The fun and creative match-ups of the Pacesetter Sweet 16 get underway once again this coming weekend at Clemens Fieldhouse on the campus of St. Benedict. Today Minnesota Preps looks at the second half of the brackets where one can find defending class A champion Minnesota Transition Wolves, class A runner-up Sebeka, the rough and rugged Eastview Lightning, the deep talent of Benilde-St. Margaret's, and much more.
THE C BRACKET
The match-ups may not come more interesting than Eastview versus Minnesota Transitions. Eastview plays one of the toughest brands of basketball out there and with guards Shane McSparron and Oshari Arnett coming off such quality summers with WOTN they should be ready to lead their team in the backcourt. Up front Eastview is solid with 2012 standout Joey King returning with his 16.3 points per game as well as the athletic ability and 10.3 points a contest of wing Frank Veldman. Sophomore Ben Oberfeld and juniors Chris Narum and Darin Haugh are also line-up regulars.
Countering the size and physical play will be Minnesota Transitions who is one of the smartest offensive teams out there. This will be their first game without Minnesota's all-time leading scorer in Kevin Noreen but Kyle Noreen is still at MTS with his well rounded ability returning numbers of 19.2 points, 7.8 assists, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.3 steals per game. Kyle is one of the state's best defenders and smartest offensive players so it will be interesting to see how he leads this program into the future. Returning with Kyle is wing Rodney Owens who comes off a season of 13.6 points per game.
The winner of that game faces the winner of Benilde-St. Margaret's and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. The Bucs won their first 27 games of the season last year and they bring back a healthy portion of their line-up. Four of the five starters return including seniors-to-be Jordan Gregor and Conrad Masberg as well as junior point guard Grant Pope. They don't have much size save 6-foot-5 senior Tyler Kahnke, but they are tough kids who play with great chemistry.
The Bucs will need that chemistry against the Red Knights who have one of the most talented, deepest teams in the state of Minnesota. Handling the ball will be Danon Briggs or Isaiah Zierden, depending on what the squad needs. Zierden can play either guard position but at the two spot he's one of the deadliest shooters out there coming off a junior year that saw him score over 16 points a game. When Isaiah plays point junior Will Dunn will have no problem stepping in as a shooter as Dunn can fill it up as well and both he and Zierden have high basketball IQs. Also on the wing is jack of all trades Sanjay Lumpkin who is a long and talented athlete whose skills continue to improve. Lumpkin is the type of kid who can handle just about any assignment coaches give him.
Need size? The Red Knights have that too. Lumpkin is 6-foot-5 at the wing and on most teams he would have to play the four position but not at Benilde-St. Margaret's. Raw 6-foot-8 junior prospect Kyle Washington has big potential and he plays behind 6-foot-5 strong man Myles Barnes and 6-foot-5 battler Evan Battle. Barnes and Battle were the 4th and 5th leading scorers of last year's team and should have increased scoring roles this year.
THE D BRACKET
Lakeville South against St. Cloud Apollo will showcase a pair of teams that return a load of experience. Both were section title game runners-up last year and both teams are hungary to make a state run in 2010-11.
The Cougars of Lakeville South have been building towards this season for some time now. Seven of their top ten players return starting of course with small forward Alex Richter who is coming off a 22.9 point per game junior season. Richter has scored 1,328 points in his career and now he's become an even smarter player with another off-season against national competition plus his pull-up jumper is much improved. In addition to Richter, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th leading scorers also return for South in battler Jon Christensen, point guard Riley West, and 6-foot-7 big man Spencer Pankonin. Christensen is nearly impossible to keep off the glass, West is as tough as guards come, and Pankonin can step outside to knock down shots as well as go inside and make people score over his length. In support of the top four will be junior Mitch Leidner, senior Peter Barnes, senior Alec Jensen, and junior Nick Sanborn.
Apollo will have one of the most talented foursomes coming back across the state. Up front few teams can match what they have in 6-foot-5 bruiser Blake Maslonkowski (19.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game) and 6-foot-8 active center Simon Krych (13.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks a contest). "Maz" against Christensen will give high school basketball fans a look at two of the hardest working undersized bigs in state while Pankonin versus Krych will have whatever college coach that can get in the building following extremely close as both are good division two prospects.
In the backcourt Derek Steve averaged 8.1 points a game as a junior but considering how he's shot the ball this summer Steve may be capable of doubling that point total on a nightly basis. At guard Ibrahim Abukar is one of the more explosive scoring point guards in Minnesota but since he plays with quality bigs few in the state know it. He averaged 13.2 points a contest last year and at most schools in Minnesota he would have easily put up 20 points a contest.
Sebeka is ready for another state tournament run this year returning forward John Clark, handler Ryan Sharp, and shooter Cody Pulju after playing key roles as juniors. Also returning for the squad and ready for a bigger role is senior Jason Sharp. This is a group that has traveled a lot this summer winning events all over Minnesota including a couple previous Pacesetter tournaments as well as a Breakdown Summer Showcase in Grand Rapids.
The Trojans will face Plainview/Elgin-Millville who is coming off a third state tournament appearance in four years. They lost a good amount of their line-up from last year but return two very key elements. One is 6-foot-4 scorer Cole Olstad who seemingly has been leading the Bulldogs in scoring since the turn of the century. Scoring 20 a game for Cole is a slow day and in addition, Cole is also one of the smarter players in the state of Minnesota. Also returning for the Bulldogs is 6-foot-4 Landon Flies who is a regular double-double guy.
Check Minnesota Preps this weekend for summaries each day as well as Twitter feeds where you can find constant updates.