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Posted On: 10/4/18 3:00 PM
The Minnesota River was well-represented last March as two teams made state tournament appearances. There wasn’t a great deal of balance in the league a year ago and with several teams staring down the barrel of mass roster overhauls, there is a lot of unknown. The one thing that is known: the two best teams from last year return the unquestioned two best players in the conference. Here’s what you need to know:
Jordan used stifling defense to get to the state tournament last season and while the two pillars of that defensive effort are gone, the Hubmen return three starters and some definite offensive talent. Ryan Samuelson put up more than 17 points per game and more than 20 during the team’s section tournament run. He’s going into his third year as a starter and is still just a junior. If he takes another jump (10 points per game to 17 from freshman to sophomore year) as he goes into his upperclass years, the rest of the conference better look it. Thomas Gutzmer averaged eight points per game and is one of the better shooters in the league. Noah Schmitt provided steady minutes in the backcourt a year ago and will take on a bigger role now too.
Contender: Mayer Lutheran
Mayer Lutheran was one of the best teams in the state a season ago and finished third at the Class A State Tournament. The Crusaders lose several really key core guys from that group but their best player is back as Baden Noennig returns for one more season. Noennig averaged 18 points per game and is one of the best players in the state regardless of class. His athleticism and skill make him a nightmare to defend and he could easily average 20-plus points per game this winter. Brendan Feltmann was a starter for a chunk of the season and averaged five points per game. He’ll take on more responsibility certainly. Sawyer Kubasch is 6-foot-4 forward who can provide a boost in the frontcourt.
Compete with Most: Belle Plaine, Le Sueur-Henderson
Belle Plaine will have to overcome the loss to a senior trio of guards that averaged nearly 45 points per game. The Tigers always seem to have good athletes though and Dylan Kahle is a returning starter. He’ll be a key guy for them. Josh Gregory showed signs of being a very good player as a sophomore as well.
Le Sueur-Henderson won eight games a year ago but could be the most improved team in the conference this winter. Burke Nesbit is one of the top guards in the league and averaged 16 points per game as a junior. Connor Arnold and Nolan Maczkowicz return to give the Giants some size up front.
Rebuilding: Norwood-Young America, Sibley East, Tri-City United
Sibley East had a solid year last season but the Wolverines lose one of the best players in the state in Gavin Bates and a solid wing in Austin Weckwerth. Replacing 35ish points per game will be difficult. Lukas Dose was good as a sophomore and is poised to be the focal point of that effort.
Norwood-Young America won just seven games last year and loses its entire starting five. The Raiders started and ended the year with seven straight losses.
TCU won just one conference game a year ago and will have to replace six of its top seven players. The Titans will enter the 2018-19 season with a lot of unknown. Matthew Feddema has a chance to put up some big scoring numbers after averaging 10 points per game as a junior.
18-19 Conference Predictions
All Minnesota River Conference
Ryan Samuelson, Jr., Jordan, (POY)
Baden Noennig, Sr., Mayer Lutheran
Thomas Gutzmer, Sr., Jordan
Burke Nesbit, Sr., Le Sueur-Henderson
Lukas Dose, Jr., Sibley East
Brendan Feltmann, Sr., Mayer Lutheran
Matthew Feddema, Sr. TCU
Dylan Kahle, Jr., Belle Plaine
Josh Gregory, Jr., Belle Plaine
Noah Schmitt, Sr., Jordan