Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Second Season: High School Girls

The First Season clearly confirmed defending state champs Hopkins (#1AAAA, 12-0) and Maranatha  (#1A, 9-3 with 1 loss each to Class AA, AAA and AAAA teams), and defending state AA runners-up Providence (#1AA, 9-3 with losses to #5 and #7AAAA Eden Prairie and Lakeville North and #1AA Fergus Falls), as favorites for 2012 titles.

Meanwhile, it muddied AAA where pre-season #1 Benilde-St. Margaret's lost to #5AAAA Eden Prairie 51-50 in OT and, more to the point, #4AAA Hill Murray 49-39. As a result, 10-0 Fergus Falls takes over the top spot in the latest rankings from Minnesota Basketball News (MBN).

The ratings below are mine. Those referred to above are from MBN.

Class AAAA

1. Hopkins 12-0. Before the Royals' holiday tournament game with Prior Lake, coach Brian Cosgriff said he feared that the Lakers would try to slow his club down into a half-court. Well, they tried and even succeeded intermittently. Otherwise the score would have been more decisive than it was at 67-29. 2 nights later defending state runner-up Eden Prairie, led by 2 Minnesota Gopher recruits, tried to play at a faster pace and lost 83-51. Not as deep as in previous years but with awesome front-line talent led by the daughters of former Gopher Richard Coffey, 6-1 junior guard-forward Nia and 5-11 senior forward-guard Sydney. Projected Section 6 champ and state tourney #1 seed.

2. Eden Prairie 11-2. Dropped all the way to #5 in MBN rankings after the Hopkins debacle, but I think they'll beat MBN's #2AAAA Edina for the Section 2AAAA title and the #2 seed at state. The Gopher recruits are a classic inside-outside combo, seniors Jackie Johnson, a 6-2 post, and Shayne Mullaney, a 5-9 guard.

3. Edina (11-0). Unrated in pre-season but guards Katybeth Biewen and junior MC McGrory are a most dynamic duo. The Classic Lake schedule, including #1, #2, #3, #6 and #7 teams in this ranking, will resolve how good these teams are, really, not to mention Section 2 which includes #2, 3, 4 and #11.

4. Bloomington Kennedy (8-2). Probably has better talent 1 through 5 than #2 and #3 but lacks the on-the-court senior leadership of Mullaney and Biewen. But that may be hair-splitting as Kennedy's point is also a Gopher recruit, sophomore Kenisha Bell. Junior forward Jade Martin is an even bigger talent.

5. Lakeville North (7-4). Unlike EP, tried to slow Hopkins down...and did, losing 46-41 in OT. Lakeville promptly lost to Edina 47-38 and to EP 62-56. Still, nobody has handled Hopkins pressure defenses as well as senior guard Taylor Stewart.  Projected Section 1 champ and #3 seed.

6. Wayzata (11-1). Led by Iowa recruit, post Kayla Timmerman, and forward Marissa Grossfeld. Don't let a conference record under .500 fool you, but of course they also draw #1 Hopkins in sectional play.

7. Minnetonka (10-1). A surprise, but for real, I think. 8th grade center-forward Courtney Frederickson an emerging star. But like Wayzata, the Skippers draw Hopkins both in conference and section.

8. Osseo (8-3). Supremely talented. Senior guard Mikayla Bailey is a Gopher recruit while junior forward Phyllis Webb has offers from Minnesota and Iowa, at least. Still they've struggled with chemistry since senior forward Olivia Antilla arrived from Benilde. Projected Section 5 champ and #4 seed.

9. Buffalo (9-2). Surprised Roseville the other day. Projected Section 8 champion.

10. White Bear Lake (6-5). Struggling, as the W-L record shows. Obviously, I think they'll be back as some injuries heal. Led by Illinois State recruit Alexis Foley. Projected Section 4 champ.

