Posted On: 03/29/21 1:54 PM
The biggest classification of Minnesota high school basketball has seen its share of playoff craziness so far; more is sure to come with eight teams remaining. In the final Team Capsules installment, we look at the state entrants in AAAA.
The 16-5 Sabers cruised to a Section 2AAAA title behind steady balance in their starting lineup and suffocating defense, allowing roughly 45 points per game in the three playoff victories. Point guard Cade McGraw Cade McGraw 5'10" | PG Shakopee | 2022 State MN is back from injury and had a big impact in the wins over Bloomington Jefferson and Chaska. The frontcourt of Nick Katona Nick Katona 6'6" | SF Shakopee | 2022 State MN and Mick Wherley Mick Wherley 6'6" | PF Shakopee | 2021 State MN is good for 20-plus points and plenty of deft interior passes. Shakopee has quality depth in Yonis Mahomud and Quinten Snell Quinten Snell 6'1" | SG Shakopee | 2022 State MN as well. The South Suburban Conference beat up on each other this season (including a Shakopee split with fellow South team Rosemount) so they will be well-prepared for a close game. 12 of their 21 games have been decided by 10 points or less.
Shakopee takes on Owatonna March 31 at Hastings High School.
(2) Cretin-Derham Hall
It took a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the second straight year, but the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders are back-to-back Section 4AAAA champions. They defeated Woodbury in the championship game, avenging a regular season sweep. Tre Holloman Tre Holloman 6'2" | PG Cretin-Derham Hall | 2022 State #45 Nation MN was the proprietor of the game-winner and he’s been the engine for CDH all season, elevating the play of his teammates beyond what anyone could have expected. He’s averaging 21 points, five rebounds and more than nine assists per game, leading the Raiders to a 16-5 record. Marselio Mendez, Peter Howard and Jack Plum are combining for 25 points per game behind Holloman and along with Jack Tauer Jack Tauer 6'3" | SG Cretin-Derham Hall | 2021 State MN and Daniel Montalbano are playing tough team defense — which often wins in the postseason.
The Raiders play Rosemount March 31 at East Ridge High School.
It wasn’t the matchup many expected in the 3AAAA title game, but the third-seeded Irish made the most of their chance and defeated four seed Park of Cottage Grove handily for a state tournament berth. Rosemount is 15-6 on the season, 8-2 in their last 10 games after falling to 2-4 in their first six. Caleb Siwek Caleb Siwek 6'1" | SG Rosemount | 2022 State MN is the scoring leader with more than 20 points per game, one of the best shot creators in the tournament. Sean Sullivan Sean Sullivan 6'1" | SG Rosemount | 2021 State MN is also supporting in double figures. Zach Wenthe Zach Wenthe 6'6" | C Rosemount | 2021 State MN and Noah Loehr Noah Loehr 6'3" | SF Rosemount | 2021 State MN in the frontcourt battle with the best of the big men in the South Suburban all year long. Rosemount defeated Shakopee once already this season but didn’t get to play outside their league at all. A game against a fresh face might give them some extra energy.
The Irish face Cretin-Derham Hall March 31 at East Ridge High School.
An unfortunate turn of COVID exposure skipped 17-3 Owatonna’s section semifinal game, but they were lights-out against one-seed Lakeville South, beating the Cougars 94-85 after being up by more than 20 points. The guard/wing/big combo of Payton Beyer, Brayden Williams Brayden Williams 6'2" | PG Owatonna | 2022 State MN and Evan Dushek Evan Dushek 6'8" | C Owatonna | 2022 State MN leads the way, helping the Huskeis to outscore opponents 67-52 this season. Ty Creger Ty Creger 6'0" | PG Owatonna | 2022 State MN and Blake Burmeister have played elevated roles in the playoffs which was critical to their success. Owatonna is playing their best basketball right now and will have a great opportunity against a strong out-of-conference team in Shakopee.
The Huskies take on Shakopee March 31 at Hastings High School.
