Providence led 55-50 but Fergus out-scored the Lions 12-2 the last 3 minutes plus OT.

3:15 p.m.--Woodbury vs. Chanhassan. Chanhassan pulled away to a 73-58 win.

5 p.m.--Eden Prairie vs. Benilde. It took OT but Eden Prairie prevailed 51-50.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just when you thought the NBA had come to its senses....

The NBA, as you know, is back with a CBA, no less, that will make it possible for smaller market franchises like the Timberwolves to contend.

But not content with doing one good deed for the smaller markets, commissioner David Stern had to go and screw it all up yesterday. I mean, by voiding a 3-legged trade that sent one of the best young point guards in the league, Chris Paul, from New Orleans to the L.A. Lakers.

Now, on paper I get it. Can't let the mega-filthy-rich Lakers get any richer, right? But, wait. It's supposed to be about the smaller markets. Has anybody really thought about this trade from the Hornets' perspective? Yeah, I have. Here's the proposed trade.

Houston--gives Goran Dragich, Kevin Martin, Louis Scola and a 1st round draft pick
          gets Paul Gasol

Los Angeles Lakers--give Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom
          gets Chris Paul

New Orleans--gives Chris Paul
          gets Goran Dragich, Kevin Martin, Louis Scola and a 1st round draft pick

Expectations are that Paul will resist signing a contract extension with the Hornets, and if so either they trade him or he walks as a free agent. And if not this trade, then what more are the Hornets going to get in another?

Here's New Orleans projected lineup status quo:

C- Emeka Okafor 7 ppg (playoffs)
F- Carl Landry 16
     Trevor Ariza 15.5
G- Chris Paul 22
     Marco Belinelli 10

Now, without Paul:

C- Okafor
F- Scola 18
G- K. Martin 23.5

And an extra 1st round pick in 2013 which, given Houston's roster after the unexpected retirement of Yao Ming, could be a pretty good one.

Or, alternatively, if Paul walks:

C- Okafor
F- Landry
G- Belinelli
     Jarrett Jack 6

And no extra 1st round draft pick in 2013.

No, this was not done to help the New Orleans Hornets, nor even to harm the Los Angeles Lakers. It was done to help the Dallas Mavericks and squeaky wheel-owner Mark Cuban, who was reported as protesting loudly to the NBA office about the trade. The proposed trade, after all, might make it harder for Cuban's Mavs to defend their Western Division and NBA titles against the Lakers. Or might not. After all, the Lakers are giving up Gasol and Odom. And while Paul would replace Derek Fisher in the Lakers' starting lineup, Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown would replace Gasol and Odom. Who?

And last time I looked, Dallas was not a small market but rather #4 in America after New York, LA and Chicago. And their owner, Cuban, one of the wealthiest men in America. He and his Mavericks do not need for NBA officials to come to a rescue, but that exactly what they've done.

And there's absolutely nothing that says Paul doesn't end up in L.A., anyway, only he might end up with Gasol and Odom on his side.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gustavus Adolphus women 58 Augsburg 48

I ran into former Staples coach Ron Beachy at the Breakdown Tip-Off the other day. He had come directly from Augsburg where, he said, the Auggies had smacked his daughter Jessie's Concordia (Moorhead) Cobbers, defending MIAC play-off champions. He could barely contain his incredulity at the loss, much less that "they beat us by 20 points!"

I pointed out that the Auggies had defeated St. Ben's a few days previous, the first time Mike Durbin had ever lost to Augsburg in his 26 years as Bennie's coach.

How did they (Augsburg) do it, I asked Beachy. "It's the coach," he said. "He's that good."

Never exactly what you'd call a powerhouse, the Auggies in fact last had a winning record in 1985. They've won 55 games in the past decade and just 17 (with 93 losses) the past 5 years. 4-18 in the MIAC a year ago, they were picked by the coaches to finish dead last in 2011-2012.

Who ya gonna call? Billy McKee, the turnaround specialist. At least, that's what the announcement of McKee's hiring said. "McKee...has led dramatic turnarounds of several basketball programs during his coaching career." The evidence shows a real turnaround only at Mounds View high school (2008-2011). The Mustangs were 16-36 in the 2 years before Billy, 62-18 during his 3 years there (including 24-4 in 2010).

