Minnesotans play well in Denver

The Double Pump Spring Tournament in Denver has quickly become a popular destination for Minnesota teams.  This past weekend, Net Gain, Minnesota Pump N Run and the Minnesota Fury all made the trip - and each had success in their own way.  Net Gain Sports finished in the elite eight, while the Pump N Run finished second in the 15s division.
Net Gain Sports came into Denver on a roll. They opened their year losing three of four in Milwaukee at an NY2LA event, and pool play in the Comets Shootout wasn't pretty even though NGS won two of three. But that Saturday night, coach Darren Dearring and his team found their chemistry, and it led to a championship in St. Cloud and five straight wins heading into Denver. Once in Denver, Net Gain Sports continued their roll, winning their pool and then battling into the Elite Eight round. It was five more victories and a streak of ten consecutive W's. The eventually did fall 81-76 to California Supreme Elite, but it was a successful event nonetheless.
"My guys played very well, I was happy and proud of how we grinded out tough games," said Dearring.  "We did some good things and we did some bad things but overall we stuck to our game plan by spreading the floor drawing out defenders and getting to the rim, being patient and sharing the ball.  I have athletic wings and guards who understand the game and work hard.  We were very close to making the final four, and it's a great learning curve for us. We are young but good."
When it comes to teams in the upper Midwest, you would be hard pressed to find to many squads with as much firepower at guard and on the wing as Net Gain Sports. After all tournament performances up in St. Cloud Tommy McDermott, Johnny Woodard, and Rashad Vaughn were once again standouts.
"Nobody could stay in front of Tommy," said Dearring. "He would cross guys and finish at the rim or dish, and he hit some huge shots over the weekend. Tommy played very well.
"Johnny is so strong and a freakish athlete. He does much more than play over the rim, he defends, scores, rebounds, and blocks shots. He covers a lot of space on both side of the ball and he also shot the ball very well this weekend. 
"And if people don't know the name remember Rashad Vaughn. Rashad played like a polished senior this tourney. He's so young that he doesn't even realize who he's playing against or what's at stake... he just plays and performs well. Another highflyer, Rashad also shot the ball very well and boarded this weekend.   
"Also, Taylor Stafford played well. He has hit some big shots that won us the championship game in St. Cloud and a late night playoff game beating three point basket with 15 seconds to go to beat the Colorado Hawks. Ian Reid-Hathaway, Riley Dearring, Brendan Taylor, Andrew Turnblad, and Ater Manyang also did things that may not be talked about but did a lot for the team in wins over the weekend. They did the dirty work that most people don't see."
This year's Pump N Run 15s team is a mixture of six of Minnesota's best freshman, two of the best 8th graders in state, and two of the better young players in Wisconsin.  They opened the Denver event with a 57-48 win over Double Pump 2014, on Saturday they jumped ahead of an opponent 57-9 and went on to win their pool, and then on Sunday the Pumps went on a tournament run. The Pump N Run beat California Pump N Run 78-63, they defeated the Colorado Hawks 61-48 in the semi-finals, and lost to the KC Pump N Run in the finals. 
"We had a complete team effort," said Coach Jeremy Miller of their weekend.  "Different players stepped up in each game.  Alex Herick of Hudson was our MVP as he brought it game in and game out.  Reid Travis got us off to a great star versus Double Pump by dominating the boards and by being a beast in the paint.  Jordan Dembley and Jarvis Johnson ran the point with proficiency and leadership.  They handled the pressure and go their teammates the ball. 
"Luis Williams and James Lawson wowed the crowd with their many displays of athleticism.  The two other 8th graders never showed their age.  Henry Ellenson had three games with four plus three-pointers.  Marshawn Wilson was our best on-ball defender, and his versatility on the offensive end was a huge advantage for our team.  Dejohn Davis and Delshon Strickland were also very important giving our team depth and production.  We have ten guys that all can get it done, which is the main reason we had success in Denver."
Friday night, the Pump N Run 17s opened with a 57-45 win over Nor Cal Pump N Run led by the 14 points from Carnell Shepard. The next morning, the Minnesota Pump N Run side and the Arizona Pump N Run group faced off in a wild affair that saw the northern squad win 107-104. Wally Ellenson led with 29 points, Sheppard hit five threes on his way to 20 points and Will Dunn scored 17.
Later that day, Minnesota defeated KC Pump N Run 64-54 again led by Ellenson who had 23 points with Nick Jorgenson adding 15 points. That was followed by their fourth straight victory, this time it was over Arizona Gold Gators and Sanjay Lumpkin led with 19 points. Late Saturday night, the Pumps were beat 65-44 in bracket play by Arizona Gold Gators.
"This weekend we went 4-1 winning our pool," said coach Clarence Bethea. "We played five really good teams.  The guys all played hard.  Wally Ellenson was a stud.  Will Dunn and Sanjay Lumpkin were also huge.   We did some good things this weekend."
 For the Minnesota Fury, it was an interesting trip right from the start, and Minnesota Preps chased down busy Fury director Ben Davis for the details.
"Both teams (17s and 16s) had a scare on the way to Denver," said Davis. "Our flight was suppose to land at six PM in Denver with our first games being at 9:40 PM for both teams, but the flight was delayed over two hours because of wind and we didn't land in Denver until after 8:30 PM.
"We had a frantic rush through the airport, to the rental cars and then had to drive 40 minutes to Lakewood where the tournament was. The 17U team made it right before the start of the game and was fine but the 16U had to start the game a couple guys short, but both teams came out with big wins."
The Fury squads moved past the anxiety of anxiousness of travel to each win their pool.
"Our 16's won their pool on Saturday pretty easily and won their first two bracket games as well," said Davis. "They had a crazy game on Sunday morning that included over 50 fouls, five technical fouls, and one ejection. They ended up winning the game by 15 and went on to play KC Pump N Run to go to the Final Four, although they ended up losing to KC Pump N Run 70-58.
"Zach Lindquist from Mahtomedi had a great weekend. He is still recovering from a knee injury that ended his high school season early but he looked like he is getting back in shape as he had some huge games this weekend. Opponents really had a tough time matching up with his size and skill as he can beat you from anywhere offensively. Ben Oberfeld was solid inside as always.  Jake Wieneked and Brycen Wojta from Maple Grove also stepped up and had some big games."
The Fury 17s didn't have to deal with quite the extra curriculars that the 16s did but their trip had moments as well.
"The MN Fury 17's also won our pool and won our first bracket game," said Davis. "In the first bracket play game, Michael Schreiber of Rogers had a huge game as he had 18 points at halftime and ended up with 25 for the game. And that was after sitting much of the second half once we got a big lead.
"We ended up losing to Jennings Black in the next round in a good game where we were up by ten in the first half at one point after Sander Mohn from Eden Prairie got hot and hit four three-pointers and had 17 points at haftime. The Jennings team caught fire in the second half and after being tied with three minutes left ended up pulling away and beating us the down the stretch. 
"There wasn't one guy that had a good weekend for us, every game there seemed to be a different guy or two that stepped up on the offensive end and played well.  Nick Sabatke from Eagan likely led us in scoring for the weekend. He is always dangerous from the outside and is great in transition as well."