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Posted On: 02/23/18 11:46 AM
The regular season is quickly coming to an end, with less than a week left for some teams in Minnesota, which means section playoffs are right around the corner.
In this week’s edition of Notes from the North, we’ll take a look at teams from northern Minnesota that won their section and a trip to the State Tournament a year ago, and see whether or not a return trip to Minneapolis is in their future.
Red Lake – Last year they drew a dominant Minneapolis North team in the first round, and like every opponent the Polars faced in the tourney, they were defeated handily.
Will they return? No. When Kendall Whitefeather is on, this team can be tough to beat, when he is not, they tend to struggle, evidenced by their 12-10 record on the season. Section 8A has some tough teams at the top in Ada-Borup, Fosston, and Sacred Heart, but my pick to win this section is Cass Lake-Bena. The Panthers are 24-1 this season, with their only loss coming by 2 points to Mayer Lutheran. They have five or six guys that are all capable of having a big night, led by seniors Noah DeLapaz and Arnold Kingbird.
Nevis – They went 0-2 at the tourney last year, and lost their leading scoring from a season ago, Griffin Chase.
Will they return? Yes. They have looked strong all season, with a 20-3 overall record and a 10-1 record in the section, with their only section loss coming to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. This is a group of kids that has tasted success with State Tournament trips in basketball and football, they have strong senior leadership, and a go-to player in Michael Landquist. Their biggest challenge could come from Hinckley-Finlayson and senior Travis Visser, who will be the other #1 seed in Section 5A opposite of Nevis in the North.
Lake Park-Audubon – LP-A also went 0-2 in Minneapolis last March, and lost 6’10” big-man Jesse Bergh to graduation.
Will they return? No. The loss of Bergh has left a big void as they have struggled to a 7-17 record this season. The Section 6A playoffs will be hotly contested and a number of teams (NCE-UH, Parkers Prairie, Ortonville) have a real chance to win, but my pick to come out of this section would be Hancock and their senior guard Noah Kannegiesser, who is averaging north of 30 PPG.
North Woods – The Grizzlies made it to the championship game a season ago, before running into the buzz saw that was the Minneapolis North Polars. They returned a number of key players from last season.
Will they return? Yes. They have been putting up huge numbers on the scoreboard this season on their way to a 22-1 record, led by junior guard Cade Goggleye. Their only loss for the season came at the hands of AA opponent, Virginia, and they have a perfect 14-0 record against section opponents. If they play the way they are capable of, I don’t believe there is a team in Section 7A that can match up with them.
St. Cloud Cathedral – A season ago, they went 1-2 at the tournament, losing in the semifinals to Crosby-Ironton, and again in the third-place game to Annandale.
Will they return? Yes. However, it won’t be easy, with the likes of Annandale, Melrose, and Eden Valley-Watkins all in Section 6AA. In their first meeting, Annandale defeated Cathedral 69-64 at a neutral site (STMA), but I think that a rematch might provide a different result. Seniors Michael Schaefer and Mitch Plombon are as good of a tandem as you will find in Class AA, add in juniors Jackson Jangula and Nick Schaefer, sophomores Jacob Stoltzenberg and Andrew Weisser, and you get a very deep, balanced roster that will be tough to handle in March.
Breckenridge – The Cowboys lost both games at state last season, but returned a number of players in route to a 19-5 record this season.
Will they return? No. In almost every other section, I believe that they could, and they have a chance in Section 8AA, but they’ll have to get through a 23-0 Perham Yellowjackets team to do it. When you have two players the caliber of senior Derek Dahlgren and junior Noah Christensen, you have more than a fighting chance in every game. They lost both games against Perham this season, by a combined 12 points, but I believe the Yellowjackets, led by Jensen Beachy and Josh Jeziorski, will emerge from Section 8AA.
Crosby-Ironton – Last year, the Rangers made it to the championship game and played Minnehaha Academy tough, eventually losing 47-36. They lost a number of key players to graduation, including Noah Gindorff and Jack Silgen.
Will they return? No. After the graduation of many players from last year’s team, this young squad (one senior) has struggled to a 9-14 record. It looks like Section 7AA will come down to two teams, Virginia and Esko. Adam Trapp is a tough matchup for most teams in AA, however, Virginia might have the size and depth up front to handle him with Ethan Youso and Bryce Kennedy, who are both 6’8” seniors. Ultimately, I believe the size and depth of Virginia’s roster will carry them to a 7AA crown.
Fergus Falls – The Otters lost by three in the first-round to Columbia Heights last year, but rebounded to win the consolation bracket. They returned key contributors Nathan Rund, Harrison Christensen, and Matthew Johnson.
Will they return? Yes. Their season has had some ups and downs which has resulted in an 18-6 record, but they have been playing well as of late. They’ve won their last six games, including handing Willmar their first loss of the season last Thursday. Sauk Rapids-Rice, Bemidji, and Alexandria will all be formidable challenges in Section 8AAA, but the Otter seniors of Rund, Christensen, Austin Stanislawski, and Noah Raitz will push this team back to State.
Grand Rapids – Last season, Grand Rapids went 0-2 in Minneapolis, but returned the core of their tournament team.
Will they return? No. They have one of the most explosive scorers in northern Minnesota, Nate Seelye, but they have proven to be inconsistent at times, currently sitting with a 14-10 record. They defeated Princeton by six earlier this season, however, I believe that a more balanced Princeton attack, led by Jon Stimmler, Adam Williams, and James Flicek will make their way out of Section 7AAA.