I saw 3 games today and each one had a winner and a loser. Chanhassan roared back from behind to defeat Henry Sibley 60-54, St. Paul Johnson survived winless Andover 69-64, and Tartan pulled away from Rogers late 71-64.
The best ballplayer I saw, surprisingly, was junior wing Connor Wilkie of Andover, and several other fellows stood out by virtue of being big or young or both. They were Johnson sophomore guard Jalen Mobley, Chanhassan sophomore forward Joey Witthus, Rogers sophomore 6-7 post Cole Murray, and Tartan 6-8 junior post Brody Jackson.
Chanhassan Storm 60 Henry Sibley Warriors 54
I call the Augsburg Twin Cities Orthopedics Holiday Classic the Shadow Tournament. Hopkins, Duluth East and St. Paul Johnson are all but a shadow of their great teams of recent years. Chanhassan, too, is rebuilding. (And, hey, can a 6-team tournament really be called a Classic?)
Only Henry Sibley among the 6 teams in the tournament is improved over the past year or two. They came into the game at 6-2 with losses at Chanhassan and Prior Lake and with wins at Plainview-Elgin-Millville, St. Thomas and Burnsville, and over Johnson 73-63 Thursday night at Augsburg.
Still there were 3 losses to the Chanhassan Storm between last year and this, and maybe that gave Chanhassan to confidence to Storm back from a 49-41 deficit in the last 5 minutes. Until then, Sibley looked like a totally new team, despite the fact that most of the faces on the court were familiar.
In the 1st half, Sibley used the 3 ball, making 5-of-9, 3 of the makes by Zach Haas, and a stout on-ball defense to lead 24-19.
The 2nd was a half of surge and counter-surge. The Storm scored the 1st 7 points, but Sibley responded with an 11-point run to lead 38-30 at 12:00. Chanhassan came back to within 41-38 when Sibley ripped off another 5 points, 4 of them by diminutive point guard Julius Johnson, to lead 49-41 at 5:00.
And then the wheels came off. Sibley's on-ball defenders may have gotten tired, I don't know, but suddenly Chanhassan's ball-handlers were roaming free and finding passing lanes into the low block that had been shut off all night long. Frank Ragnow scored down low, then Derrick Row scored in transition, and Witthus scored from point-blank range. Then the killer: Ragnow scored again and drew the foul. He missed the throw but Row put it back in off the offensive glass for a 4-point possession and a 51-49 lead. Witthus then hit all 3 FT, then Row and then Jared Lea scored in transition.
The Storm made 7 straight shots while Sibley was missing 8-of-9. It was a 15-0 run and 19-5 to the final buzzer.
Chanhassan finished with an eye-popping 25-for-44 (57 percent) from the field. Once they stopped turning the ball over, it was off to the races. Sibley made just 15-of-46 (33 percent) but 7 of the 15 FG were 3-pointers and Sibley also got to the FT line twice as often as Chanhassan. But it was all for naught when it allowed Chanhassan to go into a layup drill in the last 5.
7 players scored in double figures, 4 for the Storm, but it was Sibley's Adam Heussner who led all scorers with 15.
Tartan 71 Rogers 64
The #7-ranked Titans moved to 6-1 with a 71-64 home win over 3-6 but stubborn Rogers in its own holiday tournament. It was tied at 12 and Tartan led 16-14 midway through the 1st half when the Titans ripped off an 18-6 run. Jackson scored 3 times in the run and Kharie Kirkland twice and suddenly Tartan led 30-18. The Royals Luke Pecka hit a pair of 3s to keep it respectable, 35-26, at the half. Tartan made 16-of-34 FG, Rogers just 10-of-28.
But Rogers came back and it was only a charging call against Sam Spilles negating a 2-pointer that enabled Tartan to stay ahead at 37-35. Jackson, who drew the charge, then scored off the offensive glass. Over the next 6 minutes, 5 different players scored for Tartan and the lead was back up to 12, at 49-37. Rogers got within 6 at 49-43 but Jackson and Tommy Hansen scored 10 Tartan points and it was again 12 at 59-47 at 4:00.
As usual, the better shooting team won. Tartan finished in the 47 percent range, Rogers closer to 37. 4 Tartan players scored in double figures led by Hansen's 14. Kirkland, Teddy Klingsporn and Jackson added 12. Ryan Gelle scored 17 for Rogers, Pecka 13 off the bench, and Spilles and Cullen Loughlin 11 each.
A sidebar was the battle of the 6-8 Jackson for Tartan versus 6-7 sophomore post Cole Murray of Rogers. Jackson got much the better of it, outscoring Murray 12-7 and out-rebounding him 10-3. Jackson is bigger and vastly more imposing on the defensive end but Murray, a lefty, showed better moves to the hoop, at least in the 2nd half. (He was scoreless in the 1st.)
St. Paul Johnson 71 Andover 64
This was a terrifically entertaining game, mainly due to Johnson's high octane transition style of play. It doesn't matter if you score or miss or turn in over. If Johnson gets possession on the defensive end, it's going to be down under its offensive glass in about 5 seconds. But Andover hung tough, despite 29 turnovers. I didn't look until after the game and I was shocked to find that the Huskies remain winless on the year. They did not look like a winless club.
In the 1st half the game was tied at 4, 11, 13, 15, 30 and 44--the latter coming on a Robert Chattard bucket for Johnson at the buzzer. The largest leads of the half, 30-24, 27-22, 23-19, were Andover's.
Johnson took its 1st lead of the 2nd half at 50-48 at 13:57 during a string of 3 straight transition buckets by Pierre Conwell (2 FG) and Mobley (1 plus 2 assists). Soon it was 56-48, then 59-51. But Andover fought back to take the lead 61-60 at 2:38 on a 2 +1 on a back door cut by Jake McNallan with an assist to Cameron Wold.
For once Johnson milked the clock and moved the ball around before Mobley took the ball right up the gut to the rim for 2. Andover then turned it over on 5 of its next 6 possessions, thought a 3 by Wilkie made it a 1-possession game at 0:32. Johnson made 5-of-7 throws and Mobley scored on another drive to the rim to make the final 69-64. (I've seen the final reported as 66-64 but that is wrong.)
Mobley and Conwell are the catalysts for Johnson's high octane game, and they led the way with 23 and 14 points, while Lazerik Gilbert added 11. Johnson coach Vern Simmons plays a bunch of guys, and they all know what to do and where to be. Mobley is the heir apparent to guards-extraordinaire Estan Tyler and Marcus Marshall.
But Andover's Connor Wilkie was the most impressive player on the court. He's a good, strong wing who does everything--pops the 3, takes it inside, strong with the ball and passes the ball. hits the boards. If you can't get out to see him this year or next at Andover, watch for him at a D2 school near you. He led all scorers with 23.
The Twin Cities Orthopedic + Tartan All-Stars Friday (3 games)
C- Brody Jackson, Tartan, junior
F- Connor Wilkie, Andover, junior
F- Pierre Conwell, Johnson, junior
G- Jalen Mobley, Johnson, sophomore
G- Xavier Hall, Tartan, senior
F- Joey Witthus, Chanhassan, sophomore
F- Kharie Kirkland, Tartan, senior
F- Zach Haas, Sibley, senior
G- Ryan Gelle, Rogers, senior
G- Sedrick Clark, Johnson, sophomore
C- Frank Ragnow, Chanhassan, junior
F- Quashingm Smith-Pugh, Johnson, senior
F- Tommy Hansen, Tartan, junior
G- Teddy Klingsporn, Tartan, senior
G- Julius Johnson, Sibley, senior