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Posted On: 02/20/17 6:59 PM
Section basketball is just around the corner.
With less than two weeks left of regular season basketball left, it’s time to start looking at individual sections.
Here’s the lowdown on Section 1A
Contenders: Goodhue, Spring Grove
Section 1A is a 21-team field split between East and West divisions. The favorite to emerge from the East is the Spring Grove Lions while the runaway favorite in the West is reigning section champion Goodhue.
It’s been business as usual for the Wildcats who head into the final stretch of the season with just two losses and a built-up resume with good wins against a strong Hiawatha Valley League. Armed with an elite defense and a pace that brings the “shot clock brigade” out in full force, the Wildcats are a nightmare to play against even for the most athletically gifted teams. They play a physical brand of ball with smart players who execute better than their opposition on a nightly basis.
Jacob McNamara (pictured) is a load inside and Ben Opsahl is a matchup nightmare on a perimeter. Throw in shooting from Taylor Buck and Lucas Thomforde as well as extra versatility in the form of freshman forward Sam Opsahl and the Wildcats are a handful.
Spring Grove’s only lost three times all year and routinely blows out its opponents in the Southeast Conference. The Lions may have the most talented individual player in the section in senior guard Chase Grinde, who can win a game on his own if he has to. Brock Schuttemeier and Alex Folz give the Lions two more legitimate double-digit scoring threats as well.
Teams to Watch: Rushford-Peterson (East), Southland/Bethlehem Academy (West)
According to the QRF, Spring Grove actually isn’t the No. 1 seed in its subsection. Rushford-Peterson is despite a good-not-great record. The Trojans present a legitimate threat to the Lions though, thanks to the combination of excellent athletes and fantastic coaching.
Thomas Vix is one of the best coaches in the state and routinely gets his teams deep into the postseason. His team doesn’t have one go-to guy necessarily but like Goodhue — not a coincidence given the Goodhue head coach, Matt Halverson played for and coached with Vix — the Trojans win with defense and discipline. Noah Carlson, Luke Rasmussen and Jacob Paulson are the three most reliable offensive players but the whole lineup is stacked up with quality defenders and athletes that make the game an absolute grind.
Spring Grove beat R-P by 10 in January. It’s hard to imagine those teams not meeting up again in early March.
The Wildcats will finish the regular season with 10 more wins than the second and third teams in their subsection and are just one of two teams that outscore their opponents on average. So it’s hard to imagine them not getting to at least the section championship game.
The two teams that can make a case to pose at least a threat to the Wildcats are Southland and Bethlehem Academy.
BA lost to Goodhue by 12 in Faribault just a few weeks ago and have the kind of offensive talent and grinding style that can give the Wildcats a game. But where the Wildcats are old, the Cardinals are young and inexperienced. Their shot selection can grow poor at times and they don’t a great deal of size to challenge Goodhue inside.
Southland also lost to Goodhue at home but has been tested by a tough schedule and has the offensive talent to put a scare into the Wildcats if they can get hot. The defensive end is where Southland struggles, as the Rebels allow 62 points per game — 17th in the section.
Upset Special: Wabasha-Kellogg
This one takes some projection given Section 1A is very top-heavy but a team that could pose a threat to some of the top teams in the east subsection is Wabasha-Kellogg. The Falcons will finish the year with around 15 wins and they’ve got four guys that can consistently score in double-figures.
Jackson Gosse is one of the top players in the Three Rivers Conference, as is Zach Kjeseth. Jaxon Mickow and Liam Blaschko can both break a game open with their shooting ability and the team’s been tested throughout the year by the likes of Caledonia, St. Charles, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Rushford-Peterson. Picking them to beat the Trojans or Lions would probably be taking it too far, but it wouldn’t necessarily be crazy.
Players to watch
Grant Otte has Randolph in the hunt for a top-four seed in the west subsection and while the Rockets have benefitted from a top-heavy SEC, they are dangerous. Otte is one of the best players in the entire section and his ability to score will make whoever matches up with them in the tournament nervous.
Jared Lowe leads a balanced attack for Schaeffer Academy and is a double-double threat on a nightly basis for the Lions. It’s a team that doesn’t match up particularly well with R-P or Spring Grove, but with a big man inside like Lowe, they can’t be counted out.
Derek VanRyswyk is a double-double machine for the Glenville-Emmons and while his team hasn’t had the year they were hoping for, his play hasn’t suffered at all. The 6-foot-5 senior can not only control the paint and the glass, but also has the range to knock down shots from 3-point territory.
1A – East
1A – West