Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Big Game 1-30-12: T-Wolves Win Again

What is with these guys? The Timberwolves lose to the Houston Rockets at home, then clobber 'em on the road. Minnesota scored 42 points in the 3rd quarter to turn a 56-54 half-time deficit into a 96-81 lead at the end of the quarter.

Ricky Rubio scored 12 points with 5 assists and 3 boards--and yes, that's in the 3rd period only. Michael Beasley didn't even check into the game until 5:00 of the quarter, yet added 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Kevin Love scored 9 in the 3rd on 3-of-3 shooting.

For the night it was Beasley, just back from a 2 week layoff with a leg injury, 34 points. Love 29 with 7 rebounds. Rubio 18 with 8 boards and 11 assists. The final was 120-108.

Player of the Day

Rickey Rubio

Coach of the Day

Rick Adelman

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 2012 Awards + Player/Coach of the Year Semi-Finalists

Player of the Month

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

After a disappointing 0-3 start in December, the Wolves went 10-8 in January. How long has it been since the Wolves had a winning month? I don't know, so let's just say, A long freakin' time.

And after coming off the bench for the 1st 2 1/2 weeks, Ricky Rubio joined the Wolves starting lineup on January 13 at New Orleans, a game the Wolves won 87-80. In fact, after winning 3 of their 1st 10 games, the Wolves are 7-4 with Rubio in the starting lineup. Coincidence? Ain't no such thing.

Now, at the end of his 1st full month in the NBA, Rubio is the Wolves #4 scorer with 11 ppg. He is, of course, their assist leader at 9 apg. He is even #3 in rebounds with 5. He leads in steals with 2 and turnovers with 3. He is shooting 38 percent--aha! Could be better! Could be better. He is, by consensus, the NBA's rookie of the month and probably rookie of the year.

And if the Wolves win 7 of 11 the rest of the way, they'll be about 39-27. I had figured that a 33 winning percentage would represent an acceptable rate of progress. Instead we're lookin' at 59 percent. Or even if we just go 10-11 every month, we'll be 31-35 or 47 percent. And Rubio (along with coach Rick Adelman) is the #1 reason for the improvement.

Runners-up: Joey King, Eastview boys; Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

Team of the Month

Eastview boys

Eastview had probably the best week any boys team has ever had 3 weeks ago, beating the #3 and #4 teams in the state--on the road, no less--just 3 days apart. Then, on the 4th day, instead of resting, they travelled to Wisconsin to play the undefeated defending state champion Madison Memorial and just smoked 'em 64-37.

They've been somewhat less dramatic of late, but remain unbeaten and rated #1 into February.

Runners-Up: St. Thomas women, Hopkins girls

Coach of the Month

Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men

After losing Trevor Mbakwe and a disastrous 0-4 start in the Big 10, the Gophers have rallied, winning 4 of 5, including the big upset at Indiana and the revenge game against Illinois. Tubby has pulled a lot of strings. Some have worked and some have not. But 4-5, after that 0-4? Nobody thought it possible. Fans are even thinking NCAA tournament again. Another 4-1 streak would be nice, but even another 4-and-5 would get 'em to 8-10 and 20-11. I suppose that's "on the bubble," but barring too darn many upsets in the mid-major tournaments, I think it qualifies.

Runners-up: Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves; Mark Gerber, Eastview boys

Game of the Month

Prairie Seeds boys 165 Math & Science Academy 37

An all-time record for points by a Minnesota high school.


Minnesota Gopher men 77 Indiana 74
Eastview boys 64 Madison Memorial 37

January  All-Stars

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

Joey King, Eastview boys
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Nia Coffey, Hopkins girls
Katybeth Biewen, Edina girls

2nd Team

Sean Scott, Spring Lake Park boys
Seth Anderson, Gustavus men
Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women
Joe Coleman, Minnesota Gopher men
Taylor Sheley, Bethel women

3rd Team

Tessa Cichy, Hill-Murray girls
Siyani Chambers, Hopkins boys
Kiara Buford, Minnesota Gopher women
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
Johnny Woodard, Duluth East boys

4th Team

Tyler Flack, Lakeville North boys
Andy Grzesiak-Grimm, Augsburg men
Taylor Stafford, Duluth East boy
Jake Hottenstine, UMD men
Serenae Levine, Augsburg women

Team of the Month

1. Eastview boys
2. St. Thomas women
3. Hopkins girls
4. Winona State men
5. Minnesota Timberwolves

6. Hopkins boys

7. Gustavus men
8. Minnesota Gopher men
9. St. Thomas men
10. Eden Prairie girls

11. Minnesota Gopher women
12. Lakeville North boys
13. Braham girls
14. Mpls. Washburn boys

15. Edina girls

The "Cooling Off Award" (among the teams of the month/year earlier but no more)

Moorhead State men
Bethel women

Coach of the Month

1. Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men
2. Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Mark Gerber, Eastview boys
4. Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women
5. Mike Leaf, Winona State men

6. Matt Nilsen, Edina girls
7. Mark Hanson, Gustavus men
8. Dan Elhard, Grand Rapids boys

9. Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls
10. Reggie Perkins, Mpls. Washburn boys

11. John Oxton, Lakeville North boys

12. Chad Walthall, Moorhead State men
13. Aaron Griess, Augsburg men
14. Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women
15. Dave Stromme, St. Olaf women

16. Greg Slaathaug, Fulda girls
17. Scot Sorenson, Buffalo girls
18. Markus Okeson, Redwood Valley boys
19. John Herbrechtsmayer, Bethel women
20. Annette Wiles, UMD women

The Big Game (of the Month)

1. Prairie Seeds boys 165 Math & Science Academy 37
2. Minnesota Gopher men 77 Indiana 74
3. Eastview boys 64 Madison Memorial 37
4. Minnesota Gopher women 76 Ohio State 65

5 (tie). Minnesota Timberwolves 99 Dallas Mavericks 82
     Minnesota Timberwolves 105 Dallas Mavericks 80

7. Eastview boys 91 Apple Valley 84
8. Gustavus men 82 St. Thomas 77
9. UMD men 101 Augustana 99
10. Duluth East boys 86 Rice Lake (WI) 71

11. Minnesota Gopher women 71 Michigan State 65

12. Eastview boys 54 Lakeville North 48
13. Bloomington Kennedy girls 56 Lakeville North 47
14. Mpls. Washburn boys 78 Eden Prairie 74
15. Minnesota Gopher women 84 Indiana 43
16. Braham girls 56 Esko 54

17. Duluth Denfeld 100 Duluth East 99 (OT)
18. Duluth East boys 63 Mpls. Washburn 62
19. Minnesota Gopher men 80 Penn State 66

20. St. Thomas women 68 Bethel 66

21. St. Thomas men 78 St. Olaf 77
22. Bethel men 69 St. Thomas 68
23. Augsburg men 57 St. Olaf 55

24 (tie). Minnesota Gopher women 68 Northwestern 60
     Minnesota Gopher men 75 Northwestern 52

November-December-January Awards

Player of the Year Candidates

1. Don't forget about Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx. The way I see it, the summer 2011 is part of the 2011-2012 season

2. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Joey King, Eastview boys
5. Nia Coffey, Hopkins girls

6. Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women
7. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Gopher men--not gonna be PoY, but he was that good when he was out there
8. Tyus Jones, Apple Valley boys
9. Seth Anderson, Gustavus men
10. Taylor Sheley, Bethel women

11. Kiara Buford, Minnesota Gopher women
12. Rebekah Dahlman, Braham girls
13 (tie). Katybeth Biewen, Edina girls
     Shayne Mullaney, Eden Prairie girls
15. Sean Scott, Spring Lake Park boys

16. Clayton Vette, Winona State men
17. D.J. Hamilton, Moorhead State men
18. Brittani Wiese, UM-Crookston women
19. Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie girls
20. Siyani Chambers, Hopkins boys

21. Taylor Stafford, Duluth East boys
22. Tessa Cichy, Hill-Murray girls
23. Joe Coleman, Minnesota Gopher men
24. Jake Hottenstine, UM-Duluth
25. Julian Welch, Minnesota Gopher men

26. Bobby Fong, St. Olaf men
27. Angie Jetvig, Moorhead State women
28. Katie Loberg, Minnesota Gopher women
29. Johnny Woodard, Duluth East boys
30. Tyler Schmidt, Augsburg men

Coach of the Year Candidates

1. Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
3. Billy McKee, Augsburg women
4. Mark Gerber, Eastview boys
5. Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men

6. Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls
7. Mike Leaf, Winona State men
8. Aaron Greiss, Augsburg men
9. Mike Roysland, UM-Crookston women
10. Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women

11. Kenny Novak, Jr., Hopkins boys
12. Mark Hanson, Gustavus men
13. Johnny Tauer, St. Thomas men
14. Reggie Perkins, Mpls. Washburn boys
15. Dan Kosmoski, St. Olaf men

16. Chad Walthall, Moorhead State men
17. Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls
18. John Herbrechtsmayer, Bethel women
19. Dan Elhard, Grand Rapids boys
20. Jeremy Post, White Bear Lake girls

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Big Game 1-29-12: Gopher Women Shock Ohio State

If I had told you that the Gopher women would turn the ball over to the Ohio State Buckeyes 20 times today, and that the Buckeyes would grab 19 offensive rebounds, the prognosis would not be good.

The Gophers were not free of adversity, in other words, but they played through those ragged stretches to beat #9 Ohio State 76-65, dropping the Buckeyes to 7-2 in the Big 10 and into a 3-way tie for 2nd place. The Gophers get to 4-5, moving up from a tie for 8th place to a tie for 6th with Iowa and Michigan State.

Rachel Banham scored 20 points despite sitting out 7 minutes of the 2nd half with 4 fouls. Kiara Buford added 15 with 7 assists and 2 blocks. Katie Loberg added 13 and Kionna Kellogg 11 with 9 rebounds.

Minnesota thus beat a ranked team for the 1st time since Notre Dame in the 2009 NCAA tournament, and at Williams Arena for the 1st time since Ohio State in 2008.

The key was a 36-20 edge in the paint, as Loberg and Micaella Riche went to the rim early (Loberg scored the Gophers 1st 5 points) and often, hitting 10-of-19 shots between them.

Minnesota ripped off 3 key runs against the Buckeyes. Early on the Gophers scored 9 straight to erase a 6-3 Ohio State lead. Loberg scored 4 during the run while Leah Cotton had 2 assists and Buford 2 boards.  Then, with the Buckeyes leading 14-13, Minnesota scored 11 straight. This time it was Rachel Banham with 5 points and Kionna Kellogg with 4, 2 boards and 2 assists.

Finally, Ohio State guard Sam Prahalis hit a pair of 3s to bring the Buckeyes back from 63-53 to 63-59 in the wink of an eye. Kellogg hit perhaps the biggest shot of the day, a 3, the give Minnesota room the breath. A 9-0 run ensued as Banham scored twice and Loberg once. By then it was 72-59 with 3:15 left. It didn't feel like it was over until the clock said 1 minute, but in hindsight Kellogg's 3 was the dagger. The fat lady sang then, it's just that Williams Arena was too loud to hear her.