11. Chanhassan (8-2)--a program on the rise
12. Roseville (10-1)
13. St. Paul Central (8-4)--incredibly tough schedule
14. Mounds View (7-2)
15. Eastview (6-4)--rebuilding/reloading, Projected Section 3 champ
16. Prior Lake (4-6)
17. St. Michael-Albertville (8-2)
18. Robbinsdale Cooper (9-2)
19. Andover (6-5). Projected Section 7 champ.
20. Centennial (8-2)

In theory the 4 state tournament semi-finalists would be Hopkins, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North and Osseo. The most likely to be derailed is Osseo and the most likely to sneak into the final four is White Bear Lake.

Class AAA

1. DeLaSalle (8-2). White Bear and Providence snuck up on the Islanders and probable losses to Hopkins and Eden Prairie loom in January. But a February contest with Benilde will settle the question of the #1AAA seed. Juniors Tyseanna Johnson and Allina Starr, ah, star. Projected Section 3AAA champ and #1AAA seed.

2. Benilde-St. Margaret's (6-2). Lost to AA Providence and surprised by Hill-Murray. With the transfer of Antilla and the emergence of 5-8 soph guard and Minnesota Gopher recruit Grace Coughlin, the Red Knights have become more of a perimeter tean, and that's been a double-edged sword as 6-0 senior forward Khadidjah Shunpert's production slipped. Still, the talent is there. Projected Section 6AAA champ and #2 seed

3. Fergus Falls (10-0), with a come-from-behind win over #1AA Providence who has subsequent wins over Benilde and Lakeville North. Senior post Mariah Monke and soph guard Brianna Rasmussen lead the way. Projected Section 8AAA champ and #3 seed.

4. Hill-Murray (8-3) with losses only to 3 teams from the mighty Lake. Guard Tessa Cichy remains an enigma. 36 points vs. DeLaSalle in the 2010 state tournament followed by a melt-down in '11. Down from #1 in her class on gPrep to #8. But the upside is there, and she's got help, too. Projected Section 4AAA champ and #4 seed.

5. Richfield (9-2) and squares off with Hill-Murray in the Classic Suburban conference, junior guard Jessica January facing Cichy. The good news is they won't face 'em in section play. The bad news is they'll face the Red Knights in Section 6.

6. Hutchinson (10-2) with losses only to Osseo (in OT) and Milwaukee Rufus King at the Dick's holiday tournament. Upcoming game with Mankato East will help sort out a highly competitive section. Point guard Alicia Retterath is a good one. Projected Section 2AAA champ.

7. Holy Family (7-2). Another Section 6er.

8. Park Center (6-3) with losses only to AAAA teams in the tough Northwest Suburban conference. Soph forward Cayla McMorris is rightfully now rated #1 in her class. Will face DeLaSalle in Section 3AAA.

9. New Prague (5-4) but 3 of the 4 losses are to AAAA teams. Ann Rynda has emerged as the Trojans' latest star. Section 2.

10. Thief River Falls (9-2)
11. Mankato East (8-1)--also a threat in Section 2AAA
12. Chisago Lakes (7-3) behind Wisconsin recruit Whitney Tinjum. Projected Section 7AAA champ.
13. Detroit Lakes (7-2)
14. Alexandria (8-1)
15. Marshall (8-3)

Section 1AAA favorite--Kasson-Mantorville (12-0)
Section 5AAA fave--Big Lake (3-7)

In theory, the final four should be DeLaSalle, Benilde, Fergus and Hill-Murray. The most likely upset is Richfield over Benilde in Section 6, or at the state tournament level Hill-Murray might be vulnerable to Hutchinson.

Class AA

1. Providence (9-3) with losses to #2 and #5AAAA EP and Lakeville North and #3AAA Fergus Falls in OT, and they reversed the loss to North 41-33 at the Rochester tournament. Projected champion in section 5AA.

2. Braham (10-1). Defending state champ, Rebekah Dahlman well on her way to becoming state's all-time girls scorer. Projected section 7AA champion.

3. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (10-0) and projected Section 2AA champ.

4. Esko (8-1) with only a 2-point loss to Braham. A rematch in Section 7AA seems likely. The Eskomos are led by 6-8 junior Savanna Trapp.

