A regular stop for Minnesota spring/summer basketball teams is the Jayhawk Invitational. This past weekend roughly a quarter of the teams in the older age brackets were from Minnesota and six of those teams left Kansas with at least a Sweet 16 showing after winning bracket games. The most noteworthy performance was probably the Elite Eight showing of Net Gain Sports who were led by Zach Lofton this weekend.
"Zach Lofton (Columbia Heights) was really the guy that stood out," said Net Gain Coach Darren Dearring. "There were games where Johnny Woodard (Duluth East) shot the ball well. Riley Dearring (DeLaSalle) and Rashad Vaughn (Robbinsdale Cooper) rebounded really well and although they really didn't score that much they still rebounded and did other things. Riley ran the point sometimes playing along with Zach. Brendan Taylor (Minnetonka) played well hitting some big shots. But overall Zach and Johnny stuck out for me."
Net Gain went undefeated in their pool with wins over KC Pump N Run (54-53), NormanST12 (71-60), and the Missouri Express (74-54). That was followed by a 83-56 victory over Run N Shoot Elite and a 64-45 win over Next Level Hoops Academy. Then in the Elite Eight the Colorado Hawks knocked Net Gain out 62-56.
"We all played well but there were times when we were kind of sluggish because at times I think guys kind of played down," said Dearring. "We played well but I really don't think anybody besides Zach Lofton had a really good tournament. Zach Lofton had a really good tournament. Johnny Woodard had a decent tournament, Rashad and Riley did enough to keep us in ball games and win some games.
"We didn't have Tommy McDermott (Minnetonka) or Ian Reid Hathaway (Rochester Mayo) and to be honest with everything that happened to Andrew Turnblad's dad (Kevin Turnblad suffered a seizure over the weekend and is still in Kansas City at the hospital and Minnesota Preps would like to send our best wishes), that kind of changed the whole flow of everybody's mood. After that happened basketball really wasn't important at that point."
Also making the Sweet 16 was the Minnesota Comets. They went undefeated in pool play defeating Colorado Elite, Everyday Process, and Pumas 17s Blue. The Comets defeated the Kansas City Keys in the first round of bracket play but were knocked out by the SYF Players 91-77.
"We received strong contributions this weekend from Tyler Vaughan (Braham), Kevin Heysse (St. Cloud Tech), Nate Meyer (Rocori), Joe Burt (St. Cloud Cathedral), and Jimmy Unger (Willmar)," said Comets Coach Josh Hanson. "Jimmy had five three-pointers in the first half against the SYF Players. Vaughan had eight straight points versus the Kansas City Keys allowing us to take the lead. Heysse's range put Mitch McGary in some tough spots."
At the 16 and Under level the Minnesota Fury Blue squad carried the Land of 10,000 Lakes flag the furthest. After a struggle in pool play the Fury Blue put it together when things mattered the most beating Pumas Blue and the SYF Players to reach the Elite Eight level.
"The Minnesota Fury Blue 16's scrapped together a gritty performance to make a run to the Elite Eight after a rough 0-2 start in pool play," said Coach Matt Christensen. "Upon advancing to the bracket play-in game Leroy Taylor (Robbinsdale Cooper) hit the buzzer beater lay up in overtime to win the game.
"The Fury were led by guards Dustin Fronk (Apple Valley), who put up multiple 20 plus point games, and Bridge Tusler (Osseo) who had multiple 15 plus point games. Jake Wieneke (Maple Grove) provided timely scoring and a defensive spark. Holding down the paint was 6-foot-8 Ben Oberfeld (Eastview) who led the team in rebounds and blocks."
The Fury Blue fell victim to a tough KC Spurs team in the Elite Eight.
The Howard Pulley Black 16s also finished in the 16 and Under Sweet 16. In their first game the Pulley Black squad obliterated Colorado Next Level Elite 61-31 led by a dozen points from Henry Sonie (Apple Valley). The next morning Pulley fought back from six points down to beat the KC Greyhounds and again Sonie scored a dozen. Also big in the victory was the 20 points and eight boards from Anthony Hill (Champlin Park) and the all around score sheet of guard Grant Kellogg (Benilde-St. Margaret's) who supplied nine points, four boards, three assists, and three steals.
The Pulley 16s then finished pool play undefeated with a 72-56 win over the Wisconsin Playmakers. Renard Suggs (Woodbury) led with 15 points and Chris Laymon (Apple Valley) scored 14. They were knocked out in the round of 16 by St. Louis Gateway 62-58 but Sonie had another solid showing with a team high 18 points.
So far this spring the 15 and Under division has captured a lot of interest on the spring/summer scene. There have been fierce battles both in St. Cloud and Bloomington so far and that experience had the Minnesota Heat Select and the Minnesota Fury Black ready for a run with the level of competition at the Jayhawk. The Fury Black won their pool (as did the Southwest Minnesota Stars) while the Heat Select went 2-1 losing to Team Swish. But in bracket play both the Fury and the Heat grabbed victories landing them in the Elite Eight.
"Andre Wallace (Eden Prairie) played great all weekend," said Heat Elite Coach Leon Garvis. "He had three 20 plus scoring games. Travon Hearns (Bloomington Kennedy) really dominated any post player he saw. Jeff Jones and Quinton Garvis (both from Minneapolis Washburn) continued to to be great slashers and defenders all weekend.
"Anthony Anderson (Eden Prairie) did a little of everything for us. Diedric Hubbard (Eden Prairie) continues to expand his game and show his range. We played one of our best games against Kingdom Hoops. We were up seven with 90 seconds left. We learned a lot this weekend. I' m extremely excited about how good we can be. Made it to the Final eight and if we close the deal who knows."
Meanwhile from the Fury Black:
"J.P. Macura (Lakeville North) hit a three over a loaded Team June team at the buzzer in double overtime to win the game," said Fury Black Coach Nick Carroll in terms of their moment of the event. "Koling Bartlett (St. Peter) and Macura averaged 13 and 14 points a game respectively.
"Paul Friendshuh (New Prague) and Derek Magnuson (Roseville) were beasts on the boards. Ian Smith (Champlin Park) and Reggie Rabb (LaCrosse Aquinas) caused fits for opposing guards all weekend. Wheeler Baker (DeLaSalle) and Dennis Austin (Apple Valley) guarded the best player on every team and Baker didn't have a game under double figures. Nate Emge (Faribault) also exploded against the Wichita Mustangs for 20 points and Jamar Robinson (Osseo) had 17 in that game as well."
Also deserving note for their performances are: Southwest Minnesota Stars and Minnesota Southern Rush for making the championship bracket at the 15s level, Minnesota Fury White and Ultimate Hoops for making championship bracket play at the 16s level, and in addition to the Comets Elite and Net Gain Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight performances at the 17s level, six other Minnesota Squads made it into championship bracket play (round of 32) at the Jayhawk.