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Posted On: 02/2/18 11:29 AM
As the month of February is now upon us, conference races and battles for seeding in sections around the state are heating up. Northern Minnesota features a handful of teams that appear to be in control of their own destiny for conference titles and top seeds in their section, however, high school basketball is unpredictable and you never know what can happen on any given night.
In this week’s Notes from the North we’ll take a look at a handful of teams from northern Minnesota that may not have much of a shot at a conference title, or even a first-round home playoff game, but have the ability to cause some trouble for the top teams in their area. These teams could play the spoiler to the top teams in their conferences and sections.
The Wolves are currently 7-7 overall, and hold a 2-5 conference record. However, in the last month of the season they have a matchup with 4 of the 5 teams ahead of them in the Northland Conference remaining, starting with a game tonight at Nevis.
They feature a balanced attack led by athletic senior Nathanial Armstrong, along with junior Gavin Deskeere, and sophomore Cole Rasmussen. They have played the top teams in the conference tough this season, only losing to Nevis by 4 the first time around, Cass Lake-Bena by 9, Blackduck by 8, and they split with Pine River-Backus and have defeated Red Lake.
The Rangers are a perennial contender in the Mid State Conference, but they currently find themselves behind a pair of teams (Detroit Lakes, Pequot Lakes) in the six-team conference with a 4-3 conference record (9-9 overall). They have a home matchup with Pequot Lakes on 2/13 and another home tilt with Detroit Lakes on 2/20 remaining, which will make the conference race interesting down the stretch.
Junior Jonathan Jacobson and sophomore Isaac Burley have been leading the young Ranger squad this season, a roster that only includes one senior. Regardless of the age of the roster, I would never count out a team that is coached by Dave Galovich, one of the best to ever do it in the state.
Through 14 games this season, the Pirates are 5-9 overall, and currently sit in fourth-place in the Park Region Conference with a 4-5 conference mark. They have two key games ahead of them on the schedule, 2/9 at Henning (3rd in conference) and 2/20 at home against Wadena-Deer Creek (1st in conference). Toss in six Section 5A matchups against Upsala, Bertha-Hewitt, Browerville, Sebeka, Pine River-Backus, WHA, and the Pirates have a big month ahead of them.
Come tournament time, you always hear analysts talk about senior leadership and guard play, the Pirates have both. They have been led in scoring all year by dynamic senior PG Owen Korfe, and he is joined by fellow senior Luke Weniger, an inside-out threat that can post up smaller players and take opposing teams bigs out to the perimeter. Keep an eye on the Pirates in February.
St. Cloud Apollo
Apollo’s inconsistent play this season has resulted in a 7-11 overall record, and a 3-6 conference record. They play a physical, frenetic style of basketball that can fluster opponents, both physically and mentally. The roster includes a number of very athletic players, including senior guards Renell Edwards and Marquise Smith, and a pair of emerging sophomores in big man Deng Diew and PG Michael Gravelle.
They are in seventh-place in the conference currently, but have a game remaining against 5 of the 6 teams ahead of them in the conference. If this team can harness their energy and athleticism, they will be a dangerous team to face going forward, and could create some chaos in the Central Lakes Conference.