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Posted On: 12/28/17 3:01 PM
In a Match-up of top ten teams Eden Prairie’s balanced line-up had too many pieces for the Hawks of Chaska to defend. The Eagles earned a 74-62 victory and NHR was in the building for the contest.
MVP. Austin Andrews, Eden Prairie. Tough to pick one from the EP bunch as it really was a swarm of players working as one but the 6-foot-5 sophomore gave Parker Bjorklund fits on defense (3 of 11 fg) plus Austin had a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds not to mention Andrews moved the ball for four assists. Austin shot 7 of 15 from the floor, made all eight of his foul shots, and his all around activity gave him the game MVP honors.
Offensive MVP. Cole Nicholson, Chaska. EP threw their best defenders on Cole, they actively talked out his every move and put length on all of Cole’s shots, and somehow the Hawks junior still was able to make six threes over well positioned defenders for his 25 points. It’s not just the shooting touch, it’s Cole’s mentality of being able to ignore a contesting defender and still being able to quickly release shots going 9 of 16 for the game.
Defensive MVP. Eden Prairie. I really am not going to pick a guy here. Too tough. After Zach Lea started going on a scoring run Kyler Kluge did a great job on him. DJ Johnson came off the bench and ball pressured Chaska players into several errors. Connor Christensen and John Henry used their length and position defense to give Bjorklund a nightmare (as did Andrews) and they made Nicholson work for everything. Chaska seniors shot a combined 6 of 24 overall and that had a great deal to do with EP’s defense.
Top Underclassmen. Sophomore Four. It honestly blows me away how well the four starting Eagle sophomores play together in such a matured way. Drake Dobbs, Connor Christensen, John Henry, and Austin Andrews aren’t just talented, their understanding of team basketball on both ends is exceptional. They are young and the bench is short so there will be some losses but EP plays as tough of a schedule as anybody and these four are managing it was better than I would ever expect.
Game Changing Plays. Kyler Kluge. Sounds like Kluge will be a football guy but his ability to lead these four young Eagles is something to enjoy. Late in the game Kluge had a kickout for a Dobbs three, a full court touchdown pass after a Chaska basket, and a long outlet for a score and all three of these plays came late after Chaska grabbed momentum. Add in Kluge’s defense on Lea and you had a veteran doing what it took to win the game. Nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, and a whole lot of leadership.
Top Prospect. Connor Christensen. I think in the long run the incredible effort of verbal communication, active limbs, extra work in getting to the spot, and constant battle to make plays will have this 6-foot-6 forward being a Cory Johnson (Duluth East) like player at the D1 level. Cory was a thicker kid but Connor will be able to guard more spots. Not to mention Connor hit three three-pointers and gave his team 19 points on 14 shots and grabbed six rebounds.
The Built-In Mismatch. Drake Dobbs. There are some things a team just really can’t prepare for. One item is how quickly Drake Dobbs can release a shot from range that is tough to get out to. Last night Drake missed five straight shots and then had 11 points down the stretch including a huge late game three. Drake scored 17 for the game and has a release that is tough to deal with.
Unexpected Performance. Zach Lea. The Hawks sophomore guard is a good player, him scoring a dozen points isn’t a surprise. The big that came from Zach was his five possession scoring barrage that got the Hawks within a score of EP in the second half. The 6-foot-2 guard only missed one shot all game and his ferocious attack to the rim for varying jumpers gave Chaska life.
The Young Guy. Spencer Goetz. That 6-foot-3 kid in Chaska purple who had that late putback and was flying around on defense, he’s just a freshmen. Watch that name.