Otherwise you'd have to say he helped the rich get richer--as an assistant at St. Thomas University, at Cretin-Derham Hall, at Blaine and at Anoka-Ramsey CC. But that won't be the case at Augsburg. Here, whatever success McKee and his Auggies experience must be credited in part to St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate causes.

And starting out 3-0 this fall had every appearance of a miracle. The Augsburg roster is essentially the same as last year's when Serenae Levine (25), Nikki Borkhuis (23), Tracee Schrank (19), Brittany Dyshaw (18), Lexi Thompson (12), Katie Ahlstrom (9) and Brittany Zins (9) accounted for 115 starts out of the team's total of 125.

I can hear the Auggie's pitch to McKee this past off-season. The bad news, coach, is that we were 4-18 last year. The good news is that everybody's back.

But, hey, that St. Jude Thaddeus is a heckuva a guy. And McKee? "He's that good." Because a starting lineup of Levine, Borkhuis, Dyshaw, Thompson and Zins, with Ahlstrom the #2 reserve, miraculously started the season 3-0. First was a 70-46 whoopin' of North Central in which Dyshaw contributed 19 points and 9 boards. Then came the historic win at St. Ben's, 61-50 no less, as Levine and Zins combined for 33 points. Third was the 62-41 shocker over Concordia in which the Auggies held the Cobbers to a 29 shooting percentage.

But a pair of close losses now have followed. How close? Well, 9 and 10. But Augsburg trailed Bethel 59-57 with 57 ticks on the clock remaining and had a shot to tie with 35 seconds left. But Bethel made 6-of-6 from the FT line thereafter to seal its win.

The stats tell a similar tale of last night's loss, though it's true that Augsburg was never closer than 7 points inside of 10 minutes. But the Auggies were out-shot just 38 percent to 35 from the field. On 2-pointers Augsburg was 14-of-35, Gustavus 14-of-36. The Gusties hit 4 3s, the Augies 3. The possession game was pretty even--8 offensive boards to 11 for Gustavus, and 16 turnovers apiece. Gustavus apparently had better ball movement--that, after all, is their schtick--with 15 assists on 18 buckets versus Augsburg's 10 assists on 17 buckets. Gustavus won the battle in the paint 24-16 but points off turnovers, 2nd chance points and fast break points (Gustavus 2 Augsburg 0) were pretty even.

The difference, again (as at Bethel), was the FT line. Gustavus made 18-of-25, Augsburg 11-of-19. But that is mostly an artifact of who's ahead at the end. With 5 minutes remaining Gustavus had hit 13-of-18 FT, Augsburg 10-of-17.

So the truth is that Gustavus was just a tiny bit better on a bunch of dimensions rather than dominant in any aspect of the game. And so, after falling behind 12-4, the Gusties came back to take their 1st lead at 17-16. Augsburg responded with a pair of buckets by Dyshaw and Levine for their final lead of the night at 20-17. A Kelsey Florian layup at 2:00 on an assist by Julia Dysthe gave the Gusties the lead for good at 22-20, and Molly Geske padded that 17 seconds later with a steal and a breakaway layup. It was 26-23 at the half.

A turning point of sorts came from the 16:17 mark of the 2nd half to 9:49, a period of about 6:30. Gustavus scored on 8-of-11 possessions for 16 points, while the Auggies scored on 5-of-10 possessions for 10 points. Down 47-40, Augsburg began to press a bit and turned the ball over on their next 3 possessions. Of course, neither team scored again until 5:06 when Abby Rothenbuehler drained a pair of throws. Now down 49-40, Augsburg pressed some more, taking a pair of ill-advised shots that were blocked by Rothenbuehler and Florian. Augsburg never got closer than 8.

On the plus side for Augsburg: The Auggies shut down Gustavus' guards--and especially leading scorer Molly Geske, who scored just 1 FG--with a total of 25 points among a 5-guard rotation. Still, the Auggies' 5 guards combined for just 19 points as only Levine had more than 1 FG.

Posts Rothenbuehler for Gustavus and Borkhuis and Dyshaw for Augsburg did little enough damage either--just 10 points among them. But Rothenbuehler led all rebounders with 11 and led her team with 4 assists. She spends much of her time on offense up at the high post, where she threw a bunch of nice high-low passes to whomever had a size advantage posting up (usually Eli Benz or Florian).

