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Posted On: 02/27/18 5:39 PM
Postseason basketball is right around the corner with some of the small-school section tournaments starting this upcoming week.
Goodhue’s come out of Section 1A each of the last two years but for a better part of last decade, the section has gone through Rushford-Peterson. It’ll be that way again this winter as the Trojans earned the No. 1 seed in the section.
R-P is one of the most consistent Class A programs in the state and will never been an easy out in the postseason thanks to staunch defense and efficient, methodical offense.
The Trojans once again have an upperclass-laden group of juniors and seniors with four guys hovering around double-figure scoring averages. Ben Ansell leads the R-P scoring attack averaging 12 points per game, providing an interior presence few teams in the section can match. Jacob Paulson is one of the better two-way players in the section on the wing and Landon Skalet is an experienced point guard and Payton Hahn is a steady forward who can provide secondary scoring. Throw in Dawson Dahl who is an ace defender and the Trojans are a complete team.
They don’t have a traditional go-to scorer or incredible high-octane individual talent. But they take care of the ball and control the tempo as well as any team in the state.
R-P earned the top seed in the section thanks in large part to a head-to-head win over Spring Grove earlier in the season and by virtue of a tough schedule that comes from playing in the Three Rivers Conference. The Trojans may have taken more losses, but they should be battle-tested heading into postseason play.
Next Up: Spring Grove
The Lions lost to R-P last season in the subsection final game. Now that Section 1 is one gigantic section rather than two subsections, the Lions wouldn’t have to face the Trojans until the section championship.
In a grind-it-out section, Spring Grove is an escape from the norm. The Lions want to get up and down the floor at a fast pace and put up points. The Lions have a number of good athletes and a balanced scoring attack.
Alex Folz is one of the best point guards in southern Minnesota, averaging 17 points and four assists per game. He’s a good outside shooter and brings a physicality to the position that few others particularly in that corner of the state can.
Ethan Matzke has gotten better as the season’s gone on, averaging 13.5 points per game over the second half of the season. He’s capable of playing inside-out, which can cause a lot of problems for people. In losses, Matzke averaged just 7.2 points per game — down from 12.2 for the season — so he’ll be a big key for the Lions when games inevitably slow down and get more physical.
In The Hunt: Bethlehem Academy, Wabasha-Kellogg
Wabasha-Kellogg earned the No. 3 seed in the section thanks to a 15-win campaign. The Cardinals aren’t strangers to close games as they went 7-3 in games decided by 10 points or less. They are also seemingly peaking at a good time, as they head into the postseason with three straight wins including a road win against St. Charles. Zach Kjeseth will have to continue putting up big numbers if W-K is going to do any damage. The senior swingman averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists on the season.
Bethlehem Academy didn’t take the jump I expected this season but the Cardinals still went 14-11 and earned the No. 4 seed in the section. BA has four starters back after getting to the subsection final game last season and with experienced guards in Jack Clark and Damon Trump and consistent forwards in Alex Bongers and Avery Hunt, the Cardinals will be a threat in any game.
Sleepers: Blooming Prairie, Goodhue, Grand Meadow
The Awesome Blossoms hovered around .500 all season and earned the No. 9 seed in the section, which means even if they do win at LeRoy-Ostrander, they’d get a date with Rushford-Peterson in the second round. So their postseason stay could be short. But even if it is, I don’t think they’ll be an easy out. Gabe Hagen is really good and BP has the depth, size and athleticism to give any team it plays fits.
Grand Meadow is seeded No. 12 which means the Superlarks will play at Kingsland in their first round matchup. If they win that one, they’d likely face Bethlehem Academy in the second round. Grand Meadow lost to those two teams by a combined three points this season.
This section hasn’t traditionally been an unpredictable one and I don’t reckon it will be this year either. Rushford-Peterson and Spring Grove have been the two best teams in the section by what feels like a wide margin and I’d be surprised if both didn’t get to the section final.
If that does indeed happen, I’ll go with Rushford-Peterson in a grind-it-out affair.