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Posted On: 03/7/18 5:37 PM
Section 7 is perhaps the weakest of all the Class AAAA sections at the top. There isn’t a team that looks like a contender to win a state title. That’s fine. There might be four or five teams that could win the section. And all eight teams have shown to be capable of losing to any of the other seven.
Last season, Andover earned the No. 7 seed, winning just eight games in the regular season. The Huskies rattled off three straight wins over the top three teams on their way to the state tournament.
Favorite: Forest Lake
The Rangers earned the top seed in the section, going 16-10 in the regular season. Manny Jingco led Forest Lake in scoring, averaging 17 points per game while Steven Colon and Cooper Berg averaged 10 apiece.
The Rangers don’t have a lot of size but they’ve got solid depth with four more players averaging 5-10 points per game. Forest Lake played in one of the best conferences in the state, going 8-8 in the Suburban East. Scoring wasn’t an issue as the Rangers average 73 points per game. Defense wasn’t exactly a calling card though as they allowed more than 68 points per game.
The Rangers were the top seed in the section last year as well, losing to Andover in the section final. With a handful of rotation guys back from that group, this team has the requisite talent and experience to win the section.
In the Hunt: Blaine, Cambridge-Isanti
Blaine is limping into postseason play a little bit after ending the year on a four-game losing streak and losers of five out of six. But the Bengals have also proven that with their full complement of players, they can beat anybody. Ray Mitchell’s had a big year, averaging better than 19 points per game. After that, Blaine’s got six guys averaging 5.6-9.9 points, so the Bengals have pretty good balance.
Cambridge-Isanti is one of the most improved teams in that state, going from 8-19 to 17-9 while earning the No. 2 seed in the section. Henry Abraham is one of the best sophomores in the state, averaging 21 points and four assists per game. Luke Malamisuro joins Abraham in the backcourt averaging 14 points per game. The Bluejackets are explosive offensively.
Watch Out For: Andover
The Huskies just beat Maple Grove in the regular season finale and went 3-1 in the last two weeks of the season. They lost four straight before that but it would appear as though the Huskies are going into the postseason with some good vibes. Conner Knoepfle missed 10 games during the season but he’s back in the lineup now. Him and Mason Heath give the Huskies a good one-two punch
Section 7 feels fairly open. Forest Lake earned the top seed and played in a very good conference, plus they’ve got perhaps the best player in the section in Manny Jingco. That seems like enough to give them an edge for me.
But Cambridge-Isanti’s backcourt could take the Bluejackets a long way and Blaine’s collective athleticism could give teams fits. I wouldn’t be surprised if either of those two teams — Blaine in particular — got hot and advanced through the section tournament.
Then again, Andover was the No. 7 seed last year and won the section. Coon Rapids — which lost to Forest Lake by two points earlier in the season — and Andover both seem capable of making a run too.