And so it was the forwards--Benz and Florian for the Gusties, Zins and Kendra Ware for the Auggies--who combined for 46 of the game's 106 points, exactly 23 for each team. The Gusties' fowards scored mostly on those high-low passes from Rothenbuehler or Florian, who also had 4 assists, while Zins and Ware scored mostly on drives from the vicinity of the FT line or the elbow at either side of the line.

As an aside, it was fun to see kids from my backyard--Dysthe from White Bear Lake, and Abby Lugar of North St. Paul--on the court. Dysthe waited patiently for minutes through her freshman year, but now they're coming, and she's doing what she did for the Bears. Moving the ball, moving without the ball, letting the game come to her, feeding her teammates and, when the stars align, shooting that quick and well-nigh unstoppable stop and pop shot from 8 feet. She will be all-MIAC before she's done.

For Luger, on the other hand, the minutes are already coming in her freshman year. And why not, she is one of the toughest kids I've ever seen on the basketball court. She was the point guard several years ago on a young and, being honest, a terrible North High team and one of the worst ball-handling teams you could ever see. The ball was in her hands all night long, night after night against quicker and more athletic teams, and the turnovers piled up to the sky. But she took the pressure of protecting the ball off of her teammates and let them do what they did best. Eventually North became a competitive team and Luger came to be recognized for what always she was--their MVP. Last night she was the 3rd guard in terms of minutes, surpassing those of the veteran, Ahlstrom. She will never be all-MIAC. If McKee is able to bring respectability to the Auggies' long-suffering program, she may never be their starter at the point. If Dysthe is the thoroughbred, then Luger is the work horse. But I've rarely seen a tougher kid nor a girl grow and improve like she has done since her freshman year at North, and I wish her well.

But the big question is, so, has the bubble already burst for the Auggies? Well, they're not sneaking up on anybody anymore, if they ever did. They're not woeful in any aspect of the game, but the fact is there are no obvious strengths--no aspect of the game on which they can reasonably expect to dominate. So, with continued hustle, tough defense and an occasional 3, something approaching a .500 record is possible.

Meanwhile, the Gusties' guards cannot get shut down like the Auggies shut 'em down last night if they're going to realize their potential of an MIAC title.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

St. Paul Johnson boys 68 Stillwater 60

The St. Paul Johnson Governors slowly pulled away from the Stillwater Ponies in the 2nd half Tuesday night at Stillwater. The Ponies led 27-26 at the half but Johnson pulled out to its biggest lead of the night at 49-40. Stillwater got within 56-55 at 3:06 but never quite caught up. The final was 68-60.

Anybody can tell you that these Governors are a shadow of those great, great teams of 2010 and 2011, but they play at the same pace and with the same intensity. What they don't do is finish like those Governors finished. At 12:50 of the 1st half, Johnson was dictating to the Ponies--and trailing 8-4. The Governors already had 7 offensive boards, but was shooting 2-for-15. Stillwater had 4 turnovers and had taken only 4 shots, but had made 3 of them.

Johnson led only 10-9 and 24-23 in the 1st half as Stillwater recovered its composure and handled the pace pretty well the rest of the way. By half-time, turnovers were even at 11 apiece and both teams were shooting in the 20s--Johnson was 10-of-37 (27 percent), Stillwater was 5-of-19 (26 percent). What was not even was offensive boards, where Johnson had 11 (and 10 2nd chance points) to the Ponies' 2 and 4.

Oh, and the FT shooting was not even. Johnson was 7-of-13 (54 percent) while Stillwater was 14-of-16 (87.5 percent).

Johnson scored the 1st 5 points of the 2nd half to take a 31-27 lead and never trailed again. Quashingm Smith-Pugh, who had failed to score in the 1st half, came out with renewed energy and scored off the offensive glass, then on a steal, all within a few seconds. Wayland Johnson came off the bench to add 1-of-2 FT off the fast break. Stillwater quickly tied it up on buckets by junior forward Andrew Duxbury and 9th grade post Matt Anderson.