Three Stars

Another key--hey, when you've lost 4 of 5, and you beat a top 10 team, there's lots of keys--was the play of Kiara Buford. In fact, she was the #1 star. More than her 15 points, she won this game for Minnesota with her ball-handling and her 7 assists. Banham scored 20 points but had 6 turnovers and just 2 assists. When she was in there, the Buckeyes (mostly the lightning-quick Amber Stokes) harassed her pretty effectively. But when she went to the bench with 3 and then with 4 fouls, well, who could possibly protect and distribute the ball?

Especially with Leah Cotton on the bench. At no time during Banham's 7 minute blow did Cotton take the court. Either she is hurt, or it was a truly massive vote of no confidence by coach Borton. I assume she was hurt. But Buford took the ball and did a great job with it during that period.

Meanwhile, Sari Noga also played a lot of minutes--27 of them, many more than she's played probably in 2 months. And let's be honest, Sam Prahalis took her to the woodshed. Prahalis quick, Noga not quick. What was Pam thinking, making poor Sari guard Prahalis? And, indeed, Prahalis scored 26 points, 19 of 'em in the 2nd half when Sari played most of the way. But Sari scored 9 points on a pair of buckets and 4-for-4 FT, and added 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 turnover. On balance, a big plus given the absences of Banham and Cotton.

But star #2 was Prahalis, just to be clear.

And star #3? Tayler Hill scored 25 points but it took her 23 shots to do it. But she had 5 assists and 3 steals with 2 turnovers and, like Prahalis, played 40 minutes. Yes, star #3.

But #4 and #5 are Kellogg and Loberg and, again, the #1 factor in this game was the Gophers' ability to score in the paint.

20-2 or not, this is not a very good Ohio State team. There's only 2 options on offense and their interior defense is terrible. But they do some things well, they threw everything they had at the Gophers, and the Gophers hung in there.

The fact is that the Gophers are the most athletic that they've been in years. For example:

• People complain that Katie Loberg's not a real post, but she's the Gophers "5" and she is the most mobile 5 you could want to see. Most teams would accentuate that. Ohio State on the other hand has a huge 6-5 sophomore, Ashley Adams, who outweighs Loberg by 100 pounds at the post. Adams is fundamentally sound--handles the ball, passes the ball, hits the boards, etc. She put up some pretty good numbers: 6 points, 12 boards, 7 blocks (!), 3 steals, 2 assists. OK, 5 turnovers. But she is slow as molasses, and Loberg exploited that by repeatedly putting the ball on the floor and driving to the rim. Katie matched her assists and turnovers with half as many boards and no blocks or steals. But with her 13 points, the advantage today was to the more mobile post, Katie Loberg.

• Amber Stokes is a fabulous athlete. Her quickness on defense was one of Ohio State's 3 big advantages. But she is a one-way basketball player with no discernible offensive skills. OK, 5 offensive boards. But 1-for-8 with no assists. Buford was much better overall. Even Sari Noga, Stokes' exact opposite, weak of D but solid on the offensive end, was just as effective in the end. So, on the wing the Gophers are athletic enough with pretty good basketball skills.

• At the point, the advantage was to Prahalis. Banham had a pretty tough day overall considering she scored 20 points. But the Buckeyes' defensive pressure put her back on her heels much of the way, and coach Borton put the ball in Buford's hands every bit as much as Banham's and Buford was stronger with the ball. Prahalis, meanwhile, did it all. 25 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, and found time to piss off the home fans with her characteristic showboating. Frankly, I love her. Her attitude is annoying if she's on the other team, which she is, but if she was one of ours, it's exactly the kind of attitude you're looking for. But all that aside, she's also stronger with the ball than Banham and quicker on defense. As much as I love Rachel Banham, Prahalis ranks ahead of her in the pecking order of Big 10 point guards. And yet, on a day when Prahalis pretty much ran amok, the Gophers' solutions--Banham, Buford handling the ball, Noga defending--added up to a dead heat. Just because it took 3 Gophers to equalize her, there's no shame in that, and it says that coach Borton had a pretty good day putting the pieces together.

• And then there's Kionna Kellogg, probably the Gophers' best overall athlete: 11 points of 4-of-6 shooting, 9 boards, 3 assists to 1 turnover. Her opposite number, Kalpana Beach, was no match for her whatsoever and was pretty much invisible on the day. Advantage Minnesota by a wide margin.

• Finally of course there's Tayler Hill. Buford guarded her most of the day and I couldn't help but think, Buford beat Hill 2-for-2 in Minnesota state high school title games. There shouldn't be any lack of confidence there. And in the end, Hill did a fine impression of herself, getting to the rim with absolute impunity...some of the time. But Buford's and the Gophers team defense frustrated her just as often.  She scored 26 but shot 8-for-23 and 3-for-11 from the 3-point line. Tayler added 5 assists and 3 steals. All in all, a fine day but, again, Buford was just as good. Not as explosive as a scorer, of course, but she handled the ball against tough defensive pressure, and Hill didn't have to do that. Buford had 7 assists to Hill's 5, and even blocked a couple of shots.

In summary, Ohio State only had 1 athlete the Gophers couldn't match up with and while Prahalis had a terrific game, it wasn't enough on a day when Minnesota dug deep and consistently made plays when they were needed.

So, yeah, the Gophers have gotten more athletic. The fact that they often don't make plays like they did today--is that on the coach, or is that on the players? You tell me.

Player of the Day: Kiara Buford

Coach of the Day: Pam Borton

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Big Game 1-28-12: St. Thomas at Gustavus Doubleheader

St. Thomas and Gustavus split the big MIAC doubleheader in St. Peter. The Tommies women stayed unbeaten at 15-0 in the conference with an eye-popping 20 point win, while the Gustavus men finally put the Tommies away in the last seconds of OT to gain a tie for 1st place in the conference.

St. Thomas Women 72 Gustavus 52

If #1 beats #2, and does it on the road, no less, and if #1 further wins by a ridiculous wide margin, then who in the world is going to beat #1?

If you haven't guessed, #1 is shorthand for the unbeaten 15-0 St. Thomas women, who massacreed 2nd place Gustavus today in St. Peter 72-52. Gustavus led 3-2, but Taylor Young gave the Tommies the lead for good at 4-3 with a layup at 16:28. Shortly, it was 14-3. And, though Gustavus got back within 16-13 and, in the 2nd half, 51-47, St. Thomas had all the answers it needed this day.

At 16-13 the Tommies got a 3 from Ali Johnson, then a pair of throws and a jumper by Maggie Weiers. By half-time it was 37-26.

In the 2nd half the Gusties got within 4, but Kellie Ring responded with a 3 and Sarah Smith with a steal and a feed to Taylor Young for a layup. A Kelly Brandenburg throw got the margin back into double figures, and the closest Gustavus ever got was 8 points.

The bottom line is Gustavus shot 30 percent from the field, 10 percent from beyond the arc. Whether that was just bad luck or "one of those nights," or whether the Tommies defense had something to do with it, you decide. But I saw St. Thomas hold Hamline to a 35 FG percentage the other night, and the Tommies defense had everything to do with that. The St. Thomas guards successfully pressured Hamline's ball handlers at the 10 second line, disrupting things and forcing Hamline to take shots other than the ones they wanted and/or as the shot clock was winding down.

Of course, the Pipers do not have an elite pair of guards, Gustavus does in Molly Geske and Colleen Ruane. Well, I didn't see exactly what St. Thomas was doing on defense today, but Geske, as it turns out, shot 1-for-13. Check and mate, as they say.

Here, for those of you keeping score at home, is the Tommies' rotation today:

C- Maggie Weiers 29 minutes 21 pts 8 reb; Sarah Smith 11 min 12 points 6 mine

PF- Sarah Smith 19 min; Haley Loesch 7 min 2 reb; Anna Smith 9 min 4 pts 2 reb; Taylor Young 5 min 2 pts

SF- Taylor Young 31 min 15 pts; Kelly Brandenburg 9 min 3 pts

PG- Carolyn Dienhart 23 min 4 pts 2 asts; Kellie Ring 17 min 3 pts

SG- Ali Johnson 25 min 3 pts; Brandenburg 15 min 4 pts

This has the look of a rotation that is going to finish 22-0 in the MIAC. I mean, like I said, if they can win in St. Peter, are they going to lose at St. Ben's or Augsburg, or at home to Macalester, St. Kate's, Concordia, Bethel or St. Mary's? I didn't think so.

Gustavus Men 82 St. Thomas 77 (OT)

The Tommies men appear to be nowhere near as unbeatable as the women, but that could hardly be construed as a criticism. I mean, here are the defending national champions, having lost their three-guard offense and defense in Teddy Archer, Alex Healy and Tyler Nicolai to graduation, coach Steve Fritz to retirement, and now senior post Tommy Hannon to injury. Despite all of that, here they are in 1st place in the MIAC--tied, now, with Gustavus at 10-3, to be sure--but in 1st place.

Gustavus led by as many as 9 at 41-32 at 17:16 of the 2nd half before St. Thomas rallied to lead by 5 at 63-58 11 minutes later. Gustavus scored 6 straight to retake the lead at 64-63 at 3:52 and neither team led by more than 2 until the Gusties scored 3 of the 1st 4 buckets of OT. Will DeBerg hit a 3 to tie it up at 75, and a Noah Kaiser dunk brought the Tommies within 78-77 at 1:22 of OT.

At that point Paul Blacklock rescued Seth Anderson and the Gusties. Anderson, the MIAC's leading scorer and the leading scorer in this game with 26 points, missed 3-of-4 FT down the stretch, but Blacklock grabbed the rebound and 30 seconds later Ben Biewen hit 2 throws to make it 80-77. Blacklock then blocked DeBerg's shot and Biewen then hit 2 more throws for the final score.

Blacklock scored just 9 points but led both teams with 7 boards and 2 blocks. Biewen added 15 points and 6 assists for the winners. John Nance scored 21 and DeBerg 20 for the Tommies. Nance had 4 assists while both had 2 steals apiece.

The bottom line, again, was FG shooting. Gustavus shot 60 percent, the Tommies 44.

So, the plot thickens in the MIAC. St. Thomas and Gustavus are 10-3, Augsburg and St. Olaf, both winners today, are 9-4. Hamline, idle today, remains at 8-5. While it's true that "on any given day," these would nevertheless be the games to watch for:

Wednesday Feb. 1--St. Olaf at Gustavus
Saturday Feb. 4--St. Thomas at Augsburg
Monday Feb. 13--St. Olaf at Augsburg

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Big Game 1-27-12: Cichy Scores 52

Friday night still belongs to the high schools, and there were a bunch of big games this Friday night.