5. Staples-Motley (8-2). Projected Section 6AA champion.

6. Pine Island (12-0). Projected Section 1AA champion.

7. Jordan (8-1) with only loss to AAAA Shakopee. Will have to find a way to surprise Providence in Section 5AA.

8. St. Peter (8-2) with losses only to AAA Mankato East and #3AA NRHEG. Section 2AA.

9. Hawley (6-1). Projected Section 8 champ.

10. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (8-1). Projected Section 3AA champion.

11. New London-Spicer (8-1)

Section 4 fave--Minnehaha (5-5) with all losses to rated or Class AAAA teams

Tournament pairings are 1 vs. 8, 4 vs. 5, 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6. Semi-finalists should be Pine Island vs. Providence and Staples-Motley vs. Braham.

Class A

1. Maranatha Christian (6-3) with all losses to AA, AAA and AAAA schools. The defending state champs took Braham down to the wire before losing 77-70. Projected Section 4A champ.

2. Goodhue (10-1). The 2010 champs are led by the Tipckes, senior Ericka and soph Mikayla. Projected Section 1 champ.

3. Parkers Prairie (11-0). Coach John and daughter Micaela, a sophomore guard, lead the way but there's lots of help. Projected Section 6 champ.

4. Spring Grove (11-2) with losses to Goodhue and Waukon, IA. Section 1A.

5. Fulda (8-1) with a loss to Sisseton, SD. Projected Section 3 champ.

6. Minneota (8-1). Lost only to Marshall. Underdog to Fulda in Section 3, however,

7. Hancock (6-1). Lost only to Minneota. Led by senior Kendra Schmidgall. Underdog to Parkers Prairie in Section 6.

8. Upsala (7-1). Lost only to AA Staples-Motley. Projected Section 5A champion.

9. Sebeka (8-2) with losses only to AA schools. Section 5.

10. Mountain Iron-Buhl (12-0). Projected Section 7 champ.

Section 8A fave--Win-E-Mac (10-0)
Section 2A fave--Minnesota Valley Lutheran (7-3)

Pairings are the same as Class AA above, so the semi-finals would feature: Goodhue vs. Maranatha, and Parkers Prairie vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl. Upset specials are Minneota over Fulda in Section 3, and Sebeka over Upsala in Section 5. Minneota or Fulda over Parkers Prairie is the upset special at state.

But let's be honest. Class A is a crap shoot. There are too few interregional games and common opponents to know how the regions stack up. All you can do is go by history, which says that the regions rank roughly as follows: 5, 4, 2, 1, 3, 8 and 6 all send down tough teams roughly in the order listed. Section 7 lags. Just on history, without knowing anything about the specific teams, you'd pick 1 over 8, 5 over 4, 2 and 3 over 6 and 7. This year I'm only picking the historically stronger section in 1 of 4 games. This says to me to be ready for some surprises.

Mid-Season All-State Picks

Nia Coffey, Hopkins, jr.
Rebekah Dahlman, Braham, jr.
Shayne Mullaney, Eden Prairie, sr. (Minnesota)
Jackie Johnson, Eden Prairie, sr. (Minnesota)
Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle, jr.

2nd Team

Whitney Tinjum, Chisago Lakes, sr. (Wisconsin)
Jessica January, Richfield, jr.
Marissa Jannning, Watertown-Mayer, sr. (Creighton)
Katybeth Biewen, Edina, sr.
Jade Martin, Bloomington Kennedy, jr. (Georgetown)

3rd Team

Tessa Cichy, Hill-Murray, sr.
Phyllis Webb, Osseo, jr.
Marissa Grossfeld, Wayzata, sr.
Sydney Coffey, Hopkins. sr. (Marist)
Khadidja Shumpert, Benilde, sr.

4th Team

Cayla McMorris, Park Center, soph.
Savanna Trapp, Esko, jr.
Kenisha Bell, Bloomington Kennedy, soph. (Minnesota)
Ann Rynda, New Prague, sr.
Alexis Foley, White Bear Lake, sr. (Illinois State)

5th Team

Kayla Timmerman, Wayzata, sr. (Iowa)
Kendra Schmidgall, Hancock, sr.
Madison Dean, Jordan, soph.
Mariah Adanane, DeLaSalle, sr.
Allina Starr, DeLaSalle. jr. (Georgetown)

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