Five Things to Know: Rochester JM vs Austin

High School
Minnesota

Posted On: 03/5/18 12:21 PM

Austin and Rochester JM played in front of a packed house of fans on Friday with the Rockets earning a 73-63 win and splitting the Big Nine title with the Packers.  NHR was on hand to see the regular season finale.

One.  Ready for the Playoffs.  After seeing both Rochester JM and Austin play multiple times this year and following their results closely for the past three months, I feel strongly that both teams are in the best position to accomplish their goals than they have been in prior years.  Austin’s full court trapping zone has defeated some of the state’s best teams including Lakeville North and JM earlier in the year.  The balanced talent that Austin brings to the court with each player knowing their role and the entire unit understanding their system, this is a team that has a solid shot and bringing home their title gold.  DeLaSalle and Orono are still the favorites in Class AAA but Austin has the balance to play with them for 36 minutes.  Also, the Packers are motivated.  Remember when they were the third ranked preseason team in state but then slipped to 6-7 instantly when Both Gach left for the west coast?  The chip on their shoulder from being overlooked as a group is still there (and this is a Kris Fadness team after all). As far as JM goes, Coach Jim Daly has all of the players around Matthew Hurt playing within themselves but doing it in a confident and consistently productiveway.  And Matthew Hurt is not like a lot of other five star players you will see around the country, he’s putting up his monster numbers with his teammates touching the ball every possession.  Hurt scores within the group, not away from the group or despite the group.

Two.  Matthew Hurt.  Outside of Matthew bringing the ball up the floor to look over the top of the Austin zone, and the one dribble passes into a ball reversal around the arc, Hurt scored his 37 points on 13 of 22 shooting (11 of 12 foul shooting as well) rarely using a dribble.  Hurt also had 16 rebounds and five assists.  So how did Hurt get these massive numbers and rarely dribble?  The system.  The Rocket players did a marvelous job moving the basketball – Matthew included – to get players high percentage shots in positions to score.  And of course Matthew was the most common recipient.  What to love about Matt Hurt as a hooper?  There are many things but Friday night I think three items caught my eye:

  1. Matthew’s amazing balance.  It doesn’t matter who he’s facing, it could be a five star player on the Adidas circuit or a Big Nine frontcourt player, Matthew somehow gets himself balanced and his feet under him for nearly every soft touching shot he takes.  Hurt has one of the best shooting touches from every spot on the floor I’ve ever seen in Minnesota, but that is helped by his amazing ability to get in position to score.  Hurt also has the length edge to shoot over just about any player rotating to defend him.
  2. Keeping the ball high.  Hurt lives on the offensive glass and every time he boards Hurt keeps the ball high and finishes with a quick bounce to finish.  Again, Hurt is more explosive than people understand.
  3. Off ball movement.  Hurt caught and scored on the move on many nice passes from teammates numerous times.  So many of these plays were timing finishes and the timing the Rockets have with one another is outstanding.  Matthew is like his older brother Michael Hurt in that both greatly understand halfcourt offense and how to use off ball movement to create space for themselves and others.  Again, Hurt rarely had to dribble because he caught in positions to use his skills around the basket in space and it was all set up but Matthew’s intelligent off ball movement and the understanding of play with his teammates.

Three.  Great Tate. If you haven’t accepted it, know that Tate Hebrink is a better player than you realize, than I realize, than just about anyone understands save the guys that play with him every single day.  I’ve always thought that Tate was a nice point guard with toughness and a high court IQ.  A guy that rarely makes mistakes. But last summer when we saw Tate score in big numbers in the Breakdown Summer State Tournament, we saw a playmaking scorer that was better than expected.  That has been the Tate Hebrink Austin opponents have dealt with all season.  He made four threes for his 21 points and going at the basket Hebrink is exceptional getting lane and hitting a variety of different shots.  Hebrink isn’t just the common quality floor general, he’s tough as nails and a talented scorer too.

Four.  Stai and That Other Guy. Don’t read to much into the headline here, I just though it worked because it rhymed.  JM has several players that have grown tremendously under new Coach Jim Daly. Eric Stai had Hamline Head Coach Jim Hayes watching him and talking to him after JM’s win over Austin and he’s a guy that works within the JM system extremely well.  Stai was the guy switched onto Duoth Gach several times and Eric did the job well, he scored 13 actively, and grabbed six rebounds.  Eric is a big reason that JM is where they are today.  When he was out against Mankato East it was one of the two losses JM has had this year.  Eric is a fantastic offensive rebounder, defends hard, efficient in shot selection and shot completion, and he’s a fantastic student.

Simon Werven was second in line for game MVP honors. The six-foot three junior scored nine points, grabbed seven boards, moved the ball as well as anyone earning four assists, and most importantly Werven not only limited Duoth Gach to seven points, he moved his feet and kept himself on the line to limit the shots Gach did take.  Simon’s closeouts, his lateral movement forcing Gach into tough spots, it was all high level Defensive MVP stuff.  Also, Solomon Antione did a great job rebounding and pushing the ball in transition and Montrae Hiatt scored in double figures hitting theee treys.

Five. Moses The Shooter. When Austin senior Moses Issa first caught our eye it was with his ridiculous bounce to board, dunk, and most aggressively block shots.  That ability is still there as few will forget the chase down block that Issa had in the first half.  But Issa has also become a very good shooter for Austin it appears.  He made four jumpers down the stretch with two of them coming behind the arc.  He scored 14 and gave Austin a chance late.  Issa is physically there both explosively and in physique, and now he is becoming a quality shooter.