Wednesday morning the State Tournament kicks off with class AAAA games at the Target Center and class AAA games taking place in Williams Arena. The class AA games are spread out later that evening in both buildings while class A starts Thursday with match-ups played at Williams Arena. Another state tournament is upon us and Minnesota Preps has you covered.
Once again Hopkins is the favorite and considering they have won three of the last five state championships (they are 172-9 the last six years) anything less than the title would be an upset. Their first round opponent is Forest Lake who has won 19 of their last 21 games including the section championship victory over Duluth East who had beaten them twice already this year. Senior Zach Riedeman is scoring 23.4 points a contest for the Rangers and he will be the guy Hopkins must stop. And speaking of defense Forest Lake definitely has to come up with likely the best defensive performance of the year if they want to move on to the semi-finals. Hopkins is receiving 24.8 points a game from Joe Coleman, 18.4 points from Marvin Singleton, 11.3 from D.J. Peterson, and the youth of Riley Dearring, Siyani Chambers, and Zach Stahl provides the rest of the support at a combined 23 points a contest.
The winner of that game will take on the winner of Henry Sibley versus Eastview and this could be the most interesting first round contest as nobody wants to deal with the Lightning right now. Eastview has won nine in a row, 11 of their last 12 games and a big reason for that was the move of Joey King from playing on the junior varsity to being the top scorer on varsity. Twelve games ago King played became eligible after his transfer from Eagan last February and he's averaging 16.6 points a contest. Also, Apple Valley transfer Corey Styles also became eligible in February and he's giving the team 7.6 points a contest. Junior Frank Veldman and senior Karl Otto have missed some games this year but they are now back healthy and contributing heavily. You add all of these guys into the mix with Southwest State signed point guard Vinard Birch (12.5 points a contest) plus others such as senior Jordan Kuhn and what you have is a team peaking at the right time.
Let's not forget about the elephant in the room either. Eastview plays a tough, physical brand of basketball. Some would call some of the tactics cheap or dirty. After what happened at Chaska and at Eastview against Eden Prairie something is definitely going on and when you add Mike Rostampour of Henry Sibley to the mix you are just pouring gas on the fire. Expect some rough housing inside no question. Also, watch how the Lightning physically defend Henry Sibley scoring guard Jordan Jackson who is coming off an incredible performance winning the game against Cretin-Derham Hall at the buzzer. Sibley has four guys averaging in double figures with 17 points (and 8.6 rebounds a game) from Rostampour, 16 points a game from Jackson, 11 points from Jake Kreuser (along with 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks), and ten points from sophomore Dante Grant so they have several weapons to defend.
Eden Prairie faces Owatonna in a game that may be a little more hotly contested then some expect. When it comes to under appreciated talents Owatonna's Vaughan Thada may be one that most bring up. He's 6-foot-3 and he can shoot as well as handle for the Huskies. Next to him is another solid junior guard in Tyler Supalla and both he and Thada were named all-conference this year in the Big Nine. Add in senior sharp-shooter Paul Satterlund and junior do everything forward Mitch Hawkins and you can that this team has options.
They will need these options against Eden Prairie who embodies the word team. They play ten guys in their rotation and eight of them average between 6.5 and 4.1 points a contest. On a daily basis Brett Ervin is the go to guy (17 points a game) withGrant Soderberg being a solid number two option (13 points a night). Ervin can face-up and hit with decent range for a big plus his plethora of moves can shake sizeable bigs. Against bigs his size Ervin will just out-muscle them. Also, we talked about Owatonna having a number of weapons but the Eagles have defenders to use like Grayson Levine and Mitch Hallstrom.
The winner of that contest will face the winner of Champlin Park and St. Cloud Tech. The Rebels have won 17 of their last 18 games and in that span have come victories over teams like Robbinsdale Cooper, Osseo (three times), and Spring Lake Park. The Rebels took Hopkins to the buzzer earlier this year at the Target Center and now that they are clicking on all cylinders and their depth is going to be a pain to deal with.
For starters senior Josh Pella is scoring 12.8 points a game with 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.6 steals a contest. He leads the team in rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage (58 percent). Pella is a jack of all trades and working next to him is leading scorer Kyle Zimmerman who puts up 13.4 points a contest with 7.2 rebounds. Jasper Duberry runs the show and overall the Rebels have an experienced eight seniors who make up the majority of their rotation. Seniors like Brandon Davis (12.8 points a game), Dillon Hager (leading three-point shooter at 42 percent on 102 attempts), and D'Andre Williamson have also played a vital role on the Rebels run to 24-5 on the season.
They will need all of this depth to stop the versatile scoring of Scott Nystrom as well as the hard nosed play of Alex Hanks and the shooting of Thomas Korf. Hanks is scoring 19.1 points a game with 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Nystrom puts up 18.8 points shooting 57 percent from the floor and 42 percent form behind the arc. Nystrom is also grabbing six boards a game with three assists and two steals. Korf is scoring 11.7 points a contest making 62 threes this year while shooting 44 percent from behind the arc. Korf is also the leading rebounder at eight a game.
Tech is 24-5 on the season and it's not like they haven't beaten teams of status. The Tigers have wins over Orono, Osseo, Duluth East, Buffalo, Little Falls, Willmar, St. Cloud Apollo, Rocori, and other this season.