This became the pattern throughout the 2nd half as the Governors would put on a little run, and Stillwater would respond. Johnson took its biggest lead at 36-31 at 14:10, then the Ponies came back to within 36-35. At 8:30, it was 49-40 as Jalen Albritton hit 2 throws, a  lay-up off the fast break and a 2 + 1 off a steal. Wayland Johnson added a bucket on a pair of aggressive drives down the left baseline and then down the lane, and Smith-Pugh a fast-break lay-up.

Still the Ponies kept coming to within a point on junior point guard Sam Lagus' 1st bucket of the night, a 3 off an inside-out feed from the freshman, Anderson. But Johnson responded with a 4-point possession. Albritton drove to the rim from the right elbow for a bucket and a foul. Smith-Pugh rebounded his missed throw, resulting eventually in a pair of Marcus Marshall FT. Stillwater never again got within 5.

Johnson shot 50 percent in the 2nd half, mostly by eschewing the 3. 0-for-7 on the long ball in the 1st half, Johnson attempted only 1 in the 2nd. Meanwhile, the pace began to tell on the Ponies. They shot a solid 40 percent from the field in the 2nd half, but their FT shooting faltered from 87.5 percent in the 1st half to 6-of-13 (46 percent) in the 2nd.

Albritton and Waylon Johnson led the Governors with 17 points apiece. Smith-Pugh scored 9, all in the 2nd half. Marcus Marshall had a tough night shooting (2-of-13) but was relied upon to direct traffic and protect the ball for Johnson. He left the game with his 4th foul at 12:30, Johnson leading 36-32, and this seemed like a possible turning point. But, no, he returned at 7:49, Johnson still leading 49-45, and played right to the final buzzer.

Stillwater was led by its inside pair of Duxbury (12 points) and Anderson (11), plus the perimeter shooting of Aaron Nickles (10 points). Duxbury and Anderson added 12 boards but also 10 turnovers. Lagus, like Marshall for the Governors, is probably Stillwater's MVP as he's the guy who handles the pressure. Like Marshall, Lagus got himself into foul trouble and eventually fouled out of the game at :57. Like Marshall, he also had a tough night shooting, missing his 1st 6 shots before making his 7th and 8th.

What these 2 teams have in common is they are well-coached, they know what coach wants them to do, and for the most part they do it. Other than that, of course, they have nothing in common. Stillwater wants to get good shots by running its offense inside-out, and for the most par they got good looks. Just not enough of them, as they were unable to protect the ball as well as they'd like. Johnson wants to create a little chaos and get to the rim in transition, and they did that with their half-court traps. They just didn't convert in the 1st half. So I guess they had that in common, too--neither team has the talent to execute its game plan 100 percent against a well-drilled opponent.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HS Update: The Boys

Well, the boys are already underway. I saw part of Hopkins' (not unanticipated) demolition job on Braham (AAAA vs. AA, and all of that), and it reinforced the idea that Hopkins is the undisputed heavyweight champeen of Minnesota until somebody proves otherwise. They don't appear invincible as in past years but for now they're merely invinced, which carries the same weight. So, anyway, on with the final pre-season predictions.

The Hot Dozen


1. Hopkins--like I said

2. Eastview--Eastview, Osseo? Osseo, Eastview? Well, Eastview beat 'em (Hopkins) in the Sweet Sixteen and Osseo didn't. It's not much, what with summer rosters not being the same as they are in-season, but there you have it.

3. Osseo
4. Apple Valley
5. Cretin--3 more that could make it to the state final

6. Tartan
7. Eden Prairie
8. Duluth East
9. Lakeville North
10. Maple Grove
11. Edina
12. White Bear Lake--all a half-a-cut to a cut below the top 5


1. Benilde-St. Mary's--could be the #2 team in the state
2. Grand Rapids--Alex Ilikainen a name to remember
3. DeLaSalle
4. St. Thomas--making this pretty much the private division
5. St. Paul Johnson
6. Mpls. Washburn
7. Rocori
8. Marshall
9. Zimmerman
10. Mankato East
11. Princeton
12. Columbia Heights


1. Perham
2. Pelican Rapids--the AP poll has the Pelicans 1st; again, Perham is the best until somebody else proves otherwise

3. Braham
4. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
5. St. Peter
6. Watertown-Mayer
7. Redwood Valley
8. St. Cloud Cathedral
9. Montevideo
10. Minnehaha Academy
11. Worthington
12. Plainview-Elgin-Millville


1. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrose--trying to make up for last year's championship game meltdown
3. Maranatha
4. Ellsworth
5. Southwest MN Christian
6. Rushford-Peterson
7. Lakeview Christian
8. Dawson-Boyd
9. Spring Grove
10. Ada-Borup

Section Favorites


I'm not aware that seeding all 64 teams is an option for 2012, or am I missing something? So we stay with our traditional sections for now.

