Posted On: 01/31/18 5:15 PM
Saturday will be a busy day around the state for high school hoops. It’ll be busiest in Albertville as the 2018 Breakdown Community Clash will feature seven intriguing boys basketball matchups.
Champlin Park and Wayzata kick things off in what could be the best game of the day. A rematch of last year’s Class AAAA semifinal game (though many of the faces are new), the Rebels and Trojans are both enjoying solid seasons. Both teams feature top-shelf point guards as Jacob Beeninga of Wayzata and Josiah Strong (pictured) of CP are among the best at the position in their respective classes. Strong heads into the game averaging better than 21 points per game while Beeninga pumps in nearly 20 points per game. Wayzata’s got something of a big three on the perimeter as Luke Paulson and Drew Galinson (14 and 13 ppg respectively) have both enjoyed productive seasons. The Rebels allow just 56 points per game which is the fourth-fewest in Class AAAA. CP Junior wing Bennett Otto (14 points per game) is a player to watch as well.
Totino-Grace and Minneapolis North follow that up in a matchup featuring teams playing very different styles. The Polars are making the move to Class AA look easy as they own wins over perhaps the two next best teams (Minnehaha and Caledonia) and have just two losses in state (to Apple Valley and Eden Prairie). Odell Wilson IV and Tayler Johnson have stepped up in big ways, starring now after serving as solid role players last season. Eli Campbell is the team’s third leading scorer and best perimeter shooter. Nasir El-Amin is coming off a 37-point outburst last weekend in the Border Battle loss to KauKauna (Wis.) and eighth-grader Tre Holloman is getting better with each varsity minute. The Eagles have a veteran group led by Charlie Jacob Nick Flottmeier and Will Schmidt but will need to limit turnovers and control the tempo if they are to make this one a game.
Speaking of games featuring teams with clashing styles, Monticello and St. Cloud Tech will go head-to-head at the same time over at the STMA Middle School. Two of the best players in the state will be in prime position to dominate this game as Monticello’s Matt Todd and Tech’s Brevyn Spann-Ford should both have their fingerprints all over this one. Todd heads in averaging nearly 30 points per game while Spann-Ford has stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Neither team is particularly equipped to match up with either one of them as Monticello doesn’t have the size or athleticism to contend with Ford inside and the Tigers don’t have a perimeter guy nearly as dynamic as Todd. Those two are good enough to take over the game on their own and to win, they’ll certainly have to play extremely well. But this will also come down to some of the other guys stepping up and playing well. Rezi Useh’s had a solid season on the wing for Monticello and the Magic have six players averaging 5-9 points per game. Kail Lindgren and Trent Meyer are solid wings for the Tigers and NDSU Football recruit James Kaczor is a super-utility guy averaging 10 points, five rebounds and nearly five assists.
The juiciest matchup of the day is a potential Section 6AA title preview as Annandale and St. Cloud Cathedral will face off at the high school. The Crusaders lost to Melrose earlier in the week while the Cardinals took a loss to Hopkins but to this point, both teams look capable of winning multiple games at the state tournament should they get there. The status of Cathedral point guard Jackson Baustain-Jangula is in question as the junior has missed a few games due to a hand injury. Cathedral would certainly benefit from his presence but even without him, Michael Schaefer has been a force all season and Mitch Plombon is starting to round into form after missing the start of the season with mono. The Winona State recruit is averaging nearly 22 points in his last four games. Annandale’s Nick Bieniek is enjoying a breakout season in his senior year, averaging better than 17 points per game. AJ Hinz is a strong interior scorer averaging just under 18 points per game and Trenton Peterson is a terrific perimeter defender and table-setter on the perimeter. Cathedral has the edge when it comes to athletic talent, but Annandale is so solid in their execution on both ends of the floor that this one should be good.
While that’s going on at the high school, Waconia and Big Lake will be facing off over at the middle school. To this point, neither team has had the season it likely expected going into the year but there will be plenty of talent on the floor on both sides to make the game intriguing. Big Lake is just 3-12 on the season while the Wildcats are 9-8 (both teams play again before Saturday). The matchup to watch will be Big Lake’s Logan Nagorski against Waconia’s Nick Fulford. Nagorski’s had a breakout junior season averaging better than 17 points per game while connecting on better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers and Fulford has been steady, averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
The nightcaps will feature two of the top teams in the Mississippi 8 as Rogers takes on Zimmerman and St. Michael-Albertville gets Chanhassen.
Rogers started the season slow but seems to have picked things up in recent weeks. Jordan Belka is one of the top frontcourt players in the state and is averaging 23 points and eight rebounds. Senior guards Trevor Brenning and Brandon Vazquez will need to continue providing secondary scoring for the Royals. Zimmerman is just 5-13 on the year but senior forward Jake Pensinger has been a bright spot.
Chanhassen and STMA are both in the midst of mini-slumps (losers of two in a row plus tough games Friday for each) but have shown throughout the season the ability to beat good teams. Austin Carter, Regan Tollefson and Carson Hollowaty give the Storm three double-figure scorers capable of taking over for stretches at a time. The Knights counter with the steady one-two punch of Xavier Thurman and Cody Mattson.
Here’s the schedule on the boys side:
12:30 p.m. – Champlin Park vs. Wayzata – STMA High School
2:15 p.m. – Minneapolis North vs. Totino-Grace – STMA High School
2:15 p.m. – Monticello vs. St. Cloud Tech – STMA Middle School
5:30 p.m. – St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Annandale – STMA High School
5:30 p.m. – Big Lake vs. Waconia – STMA Middle School
8:30 p.m. – Rogers vs. Zimmerman – STMA Middle School
8:30 p.m. – STMA vs. Chanhassen – STMA High School