Posted On: 03/11/18 8:33 PM

Edina and Eden Prairie represented the Lake Conference well Saturday earning themselves a chance to play for the state tournament by defeating teams that have been ranked in the top ten for much of the year.  NHR was present to break it all down in a way that only we can.

Why They Won.  If I had to pick one good reason for why EP and Edina are moving it is as follows:

EP.  The Eagles are far superior to most defensively.  It’s credit to the quick maturity of the five sophomores that played as well as the pair of seniors and Coach Flom, that this team is so good defensively.  Kyler Kluge did a fantastic job on Cole Nicholson, DJ Johnson was excellent in pressure as usual, and the sophomore length made life difficult for everyone.  The biggest thing is the way Eden Prairie communicates.  Defensive communication is vital to being a good defense and EP does it very well.  Parker Bjorklund had a nice game for Chaska, Cole Nicholson had a good first half, but other than that the Eagles were excellent in limiting everything else.

Edina. Between the matured guard play and the teachings of Coach Burger and their staff, Edina runs some of the best halfcourt offensive stuff I’ve seen this year.  It starts with their spacing which is the best I’ve seen this year followed by how active players are after they move the ball.  The Hornets are always in motion and most importantly, it’s rare than anyone takes a bad shot.  So who wins this week?  The best halfcourt defense I’ve seen in the playoffs, or the best halfcourt offensive discipline I saw this week?

Five Standouts.  Several guys played well, but here are my five top standouts from Saturday’s 2AAAA basketball.

Kyler Kluge.  The future SCSU defensive back had a game to look back on Saturday as Kyler was the game MVP both ways.  Because Chaska was so worried about Drake Dobbs, Kluge was defended by a smaller player and Kyler went at him with his physical play for a game high 16 points.  Kluge used his strength and skill to turn the corner and get his man on his hip and times Kluge just scored physically over the top.  Kluge needed few shots to get his 16 and then he went the other way and did a fantastic job on Cole Nicholson in the second half when the Eagles made their run.  It took nearly 14 second half minutes for Nicholson to score a field goal and by then it was too late.  Credit Kluge on a great performance.

Andrews/Henry/Christensen.  These three make up the Eagles frontcourt and they are all sophomores in the area of 6-foot-6.  They all did their part starting with Austin Andrews who put a dozen points on the board being utilized often as the second main Eagles weapon in this game.  Andrews also had one of the best help over blocks I’ve ever seen.  John Henry came off the bench to show us his beautiful stroke and total a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.  Then you have Conner Christensen who like Henry hit multiple threes as a part of his 11 points and his defense was as good as usual .

Jack Middleton.  The Edina junior guard had a special day, a day has all but convinced me his division one interest needs to multiply this spring/summer.  He was the MVP of the Edina/Prior Lake game and it’s hard to know where to begin.  Defensively Jack was excellent helping limit Dawson Garcia’s 20 plus point potential to 13 points and Middleton used his toughness, positioning, and length to limit everyone who had to deal with him each possession.  Jack was also strong on the glass collecting 11 rebounds on his way to a double-double.  Then offensively the 23 points didn’t come on 18-19 shots like some guys need, Jack’s came on a dozen looks.  Jack moved off the ball curling or sprinting to a spot to catch and hit three treys as a part of his 7 of 12 shooting.  Jack also made 6 of 8 foul shots on his way to a fantastic day.

Jacob Hutson.  It was another day that Jacob, an Edina 6-foot-8 sophomore big, made a name for himself in front of a lot of important people.  With Wisconsin, Northern Iowa, Denver, and others watching, Hutson had Robert Jones behind him but still worked for the position to catch and finish for 19 points.  Hutson had five well placed scores and made all nine of his foul shots.

Robert Jones. After a quiet first half Robert Jones put on a memorable second half show that included a nasty two hand dunk over the top of another contesting player and two blocks that were on the spectrum of the year’s most aggressive.  Jones worked his way into 13 points (all in the second half) plus ten rebounds and six blocks.  Jones gave us an example of his perimeter touch and scored in the second half paint.  He’s also a pretty good passer out of the post, or has recently improved that are.

Five More.  Four very good teams means we have to run through a few more players.

Anders Nelson of Edina. Anders didn’t have a good shooting day but he made all eight of his foul shots – including the second half clutch ones – and moved the ball on his way to five assists.

Dawson Garcia of Prior Lake.  Dawson had a double-double of 13 points and ten boards and he made a pair of threes.  His foul trouble and eventual foul disqualification was tough on him and his team but this is a guy that had a double-double on a bad day.  The potential for greatness and a top 50-75 level prospect nationally is there in the future.

Sam Nissen of Prior Lake.  With Garcia, Jones, and junior Sam Nissen returning the future or Laker hoops looks very good.  Nissen is a quick guard who has a nice first step and good lift into his jumper.  Had 13.

Cole Nicholson of Chaska.  Cole did some of everything in the first half including play point guard.  The second half was not as good but Cole’s junior year was outstanding.  He has a rare toughness to him as a player that is unique and tough to stop.

Parker Bjorklund of Chaska.  Parker had 13/6 and was really good in both playoff games I saw.  He’s got great potential because of his quick bounce, agility, length, and activity.  He could really grow to be a talent in college.