1 Lakeville North
2 Eden Prairie
3 Eastview over Apple Valley and Cretin #2 seed
4 Tartan #4 seed
5 Osseo #3 seed
6 Hopkins #1 seed
7 Duluth East
8 St. Michael-Albertville


1 New Prague
2 Marshall
3 DeLaSalle #3 seed
4 St. Thomas #4 seed
5 Rocori
6 Benilde-St. Margaret's #1 seed
7 Grand Rapids #2 seed
8 Mankato East


1 Byron
2 Waterville-EM over St. Peter #3 seed
3 Redwood Valley over Montevideo
4 Minnehaha
5 Watertown-Mayer over St. Cloud Cathedral #4 seed
6 Pierz over Litchfield
7 Braham #2 seed
8 Perham over Pelican Rapids, though AP has Pelican #1 and the defending state champs #2 Perham #1 seed

Oh, wait, there are no seeds. The actual brackets are Section 2 vs. 7 (Braham advancing), 3 vs. 6 (Redwood Valley advancing), 1 vs. 8 (Perham advancing) and 4 vs. 5 (Watertown-Mayer advancing). Then Braham over Redwood, and Perham over Watertown and then Braham in the final.


1 Rushford-Peterson
2 Lester Prairie
3 MCCRAY over Ellsworth and Southwest MN Christian and Dawson-Boyd; maybe we oughta be seeding Class A?
4 Maranatha
5 Barnum over Upsala and Nevis
6 Belgrade-BE
7 Lakeview Christian
8 Cass Lake-Bena

Again it's 2 vs. 7 (Lakeview), 3 vs. 6 (BBE), 1 vs. 8 (RP) and 4 vs. 5 (Maranatha).


Here I'm sticking with the picks I made previously.

Tyus Jones, Apple Valley, soph., G. Based on his play this summer for the U.S. 16U national team, now the pre-season Player of the Year.

Siyani Chambers, Hopkins, sr., G
Joey King, Eastview, sr., F. Led the Eagles to Sweet 16 final win over Hopkins. Mr. Basketball.
Isaiah Zierden, Benilde-St. Margaret's, sr., F
Michael Busack, Redwood Valley, sr., F-G-C. A stud, will be a superstar at Mankato State.

Coach of the Year: Mark Gerber, Eastview


Casey Schilling, Ellsworth, sr., G. He's no Cody, but quietly put together a hell of a career.
Sanjay Lumpkin, Benilde-St. Margaret's, sr., F
Tyler Vaughan, Braham, sr., G
Johnny Woodard, Duluth East, sr., G. The catch is he's hurt right now.
Riley Dearring, DeLaSalle, jr., F. Formerly Hopkins.


Zach Stahl, Hopkins, sr., F. Do not underestimate Stahl or Hopkins.
Cortez Tillman, Cretin-Derham Hall, sr., G. One of Cretin's 3-headed monster.
Thomas Sjoberg, St. Thomas, sr., C
Anders Broman, Lakeview Christian, jr., G. Will be state's all-time scorer by the time he's done.
Marcus Marshall, St. Paul Johnson, sr., G. Will try to replace Estan Tyler.

One of These Days, Alice

Alex Illikainen, Grand Rapids, fr., C. Played all-stater Shelby Moats to a draw last March.
Iam Theisen, Osseo, soph, C
Rashad Vaughan, Robbinsdale Cooper, soph., F
Reid Travis, DeLaSalle, soph., F
Tyus Jones, soph.

