The State AAU 17 and Under finals move into Sunday morning with intriguing match-ups between Wear Out the Net and the Minnesota Fury Carroll in one semi-final and the Comets Elite against Howard Pulley White in the opposite semi-final. Standouts for these squads have included Marcus Alipate, Marcas Dorsey, Seth Hinrichs, and Charles Thomas.
In the first round of tournament action Blake Maslonkowski pushed the Minnesota Comets Elite top squad over the Minnesota Comets Elite second team. Early in the contest Blake bull dozed his way to four buckets around the cup creating space with this shoulder and strong base of power. As the day moved on Maslonkowski did have some trouble finishing around the rim but his presence was definitely felt as the Comets moved on past their fellow Comets and later the Ben Davis coached Minnesota Fury squad.
Seth Hinrichs of the Comets did a bit of everything yesterday. In game one he scored five buckets in the first half all coming from a different direction. Seth jumped a passing lane and scored with an open floor jam, he had a two dribble pull-up in the middle of the lane, a driving score, a putback, and a post-up. Then in the second contest Hinrichs hit a couple big three-pointers including the late three that secured the Comets win over Fury. Seth also made some important free throws plus he rebounded as aggressively as most have ever seen him.
Travis Rollo could have earned scholarships yesterday with just one play. Facing a pick and roll on the perimeter Rollo moved his feet to hedge over the top stopping the dribble. The opposing guard threw a pass back the other direction which was intercepted. The ball was pushed ahead where Rollo was sprinting out like a deer. In stride Rollo caught the pass and instantly rose high above the rim to flush with two hands. This play showcased his lateral movement at 6-foot-7, his ability to run, his coordination, and finally how he can finish explosively. Throughout the day Travis also played very good defense for the Comets as his length was tough for Marshall Bjorklund during the winter and it gave players like T.J. Okafor and Ian Nelson fits on Saturday. Rollo hit a couple elbow jumpers as well.
In the basketball dictionary next to the term "power wing" you may soon find pictures of Minnesota Comets standouts Kurt Moody, 6-foot-4 from Pequot Lakes, and Trevor Morlock, 6-foot-4 from Rogers. They have been a problem for the opposition because their strength helps create such space plus they have the skill to put the ball on the deck.
The Minnesota Glory were going down to the wire against the Minnesota Heat Sprang squad until Mark Blacklock put them into the quarterfinal round. The 6-foot-5/6-foot-6 Blacklock gave the Glory a one basket lead and then he gathered in an offensive board off a free throw, scored it and gave the Glory a five point win that put the game away. Blacklock is a hound on the offensive boards and he uses his length very well. Against Pulley White Blacklock was unstoppable on the offensive glass.
A taller and much stronger looking Bretson McNeal was quiet yesterday in the first half of Pulley White's win over the Glory. Then in the second half McNeal hit a pull-up jumper, he stole the ball from a Glory guard and nailed a pull-up NBA three, and finally Bretson moved through a double screen to catch and hit a 16-footer. This 7-0 run changed the momentum for Pulley as they went from being behind to leading the rest of the way. McNeal also opened up scores for others plus his defensive looks improved.
After McNeal pushed Pulley ahead Evan Battle took his team home. The guards fed Battle the ball and Battle used his long arms and strong upper body to produce four late field goals that put Pulley White's lead at double figures for good. The Glory couldn't defend Evan after he dropped his shoulder to clear and then used those long arms, that I think he borrowed from Yao Ming, to extend and finish. Battle had a double double at 19 points and ten boards.
Charles Thomas of Pulley White and Minneapolis Washburn opened a 15-6 lead yesterday against the Glory with three straight three-point makes. He finished the game with 20 points and it was his early scoring that had the Glory chasing from behind the rest of the game.
Malik El-Amin of Pulley White and Minneapolis North has great balance, very good body control, good handles that keep defenders off balance, and that combination allowed Malik to get deep in the lane on a regular basis. El-Amin then dropped several dimes for his bigs or cutting teammates to finish.
Des Spann of Mankato West and the Glory took a lot of punches from the explosive Pulley White backcourt but then gave them right back. Spann hit a couple long range jumpers including a pull-up three, he attacked for point production, and his defensive effort was consistently frustrating for opponents. Spann has a nice football future but his basketball ability shows that he's somebody colleges have to watch on the hardwood as well.
Marcus Alipate still has that jumper going as he nailed five triples Friday night against the Minnesota Heat Elite. Alipate has helped push WOTN into the semi-finals but he won't be present on Sunday. Why? Because he's joining Ross Travis, Jonah Travis, Shelby Moats, Eric Robertson, and Alex Richter at Iowa State tomorrow for the Cyclones one day get together with several other Midwestern standouts.
Nate Golden of the SW Heat and C-M-C still has that offensive game. At 6-foot-4 Golden has great length and a ton of offensive potential. Yesterday Golden gave the Heat a ten point swing that pushed them from behind to ahead for good. Golden attacked left and hit a driving touch shot from six feet with a defender in his face, Nate hit a three, and then scored a smooth finger roll in transition. Golden followed that up with a drive and dish to Dalton Kleinschmidt who nailed a trey with an improved looking jumper. This kick started a Kleinschmidt 7-0 run that followed Golden's 7-0 run and the Heat went from down one to up 13 points.
Blake Ehley of Zimmerman and the Comets Elite second group is a fearless off-guard who wills himself to the paint just about every time he needs too. His Mohawk makes him look tough and his demeanor does the rest.
The most impressive 16 and Under players that Minnesota Preps witnessed yesterday were Minnesota Comet 6-foot-6 forward Damien Reinke from Becker and Minnesota Glory's 6-foot-1 off-guard Carey Woods from Bemidji. Reinke has an exceptional combination of low post and mid-range capabilities because he has a consistent shooting touch with good lift, good length, and an aggressive attack. Reinke is able to give the Comets 20 plus on a regular basis and he's going to be bring several college coaches to Becker the next couple years.
Woods looks like a Northwoods mini-Paul Pierce. At his size Woods is an exceptional rebounder, he uses his body well to attack off the bounce plus he has shooting range. This combination of ability is matched by his aggressive attack at all points of the game. Woods is a gamer who loves to play, yesterday he competed with both the Glory 16s and 17s.
The Minnesota Heat brought up Tartan guards Xavier Hall and Kharie Kirkland to their 16s and they have benefited. Both will be sophomores for the Titans next year and both will give the team defense and athletic attack. Hall's defense yesterday left him with a bump on the head as he will stick his nose into the opposition from baseline to baseline, and sideline to sideline. Then you have Kirkland whose basket attacks provided the Heat with double figure scoring and his no-look passes had passers-by stopping to enjoy his ability.
Caleb Lunning of Zimmerman and the Comets 16s is a steady guard who doesn't waste a motion. Lunning rarely turns the basketball over because each pass and dribble is precisely calculated plus off the ball Lunning never stops moving. He relocates, he cuts, he fades off screens, he sets hard screens, etc, etc. Lunning is one of these players coaches love to have because he's low risk, a leader, and every player in Minnesota should watch how he is constantly moving when he doesn't have the basketball. Lunning also gets things done defensively.
Coaches at yesterday's event included Adam Eberhardt from St. Mary's, Jeff Westlund from Bethel, Jim Hayes from Carleton, Jerry Fogarty from St. John's, Brady Larson from Concordia-Moorhead, and Ryan Kershaw from Augsburg.