Posted On: 02/26/18 7:45 PM
Postseason basketball is right around the corner. With section play set to begin the first week in March, it’s time to take a look at what to expect in the section tournaments.
Section 2 is the best and deepest in Class A. It’s got two two legitimate state title contenders to go along with five or six others that could vie for a state tournament berth in a number of different sections.
Here’s what you need to know:
Springfield and Mayer Lutheran head into postseason play as the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in Class A. So if things go to chalk, the winner would head into the state tournament as the favorite to win the state title (along with North Woods assuming it gets to state as well). The Tigers have just one loss on the season and five games decided by single-digits. They’ve been dominant. They boast the best offense in Class A and combine it with strong defense despite playing at a faster pace than most. They average more than 24 assists per game and have four guys that average double figures in scoring. Junior guard Isaac Fink is one of the best players in the state regardless of class and he’s going to be the best player on the floor in practically every game they play. Tanner Vogel and Decker Scheffler are both capable of taking over a game in spurts as well. Springfield also has experience on its side after earning a trip to the state tournament last year as many of the key contributors are back in prominent roles this time around too.
Mayer Lutheran is no underdog either as the Crusaders have as much talent as any team in Class A. Baden Noennig is among the best players in the 2019 class and at 6-foot-6, he’s a matchup nightmare. Kobey Woolhouse is a terrific scorer on the perimeter and Garrett Tjernagel gives the team an interior presence that few in the section can match. Throw in Cole Hagen who is coming back after being out of the lineup for more than a month and Mayer Lutheran has the firepower to win a state title. The Crusaders have played a challenging schedule throughout the season, seemingly readying themselves for a high-leverage postseason environment and they’ve got a lineup full of upperclassmen and experienced players.
A matchup between these two teams would be highly anticipated given neither one seems to have shown a whole lot of weaknesses to this point and both have the type of high-end talent, depth, experience and athleticism few other teams at the Class A level possess.
Springfield will head into the section tournament as the prohibitive favorite to play in the Section 2AA final game. The next best team is St. Clair, which Springfield just beat by 22 last week. The Tigers beat Mountain Lake by 50 to open the season. Only two other teams in that 11-team subsection have at least a .500 record.
The North Subsection is significantly tougher as six teams have at least 17 wins and three have 20 or more. So while Mayer Lutheran will go in as the team to beat, there are good teams in the mix. BOLD, New Ulm Cathedral, Cleveland, Minnesota Valley Lutheran and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey are all capable of advancing deep into the section tournament. Mayer Lutheran beat BOLD by three, CM/C by three and Cleveland by seven.
CM/C looked like a potential top-five team in Class A at the beginning of the year but the Cougars have struggled to beat the other top teams in the conference and section as they’ve got five losses to Springfield, New Ulm Cathedral and Minnesota Valley Lutheran. They did just beat Cleveland – another fringe top-10 team in Class A – last week and have a win over BOLD as well. With Dylan Hillesheim, Eli Samuelson and Lewis Pendleton, the Cougars have a dangerous perimeter attack.
BOLD has been a surprise team this year, notching 20 wins without a bad loss. Gavin Vosika is a player to keep tabs on as he’s just a sophomore but has already established himself as a top-notch lead guard in central Minnesota. The Warriors average more than 75 points per game and have been competitive in losses to Springfield, Mayer Lutheran and CM/C.
Cleveland heads into the postseason with 20 wins again and as long as Carter Kopet and Austin Plonsky are still donning Clipper jerseys, that team will be a huge threat. The first round matchup between Cleveland and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey will be an interesting one and the winner might have as good a chance to beat Mayer Lutheran as any team in the subsection.
New Ulm Cathedral won 21 games this season and hasn’t lost in more than month. With five guys hovering around double-figure scoring averages, the Greyhounds have a balanced scoring attack that could make them difficult to scheme against.
Minnesota Valley Lutheran will likely go as junior guard Jake Kettner goes. The Chargers have gone well most of the season – thanks in large part to Kettner averaging more than 22 points per game – and they’ve proven they can hang with the top teams in the section.
Fortune favors the bold. I’ll save my bold predictions for another section and pick Springfield to advance to the state tournament. Mayer Lutheran is really good too and if there’s something they have going for them that Springfield might not, it’s that they’ve played a very tough schedule to this point. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they represented this section at the state tournament and won the whole thing if they got there. But the Crusaders are going to have to beat two very good teams before even getting to a potential section final game while I tend to think the Tigers will roll through their subsection. Isaac Fink and Tanner Vogel are hard to bet against and I’m not going to be the one to do it.