Wednesday morning the Minnesota State Tournament kicks off at 10:00 A.M. in the Target Center with class AAAA match-ups. Henry Sibley and St. Cloud Tech were the only programs able to repeat this season but neither is the favorite coming in as that distinction belongs to the ridiculously talented Hopkins Royals.
10:00 A.M. – Hopkins vs. Blaine
The Blaine Bengals finished the season winning five of six games including the three playoff match-ups in section seven. UMD commit Dylan Rodriguez leads the team in scoring with 19.5 points a game and Southwest State commit Billy Giddings produces 16.1 points a contest. Blaine is 15-14 on the season.
Their task will be to upend the undefeated Hopkins Royals who drew the one seed in the tournament with a 28-0 record. Hopkins is one of the nation's most talented teams and some feel they are the most talented team in Minnesota high school basketball history. Some have said the earlier decade Hopkins teams are better while others like some of the Minneapolis North teams of the late 90s. What's interesting about that is the current Hopkins rotation includes at least four guys who live in the Minneapolis North area plus the Hopkins guys.
Anyway, Minnesota commit and five star Royce White leads the Royals with 15.9 points a contest. Santa Clara commit Raymond Cowels is scoring 13.1 a night while Arizona State commit Trent Lockett has produced 12.5 a game. Notre Dame singe Mike Broghammer scores 10.9 points a game and then five more Hopkins players average between six and nine points. Those players include sophomore stars Marvin Singleton and Joe Coleman plus top junior D.J. Peterson and seniors Moses Sundufu and Marcus Williams. Freshman Siyani Chambers rounds out the rotation with steady guard ability.
Blaine is playing well but the Hopkins talent level will make this a laugher quick. Only three teams (St. Bernards, Minneapolis Washburn, and Henry Sibley) have stayed with Hopkins for almost the full game all year.
12:00 P.M. – Winona vs. St. Cloud Tech
Winona used a methodical slow it down approach to defeat Owatonna 31-26 last week and it resulted in their second state tournament appearance in three seasons. The Winhawks are on a roll winning 11 straight games and 13 of their last 15. They started the season at 4-8 but went on the run after 6-foot-11 big Alec Brown joined the team. Brown led his Winhawks over Farmington in the section semis with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks. In addition to Brown the Winhawks have more size in 6-foot-5 Joe Zimbric (a Winona State football commit), and 6-foot-5 Alex Miene, plus an affective guard in 5-foot-10 Chad Peterson (a St. Cloud State football commit).
Do not be surprised to see Winona be extremely patient once again to stop the high powered and undefeated St. Cloud Tech Tigers. Led by Mr. Basketball candidate and late game miracle worker Nate Wolters the Tech Tigers are on a mission. They have won several close games at the buzzer this season including a thrilling come from behind sectional victory over Buffalo 63-61. Wolters can do it all offensively and when he's not scoring junior Alex Hanks is rumbling to the basket off the drive. Tech doesn't have a monster big inside to work against Brown but they do have good workers in 6-foot-4 senior Adam Johnson and 6-foot-3 senior Alan Fruth. Tech also gets point production from seniors Nick Jordan, Tyson Euerle, and Devin Ambrose.
Expect Winona to try and slow it down again but can they really slow down Nate Wolters?
2:00 P.M. – Bloomington Jefferson vs. Henry Sibley
Jefferson is known for their physical nature on the court while Sibley is known for their talented size. Up front the Warriors will work with Wisconsin commit Mike Bruesewitz (17.3 points, 9.8 rebounds), Valpo commit Chris Halvorsen (14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds), junior 7-footer Jake Kreuser (6.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2 blocks), and junior bruiser Mike Rostampour (8.1 points, 5.0 rebounds). This combination has led the team to a 27-2 record plus they get big support from wing Maurice Hernandez who produces 14.7 points and 4.7 rebounds a contest.
Defending this size is Minnesota football commit Moses Alipate who goes 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds with more beef than any of the Sibley front line. He scores 13.3 points a game and gets frontcourt support from 6-foot-3 fighter Chad Foslien (6.5 points a game) and Jalen Williams, an athletic junior wing who scores 7.5 points a contest.
In the backcourt Jefferson has one of the state's best point guards in sophomore Marcus Alipate who scores 15 points a night plus distributes. Senior guard Chad Gilmer (11.8 points a game) along with Marcus's older brother Moses are the main recipients. Sibley's speedy guards Francis Bungue and Jameal North will have to contain Marcus if they are to move on.
4:00 P.M. – Apple Valley vs. Osseo
The last time Gonzaga commit Sam Dower was in the Target Center he hung 20 points up on Iowa commit Cody Larson in short second half minutes. Apple Valley doesn't have the height and length to shut down Dower but they do have a nice counter punch in 6-foot-5 senior David Bauer (12.1 points a game) and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tom Schalk (11.7 a game). Bauer and Schalk lead the Eagles in their balanced scoring so Dower and senior teammate Jayvin Reynolds (7.1 points a game) will also have to work on both ends. Edge goes to Osseo but it may not be by as much as some think. Apple Valley just has to try keep Dower from getting so deep to utilize that deadly jumphook that he seems to release from 20 feet in the air.
Both teams are similar in the backcourt starting with speedy point guards. Osseo leader D.J. Phillips (5.4 ppg) will run the show against ultra athletic UNI football commit Varmah Sonie (9.7 ppg) of Apple Valley. Both players have very good wing options to utilize as Aaron Anderson of Osseo and Mitch Bires of Apple Valley both average over ten points a game from the wing.
You have to believe that Sam Dower will be the difference and if he gets deep enough he will dominate. But Varmah Sonie can reek havoc on the tempo of a game so watch him against the Osseo guards very closely.