Five Takeaways: Columbia Heights beats St. Croix Lutheran

High School
Minnesota

Posted On: 01/31/18 3:57 PM

Columbia Heights (ranked #3 in AAA) beat St. Croix Lutheran (ranked #9 in AAA) tonight on its home court, 72-60.

The Hylander press is no joke. Columbia Heights came out to a 24-11 lead with the help of their full-court press. Coach Braziel remarked before the game that they were going to come out this way, and St. Croix anticipated it, too. But baskets were hard to come by for the Crusaders for a good chunk of the first half. That created a lead that was never trimmed to less than seven for the rest of the game.

St. Croix’s undersized big man is tough. Garett Maag is the leading scorer (18 PPG) who we know from SCL’s state run a few years ago. But Adam Arroyo Jr. is right behind him in scoring with 15.1 PPG, doing it as an undersized big man with presence, hoop awareness and skill. Arroyo had a few shots Tuesday night with lots of polish and English off the glass. CH had the height over him, but AA Jr. still got it done to the tune of 19 points to lead the Crusaders.

Wendell Matthews can defend the rim. Wendell told me after the game that his coaches don’t want him gambling on as many blocks, so as to avoid foul trouble. I get that completely. But the long senior forward has some really good timing and showed off his swatting on Tuesday. He had a handful of blocks on shorter SCL shooters that set the tone. Credit to Arroyo, though, for never backing down after taking a couple big blocks.

The Crusaders move the ball really well. Whew, the Crusaders pass the ball inside and outside at a quick rate; It’s almost hard to follow. Coach Braziel noted before the game that this might be the best passing team in all of AAA, and he might be right. You know how the best shots come off one or two dribbles? SCL lives by that mantra. They do a really nice job of avoiding over-dribbling and finding open looks.

This senior Columbia Heights group is motivated. The Crusaders are hard on themselves. As they made small mistakes that led to turnovers, even with a 15-point lead, they were visibly disappointed and let it get to them. Talking to the guys after the game, they have really high expectations after returning almost everyone from last year’s team that was one game away from a state title appearance. There’s a really strong senior core that has played together for years now, and they are fully aware that this is their time. They also know, however, how tough their section could be, and they won’t take anything for granted.