Hill-Murray outlasted host Mahtomedi 101-96 in 4OT as Tessa Cichy scored 52 points. Yes, if that looked like a "5" and a "2" to you, that would be correct. 52. Cichy played much of the 2nd half and all of the OT periods with 4 fouls, and made a school record 24-of-27 FT. 

An Eden Prairie Kind of Night

2 of the biggest games, as suggested by the polls, both involved Eden Prairie. The #3AAAA EP girls won at #4AAAA Edina 53-46, as Jackie Johnson and Shayne Mullaney scored 16 and 14 points, respectively. Katybeth Biewen led all scorers for Edina with 21. The Hornets have now lost 2 straight in the ridiculously tough Lake Conference--to #1AAAA Hopkins and to EP--after starting 16-0. And it doesn't get any easier with 5 straight road games at Minnetonka, Wayzata, Hopkins and EP again, and non-conference foe Champlin Park.

Meanwhile the #5AAAA EP boys took it on the chin 78-74 at the hands of visiting #3AAA Mpls. Washburn. Dwight Anderson scored 18 for the winners, Sander Mohn 23 for the losers.

Also Among the Girls

Also in the Lake, Wayzata manhandled Minnetonka 71-43. Hopkins defeated Park Center 65-45 in a non-conference tilt. I was a bit surprised the margin was only 20, but then I saw that neither Sydney nor Nia Coffey played, nor did Cayla McMorris for Park Center.

#9AAAA Eastview beat #2 Bloomington Kennedy 61-59 as Maddie Guebert scored 25 for the winners, and Jade Martin 21 for Kennedy.

And White Bear Lake beat Forest Lake 42-47 as Alexis Foley scored 29.

And Among the Boys

Apple Valley edged Jefferson 63-59 as Tyus Jones scored 21.

St. Paul Johnson defeated St. Paul Central 88-67 as Marcus Marshall scored 25.

Pelican Rapids defeated defending state champ Perham 51-43.

Owatonna edged Austin 37-34 in a match-up of the top 2 in the Big 9.

Player of the Day

Tessa Cichy

Coach of the Day

Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls, and Reggie Perkins, Mpls. Washburn boys

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Big Game 1-26-12: Badgers Embarrass Gophers

You can read my pre-game comments below if you want. But basically I said, don't let Taylor Wurtz go nuts, and somebody's gotta step up and help Rachel Banham.

It didn't happen.

Especially over the game's 2nd 5 minutes, from the 15:00 mark to the 10:00 mark. Wisconsin led 9-6 at 15:00. At 10:00 it was 31-15. 22 points in 5 minutes. That's a 176 point pace. The Badgers hit 8-of-10 shots, and Wurtz made 3 (2 of them from 3-point range) and assisted on 3 more. I think you could say she went nuts.

Meanwhile, Banham scored twice--a bucket and 2 FT. Leah Cotton scored once. Kionna Kellogg scored one possession on a pair of FT, but missed on a pair of FG attempts. Their teammates were 0-for-4 with a pair of turnovers. Overall: 2-for-9.

8-for-10. 2-for-9. Game over.

Minnesota got within 44-39 with 17 minutes to go in the 2nd half, but again self-destructed. Wisconsin got 2 fast-break baskets, one off a steal/turnover, and then a third, and it was 50-39 before the Gophers could score again. After that, the closest they got was the final score, 78-72.

Wisconsin shot about 50 percent in each half. The back-breaker was 7-of-11 3s in the 1st half, several by Wurtz who led all scorers before intermission with 13 points.

But while Wurtz went nuts, I guess you could say that somebody stepped up to help Banham. Banham led Minnesota with 19 points. Katie Loberg added 15 and Kionna Kellogg 10 plus 13 boards.

But as noted below, Wisconsin has been a bad shooting team, has gotten out-rebounded on average, and has given up 3 more turnovers per game than their opponents. Nothin' like a game at Minnesota to cure what ails ya.

The Gophers remain tied for 7th, but now with both Iowa and Wisconsin at 3-5. They have lost 4 of 5 since a modest 2 game winning streak.

Sorry, no player or coach of the day today.

Pre-Game Analysis

The Wisconsin Badgers and new head coach Bobby Kelsey, formerly a Stanford assistant, come to Williams Arena Thursday night. 2010 Ms. Minnesota Basketball Cassie Rochel is part of the entourage, too. She's been coming off the bench for 14 minutes a night, and contributing 4 points and 4 boards on 53 percent shooting.

Wisconsin is of course but 6-13. They're a lousy shooting team at 39 percent--their opponents shoot 44 percent. They're getting out-rebounded 34-33 and they're giving up 3 more steals and committing 3 more turnovers than their opponents.

Along with Rochel, Anne Marie Brown of St. Peter is also a Badger. She plays but 5 minutes and averages 1 point on 16 percent FG shooting.

This one is there for the taking. It's just a matter of slowing down senior forward Taylor Wurtz, the only Badger scoring in double figures at 15, with 8 boards, on 40 percent shooting, and then of somebody stepping up to help out Rachel Banham on the offensive end.

It says here: Minnesota 68 Wisconsin 57.

The Big Game 1-25-12: A Night on Snelling Avenue

It was a rare weeknight MIAC double-header, but not the usual kind. The St. Olaf women and men both played at Macalester tonight. But the undefeated St. Thomas women (13-0 in the MIAC before tonight's game) were also nearby, and seemed to be a more attractive option than the Macalester men with their one lonely win (1-11). So after watching the Macalester-St. Olaf women at 5:30 p.m., I high-tailed it up to the Hutton Arena at Hamline, about 10 minutes away for the Hamline-St. Thomas women's game at 7:30.

Macalester took an early lead over St, Olaf, then hung on for dear life 59-50 as a result of holding the Oles to the ridiculous FG percentage of 24. St. Thomas clobbered Hamline 76-53 in the 2nd game, and it really was nowhere near that close,

Macalester 59 St. Olaf 50

The host Scots led the Oles by as many as 16 points at 40-24 at 17:20 of the 2nd half. But the Oles ripped off a 17-6 run to get within 5 at 46-41 and still 10 minutes left to play. Then St. Olaf didn't score for over 5 minutes by which time the lead was back up to 9.

The Scots opened with an 11-2 lead as 5 different players scored, and the Oles made just 1 of their first 11 shots. 6 minutes later it was 22-8 as 6-foot senior post Holly Schiedermayer and 5-9 senior guard Shannon Rene each scored for a 2nd and a 3rd time. Rene hit a trio of long FG, 2 of them for 3 points, while Schiedermayer was very active in the paint and scored on a pair of FG and a pair of FT. Rene and Schiedermayer each assisted on 1 of the other's buckets, too.

The Scots finished the 1st half shooting 43 percent while St. Olaf shot just 21 percent. In the 2nd half, the Oles got back into the game because Macalester went into the deep freeze, too. The Scots shot just 19 percent in the 2nd half while the Oles shot 26 percent.

The Oles made their move when 6-2 freshman post Nikki Frogner checked into the game. She made a pair of FT at 16:21 to cut the Scots lead to 40-28. She scored off the offensive glass at 14:30 to make it 41-30, and another bucket off an over-the-top feed from Brittany Weber at about 13:00 made it 44-35. Finally she scored off a classic pick-and-roll from Mackenzie Wolter at 10:45 to make it 46-39.

Wolter then scored to make it 46-41 but that's as close as the Oles could get. Macalester went 6 minutes without a FG but made 7-of-8 FT. Their next bucket, a layup by Maggie Wood on a feed from Schiedermayer at 3:42, made it 55-45.

Schiedermayer out-scored the Oles' posts, Erin Haglund and Frogner, 19-8, and she also contributed 6 boards, 3 blocks and 2 assists. She got to the FT line 14 times, making 9. Her teammates made another 11-of-15 FT for a total of 20-of-29, while the Oles made just 13. The FG were even at 17 apiece.

The Scots starting guards shot 9-for-22 and the Oles just 5-for-28. Rene was the only guard hitting her shot at 5-of-7. But the fact is that there was terrific guard play. The shots wouldn't fall, but much of the Oles success this year owes to Mackenzie Wolter and Kirstee Rotty, while Shannon and Jessica Rene are solid for Macalester. Shannon Rene scored 14, while Wolter and Sheridan Blanford scored 11 each for St. Olaf but made only 6-of-29 FG between them.

St. Thomas 76 Hamline 53

Meanwhile, up the road at Hamline's Hutton Center, St. Thomas stuck it to the Pipers 76-53 in a game that was not that close. Hamline led 7-6 and stayed close through about 22-15, depending on your definition of close. But suddenly it was 35-17, then 44-27 at the half. The largest lead was 37 at 68-31 at 12:42 and 70-33 at 10:34. Hamline scored 9 in a row and had a 23-9 advantage over the last 10 minutes for a more respectable final score.

This game was like the good old days, when St. Thomas and/or St. Ben's or maybe Concordia would dominate in the MIAC, then compete nationally to the Elite Eight or Final Four or perhaps the final 2. The Cobbers and Tommies each won a national D3 title, as you might recall. But over the past decade there's been unusual parity in the MIAC which, among other things, means that the top teams weren't good enough to compete at the national level.

This St. Thomas team has the look of a team that might break that drought. They have tremendous depth, the basic rotation being 9 deep.

C- Maggie Weiers, 6-2, soph., 24 minutes, 12 pts, 8 reb, 3 assists; the #1 player
PF- Sarah Smith, 6-foot, sr., 22 min., 11 pts., 4 reb, 4 assists, 3 steals; Haley Loesch, 5-11, sr., 12 min., 2 pts.; Anna Smith, 6-foot, fr., 15 min., 11 pts., 10 boards
PG- Carolyn Dienhart, 5-6, sr., 16 min.; Kellie Ring, 5-5, jr., 17 min., 5 pts.
W- Taylor Young, 5-11, soph., 21 min., 12 pts., 6 reb, 2 steals; #1 scorer on the year; Kelly Brandenburg, 5-9, soph., 20 min., 2 pts, 2 assists
W- Ali Johnson, 5-11, sr., 23 min., 15 pts., 3 reb., 3 assists

7 other players, for a total of 16, played, though only Annessa Hicks and Laura Margarit scored among the other 7. Freshman Jenna Dockter looks like the most likely to contribute over the long term, but she's had foot problems and isn't in game shape.

Bu the main point is not that coach Ruth Sinn can run 9 or 16 players out there, it's that they're productive. On offense, they move the ball, they move without the ball. When somebody breaks open, their teammates get them the ball. You can see them transition seamlessly from their 1st option to their 2nd option and, then, say the shot clock is winding down, to the 3rd option. They're well-organized and well-drilled. Bottom line: They take good shots, and if the shot isn't there, they move the ball some more. They shot 50 percent, and the starting 5 shot 60 percent.

