Posted On: 02/13/18 8:30 AM
The favorite: This is perhaps the most balanced substate of any in Class 3A, as every team is either at .500 or above, which makes it a difficult one to project. The most talented team is probably Heelan, and while they aren’t playing great basketball right now (have lost five of their last six), we’ll still take the Crusaders as the favorite in the substate. Led by Elijah Hazekamp (22.1, 12.9 rebounds), Heelan will have their work cut out for them, as they’re the third seed in the district and will have to go on the road to play second seed LeMars in the semifinals. That said, LeMars will struggle to contain Hazekamp, and if he’s able to get a little bit of help from Colin Kasperbauer (12.7), Jack Boever, Brenden Roder and Bryce Reynolds, the Crusaders should make their way through the substate.
The biggest threat: Spirit Lake is the top seeded team in the district, and with future South Dakota State big man Owen Coburn (20.6, 10.6 rebounds, 42 blocks) leading the way, the Indians have the best defense in the substate, allowing just 46.4 points a game. The Indians are able to surround Coburn with a number of shooters with Alex Van Dyke, Mason McCaffery, Frankie Ramos and Nick Christensen, and they’re a really sound defensive team on the perimeter, with a solid rim protector behind them. They’re the one team in the district that could potentially slow down Hazekamp (easier said than done), and Coburn could limit his effectiveness on the glass, provided he can stay out of foul trouble.
Others who could make some noise: Every other team in the substate is capable of winning it, which is something that can’t be said in most other groups. That said, the two teams with the best chance at unseating Heelan or Spirit Lake would be Sergeant Bluff-Luton and LeMars.
SB-L plays a largely 4A schedule (as does Heelan) playing in the MRAC, and that schedule difficulty will benefit them. The Warriors went to last year’s 3A championship game, and some key players return from that group in Conner Groves (13.9) and Sam DeMoss (11.3). They have four players averaging in double figures and they’ve proven capable of beating quality teams by splitting with both Heelan and Sioux City East. This group won’t be intimidated by anybody, and while they’ll have to travel to Spirit Lake for the semifinal, that’s a game they’re certainly capable of winning.
LeMars is playing without star wing Will Pottebaum, who played in the first eight games of the season and averaged 19.1 points. The Bulldogs have rebounded from his loss and are starting to play some really good basketball, winning seven of their last nine games heading into the week. They have a sharpshooter in Dylan Rarrat-Kass (10.4, 44.2 3P%), and a balanced group with five players averaging between 8.2 and 10.6 points a game. The ‘Dogs have split with Spirit Lake, should they make the substate final, and while they don’t have a player who can keep Hazekamp off the glass, they are trending in the right direction, while Heelan isn’t.
Players to watch
2018 Elijah Hazekamp, Bishop Heelan
2019 Owen Coburn, Spirit Lake
2019 Conner Groves, Sergeant Bluff-Luton
2018 Jeremiah Khat, Sergeant Bluff-Luton
2018 Gabe Eckstaine, LeMars
2018 Dylan Rarrat-Kass, LeMars
2019 Cham Deng, Storm Lake
2018 Brady Kluender, Spencer
2018 Trenton De Haan, MOC-Floyd Valley
2020 Wyatt Wegener, Algona
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
Spirit Lake vs. Sioux City Heelan (game played at Tyson Events Center, Sioux City)
In a really interesting matchup between a pair of future Division I players in Elijah Hazekamp and Owen Coburn, it’s Hazekamp’s versatility that is the difference here. His ability to score from inside and out, crash the glass and get others involved gets Heelan back to State for the first time since 2012. He’s able to get Coburn into foul trouble early, and the Crusaders pull out an 8-10 point win.