Early Surprises in Northern Sun

We're about 1 month into it and some surprises have begun to emerge in the Northern Sun. But, first, not surprising are the following:

Men--Augustana 2-0, 5-1 and Winona 1-0, 6-1, picked 1st and 2nd in the coaches pre-season poll

Women--Winona 1-0, 6-1 and Augustana 2-0, 5-1 picked 2nd and 3rd, plus Wayne State 2-0, 8-0, picked 1st, not to mention Wayne's Ashley Arlen, pre-season PoY and now twice the weekly PoY

Surprises Among the Men

The three big surprises so far include Moorhead State 2-0, 5-0 and St. Cloud State 2-0, 6-0, picked 5th and 6th, plus Northern State, but as they're not a Minnesota team, I have nothing specific to say about them.

I should add that Mankato State 1-1, 2-4 and Concordia St. Paul 0-2, 3-3, picked 3rd and 4th, have also been surprises of the negative variety to date.

Everybody else is sitting within 2 slots of where the coaches had picked them in the pre-season poll.

Moorhead has almost everybody back from a 15-12 team, but coach Chad Walthall has swapped senior guards D.J. Hamilton (in) and Jake Driscoll (from Glyndon) (out) of the starting lineup, and Hamilton's scoring is up from 11 ppg to 19. Hamilton has been the MVP in the early going of the NSIC with 5 assists and 2 steals to go with a 53 percent FG percentage. He leads the Dragons in minutes played with 30. Guard Jordan Riewer, a redshirt freshman from Staples, is also new in the starting lineup while Charlie Chapman returns as the 3rd guard. Driscoll, again, is the 4th guard in a 3-guard lineup.

Up front, all-conference forward, 6-9 Alex Novak  returns and is contributing 11 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks. Meanwhile, 6-10 newcomer Jake Lindfors has replaced the injured Dennis Williamson and (Lindfors) is contributing 17 points and 8 boards on 59 percent shooting. It is hard to see where the 6-6 Williamson will fit into things when he returns, but certainly would add depth to what, suddenly, is an imposing group of kids.

Now, the truth being told, the Dragons have yet to venture beyond the friendly confines of the Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse. So, no, they're not going to finish the NSIC season undefeated and its unlikely they'll continue to shoot 53 percent as a team. But the addition of Lindfors and the play of Hamilton would seem to make them a contender for conference honors that I hadn't recognized previously myself.

St. Cloud State is very similarly situated--unbeaten, unexpected, untested on the road. But while Moorhead gets another week at home (vs. UM-Crookston) before venturing out to Wayne State and Augustana, St. Cloud will be traveling to Southwest State and Mankato State this coming Friday and Saturday nights. What are we likely to see?

Well, also like the Moorhead Dragons, St. Cloud has started out undefeated with some hot shooting, a little better than 50 percent, collectively, which is all about post Tim Bergstrasser (St. Cloud Apollo) who is at 67.5 percent himself. Meanwhile, the 2 returning starters, forward Theo Rothstein (St. Michael-Albertville) and guard Brett Putz are shooting 54 and 47 percent. Guard Shaun Jensen (Spring Lake Park) and forward Mike Rostampour (Henry Sibley) are shooting 48 and 46 percent. And maybe those percentages can be maintained.

But the main difference between St. Cloud and Moorhead is that the Huskies under coach Kevin Schlagel have a tradition of success, including a D2 Final Four appearance just 2 years ago, that Moorhead hasn't had. So while both of these teams can contend, it would seem to be slightly more likely that St. Cloud might be at the head of the pack come March.

Still, Moorhead's "bigs"--Novak and Lindfors, with Williamson possibly returning--would seem to have a slight advantage over St. Cloud's Bergstrasser ad Rostampour. Meanwhile, I like St. Cloud guards Putz and Jensen a little better than Moorhead's Hamilton, Chapman and Riewer. But there's not much to pick for personnel. So I guess we'll close by just saying that both are early surprises who look like they can contend for NSIC honors.

Then there's Concordia (St. Paul) and Mankato State, 2 teams that were expected to contend but are looking pretty iffy in the early going. Like Moorhead and St. Cloud, you've got one (Mankato) with a tradition of success and another (Concordia) that is still trying to climb that ladder. Does that made Mankato the more likely of the 2 to turn things around yet this year?