St. Thomas dominated the boards 49-27. When the Tommies missed a shot, Hamline corralled 14 defensive boards while the Tommies grabbed 22 offensive boards. On the Hamline end, St. Thomas had a 27-13 advantage. Actually, those 13 offensive boards for Hamline are undoubtedly more than coach Sinn would like, but almost half were of the "team" variety, balls that bounced out of bounds and were awarded to Hamline.

On defense, the Tommies held Hamline to 35 percent shooting. Still, I don't know if they're a great defensive team. The rest of the Pipers shot just 12-of-41, but an athletic player like Jordan Sammons was able to roam fairly freely and made 7-of-13 shots for 19 points. But there was nobody on the Hamline roster to complement Sammons on the offensive end. The turnovers and blocked shots were both dead even, not what you would expect against a 3-11 opponent.

St. Thomas is an experienced team, starting 3 seniors and 2 sophomores. The seniors--S. Smith, Dienhart, Ali Johnson--are extremely poised, they know what to do. The younger players--Weiers and Young, plus freshman Anna Smith--are more dynamic and, while it's a bit early to be thinking of next year, they make you wonder whether this team will be even better in the future. Ali Johnson and Sarah Smith will be missed, to be sure, but reinforcements are available.

Player of the Day

As much as I love Sarah Smith and Ali Johnson--and Mackenzie Wolter can play on my team any day, too, by the way, despite today's 3-for-15 shooting performance--but aside from all of that, I didn't get to see the player of the day in the MIAC. That would be Brittany Zins of Augsburg who scored a career-high 27 points to go with 9 rebounds and 6 steals as the Auggies edged Bethel 55-52. This on the heels of a 20 point, 12 rebound performance against St. Kate's the other day and I guess you could say that Zins is hot.

Coach of the Day

Mandy Pearson of St. Mary's, which won at St. Ben's for the 1st time since 1986, before any of her current players were even born. Equally importantly, of course, the Cardinals upped their record to 9-5, good for a tie for 3rd place and a spot in the rapidly approaching MIAC playoffs. All this from a team that has won 17 and lost 49 MIAC games the past 3 years.

And Another Thing....

Where's Peter Boyle when you need him? All I could say was "Holy Crap!" when I saw that the Timberwolves had beaten the defending NBA champions in Dallas last night and by the ridiculous score of 105-80. We spoiled the Mav's party, as they handed out their championship rings last night as a special courtesy to T-Wolve J.J. Barea who was an integral part of that championship last year. Of course, returning to the topic of the game itself, Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki, too (along with Barea), so maybe the Wolves' win could have been foreseen. Not by me. Kevin Love did his usual Superman impression, but then Ricky Rubio played (ah, let me think) Batman (?), playing 46.5 minutes out of 48 and scored 17 points with 12 assists and 7 rebounds. Love's numbers were 31 and 10. Ordinarily, one of those would be player of the day but after spending 5 hours on Snelling Avenue last night, I'm sticking with the MIAC.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

100 Years of Minnesota State High School Tournament Basketball #4: Top Boys Players

The MSHSL's series celebrating 100 years of high school tournament basketball continues this week with the top players in the boys tournament. You can see the MSHSL's commentary at http://www.mshsl.org/mshsl/index.asp, and you should because I'm not going to be repeating it here. The commentary below is my own.

Top Five Players

The MSHSL selected as its top 5:

• Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North 1995-96-97
• Jim McIntyre, Mpls. Patrick Henry 1944-45
• Mark Oberding, Melrose 1973-74
• Randy Breuer, Lake City 1978-79
• Isaiah Dahlman, Braham 2004-05-06

The 1st 3 are the correct picks of the best 3 players ever. El-Amin and Olberding you probably know. McIntyre was the 1st modern low-post center and he devastated opponents and the record book alike. The scoring records before Mac were 19 points per game for a tournament and 27 points in 1 game. He scored 29, then 36, then 43 points in a game, and 86 and then 100 for the tournament. He went on to set Big 10 scoring records and earn all-America honors at the U.

My choice at #4--and the #2 center--would be Ron Johnson, New Prague 1955-56 ahead of Breuer. #5, then, could be one of any number of players including of course Breuer and Dahlman. But Bob Zender and Dave Tschimperle are right there, too.

The MSHSL, as it happens, picked not only a top 5 but 20 "other notable players," and Johnson, Tschimperle and Zender are among them. So any disagreements with the list are fairly minor. The MSHSL's next 20 are:

Ron Johnson, New Prague 1955-56. Johnson scored 203 points in 6 tournament games against all comers, Breuer scored 181 against Class A competition. That is basically my argument for having Johnson ahead of Breuer, though it is true that Johnson went on to earn all-America honors at the U of M. Breuer had a great career as a Gopher, of course, and even led the Gophers to a Big 10 title, which Johnson (and most Gophers) have never done. So it's a close call, but I like Johnson.

Bob Zender, Edina 1966-67-68. I also like Zender among my top 5. He did something that only Khalid El-Amin has also done, and that is lead his team to 3 straight state titles against the highest level of competition available.

Bob Bruggers, Danube 1961-62

Martin Norton, Mpls. Central 1921. Set free throw records that stood until Cody Schilling 85 years later. 50 years later, Halsey Hall still had Norton on his all-time all-tournament five.

Cody Schilling, Ellsworth 2006-07-08. Only boy ever to lead the tournament in scoring 3 times.

Dave Tschimperle, Hopkins 1951-52-53. 1 of only 2 players to earn all-tournament honors 3 times in the single class era.

Tommy Nordland, Mpls. Roosevelt 1956-57

Barry Wohler,  Bird Island-Lake Lillian 1980-81. Played in 6 games, all wins, and treated Bird Island fans and fans of the game to not 1, not 2, but 3 game-winning shots among those 6 games.

Ronnie Henderson, Mpls. Marshall-University 1981-82

Steve Lingenfelter, Bloomington Jefferson 1975-78

Bill Simonovich, Gilbert 1951

Jim Fritsche, St. Paul Humboldt 1949

Jake Sullivan, Tartan 1998-99-2000

Frank Wachlarowicz, Little Falls 1975

Mark Landsberger, Mounds View 1972-73

Hal Haskins, Alexandria 1943

Terry Kunze, Duluth Central 1961

Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson 1986-87

Lawrence McKenzie, Mpls. Patrick Henry 2000-01-02-03. The MSHSL says that "McKenzie led the Patriots to...four...state championships," which is a bit of hyperbole. 3, maybe. As a freshman in 2000, he scored 3 points in the 1st round, zero in the semi-final, and did not play in the final. He started as a sophomore and scored 27 points in 3 games, but was not among the 3 Henry players who won all-tournament honors.

Blake Hoffarber, Hopkins 2005-06

Well, I would say that the list is light on old-timers--only Norton from before WWII, only McIntyre and Fritsche from the 1940s. Here are some of the old-timers that deserve to be remembered on the occasion of the tournament's 100th year.

Harold Gillen, Stillwater 1914. Went on to earn all-America honors at the U.

Butsie Maetzold, Red Wing 1920-21-22. Later coached Hopkins to 2 state titles.

Earl Moran, Moorhead 1928-29-30. One of only 2 boys to earn all-tournament honors 3 times in the single class era.

Johnny Dick, Buhl 1935-36.

Willie Warhol, Mpls. Edison 1935-36-37. The best player on the best team of the pre-war years.

To put a little more order to the chaos of these 28 names, here are my all-time all-tournament teams.

First Team

C- Jim McIntyre, Mpls. Patrick Henry 1944-45
PF- Mark Olberding, Melrose 1974
SF- Dave Tschimperle, Hopkins 1951-52-53
PG- Khalid El-Amin, Mpls. North 1995-96-97
OG- Willie Warhol, Mpls. Edison 1935-36-37

Second Team

C- Ron Johnson, New Prague 1955-56
PF- Bob Zender, Edina 1966-67-68
SF- Isaiah Dahlman, Braham 2004-05-06
PG- Butsie Maetzold, Red Wing 1920-21-22
SG- Cody Schilling, Ellsworth 2006-07-08

Third Team

C- Randy Breuer, Lake City 1978-79
PF- Hal Haskins, Alexandria 1943
SF- Martin Norton, Mpls. Central 1921
PG- Terry Kunze, Duluth Central 1961
SG- Blake Hoffarber, Hopkins 2005-06

Fourth Team

C- Steve Lingenfelter, Bloomington Jefferson 1975-76
PF- Kris Humphries, Hopkins 2002-03
SF- Bob Bruggers, Danube 1961-62
PG- Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson 1986-87
OG- Earl Moran, Moorhead 1928-29-30

Fifth Team

C- Chad Kolander, Owatonna 1989-90
PF- Jim Fritsche, St. Paul Humboldt 1949
SF- Tom Nordland, Mpls. Roosevelt 1956-57
PF- Barry Wohler, Bird Island-Lake Lillian 1980-81
SG- Jake Sullivan, Tartan 1998-99-2000

Sixth Team

C- Ed Nylund, Buhl 1941-42
PF- Mark Landsberger, Mounds View 1972-73
SF- Johnny Dick, Buhl 1935-36
PG- Jeff Nessler, St. James 1972
SG- Ben Johnson, DeLaSalle 1997-98-99

Honorable Mention

C- Como Pontliana, Duluth Central 1971; Joe Regnier, White Bear Lake 1984-85; Bill Simonovich, Gilbert 1951

PF- Bill Davis, Richfield 1960; Kevin McHale, Hibbing 1975-76; Rick Rickert, Duluth East 2001; Dean Veenhof, Edgerton 1960-61

SF- Arvesta Kelly, Cretin-Derham Hall 1991-92-93; Tom Mulso, Sherburn 1970; Jabbar Washington, Mpls. North 1995-96-97

PG- Ronnie Henderson, Mpls. Marshall-U 1976; Lawrence McKenzie, Mpls. Henry 2002-03; Jordan Taylor, Benilde-St. Margaret's 2007-08

SG- Joe Coleman, Hopkins 2009-10-11; Jake Sullivan, Tartan 1998-99-2000

Minnesota Girls in D1

Here are some statistical leaders among Minnesota high school grads now playing women's D1 basketball. I don't claim to have checked in on everybody, there are probably a few women who are doing better than what is listed here, but these are the women that came to mind.


