This week the twin themes were the Great River Road and youth. Teams along the Mississippi River were key features in the action from Red Wing and Lake City to Hastings, Bloomington, Cottage Grove. The “Great River” even touches part of the Crosby-Ironton district. Goodhue The week opened with traditional MLK festivities transferred over to Holy Family away from traditional host St. Catherine. After watching the first game there—tied to Mahtomedi—I trekked north to Pierz. This was my only northern incursion for the week. PCG’s Sydnee Nelson used to be at Red Wing tying that thread full circle. There was a heavy dose of HVL action with two games. There was a heavy dose of 3AAAA teams with four for the week and that section is now complete.
Two media guides/programs stood out for their depth of coverage. Both involved the Pioneer brand. Pierz and Hill-Murray have set the standard for what can be accomplished for history. HM has each and every player that has donned a Pioneer jersey, their point totals and more. Pierz had 13 pages of thorough and complete history of the program with coaches, season by season and awards and honors.
MONDAY PIERZ 49, CROSBY-IRONTON 48
This game had the most drama but was not the most artistic in a key 7AA seeding battle. The Pioneers got off to a 9-0 lead as their box and one prevented CI eighth grader Tori Oehrlein from breaking loose. Eventually the Rangers got on track with a 23-5 run. But Oehrlein picked up her third foul at the 3:37 mark of the first half and that tempered her ability to operate as she had to stay in the game to keep the ship afloat. They did pull her at the 1:49 mark. Pierz promptly took advantage and cut the margin to trail at half 23-20. There was plenty of lead changes in the second half. CI had the ball with 1:28 left in the game and the score knotted at 48. A steal and then a foul with 23.8 seconds left put Alyssa Sadlovsky at the line. She made the second free throw for the final margin. Oehrlein took a 3 that missed. Pierz turned it over after a time out with 4.4 seconds left. CI got the steal and immediately called time, but with 1.6 tick left their options were limited at the three-quarter court sideline. Everyone in the gym knew it was headed to Oehrlein. Her desperation 3 did not find its mark and the hosts escaped with a tight win. Neither team was artistic with both under 70 pp100 for the night.
TUESDAY BYRON 65, LAKE CITY 48
Lions (no), Tigers & Bears…. oh my! It was the visiting Bears over the host Tigers in this HVL matchup. It was a three point-palooza for Byron. They went 6/8 in the first half busting open a tight game. For the night Byron was a sizzling 8/12 long distance. Leading the charge was freshman point guard Kendra Harvey with 24 points and four 3s. All five starters for the Bears were over 100 pp100 for the game. Harvey at 133. She also joined the 31 Club with 35. LC was without the services of point guard Lilly Meincke who was in street clothes on the bench. With her out of commission and Natalie Bremer shut out in the first half (she ended with eight points), it made it a hard road for LC. Post player Mya Shones broke the all-time LC rebound mark at 926 in the first half. She ended with 15 on the night and should reach 1000 providing she remains healthy the rest of the year.
LC made a push at the start of the second half cutting a ten-point deficit to four (32-28) in the first three minutes. Byron went on a 9-1 run over the next three minutes to stop any hopes of a comeback.
This was the “best” game of the week if you measure the losing team’s pp100—80.
THURSDAY BLOOMINGTON JEFFERSON 53, BLOOMINGTON KENNEDY 49
The Battle of Bloomington was won by the hosts on Thursday night. As in any civil war type games, emotions were running high. At the 7:24 mark of the first half Sawal Buchanan of Kennedy was fouled and scored. #14 questioned the wisdom of that call. The three-woman officiating crew (the third time I have charted when in operation) did not look favorably on that question and assessed her with a technical foul. A 10-9 Kennedy lead would build into a 16-9 Eagle lead. Jefferson quickly called time with 6:43 left. That righted the boat, and the Jags finished the half with a 15-2 run to grab a 24-18 lead at the break. Part of Kennedy’s problem was the fouls picked up by Ashley Burchette. With her sitting things did not progress as they wished. The trend continued in the second half with the hosts building up to a 35-22 lead with 13:46 left. Kennedy got their full court pressure game ramped up and started the slow climb up. Still trailing 41-31 with 9 minutes left the Eagles got to with one 50-49 with 1:21 left after a pair of Burchette free throws. That would end the Eagles scoring. Emma Felt finished the scoring for BJ with three free throws over two possessions. Felt ended up with a game high 19 points. A big part of the Jefferson success was the 7/9 3-point shooting.
SATURDAY 1 PARK-COTTAGE GROVE 74, APPLE VALLEY 32
This game went to running time right away in the second half as the Wolfpack enjoyed a 50-16 halftime advantage. AV is searching for their first win, and it comes as no surprise since they start two seventh graders and an eighth grader. That is a recipe for severe learning at the AAAA level. They learned more lessons on Saturday afternoon. Getting inside was difficult for the Eagles. PCG won the touch count there 48-18, only two players had more than one touch for AV in the paint. For PCG, Sydnee Nelson, late of Red Wing, provided 13 points on a 185.7 pp100 along with 10 d stops as she picked apart the AV youngsters in limited court action. Emma Ambroz topped PCG with 16 points and a 200 pp100 on the strength of 4/6 3 shooting. PCG had a week’s best pp100 of 127.6 (starters were even better at 156.7).