Maybe not. But, in fairness, there is this. Mankato State plays a whole different schedule than the rest--just 1 game at home so far, 1-and-2 away and 0-and-2 on neutral courts. And, so, now the Mavericks have 4 straight home games coming up, including games that will help settle the pecking order among St. Cloud and Concordia.

Still, Mankato State so far is a tent-pole team. led by 6-7 sophomore forward Connor O'Brien (New Prague) who scores 11 points per game and adds 10 boards, a block and a steal, all team highs. He is 2nd in assists with 2.5--point guard Jimmy Whitehead leads with 3. This is an inexperienced group--the other "big" is 6-8 true freshman Zach Romashko (Blaine)--and its simply not yet clear what some of these fellows can do. They've been out-shot 44 percent to 37. All of this could just be an artifact of playing all those road games. That could come back as a big advantage later on, for that matter. But the burden of proof is on this young group to show that it is in fact better than what it's shown. In the meantime, its current 9th place would seem to be more predictive than its predicted 3rd place finish in the coaches pre-season poll.

Concordia (St. Paul), meanwhile, got off to a good start, winning 3 games, and looking every inch the contender, before suddenly losing 3 games, unexpectedly. And so their current 13th place (0-2, 3-3) is a fur piece from their predicted 4th place finish. Will the real Bears please stand up? What is most troubling is that, like Moorhead and St. Cloud, they've yet to venture forth from the home Gangelhoff Center court and still they've sustained those 3 losses, and to teams predicted to finish 10th (Northern) and 12th (Mary) in the conference.

The Bears are an experienced group, or maybe not. No, they're young, but with 3 seniors in the starting lineup. Who are they? The Olafeso brothers--Kenny and Peter--are the heart and soul of the team, but they're in their 2nd year of high level play. Previous experience at St. Paul Harding and MCTC does not quite equate to play in the NSIC. And 6-10 senior post Brett Barz is also a JC transfer. The rest of their contributors include a pair of true freshmen--Cole Olstad from Plainview-EM and Terez Van Pelt from Osseo--plus junior forward Isaiah Thomas (Fridley) who, like Barz, is in his 3rd year with the program.

The problems would appear to be on the defensive end, where all but 1 opponent has shot at least 45 percent and the Bears are giving up an average of 78 points. But its been different stuff. Northern dominated inside, but the Bears out-scored Mary in the paint. They out-scored both on the fast break and off of turnovers, but lost the half-court battle. They can score, but a few stops would be good.

And, Among the Women

The pleasant surprises are the Concordia (St. Paul) women, picked for 7th and currently 3rd (2-0, 5-3), and UM-Crookston, picked for 11th but currently 7th (1-1, 4-2). Moorhead is off to a disappointing start. Picked for 4th (higher by yours truly), they're 9th right now (1-1, 3-2).

Frankly, it was a mystery to me why Concordia was picked for 7th by the coaches. And like the Mankato men, at least their 5-3 record comes in part from venturing forth out into the world (where they're 0-and-2). And the only part of their record through 8 games that seems maybe unsustainable is Carissa Wolyniec's 49 percent shooting from beyond the arc. As a team, they're only shooting 43 percent and so it can get better. (Rachel Hansen is shooting 29 percent so far, and will do better. Jodi Batzel is shooting 55 percent but, hey, she shot 50 last year as a freshman.)

Meanwhile, they're holding opponents to 35 percent shooting, and they can keep doing that, I think.

Of course, their 2 conference wins so far came at home, and they're a very young team, having replaced the 3-headed monster--Mauricka Hickman, Jineen Williams and Zoraa Quoie--that was the heart of last year's team. And, so, next weekend they'll be more seriously tested at Mankato and Southwest State. Then come 3 more home games, so it's only in January that we'll really find out what coach Paul Fessler's team is made of. But from here it looks like that 2-0 record in the conference fairly represents what they can do. If Woyniec keeps hitting the 3, they'll be tough to beat.

Then there's UM-Crookston and all one can say is, wow. The Eagles were a total doormat when Mike Roysland took over as coach. Last year, he got UMC to 13-14, but then had to replace stalwarts Jamie Zelinsky and Bri Zabel. But it helps (a lot) that he's got one of the true superstars of the NSIC in score first-ask for forgiveness later-point guard Brittani Wiese (5-7 junior St. Michael-Albertville). Wiese is scoring 20 ppg so far, though it's true that she's only making 36 percent of her shots.

