Posted On: 02/5/18 6:44 PM
*Photo courtesy of BeRecruited.com
In a matchup featuring two of the top-10 teams in Class AA, it was Annandale edging St. Cloud Cathedral 69-64 in the marquee matchup in the Breakdown Community Clash at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
AJ Hinz might be the fourth or fifth best long-term college basketball prospect between these two teams but he was far and away the best player on the court Saturday night. The senior forward poured in 32 points including 24 in the second half. He did it all on the offensive end, knocking down multiple 3-pointers, scoring on drives, isolation post-ups and from the free throw line. He’s not the biggest or quickest guy but he does a great job using angles, change of pace and fakes to create separation for looks. He handles the ball well and the Cardinals run their offense through him practically on any spot of the floor. He wasn’t just good on the offensive end though. He spent most of the night checking Cathedral forward Michael Schaefer and more than held his own. Schaefer finished with 19 points (10 of which came in the first 3-4 minutes) but he was relatively quiet especially in the second half. Hinz has been a varsity regular since he was a freshman, so a big game against a good team isn’t surprising. But Hinz was an absolute treat to watch Saturday night.
Jangula, the junior point guard for the Crusaders, missed six of the previous seven games with a hand injury. He started and played most of the game Saturday but wore a brace on his hand and his play was definitely affected. Normally a strong shooter, Jangular scored just four points. More than that, he missed two free throws and didn’t really ever look to shoot from the perimeter. Jangula knocked down multiple 3-pointers in five straight games before his hand injury and hit four in an early season loss to Caledonia, so he’s more than capable when he’s healthy. Rust is to be expected and Jangula still impacted the game with his ability to drive and set guys up inside.
It’s no coincidence that the Cardinals played the game almost entirely on their terms. They clearly wanted to shorten the game, grind out long, methodical possessions and keep the Cathedral big guys under control. They did that for the most part. They ran good offense and avoided live-ball turnovers, keeping Cathedral out of transition for a majority of the game. The Crusaders are built around their two Division II big men, Mitch Plombon and Schaefer, but they aren’t a plodding, pound it inside, slow team. Both those guys are thoroughbreds and their athleticism is what makes them such mismatch nightmares. They were relegated to halfcourt basketball for most of the game Saturday night and while they still both got their points, they didn’t dominate the game like they are capable. That slow-it-down style also neutralized the Crusader perimeter players, as five of their six perimeter regulars scores less than their season averages.
AJ Hinz scored nearly half of the Cardinals points. So the end result of their offense was one guy doing a lot of the damage. But the process in which they got a lot of their points involved great balance. The Cardinals space the floor extremely well and have five guys on the floor practically at all times capable of passing, cutting and shooting. The ball ends up in Hinz’s hands a lot; it doesn’t stay in his hands throughout the possession a lot though. Nick Bieniek and Trenton Peterson both converted on scores as a result of specific matchups the Cardinals identified at different points in the game and Trent Peper scored 10 points playing within the flow of the offense. That’s the big thing. The Cardinals run their system and someone is always going to get a chance at some point to score because of how they execute. It happened to be a lot of Hinz Saturday night. But they are far from a one-man offensive team.
It would be a mild upset if these two teams weren’t playing again in mid-March with significantly higher stakes. Melrose, Eden Valley-Watkins and Maple Lake will certainly be in the mix, but these are the two best teams in Section 6AA. Both are good enough to win multiple games should a state tournament appearance be in the cards. In the grand scheme of things, this win for Annandale and loss for Cathedral means very little because the end goals are still intact and in front of both clubs. Annandale can feel good because it won. That beats not winning. The Cardinals dictated the pace of the game – something they’ll need to do should a rematch occur. And they didn’t get a big game from Bieniek, the team’s second-leading scorer. The Cathedral bigs scored 43 points. And the Cardinals still won. Cathedral can feel good because it got almost nothing from its backcourt of Jangula and Nick Schaefer, saw Michael Schaefer and Plombon struggle in various parts of the game and get outplayed by Hinz and Peper inside. How likely is it that all those things happen again?