1. Tayler Hill, Ohio State, 22 ppg. And shooting 51 percent. No surprise here, the greatest girls scorer ever with 3,888 points in high school. (Mpls. South)

2. Brittney Chambers, Kansas State, 16. But shooting just 36 percent. (Jordan)
3. Rachel Banham, Minnesota, 15. Shooting 40 percent. (Lakeville North)
4. Jennie Sunnarborg, South Dakota State, 14 and 42 percent. (Osseo)
5. Kiara Buford, Minnesota, 13.5 and 41 percent. (St. Paul Central)

6. Courtney Boylan, Michigan, 13 and 47 percent. (Chaska)
7. Kiara Strickland, Illinois-Chicago, 12 and 50 percent. (Mpls. Roosevelt)
8. Kamille Wahlin, Iowa, 11 and 43 percent. (Crookston)
9. Katie Loberg, Minnesota, 10 and 41 percent. (Princeton)
     Brittnye McSparron, Drake, 10 and 37 percent. (Eastview)
     Tempestt Wilson, South Dakota, 10 and 36 percent. Just a freshman. (Elk River)

FG Percentage

1. Ashley Olson, South Dakota, 80 percent. (Blue Earth)
2. Ojulu, 56 percent.
3. Rochel, 53 percent.
4. Hill, 51 percent.
     Stephanie Sension, UW-Green Bay, 51 percent. (Hopkins)
6. Suriya McGuire, Miami (Fla.), 50 percent. (Mpls. Roosevelt)
7. Beth Doolittle, Iowa, 49 percent. (Hill-Murray)
8. Burich, 48 percent.
9. Boylan, 47 percent.
10. Molly Duehn, Northern Colorado, 45 percent. (Burnsville)


1. Janae Burich, North Dakota State, 9. (Roseville)
2. Loberg, 7.
3. Banham, 6.
     Chambers, 6.
     Sunnarborg, 6.

6. Strickland, 5.5.
7. Apiew Ojulu, Marquette, 5. (Lakeville North)
     Gina Lange, Valparaiso, 5. (Forest Lake)
9. Jackie Voigt, Minnesota, 4.5. (Park)
10. Hill, Boylan, Buford; Cassie Rochel, Wisconsin (Lakeville North); Megan Nipe, GW (Centennial); McSparron; Leah Dietel, South Dakota State (Jordan), all with 4.


1. Wahlin, 4.
2. Banham, 3.
     Buford, 3.
     Hannah Linz, North Dakota State, 3. (Eden Valley-Watkins)
5. Hill, Boylan; Kate Thompson, Michigan (Wayzata); Chambers, Strickland, McSparron; Nicole Smart, North Dakota (Ada-Borup), all with 2.


1. Hill, 2.5.
2. Banham, Buford, Lange; Brianna Williams, North Dakota (Hopkins), 2 each.


1. Burch, 3. The only player with more than 1.

The Minnesota All-Stars

C- Katie Loberg, Minnesota (Princeton), jr.
F- Jennie Sunnarborg, South Dakota State (Osseo), sr.
     Kiara Buford, Minnesota (St. Paul Central), sr.
G- Rachel Banham, Minnesota (Lakeville North), fr.
     Tayler Hill, Ohio State (Mpls. South), jr.

Second Team

C- Janae Burich, North Dakota State (Roseville), jr.
F- Apiew Ojulu, Marquette (Lakeville North), fr.
G- Kamille Wahlin, Iowa (Crookston), sr.
     Courtney Boylan, Michigan (Chaska), sr.
     Brittney Chambers, Kansas State (Jordan), jr.

Diaper Dandies (Soph. or younger)

C- Cassie Rochel, Wisconsin (Lakeville North), soph.
     Beth Doolittle, Iowa (Hill-Murray), fr.
F- Apiew Ojulu, Marquette (Lakeville North), f.
G- Rachel Banham, Minnesota (Lakeville North), fr.
     Brianna Williams, North Dakota (Hopkins), fr.
     Kahla Becken, North Dakota State (Centennial), fr.
     Morgan Van Riper-Rose, Denver (Eden Prairie), fr.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Big Game 1-24-12: Lakeville North boys 68 Apple Valley 54

The Lakeville North boys roared back from a 10 point, first half deficit to pull away from Apple Valley on the Eagles home court 68-54.

Apple Valley's 2-3 zone defense frustrated Lakeville North in the 1st half. Dennis Austin and company were able to keep North out of the paint. And, while Lakeville made 3-of-7 3-pointers, they made only 7-of-17 2-pointers. The Eagles' Tyus Jones slashed to the basket more or less at will and had 13 points at the half.

North led 9-4 at 13:45 but then the Eagles went on a 19-5 run to lead 23-14 at 6:53, then had their biggest lead at 30-20 at 3:15. North stopped the bleeding at that point to stay within 8 at the half at Apple Valley 32 Lakeville North 24. Apple Valley shot 47 percent, Lakeville 41 in the 1st half.

Whatever happened in the 1st half, the opposite happened in the 2nd. Now it was Lakeville shooting 54 percent to the Eagles 35. The Panthers, who had gotten just 1 offensive rebound in the 1st half, got 4 in the 2nd and scored on 3 of them. And after being more or less shut out of the paint by the Eagles Dennis Austin, James Horton, Mitch Hechsel and Jones in the 1st half, Tyler Flack and Ryan Saarela lived in the paint in the 2nd half, scoring 24 of their 34 points (between them) on the night.

The turning point was Austin's 3rd foul at 17:17 of the 2nd half. Apple Valley still held their half-time margin of 32-24 when Austin sat down. And his replacement, Matt Christianson, went down with an ankle injury a minute later. Suddenly the Panthers were finding passing lanes into the low post against the 2-3. Flack hit a pair of FT, and scored on an alley-oop from Grant Erickson. Then Trey Heid hit a 3 on another Erickson feed. Flack scored again, then snared an offensive board and fed Tyler David for 2. Finally, Zach Creighton hit a pair of 3s.

After all of that, Lakeville still trailed 50-45 but it had shot 7-of-11 since Austin's departure. Apple Valley had started the 2nd half making just 1-of-its-1st-6-shots, but then made 6-of-their-next-7.

But, now, the Panthers continued their onslaught, scoring on 11-of-their-final-14 possessions, while the Eagles went cold, scoring on just 2 possessions the rest of the way. Saarela scored on a high-low pass from Robert Tobroxen, then on an in-bounds feed from Chris Laymon for North's 1st lead since 9-6. Then, Saarela scored still another 6 points, and Flack 4 plus an assist, and suddenly it was 65-54 at 2:29, and the Eagles never scored again.

It was an exhibition of incredible poise by the Panthers, coming from behind before a hostile crowd and against a world-class opponent in Tyus Jones.

Flack impressed mightily with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Saarela added 16 and Creighton 12, both off the bench. The inside passing game of Flack, Saarela and Brett Rassmussen was exceptionally effective in the 2nd half, while Trey Heid and others made Jones work for his 22 points on defense.

Jones led all scorers with 22, and added 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal, a block and just 1 turnover. North slowed him down mostly with aggressive man-to-man coverage, but frequently switching out fresh players to guard him as the game went on.

Player of the Day

Tyler Flack 

Coach of the Day

John Oxton, Lakeville North

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Big Game 1-23-12: Rockets 107 Timberwolves 92

If you want to win in the NBA, you've gotta win the 4th quarter. Coach Kevin McHale's Houston Rockets won the 4th quarter Monday night at the Target Center, 31-21, and won the game 107-92. Houston took the early lead, but the Timberwolves fought back to lead 70-65 late in the 3rd. From there it was all Houston--or, at least, it was 42-22 Houston. The Wolves went down pretty much without a whimper.

Player of the Day

Kevin Love scored 39 points on 13-of-19 shooting (68 percent). His teammates shot 20-for-61 (33 percent). Luke Ridnour and Anthony Randolph combined to shoot 10-of-19 (53 percent). The rest of the Wolves shot 10-for-42 (24 percent).

Coach of the Day

Who else but Minnesota native Kevin McHale, owner of a 7 game NBA winning streak.

The Big Game January 2012

Happy New Year! The Big Game for each day in January 2012 is as follows, based on the way things look today, January 1. There will be a The Big Game report each day in January. (Based on the results, it may or may not be the game that was foreseen here.)

Mon., 1-30--Gustavus men at Augsburg. #1 (tie) vs. #3 in the MIAC.

Tues., 1-31--Hopkins boys at Eden Prairie. #2 at #5. EP gave the 31-1 Royals its only loss a year ago.

HS Girls Ratings Update 1-23-12

I'm adopting the new format today--that is, all 4 classes rolled into one. There's been very little change in the pecking order the past 2 weeks. Very few upsets recently.

1. Hopkins 15-0

2. Edina 16-0. Things will begin evolving this week as the Lake Conference swings into action. That means Edina plays #1 Hopkins and #4 Eden Prairie.

3. Bloomington Kennedy 13-2
4. Eden Prairie 12-2
5. Wayzata 15-1
6. Osseo 13-3
7. Benilde-St. Margaret's 12-2 (Class AAA)
8. Roseville 14-2
9. Fergus Falls 18-0 (Class AAA)

10. Providence 13-3 (Class AA). Lost only to AAAA Eden Prairie and Lakeville North and AAA Fergus. Defeated Lakeville North, Richfield and DeLaSalle.

11. White Bear Lake 11-6. Bouncing back nicely from a December injury bug.
12. Buffalo 14-3. Moves up with a win over Minnetonka.
13. Mounds View 13-3
14. Eastview 12-4
15. Braham 15-1 (Class AA)
16. Richfield 13-3
17. Minnetonka 12-4. Drops after losses to Buffalo, St. Michael-Albertville and Braham
18. St. Paul Central 11-5
19. Lakeville North 9-6
20. Chanhassan 13-3

21. Maranatha Christian 12-3 (Class A)
22. Chisago Lakes 13-3 (Class AAA)
23. DeLaSalle 12-3 (Class AAA). Mariah Adanane probably out for the season.
24. Robbinsdale Cooper 12-3
25. Hill-Murray (Class AAA) 11-5

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Big Game 1-22-12: Gopher Men Hammer Northwestern 75-52

The Minnesota Gopher men won their 3rd straight Big 10 game Sunday night by hammering the Northwestern Wildcats 75-52 at Williams Arena. The Gophers broke out of a tie with the Wildcats for 9th and 10th in the Big 10 (at 2-4), moving up 1 slot to a tie with the Iowa Hawkeyes for 8th and 9th (at 3-4). And just in time, too, as 3 of the next 4 games are on the road and the 4th is against #22 Illinois.

But the Gophers should go into this next clutch of games with confidence high after manhandling Northwestern from end to end. It was 11-0 after 6 minutes of play, then 21-4 after 9 minutes. and 36-14 after 16. The score at the half was 41-24. Northwestern got within 16 in the 2nd half at 60-44, 62-46 and 64-48 but an 11-4 run to the final buzzer brought Minnesota its largest lead of the night.

Minnesota simply out-shot Northwestern from 2-point land, 27-for-40 (67.5 percent) to 10-for-29 (35 percent), and also from the FT line 71 percent to 40 percent (8-for-20). The Wildcats out-shot the Gophers from beyond the arc 31 percent to 25 percent, had 8 offensive rebounds to Minnesota's 5, and had 10 turnovers to Minnesota's 12.

The Gophers out-rebounded Northwestern 40-28 overall, though that's just because the Wildcats missed so many shots. And Minnesota had 10 steals and 5 blocked shots to Northwestern's 5 and 3.