She's got help from a pretty fair pair of "bigs," both out of Rosemount, 6-1 junior Laurie Tyson (7 ppg, 65 percent shooting in 20 minutes) and 5-10 junior Megan Eul (13 ppg, 46 percent in 30 minutes). Meanwhile a pair of freshman guards have stepped into starting roles--5-8 Ashley Martell and 5-9 Ebony Livingston from Hopkins--and they're scoring 15 and 5 points on 47 and 25 percent shooting, respectively. And there are 3 more women scoring 5 to 6 points off the bench.

So, while it still seems almost unthinkable, based on history and tradition, it seems that Roysland has the Eagles almost to where they could contend for a top spot in the NSIC. Of course, they, too, have fashioned their 2-0 record on a pair of home wins, and the going will get a lot tougher with games at Moorhead, Augustana and Wayne in the next 2 weeks (Wayne hammered 'em 87-56 in the playoffs last year). But if they come home 2 weeks from now with a 2-3 record, they'll still be where they are now and where most NSIC teams (men or women) are, and that is--they can win at home. It won't take a whole lot of road wins to differentiate oneself. It's not impossible that this could be one of those teams and, if so, Roysland is coach of the decade.

On the flip side of the coin, then, you've got Moorhead State. Picked for 4th (and higher yet by me), they're off to a 1-1, 3-2 start, which isn't bad, but isn't good either. How you get on this list, by the way, is losing to Bemidji State at home, and Moorhead's already done that, 75-68. Fortunately, they turned things around enough to beat a superior Minnesota-Duluth team (superior to Bemidji) that following night, 63-61.

The other "problem" (for me more than for coach Karla Nelson) is that Angela Christianson was a big reason why I thought Moorhead could contend, and the sophomore transfer has been hurt thus far this year. I don't know if one should be encouraged or discouraged by her 2 point performance against a gassed bunch from Duluth. I mean, encouraged that she's back? Or discouraged that, if healthy, she hasn't shown that she'll be a dominant player in the NSIC, as I for one expect her to be.

The final problem (that I'll mention) is that Moorhead's inside players are not shooting the lights out like some of them that we've seen. Angie Jetvig, my pre-season pick for PoY in the NSIC, is shooting 44 percent, Megan Strese 45 and Morgan Zabel 44. Meaning, they can sustain that, so it's not a matter of any particular concern. The guard play is, so Christianson's return to full strength after her injuries (how quick? how fully?) will be a difference-maker in terms of whether this past season is a good one or not. And I have no clue as to the answers to those questions.

Summary: The Conventional Wisdom

Moorhead State men >>>>> (holding)

St. Cloud State men ^^^^^ (up)

Mankato State men VVVVV (down)

Concordia St. Paul men VVVVV (down)

Concordia St. Paul women ^^^^^ (up)

UM-Crookston women ^^^^^ (up)

Moorhead State women >>>>> (holding but time is running out)

And, Finally, Some Individual Breakouts

The top 5 women so far would seem to be Arlen, who leads the way with 20 ppg and adds 9.5 boards on 58 percent shooting; Jetvig, 17 points and 10 boards; Alex Feeney of Augustana; Wiese; and Katrina Newman, last year's freshman of the year. So now real surprises there, unless it's that Winona's dynamic duo of Michelle McDonald and Katie Wolff doesn't stand out statistically as of yet.

The bigger surprises are Ali Schwartzwald of Wayne, finally emerging as a senior (from St. Francis, MN), 2nd to Wiese with 4 assists; and Claire Duwelius of Winona with 13 ppg on 55 percent 3-point shooting. Also Bree Holleman, the coach's kid from Hancock, MN, at Southwest State, is breaking out with 13 ppg in her sophomore season.

Among the men, I'd call D.J. Hamilton a breakout story--also Connor (don't call me Conan) O'Brien, Tim Bergstrasser and Jake Lindfors. The big surprise is Cody Schilling, pretty much an also-ran in the scoring race at 17 ppg so far. Oh, yeah, I'm worried. Not.