(1) Champlin Park
Nobody’s cut through the Rebels yet this season — they’re a dominant 21-0, though not without their close calls. Park Center took them to overtime twice this season, including in the 5AAAA title game. The inside-out duo of 6-foot-7 post Francis Nwaokorie Francis Nwaokorie 6'7" | C Champlin Park | 2021 State MN and point guard Joshua Strong Joshua Strong 6'0" | PG Champlin Park | 2021 State MN are dynamite. Strong is a 20-point, five-assist, three-steal guy and Francis is a walking 20-point, 13-rebound paint buster. Lanky wing Dylan Gichaba Dylan Gichaba 6'5" | SF Champlin Park | 2021 State MN is a great third option with 11 PPG and six rebounds per contest. The size of the Northwest Suburban Conference didn’t allow for fresh competition in the regular season and the Rebels won’t get it in the first round of State either — a third meeting with Maple Grove is on tap.
Champlin Park takes on Maple Grove in a local battle at Osseo High School March 31.
The 16-2 Trojans had as talented a team as any last season but it only turned into 10 regular season wins. They’ve taken another step forward this year and sit at number two in the Prep Hoops Minnesota AAAA rankings, defeating Robbinsdale Cooper in the 6AAAA final to reach another State Tournament. Brian Schnettler’s squad is big, athletic and disciplined. Top recruit Camden Heide Camden Heide 6'7" | SF Wayzata | 2022 State #35 Nation MN leads the way with 18 PPG. Versatile scoring big Carter Bjerke Carter Bjerke 6'8" | PF Wayzata | 2022 State MN and point guard Eddie Beeninga Eddie Beeninga 6'1" | PG Wayzata | 2021 State MN average 14 apiece to form a lethal three-level scoring punch. Add in two-way point guard Kody Williams Kody Williams 6'0" | PG Wayzata | 2021 State MN and dependent wings Drew Berkland Drew Berkland 5'11" | PG Wayzata | 2022 State MN and Ryan Harvey Ryan Harvey 6'3" | SG Wayzata | 2022 State MN , that’s a top six that’s tough to stop on either end of the floor. Could we see them against fellow North team Champlin Park in the state championship? It would be a great matchup individually and teamwise.
Wayzata plays Duluth East at Osseo High School March 31.
(3) Duluth East
The Greyhounds have proven themselves at 16-3 to be a legitimate top-10 to 15 level team in AAAA. The size, strength and skill of forward Mattie Thompson Mattie Thompson 6'6" | SF Duluth East | 2021 State MN and center Noah Paulson Noah Paulson 6'8" | C Duluth East | 2021 State MN has helped them to a Section 7AAAA title. Zaa Buffalo Zaa Buffalo 6'4" | SF Duluth East | 2021 State MN and Giovani Saldivar Giovani Saldivar 5'10" | PG Duluth East | 2021 MN have become reliable pieces as well with point guard Will Van Scoy Will Van Scoy 6'1" | PG Duluth East | 2022 State MN out of commission. Thompson and Paulson are a reliable duo that can pile up points in a hurry against anyone. Their most notable games this year were a pair against Minnehaha Academy and a nice win over AAA state participant Hibbing. I like their top guys matching up against Wayzata’s in the first round. Rhett McDonald gets the most out of his players and they’ll bring plenty of excitement and energy down with them.
Duluth East plays Wayzata March 31 at Osseo High School.
(4) Maple Grove
Back to state for the sixth straight season, Nick Schroeder’s 12-9 Crimson have battled injuries and some close conference games. Starting power forward Caden Boettcher Caden Boettcher 6'5" | SF Maple Grove | 2021 State MN is out with a broken collarbone, but fellow senior Morgan Moore has stepped in to become a scoring option at 13 points per game this year slashing and rebounding hard. The Crimson are led in the backcourt by junior Jon Haakenson Jon Haakenson 6'2" | SG Maple Grove | 2022 State MN , the team’s leading scorer and distributor. Newly-minted varsity player Raoul Vaidya Raoul Vaidya 6'0" | PG Maple Grove | 2023 MN has just three meaningful games under his belt but hit three big treys against Moorhead in the section final to solidify his role as an offensive weapon. Terence Anthony-Larmouth Terence Anthony-Larmouth 6'6" | SF Maple Grove | 2021 State MN adds some versatility on the wing and the big man duo of Lincoln Palbicki Lincoln Palbicki 6'9" | C Maple Grove | 2023 State MN and Payton Mogire Payton Mogire 6'9" | C Maple Grove | 2022 State MN have held down the paint. Maple Grove gets to play a familiar face in the first round, whom they lost to by seven points in the first meeting and 18 in the second.
The Crimson face conference foe Champlin Park in the first round March 31 at Osseo High School.
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