5 Gophers scored in double figures--Joe Coleman with 16, Julian Welch with 14, Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams with 11, and Ralph Sampson with 10. Welch and Sampson had 6 boards apiece, Welch 5 assists and Williams 3 blocks.

Gopher Women Lose

Meanwhile, the Gopher women trailed Nebraska 27-23 at 4:48 of the 1st half. Early in the 2nd half they trailed 47-23. In between they shot 0-for-9 with 5 turnovers. Meanwhile Nebraska scored on 9-of-11 possessions.

Player of the Day

Julian Welch 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assist

Coach of the Day

Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men

The Second Season: Gopher Men

Last in a series of posts about "The Second Season," consisting for most teams of the conference season. After the "pre"/non-conference season and before the playoffs.As for the Minnesota Gopher men:

What a difference a week makes. What a difference the 1st road win over a top 10-ranked opponent in 30 years makes. What a difference Joe Coleman makes, once both he and coach Tubby Smith have confidence in what he can do.

So now, the Gophers are still only 2-4 but with a winnable home game against Northwestern. A respectable 3-4 is within reach. And, sure, the schedule toughens up, but .500 is within reach and possibly even an NCAA tournament berth.

Seriously. 9-9 in the conference would probably be good for 6th or 7th place, which gets you a 10th or 11th place match-up in the Big 10 tournament--probably Iowa, Northwestern, Nebraska or Penn State. Winnable. So now you're 22-10 overall, a conference semi-finalist with Michigan or Illinois between you and a berth in the Big 10 final. So you lose. You're 22-11, 6th in the Big 10 and pretty much of a lead pipe cinch for an NCAA tournament berth.

Of course, to get there (9-9), you probably have to win at Iowa and Nebraska, and at home against Illinois, Wisconsin and/or Indiana. Not a slam-dunk. It depends on who shows up. The bunch that lost to Iowa at Williams Arena, or the one that toughed it out at Bloomington, IN.

And nobody knows the answer to that one. But here's the schedule

1-22 Northwestern--must win
1-25 at Michigan State--it ain't gonna happen
1-28 Illinois--we almost beat 'em down there, though that doesn't make it easy
2-1 at Iowa--we lost to 'em at home, but that doesn't mean it can't be done
2-5 at Nebraska--1st ever conference meeting with the 'Huskers, a must win
2-9 Wisconsin--will the real Badgers please stand up? For tonight let it be the one's that lost to Iowa
2-14 Ohio State--it ain't gonna happen
2-18 at Northwestern--tough game, we haven't played well in Evanston
2-22 Michigan State--even here, it ain't gonna happen
2-25 Indiana--well, we beat 'em down there, why not here? Well...
2-28 at Wisconsin--it ain't gonna happen
3-3 Nebraska--everything will be riding on this game and so, well, we just gotta win

So that adds up to 3 wins, 4 it ain't gonna happens, and 5 swing games--Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nebraska here, and at Northwestern. Win the games we should win and 4 of these 5 (I mean, 4 of 'em are at home), and that gets you 9-9. But how tough is 9-9? We gotta beat Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana here. Very tough to do. And that's why I figure that's the upside.

In order to do that, the Gophers will have to prove that they are the team that beat Indiana and Penn State, and that they are quite emphatically not the bunch that lost to Iowa. Here's who's gotta do it, with the number of minutes they're playing. They add up to more than 40 minutes because some guys have missed some games. But you get the idea.

C- Sampson 22 Eliason 13 Ingram 8
PF- Williams 30 Oto 11
SF- Coleman 13 Armelin 15 but with Mbakwe's minutes gone this will have to be more like Coleman 23 Armelin 17
PG- Welch 25 Ahanmisi 18
SG- Austin 26 Andre 16

Is this a Big 10 caliber rotation?


Sampson is of course a big disappointment. He just does not attack the hoop. Still, he shoots 53 percent, he gets 5 boards and 2 blocks. Plus he gets 2 assists and is one of the better passers on the team. All in all, the guy is a senior, he is what he is. Which is to say, offensively not much, but overall a decent ballplayer. Cut him some slack. And Eliason has been productive off the bench, Ingram not so much. Grade: C

Power Forward

Rodney has stepped up since Trevor went down, but still disappears at times. Ralph takes a shot every 3.5 minutes and people complain about his lack of aggressiveness. Rodney takes a shot every 4.2 minutes. You'd like to see a guy who shoots 58 percent take more shots. But, then there's 6 boards, 2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. Depending on the match-up, he is sometimes a stellar defender. This is a fine all-around player. Oto is sometimes very effective, other times not at all. I like his future, but right now we need Rodney on that floor. Grade: B

Small Forward

To go 9-9, the Gophers need Joe to be the guy who scored 23 points at Penn State, not the occasionally bewildered freshman who scored 4.5 ppg prior to that. If he is truly the latter, 9-9 is out of the question. Given that our two bigger and more experienced fellows are so loath to take the big shot, however, Coleman is exactly the kind of guy needed at this position. I mean, he only takes a FG attempt every 4 minutes, but unlike Ralph and Rodney, he gets to the FT line. He's shooting 46 percent from the field and 82 from the line. And though he's 6-4, he plays more like 6-7 on offense. He gets to the rim and he knows how to finish once he gets there, even against bigger guys.

Chip Armelin is a fine back-up, sometimes an outstanding one, but he's certainly up-and-down. More of an instant offense guy even than Coleman, he takes a shot more than every 3 minutes and makes 44 percent. He's shooting only 42 percent from the line, however, so he's never gonna be out there at crunch time.

Grade: C trending toward a B.

Point Guard

Julian Welch and Maverick Ahanmisi share the spot and together make almost a whole "1." Welch shoots the ball every 3 minutes (making 47 percent) and gets an assist every 10. Ahanmisi shoots it every 5.5 minutes (making 38 percent) but gets an assist every 7 minutes. Welch turns it over every 11 minutes, Mav every 13.

Mav is more of a "1" at heart, but in this lineup Tubby needs Welch's scoring threat. Grade: C

Off Guard

Austin and Andre Hollins share the position for now. Each shoots the ball a little more than every 4 minutes. Austin makes 45 percent, Andre the freshman 35 percent, which is why Austin gets 2/3 of the minutes. Well, that and he gets more rebounds, more assists, more steals and even more blocked shots. But the main number is 14 ppg and little more than 40 percent shooting between them at what is for most teams the #1 scoring position. Grade: D


Think, by the way, of an A as an all-conference player, B as a solid starting type player, and C and D are average to well below average. The Gophers are clearly better than average at only 1 position. So all the others better be average and not below, and collectively they're not all there yet. So, there is zero margin for error.

Or, in other words, are we ready to win all the games we should plus Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin at Williams Arena? Again, that would seem to be a little bit much to hope for. 9-9 remains the goal, the upside, and unlikely. 7-11 or 8-10 seems more likely, and that doesn't get you that coveted NCAA tournament bid.

The Big Game 1-21-12: East Metro Showcase indeed

It was the East Metro Showcase today. Unlike yesterday, when the visitors won 2 and the east metro 1, today's result was 3-2 in favor of the east metro. All are boys games.

Roseville gave St. John's Lutheran of Ocala, FL, its a second shellacking of the showcase 106-49 as Logan Brown led a balanced attack with 17 points.

Hopkins beat Milwaukee Riverside 91-58 as Siyani Chambers scored 20.

Onalaska (WI) edged St. Paul Johnson 61-59 despite Marcus Marshall's 15  points.

Eden Prairie 72 LaCrosse (WI) Aquinas 45. Sander Mohn and Abien Carpenter scored 15 points each for EP.

Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau (WI) 66 St. Paul Central 44

In 2 other games of note:

Edina girls 63 Woodbury 50 as Katybeth Biewen scored 28. Make that 3-3 for the east metro.

Duluth East boys 63 #2AAA Mpls. Washburn 62. Shaq Coleman made 2 FT with 4 seconds remaining for the win. Taylor Stafford scored 21, Johnny Woodard 13. On Friday night, East lost to #4AAA 67-64 as Coleman led East with 14 points, Akolda Manyang scored 10 with 13 rebounds and 8 blocks, and Stafford and Woodard added 25 between them. More to the point, Grand Rapids' Austin Pohlen scored 23 and Alex Illikainen 18.

Player of the Day

Katybeth Biewen, Edina girls

Coach of the Day

David Flom, Eden Prairie boys

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mariah Adanane, DeLaSalle girls, out with fractured skull

Even with all the talk of athletic injuries lately, skull fractures on the basketball court haven't been much discussed. And, truth be told, they're pretty rare. But DeLaSalle senior guard Mariah Adanane suffered just such an injury the other day. She is expected to be hospitalized about 5 days. Coach Faith Johnson Patterson said she would be out at least a month, but given the severity of her injury I (and others) are assuming that her high school career is over. Best wishes for a full recovery to Mariah.

She has a nose for the basket and is a very creative and intuitive scorer whose talents are acutely missed by her team. The defending state AAA champs have now suffered 3 losses to White Bear Lake, Providence and Hopkins. They're still unbeaten in their class but rank #2 behind Fergus Falls, who defeated Providence. They've come to be regarded as, well, not quite the slam dunk to repeat that many thought coming into the year. The loss of Adanane cannot help.

The Big Game 1-20-12: East Metro Showcase Gets Underway

St. Paul Highland Park 98 St. John’s Lutheran, Ocala, FLA, St. John’s 36

It’s called the East Metro Showcase, and it certainly started out showcasing St. Paul Highland Park’s quickness in a 98-36 rout of the visitors from St. John’s Lutheran, Ocala, FL.

St. John’s turned the ball over 19 times in the 1st half alone, resulting in 22 Highland points and a 54-17 score. The 2nd half was not quite as bad for the simple reason that it went to running time at 90-32 at the 8 minute mark, but still there were 11 more turnovers for 12 Highland points. Most of the turnovers came off of half-court traps near the 10-second line, resulting in fast break lay-ups for the Scots. (All of the numbers are my unofficial stats.)

Junior guard Dion Bradley was St. John’s chief tormenter. He and senior guard Elijah Jackson forced the turnovers, mostly, and it would be Bradley who would take the ball to the rim or dish it off at the other end. He made 7-of-9 2s, mostly lay-ups, but also 4-of-7 3s and 11-for-11 from the FT line for 37 points, and added 4 assists. One of Bradley’s many highlights was the rare 3+1 to make it 71-24 at about 13:15 of the 2nd half.

But everybody got into the act. 9 Scots scored in the 1st half alone, 12 overall. Seniors Ty’shaun Williams and Nate Anderson also got into double figures with 10 points.

Highland put the game away about half-way into the 1st half. It was 19-10 at about 11:30. At about 8:00 it was 33-10. 9 of the 14 points came in transition, the 1st 7 directly off of steals by Anderson, Isaiah Brower and Anderson again, with Bradley, Bradley (for 3) and Mark Koenig finishing.

