Posted On: 03/19/18 7:55 PM
The Class AA State Tournament gets underway on Wednesday with the quarterfinal action being split between Williams Arena and Target Center. This year’s field is one of the most talented Class AA tournaments in recent memory, which should provide for quite the week.
At Williams Arena, Breckenridge and Brooklyn Center will tip-off at 6 p.m. followed by Minnewaska vs. Caledonia at 8 p.m.
At Target Center, Jordan and Minnehaha Academy will get the AA action started at 6 p.m. followed by St. Cloud Cathedral and Esko at 8 p.m.
In this article, I’ll break down the first-round matchups, potential semifinal matchups, and predict an eventual winner.
#1 Minnehaha Academy (25-4) vs. Jordan (25-5) – Featuring one of the most talented players in the tournament in sophomore phenom Jalen Suggs, the Redhawks enter as the #1 seed and the favorite in this quarterfinal game. Averaging 14.8 PPG, 6.6 REB, and 4.5 AST, Suggs will be the catalyst for a very talented Minnehaha squad. Senior forward JaVonni Bickham (12.8 PPG, 6.4 REB) and sophomore guard Terry Lockett (11.2 PPG) provide plenty of support for Suggs.
Senior forward Eric Tiedman keys the Jordan attack, averaging 19.4 PPG and 6 REB while shooting an impressive 45.9% from deep on the season. Sophomore guard Ryan Samuelson contributed 17 PPG as another perimeter threat for the Hubmen, while 6’9” senior center Andrew Niebuhr provides an inside presence with 10.8 PPG and 7.1 REB.
As I mentioned above, Minnehaha enters this game as the favorite, but Jordan has the right pieces in place to make this an interesting game. In the end, I believe that Minnehaha Academy will move on.
#4 Esko (26-4) vs. #5 St. Cloud Cathedral (25-5) – These two teams met on February 23rd, with Esko coming out on top 59-56. I think that we’ll see another tightly-contested battle in the rematch. The 7’2” senior center Adam Trapp is a matchup problem for any team, he averaged 16.6 PPG and 6 REB in 25 games this season for the Eskomos. Fellow seniors Quinn Fischer and Ryan Pantsar form a great supporting cast, averaging 16.3 PPG and 11.5 PPG, respectively.
The Crusaders feature a tandem of two long and athletic seniors, 6’6” Michael Schaefer and 6’7” Mitchell Plombon. Schaefer was a walking double-double this season, averaging 22.1 PPG and 12.1 REB, and Plombon was not far behind, averaging 16.5 PPG and 7.8 REB. Their ability to pull Trapp out of the paint could prove to be key in the rematch. Another X-Factor for Cathedral is junior point guard Jackson Jangula. His ability to control the tempo and run the offense through Plombon and Schaefer will be key. For the season, Jangula averaged 9.4 PPG and 5.9 AST.
This should be another entertaining game between these two teams, but I believe the trio of Crusaders mentioned above, along with wings Nick Schaefer and Jacob Stolzenberg will flip the script on Esko the second time around.
#2 Brooklyn Center (21-8) vs. Breckenridge (25-5) – The Centaurs get most of their production on the offensive end from two players, 6’3” junior Adreone Sprinkles and 6’2” sophomore Lu’cye Patterson. Sprinkles has averaged 16.6 PPG and 5.4 REB, while Patterson averages 22.7 PPG, 6.3 REB, and 4.6 AST. The question for BC will be who else will step up in this contest?
I believe that the breakout star of this tournament could end up being 6’8” junior forward Noah Christensen of Breckenridge. For the season, Christensen averaged 20.2 PPG and 9.8 rebounds in what was a stellar junior campaign. He’s joined by senior sharp-shooter Derek Dahlgren, who averaged 16.5 PPG while shooting 42% from three on the season. A similar question can be asked of Breckenridge, where will additional production come from? Much like BC, they only had two players average double-figures in scoring all season.
I believe that this game will be one of numerous runs from each team, but when it’s all said and done, the tournament experience gained by Breckenridge last season will prevail.
#3 Caledonia (26-4) vs. Minnewaska (21-7) – The King brothers of Caledonia, Owen and Noah, form one of the most potent scoring tandems in the tournament. In two games earlier this season against fellow Class AA state participants St. Cloud Cathedral and Minnehaha Academy, Owen King poured in 36 and 27 points, respectively. In the sub-section final game, Noah King dumped 34 on St. Charles. A deep supporting cast makes Caledonia a very tough team to contend with.
The defensive-minded Lakers will have their hands full on that end of the court with Owen and Noah King. On offense, Minnewaska has been led this season by 6’1” senior point guard Jackson Johnsrud and his 14.6 PPG. The only other player to average in double-figures this season for the Lakers was 6’1” shooting guard Garrett Jensen with 12.1 PPG.
Minnewaska was battle-tested throughout the section playoffs, but the depth of Caledonia will finally wear down the Lakers.
Minnehaha Academy vs. St. Cloud Cathedral – The key to this game might end up being the tempo and who can control it the best. When Suggs or Lockett get the ball in their hands, they want to go and go fast. If the combo of Plombon and Michael Schaefer can control the glass, and if Jangula can control the pace of this game, the Crusaders could make it interesting. However, I believe that the athleticism on the perimeter from Suggs and Lockett, combined with the physical presence of Bickham in the paint will carry the Redhawks back to the title game.
Breckenridge vs. Caledonia – Does Breckenridge have the depth on the perimeter to match up with the King brothers? Does Caledonia have an answer for Christensen? This game would be a very intriguing matchup if it comes to fruition, but like their quarterfinal game, I think the depth of Caledonia would be too much for the Cowboys to handle and Caledonia would find themselves in the title game.
Minnehaha Academy vs. Caledonia – This would be a highly-anticipated rematch of a game that Minnehaha won just over a month ago by a score of 79-75. Owen King had 27 in that game, Suggs had 19, and who wouldn’t want to see two of the best guards in MN meet up with the State Title on the line? Not to mention the stellar supporting casts with the likes of Bickham, Lockett, King, and Sam Barthel.
If the stars align and this game happens, it could end up being an instant classic. In the rematch, my prediction is that Minnehaha Academy, a team that hasn’t played a home game this year, would claim Target Center as their home away from home with another Class AA crown.