Posted On: 02/16/18 11:46 AM
In this week’s installment of Notes from the North we’ll take a look at five games on five days over the next week that are worth keeping an eye on in northern Minnesota. All of the games have either conference or section implications as we head into the last couple weeks of the regular season.
2/16/18 – Melrose at Minnewaska
The host Lakers come into this West Central Conference matchup riding a hot 7-game winning streak, and currently are two games behind Melrose for first place in the conference. This is a crucial two-game stretch for Minnewaska, as they travel to second place BOLD next week. A trio of seniors have been leading the way for the Lakers, as Jackson Johnsrud is averaging 13.7 PPG, and Matt Gruber and Garrett Jensen are averaging 12.8 and 11.7 PPG, respectively.
Melrose is in control of their own destiny in terms of the conference title, but they need all the help they can get to jump into a #1 or #2 seed in Section 6AA, as they currently sit behind Annandale and St. Cloud Cathedral. Junior Reegan Nelson is the go-to guy for the Dutchmen, but keep an eye on senior Damon Van Beck and junior Preston Keaveny, a pair of guards that are capable of scoring in bunches.
2/17/18 – Fergus Falls at Bemidji
The Otters will travel north to Bemidji on Saturday for a key matchup in Section 8AAA. Both teams come into the game playing good basketball, as Fergus Falls has won four straight, having handed Willmar their first loss of the season yesterday, and Bemidji has been victorious three games in a row. Currently, Fergus Falls is in the #2 spot in the section and is trying to inch closer to Sauk Rapids-Rice at the top, while Bemidji is currently in the #4 spot and has their eye on leaping over Alexandria and possibly higher.
Nathan Rund, Harrison Christensen, and Matthew Johnson continue to play good basketball for the Otters, the question is, can they get consistent contributions from others? Noah Raitz and Austin Stanislawski are a couple other Otters to watch. The Lumberjacks have a very balanced attack, with six players averaging around double-figures. Junior Spencer Konecne is emerging as a force in the paint, and senior guard Linaes Whiting is coming into form after rehabbing an injury earlier this season.
2/20/18 – Hibbing at Virginia
The Iron Range Conference title comes down to this game, as both teams enter with a perfect conference record, and no more conference games remaining after this contest. Virginia just recorded a very nice 77-54 win last night over the #1 team in NHR’s Class A rankings, North Woods, and Hibbing has won their last four games.
Senior Ethan Youso continues to be a double-double machine for the Blue Devils, but perhaps the most pleasant surprise for Virginia this year has been the emergence of sophomore forward Jayden Bernard, who is averaging double figures in scoring. For Hibbing, junior guard Luke Lundell has proven that he is one of the top guards and shooters in northern Minnesota, averaging nearly 20 PPG. Keep an eye on eighth-grader Ayden McDonald, who has made solid contributions for the Bluejackets this season.
2/22/18 – Roseau at Crookston
These two Northwest Conference and Section 8AA foes are separated by a half of a game in the conference standings, 2.1 points in the QRF standings, and are jockeying for the #2 seed in the north half of the section and first place in the conference. To make a long-story short, there is a lot at stake in this game.
Jack Hirst, Nate Corbit, and Nels Braaten all average around 10 PPG for a very balanced Roseau Rams offense. A pair of seniors in guard Todd Boerger and center Carter Winand form a nice inside-out tandem for the Pirates, joined by junior forward Nick Garmen.
2/23/18 – St. Cloud Cathedral at Esko
This is a big-time, late-season, non-conference matchup in northern MN featuring two teams that could possibly both be State Tournament participants. Cathedral is 15-4 on the season, currently in the #2 spot in Section 6AA behind Annandale. Esko is 17-4 for the year and is currently in possession of the #1 seed in Section 7AA.
The marquee matchup to watch in this game will be between Esko senior seven-footer Adam Trapp and Cathedral’s 6’6” senior Mitch Plombon, both of whom are Top 30 seniors in Minnesota. However, where Cathedral may have the advantage is on the perimeter, as they feature another Top 30 senior, Michael Schaefer, who is averaging 25 PPG on the season. Esko will need seniors Ryan Pantsar and Quinn Fischer to be factors in this game.