Only 1 point in this sequence came off the offensive glass, but overall 18 did. Many came on 2-on-1 fast breaks, when the initial shot was missed by nobody from St. John’s got back quickly enough to rebound or defend the follow.

Highland’s next run closed out the half, as St. John’s failed to score inside of 4:00 and it went from 43-17 to 54-17. There was not much to do in the 2nd half but wait for running time, which prevented the Scots from hitting the century mark.

Later That Night....

From here, well, I hope you understand I just had to go back to the island, where I saw the Hopkins girls pull away from a 26-24 lead late in the 1st half to defeat DeLaSalle going away 76-53. I sent my report on that game to my buddy Kevin at www.kjasr.com. 

And so I missed the rest of the bill at St. Paul Johnson, where it was much less an east metro showcase as the night wore on. Milwaukee Riverside trounced St. Paul Central 72-48 and the Hopkins boys defeated host Johnson for the 2nd time this season 99-83 though at it was apparently a much better game than the 100-74 game at Augsburg in December. Siyani Chambers scored 31 for Hopkins.

Player of the Day

Dion Bradley, St. Paul Highland Park, though I'm tempted to go with Nia Coffey, Hopkins girls. My numbers showed her with 20 points, but the official scorekeeper didn't agree with me. S/he showed Sydney Coffey with 20 and Nia with 18. But I also have Nia with 21--count 'em--rebounds and 5 steals. So I liked Nia as the top player in that game.

Coach of the Day

Jon DePerry, St. Paul Highland Park

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Big Game 1-19-12: Minnesota Gopher women 71 Michigan State 65; Biewen is Player of the Day

The Minnesota Gopher women got a balanced scoring effort and evened their Big 10 record at 3-3, beating previously 2nd place Michigan State (4-2) 71-65.

• Rachel Banham had another superb game with 16 points, 7 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Tonight she had plenty of help.

• Kiara Buford with 22 points
• Jackie Voigt with 11 and 3 boards
• Micaella Riche with 9 points, 3 boards and 2 steals off the bench,
• Katie Loberg with 8 points, 7 boards and 3 blocked shots.

The Gophers jumped out to an 11-2 lead, but the Spartans came back to tie at 15-all. Eventually, the Gophers led 35-23 and 38-27 at the half. In the second half the Gophers opened up a 14 point lead at 53-39 but the Spartans got back within 6 at 57-51.

Then Buford hit a jumper from Leah Cotton, and then a pair of FT and Minnesota was back up by 10. The deficit was reduced to 6 again at 65-59 with 1:50 remaining, and the Gophers made just 6-of-12 FT after that. But the Spartans failed to score on 3 straight possessions between 1:00 and :30, and it was 69-59 inside of :30. Only a 3 at the final buzzer got Michigan State within the final score of 71-65.

The game's other crucial sequence came with the score tied at 15-all at 10:30 of the 1st half. Voigt blocked an MSU shot and Riche hit a pair of throws. Banham hit a jumper from Voigt, and a 2 off of a steal. State came back to within 21-17, but Buford hit 1-of-2 throws, Banham and Riche a pair of jumpers, and Voigt a pair of throws and suddenly it was 29-19. The Spartans would never again be closer than 6.

Minnesota shot 52 percent in the 1st half and 48 percent for the game, State just 36 and 41 percent. Even discounting those 12 FT inside of 1:00, the Gophers had already been to the line 26 times, making 21, to the Spartans' 10-of-15. 

Player of the Day

Banham and Buford were stellar for the Minnesota Gophers, but player of the day honors go to Katybeth Biewen of Edina. The #2AAAA Hornets remained undefeated with a tough 62-57 road win at #3AAA Richfield. Biewen scored 25 for Edina, who continues to be without her running mate, MC McGrory, at the other guard spot. Richfield's star guard Jessica January scored 18 points, breaking a streak of 6 straight games with 20 points or more.

Coach of the Day

Matt Nilsen, Edina girls

The Biewens

I first met the Biewens back in 2007. I was watching that incredible St. Paul Central girls team beat the living daylights out of the Edina Hornets in the state AAAA semi-finals. The final score was Central 79 Edina 41. Well, EC Biewen played for that Edina team and, like her teammates, she had a pretty tough go of it. She came off the bench to play 15 minutes and failed to score, though she corralled 2 rebounds, but also turned the ball over twice.

Now, keep in mind, I was never much of an Edina fan. I grew up in the 1960s when Edina just had too much success and it was quite fashionable to hate Edina and call them the "Cake-Eaters." In fact, it was the very 3 years when I lettered on my high school team that the Hornets boys became the 1st team ever to 3-peat at the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament. So, anyway, I had no reason to sympathize with Edina that night.

But the fact is that the Edina girls on the court and the parents and other fans in the stands, with whom I happened to be sitting, handled their thumping with such class that I couldn't help but admire them. I also recognized the Biewen name--Gene Biewen had coached Mankato Wilson in the fabulous boys Class A final in 1976, when Wilson pushed a great Mpls. Marshall-U team into OT before losing 64-59. Paul Biewen scored 21 points in that game.

So, as it happened, I asked some Edina fans if the Biewens were in the crowd and could they point them out to me. They could and they did. And I not only met Paul Biewen, who turned out to be EC's dad, but also his dad, Gene, and being interested in the good old days of Minnesota high school basketball as I am, I had a nice chat with Gene for maybe 30 minutes or so.

Well, a week later I was at probably the most exciting day of high school basketball I've seen since the MSHSL went to 4 classes in 1997. Ellsworth beat Cass Lake-Bena in a classic in Class A and after a couple more excellent games, Buffalo knocked off Armstrong on a last-second shot in Class AAAA. Well, shortly after the start of that game I saw that none other than Gene Biewen sitting across the aisle from me. His grand-son Carter, son of John Biewen, played for Armstrong and scored 11 points with 10 boards in that game. Carter played at Carleton, where he completed his eligibility last spring. That is his cousin Ben, son of Paul, who is now a senior at Gustavus.

What a basketball family. And now, 5 years later, Mitch Biewen, son of John, is a junior guard for Armstrong and Katybeth Biewen, daughter of Paul, is a senior guard for the Edina Hornets.

And unlike that Armstrong team of 5 years ago, the Falcons are struggling this year at 2-9. I'd like to say they're getting better but the fact is they're 0-5 in the new year, though in fairness one would have to note that they've played 5 teams with winning records, 2 of whom are top 10 and 1 of whom is Hopkins, nuff sed. But in those 5 games Mitch has scored 71 points for a team-leading average of 14.2, up from an average of 4 ppg last year as a sophomore.

Meanwhile, Katybeth is trying to close out an illustrious career with her 1st trip to the state tournament and the team's 1st since that fateful year of 2007. I remember the 1st time I saw Katybeth. She was a freshman, and her team was getting hammered (again) this time by Richfield in the 2009 sectional playoffs. Katybeth came off the bench and immediately exerted very strong leadership on her older teammates, got 'em organized, got 'em focused, got 'em competing. They lost, but they were so much a better team with this skinny little 9th grader on the court than without that I raved to anybody that would listen about her and her future potential.

Well, the Hornets improved from 12-13 in 2009 to 26-2 in 2010, not entirely due to Katybeth's play, to be sure. This team had Taylor Young, in her senior year, Grace Veker, also in her senior year, and Jamie Bresnahan as a junior, along with Katybeth, then a sophomore. They lost to Chaska in a memorable section final 45-43, only because Young, now starring at unbeaten (in MIAC play) St. Thomas University, tweaked her knee early in that game and hobbled around throughout. Still, Edina led most of the way before Brooke Brown took over for Chaska. The truth is she overpowered Katybeth (outscoring her 20-7) and the entire Edina team down the stretch and willed her team to the win. Still--and no disrespect to Brown and Ellen Degler and Brianna Tisch--but if Young can go 100 percent, Edina wins. And even then, Chaska only won when Katybeth's 3-point shot from half-court at the final buzzer got halfway down the bucket before spinning out.

Sans Young and Veker, Edina slumped to 18-10 last year but Biewen was joined in the starting lineup by another tiny but oh-so-savvy young guard (then a sophomore) Mary Claire (MC) McGrory. But now, returning Biewen and McGrory and junior Vivian Engen at guard along with forward Lindsey Johnson, the Hornets are a powerhouse again, running up a 14-0 record even as McGrory has missed the last several games, presumably due to an injury.

In the last 2 games of 2011, Edina swept a pair of games at the St. Michael-Albertville holiday tournament as McGrory scored 20 ppg and Biewen 17.5. In the 1st game of the new year, Katybeth scored 18 and McGrory 9. I don't know if that's in the full game or whether she went down sometime during this game. But she hasn't played since. Yet, Edina is 3-0 as Biewen has picked up the slack, scoring 21 ppg, including 26 points (57 percent of the team total) in a 45-35 win over Duluth East.

Obviously the Hornets success in the fiendishly difficult Lake Conference and the equally tough section 2AAAA will depend on McGrory's return to 100 percent. The Lake of course includes #1 Hopkins, #4 Wayzata, #5 Eden Prairie and #8 Minnetonka as well as #2 Edina. Section 2AAAA includes #4 Bloomington Kennedy and #5 Eden Prairie as well as the Hornets. The prospects for a conference title are not good as long as Hopkins is in the mix. The prospects for a sectional title are better, but even then they'll be facing at least 3 high-D1 recruits--Jackie Johnson and Shayne Mullaney of EP, and Jade Martin of Kennedy.

Edina by comparison at present boasts no D1 recruits, which of course begs the question of what Katybeth Biewen will be doing with the next phase of her basketball career.

Historically she's not been highly regarded in the most oft-cited player rating around at gPrep.net. I remember her rated in the high teens among her class a couple years ago, though it's true that Mullaney and Johnson were rated in that same neighborhood at the time. Johnson and Mullaney have climbed up to #1 and #7, respectively, while Hill-Murray guard Tessa Cichy has dropped from #1 to #9 and Whitney Tinjum of Chisago Lakes from #3-4 to #10. Katybeth has moved only up to #14 at the present time. I've always had her in my top 10 and currently I'd have her on my 2nd all-state 5. But never has there been any word of a D1 scholarship offer, and maybe that's right. She's still challenged in the size department. But her court IQ and her ability to take charge of her team on the court and navigate the whole enterprise toward the goal is right up there with Mullaney's. Her mental toughness and intensity is 2nd to none. Her scoring ability, those 26 points against Duluth East nothwithstanding, is not as good as Mullaney's or Tinjum's or Marissa Janning's. She's not somebody who is defined by her quickness or leaping ability or athleticism generally. She's defined by her basketball IQ and mental toughness. And that, in my experience, very often beats pure athleticism. And, so, with the possible exception of Mullaney, if I have to play an elite opponent with a tough pressure defense, I'm pretty sure I want Katybeth to handle the ball for me.