SATURDAY 2 GOODHUE 74, STEWARTVILLE 36
Another player was missing in action. At Thanksgiving, at St. Thomas Academy, I charted Stewartville twice. This is not the same Tiger team. Junior guard Haylie Strum did not play and their team pp100 suffered. Without her the Wildcats got to running time, albeit late in the contest. Ironically both Saturday games looked like the same type of game. It really was not. Similarities included low touches per turnover for Stewartville, But Stewartville currently is the #2 team in section 1AAA. The unrelenting defense of Goodhue made it hard for the Tigers to get any traction. It did not hurt that Goodhue cashed in nine 3s and shot 42.8 percent behind the arc. Sophomore point guard Elisabeth Gadient led the way with 20 points for the Wildcats.
Youngsters seem to be climbing up to varsity younger and younger. Twenty years ago, you would not see seventh graders at the varsity level in any large school, and not in the smaller schools too. That has changed. There are changing age demographics going on. The senior class has shed players. Players must come from somewhere. With club ball and traveling youngsters belie their age, well on their way to the 10,000 hour level. You can visually see physicality, but you cannot estimate experience. A seventh grader may chronologically be a certain age, but in experience could well be a junior. Correspondingly a junior may be just a beginner. But is this just a vicious cycle: good younger players drive out marginal older players accelerating the trend.
One way to measure the status of the youth is how strong the team they represent is. A team without a win using youngsters is suspect. Would these same players start at a successful program. A youth that contributes on a top 10 team (or team with a winning mark) is going places. This week we saw both spectrums. When a team uses a box and one defense against an eighth grader that is a sign of respect. Two youngsters made the 31 club this week—-Tori Oehrlein of Crosby-Ironton and Mya Wilson of Mahtomedi (twice in three games).
2AAAA v 3AAAA
What is the difference between these two sections? Waconia would be the #4 seed in section 3. They are currently #8 in section 2 with a 7-7 mark. Rosemount, the #1 seed in section 3 would only be the #5 seed in section 2. Section 2’s winning percentage is .727 (83-52); section 3 checks in at .461. A big split. The pp100 in the games I have charted are 89.6 in section 2, 77.8 in section 3—about a twelve-point difference. Both these sections had the finalists in the state tournament in 2021. I do not see that happening again.
There were eight members of the 31 Club this week in the eight games I charted. Three were from Mahtomedi, one of which made the list twice. Four of the top seven scores belonged to single digit graders. Mya Wilson of Mahtomedi was a double entry—-as a seventh grader, and the only one that does not start. Tori Oehrlein of Crosby-Ironton represented the eighth-grade class and Kendra Harvey of Byron the ninth graders. There were two 41 clubbers—ironically both lost, both games involved Mahtomedi; and both players were seniors—Lilly Nuytten of Hastings and Ella Runyon of Hill-Murray.
There will be no undefeated teams at the end of the state tournament, at least in the top three classes. Hopkins and Minnetonka fell both during the week in AAAA. The Skippers were first to fall against Holy Family in overtime on Monday. Hopkins lost to national power Sidwell Friends in an ESPN made for TV event hosted by the Royals on Friday.
Minneapolis Roosevelt tasted defeat at the hands of sister Minneapolis school Southwest on Friday. Four remaining A teams still harbor dreams of unblemished marks, but the road ahead remains steep. Mayer Lutheran, Hayfield and Hancock have a shot. South Ridge is not ranked and has the rockiest road ahead.
A: Hayfield; Mayer Lutheran; Hancock, South Ridge
With undefeated teams eliminated, streaking is the next best indicator. Or is it? The longest streak currently belongs to Hayfield at 17 in class A. The next highest (in another class) is 13 for Menahga in AA.
AAAA: 12 Chaska
AAA: 6 Mankato East, Mahtomedi
AA: 13 Menahga
A: 17 Hayfield
I continue to whittle away, working my way down each class.
Top 10s by class:
The biggest fish left is still Austin at #14.
Just counting the regular season window there are 18 dates left with 30 teams remaining. Hard to thread that needle. Expect the top 25 to be finished in the first week of February. The top 50 should be next on the agenda. Top 75 is doable, but with 19 teams left a hard figure. 100 is remote and will not happen unless the postseason works out spectacularly.
SEEDING THE STATE
Not a lot of change despite some losses. Chaska shows up after the Minnetonka loss. 2AAAA will be brutal. Holy Family replaces Providence in 5AA with the big Fire win over previously undefeated Minnetonka. Add in the Minnehaha big win over Providence and you get a change.
- Hopkins (6)
- Chaska (2)
- St. Michael-Albertville (8)
- Stillwater (4)
- Maple Grove (5)
- Rosemount (3)
- Rochester JM (1)
- Blaine (7)
- Becker (5)
- St Paul Como Park (3)
- Austin (1)
- Holy Angels (6)
- Totino-Grace (4)
- Mankato East (2)
- Grand Rapids (7)
- Willmar (8)
- Minnehaha (4)
- Holy Family (5)
- Goodhue (1)
- New London-Spicer (3)
- Sauk Centre (6)
- Fergus Falls (8)
- Pequot Lakes (7)
- Glencoe-Silver Lake (2)
- Mountain Iron-Buhl (7)
- Mayer Lutheran (2)
- Hancock (6)
- Minneota (3)
- Hayfield (1)
- Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (5)
- Cass Lake-Bena (8)
- New Life Academy (4)