Posted On: 03/17/18 12:06 PM
*Photo courtesy of maplegrovebasketball.com*
Zipping through some backroads, to Monticello High School we go on Thursday evening for the Section 8AAAA championship tilt between top seed Maple Grove and sixth-seeded Buffalo. The Bison came into the game on a run from an upset special in the first round and a tight victory over seven seed Moorhead in the semifinals, while the Crimson knocked off Brainerd and STMA on the way to the final.
There were maybe three or four guys with any kind of viable varsity playoff experience combined between the two teams so a jittery start was expected. Maple Grove’s Jared Rainey vs. Buffalo’s Matt Willert was the show in half one. Crimson led 29-25 at half after getting aggressive looks at the rim over smaller Buffalo guards. Willert went off from way downtown to keep the Bison close in the second frame, but fouled out with a minute to go and MG’s lead was double digits and insurmountable by that point.
The Crimson (21-8) move on to State for the third year in a row with a brand new rotation after graduating 10 seniors last year. Buffalo (14-15) ends their season one game under .500 but four of their five starters are sophomores. They’ll be back and are possibly the future of Section 8AAAA. I like their talent a lot.
Jared Rainey (PG, 6-0, Jr., Maple Grove) – A slippery, silky scoring guard with great feel for the game, Rainey settled for jump shots early and struggled but finished the first half with a couple great body contortions for contested rim finishes. One of the more difficult ballhandlers to keep in front, I’m excited to see how his summer goes. He had 21 to lead the Crimson.
Nate Adams (SG, 6-2, Jr., Maple Grove) – The junior guard is a phenomenal golfer, but his shooting prowess is rare too. Adams was mostly a spot-up guy this season but took advantage of smaller matchups to reach over the top and get a couple shots in the lane to fall. He’s on the cusp of breaking MG’s season three-pointers made record as well. He had 15.
Alex Battist (C, 6-6, Sr., Maple Grove) – The Carleton commit is springy as all heck and has transformed into a great rebounder despite a thinner frame. He battles for position and anticipates caroms well. His nine points and 13 rebounds were key for Maple Grove in a game that came down to some extra possessions until the Crimson pulled away. Added two big blocks to his statline as well.
Matt Willert (SF, 6-5, So., Buffalo) – This sophomore has GAME. What a performance from Matt on a big stage, 26 points with three treys from NBA range. He’s got ability to hit tough shots from every spot on the floor and used his length as a shield in the paint. Tremendous feel as he just looked like he belonged. Lots of confidence exuded from him all night and you best believe this kid will become one of the best around very soon.
Brandon Maatz (SG, 5-11, So, Buffalo) – Another sophomore whom you cannot leave open on the perimeter. He slid behind Maple Grove’s defense on teammate penetration and spotted up for corner kickouts. 12 points on four three-pointers for him, and Buffalo gets another two years with his offensive ability.