To me, in other words, the 2012 guards--and they are a terrific group--rate like this:

1. Mullaney (Minnesota)--has the same attributes at Biewen, plus she's physically stronger and a better shooter
2. Janning (Creighton)--great all-around skills, a little quicker, maybe--42 points last night!
3. Tinjum (Washington State)--a great scorer
4. Biewen--another 25 points last night, outscoring Jessica January 25-18 on the road
5. Cichy--more athletic, a great defender, nowhere as solid offensively
6. Mariah Adanane--a great scorer

7. Kali Peschel (Iowa)--a good scorer, good size, currently injured
8. Alexis Foley (Illinois State)--excellent all-around offensive player
9. Brittney Scherber (Bradley)--does it all

10. Mikayla Bailey (Minnesota)--a great competitor, a great defender, up and down offensively
11. Whitney Olson (Wayne State)--a very good scorer
12. Lexi Long--great court IQ, moves and moves the ball

I see Sydney Coffey as a forward, by the way, which is why she's not on this list.

So, anyway, that's what I know about the Biewens. Well, except I haven't even told you about grandpa Gene, who played his ball at Austin St. Augustine (yep, a long time ago) and St. Mary's in Winona before getting into the coaching racket. I learned just the other day from Orris Jirele that Jirele succeeded Biewen when he came to Rochester Lourdes in 1966. That'll have to wait for another day, I guess.

100 Years of Minnesota High School Tournament Basketball #3: Top Girls Players

The MSHSL continues its weekly series of the "best of" the Minnesota state high school basketball tournaments. This week it's the top girls players. You can view their choices and their commentary for yourself at http://www.mshsl.org/mshsl/index.asp, then click "100 Years of BB" in the upper left. And you should  because I'm not repeating their commentary here, but rather inserting my own.

It's hard to argue with 4 of their 1st 5 choices.

Janet Karvonen, New York Mills 1977-79-79-80
Coco and Kelly Miller, Rochester Mayo 1993-95-96-97
Angel Robinson, St. Paul Central 2006-07
Tayler Hill, Mpls. South 2007-08-09

I won't say which of the 5 isn't like the other 4, but I will say this. There's no "big" on the top 5. There ought to be a "big" on the top 5 and the obvious choice there is:

Liz Podominick, Lakeville 2001-02

Luckily, the MSHSL goes on to pick 15 "Other Notable Players," and Podominick is one of those. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I helped the MSHSL pick their list of the best girls players, and all their other "best of" lists, and I didn't find too much fault with this list at the time. So it's not fair to complain now. But with that as a caveat, I will now complain a little bit, or at least suggest some names of girls who might be as good as the 20 who have been identified by the MSHSL.

My second comment, then, is that only 4 of the 20 girls selected played in the 1970s and '80s, and 16 played in in the 1990s and 2000s. Now that I see it in the cold light of day, that doesn't seem quite right. In order to have the same number of girls per year for the 1st 2 decades as for the most recent 2 decades, you'd need about 10 girls from the 1970s and 1980s.

I agree wholeheartedly, of course, with the choices of Karvonen and:

Laura Gardner, Bloomington Jefferson 1976-77-78
Kelly  Skalicky, Albany 1978-79-80-81
Mary Jo Miller, Milroy, Tracy-Milroy 1985, 1987-88

But in addition to that, I would just say that the following get you to 10:

Joan Kowalsky, St. Margaret's, Benilde-St. Margaret's 1976-77
Lisa Lissimore, St. Paul Central 1976-77-78
Leah Blackwell, Edina 1983-84
Judy McDonald, Chisholm 1984
Janice Streit, Eden Valley-Watkins 1983-84
Laurie Decker, Rochester Lourdes 1986-87

Then you've got 11 more honorable mentions from the 1990s through the present day:

Shannon Loeblien, St. Paul Harding 1990-91
Tamara Moore, Mpls. North 1997-98
Hana Peltjo, Osseo 1997, 20000
Shannon Bolden, Marshall 2001-02
Kelly Roysland, Fosston 2001-02-03
Leslie Knight, Hopkins 2002-03-04
Mia Johnson, Mpls. North 2001-02-03-04-05
Katie Ohm, Elgin-Millville 2002-03-04-05
Kiara Buford, St. Paul Central 2005-06-07-08
Brittney Chambers, Jordan 2007-08-09
Rachel Banham, Lakeville North 2007-10-11

This gets you to 25, which is a good round number, except there's 1 other name that is missing, and that is Jenna Smith of Bloomington Kennedy 2004-2005. I don't remember how we managed to overlook her, but she would clearly be the #2 post behind Podominick.

And if there are 4 more girls who deserves to be listed--and who get you to another round number (30)--it would be:

Stacy Sievers, Rochester Lourdes 1989-90-91
Lori Lawler, Rochester Lourdes 1989-90-91
Tricia Wakely, Burnsville 1991-92
Erin Ditty, Hastings 1996

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Big Game 1-18-12: The Tommies Giveth, the Tommies Taketh Away

The St. Thomas University men lost to Bethel Monday night on a last second, buzzer-beater shot by Bethel's Kellan Dahlquist. Tonight, John Nance scored as time expired to give the Tommies a dramatic 1-point win in over St. Olaf 78-77. Nance scored 6 of the Tommies' final 11 points and assisted on 2 more, as St. Thomas overcame a 70-67 deficit in the final 4 minutes of play.

The Oles had led by as many as 12 in the 1st half, at 20-8, 22-10, 24-12 and 26-14, but the Tommies stormed back to tie it up at 39-39 all America. The largest lead of the 2nd half fell to St. Thomas, 51-47, and the score was tied 11 times in the 2nd half alone.

Both teams shot over 50 percent, but the Tommies also made 87 percent of their FT while St. Olaf made just 14-of-23.

Augsburg and Gustavus remained in a 1st place tie with the Tommies at 8-2. Augsburg won at St. John's 65-49 as Andy Grzesiak-Grimm scored 24 points with 15 boards. Gustavus hammered Hamline 105-79 as Seth Anderson lit it up to the tune of 34 points. Gustavus shot 59 percent in the 2nd half, and also made 28-of-29 colors.

Player of the Day

Seth Anderson, Gustavus

Coach of the Day

Mark Hanson, Gustavus

The Big Game 1-17-12: Eastview boys 65 Rosemount 45

The host Eastview Lightning started and finished in high-flying mode Tuesday night. In between, the Rosemount Irish turned it into a grinder but, hey, Eastview grinds, too. The result was a decisive 65-45 win against a not-bad Rosemount team.

6-9 Joey King opened the scoring for the Lightning with an easy 7-footer in the lane. He then fed 6-9 junior Ben Olberfeld on the give 'n go. Chris Narum drilled a 3 off of an offensive board and assist by Quinn Trusty, and King scored on a fast break alley oop from Darin Haugh to make it 9-0 after just 3 minutes of play.

By half-time it was 31-11, and 42-19 at 12:31 of the 2nd, but Rosemount fought back. Then, inside of 4 minutes in the 2nd half, King hit a couple of dunks about a minute apart--1 off a Narum steal and assist, and another from Olberfeld on yet another fast break. Olberfeld then scored off the offensive glass, and Narum and Haugh applied to coup de grace with a 3 apiece. Suddenly, it was 62-41 at 1:28, and all the starters came out for the victorious Lightning.

Eastview shot an unconscious 12-of-18 in the 1st half, 10-of-14 (71 percent) from 2-point range, all this with King largely ineffective and/or on the bench. He barely played the last 7 minutes after picking up his 2nd foul, and he didn't score again in the 1st half after the 1st 3 minutes. Haugh and Olberfeld picked up the slack with 13 and 8 points respectively. (All are my unofficial stats.)

Then, even with King back on the floor, the Lightning were largely grounded in the 2nd half, shooting just 9-of-30. If the 1st half was this-is-how-we-played-against-Tyus-Jones, then the 2nd half was this-is-how-we-beat-Lakeville-North.

But Eastview dominated the possession game both halves to more than make up for any shooting issues. The Lightning had 13 offensive boards and 13 turnovers, the Irish 8 offensive boards and 19 turnovers.

More to the point, Rosemount shot just 3-of-20 in the 1st half. The Irish wanted to work the ball inside to 6-8 Matt Nelson and 6-5 Brandon Forcier, but everytime they touched the ball inside, Eastview's 6-9/6-9 offered them absolutely nowhere to go. And Eastview was quicker on the perimeter, and so the Irish had a hard time moving the ball around, running their sets and getting the ball to people where they wanted them to handle it. The 2nd half was better, however, as Rosemount started out 3-of-3 and finished 12-of-25. The Irish had 7 assists in the 2nd half to just 1 in the 1st.

Still, on the night, Eastview was 21-of-48, Rosemount 15-of-45.

The officials nearly lost control of this one, by the way. It got way too rough and then way too chippy in the 2nd half, and it was lucky that nobody got hurt. But, hey, Eastview does chippy, too, and collected several more chips than Rosemount did. But for about 5 minutes there they were collecting chips instead of buckets, and that's when the Irish pulled within 50-35. Eastview finally took to the air again and put it away.

Haugh scored 22 points overall, King and Olberfeld 12 each. 6-5 Tyler Liermann came off the Rosemount bench to score 11 points and guard Charlie Broback added 10.

Three Questions

1. How good is Eastview? Can they really beat Hopkins? Well, of course, they can. They beat Benilde, who beat Hopkins. But will they? Well, Zach Stahl does just about everything Joey King does, and the Royals' guards are way quicker than Eastview's. That leaves 6-9 Ben Overfeld as the Lightning's main possible difference-maker against Hopkins. He is just a load. He is a reasonably skilled player, but mainly he's just very very strong under the hoop. But can Eastview's guards get him and King the ball against Hopkins' pressure defense?

2. How good is King? Now, don't get me wrong. Joey King is terrific, though he only had 2 short runs of high-flying dominance. It's just that, so is Zach Stahl. What I don't get is how in the heck Joey King is going to Drake, and Stahl is going to Lehigh. Both of these kids are Big 10 players. They both do it all. They run, they jump, they score inside and out, they defend, they hit the boards. King, of course, is 6-9, Stahl is 6-6. But if you've seen Wally Ellenson, and Tubby Smith has recruited Wally Ellenson, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH JOEY KING? Is it too late to talk him into staying at home at the U?

3. How good is Rosemount? The 6-8 Nelson is a very very nice player who has a nice D2 career ahead of him. He can play faced the hoop, he can score from the inside and out. His teammates are well-schooled and play hard. Rosemount is now 7-6 with losses to Minnetonka, Benilde, Jefferson, Prior Lake, Kennedy and Eastview. Middle of the pack. In other words, a 20-point margin at home was a good night's work for Eastview and should do nothing to diminish their #1 ranking.

Player of the Day

Darin Haugh

Coach of the Day

Bryan Schnettler, Rosemount, had his kids ready to against #1