This week's Hot List starts with a team that has won nine straight basketball games and has worked their way into a two game lead in the conference standings. That team is Henry Sibley whose victories over St. Thomas Academy and Simley in the past week combined with a second Tartan loss to Hill-Murray and a Cadet loss to Mahtomedi has put the Warriors back in the Classic Suburban driver's seat.
THE HOT LIST - TEAMS
1. Last Friday I took in Henry Sibley's 78-69 win over St. Thomas Academy and was impressed with the Warrior resolve. Earlier in the season the Cadets traveled down the road to Sibley and defeated them 66-60 in Sibley's building. Cadet students rushed the floor, danced at halfcourt, and this was Sibley's 5th loss of the season giving them a losing record at 4-5
This past Friday night the atmosphere of the game was as expected with a strong crowd turnout consisting of some of the most interesting crowd back and forth banter than I've heard all season. On the floor the action was entertaining with St. Thomas executing an early game plan to perfection. They worked Mike Rostampour to the bench with two quick fouls in three minutes and Jordan Jackson to a bench spot right next to Rostampour as Jordan picked up his third foul midway through the second half.
With the Sibley stars on the bench next to an injured Jake Kreuser (who will be back in the line-up very soon) most expected St. Thomas to come back and take a lead. However, Sibley sophomore Dante Grant picked a good night to have his highest scoring total of the season as Grant attacked the Cadet defense with penetration time and time again. Grant's penetration had him scoring lay-ups and making regular trips to the foul line ultimately pushing Sibley to a 31-26 halftime lead. From there Jackson and Rostampour stepped back on the floor leading the Warriors to a 78-69 victory. It wasn't easy (more on that later in the Hot List) but Grant's 24 points joined with 20 from Jackson and 19 from Rostampour gave Sibley the win.
The St. Thomas win was somewhat of a crowing point proving the Warriors are state tournament contenders once again. After starting the year with losses to Hopkins, Cooper, St. Paul Johnson, Christian Faith Academy, St. Thomas, and North Lawndale Prep included in their first 11 games the Warriors have now won nine straight and sit at 14-6 on the year. Also, in a tough section four of class AAAA Henry Sibley is looking every bit as strong as Cretin-Derham Hall, Stillwater, and Tartan. But hold the phone, there is another team fans and teams alike better start considering in this section and that's…
2. White Bear Lake. Although they lost this week 69-51 to Cretin-Derham Hall, coach Keith Lockwood and his players deserve credit for their season. The Bears lost their first three games (to Park Center, Duluth East, and Stillwater) and started the new year off rough with losses to Champlin Park and Cretin-Derham Hall. At that point they were a 4-5 team and seemed headed to another year well below .500.
Things changed as White Bear Lake took their frustrations out on Park of Cottage Grove with a 81-27 beat down on January 8th. That game started a nine game winning streak for White Bear Lake that included wins over Forest Lake, Mounds View, and Stillwater amongst others. The Bears are a factor in section 4AAAA and they are likely to make the 4-5 first round section match-up one of the real dog fights early in the playoffs.
Spencer Cummings, a North Dakota football signed player, leads the team with 14.9 points per game while fellow senior Ryan Olson is scoring 12.8 points a contest.
3. It's that time of year again and coach Larry McKenzie has his Holy Angels Stars hitting stride in February. Last year the Stars started 3-16 but balanced the year out to win some games late and they then challenged Minneapolis Washburn in the section championship before falling 63-52.
This year the Stars started 1-6 on the year and were 3-8 going into a contest with Holy Family. Coach McKenzie steered his ship through the rough that day with a 58-42 victory. Since then the Stars have won eight straight games and are now 11-8 on the season. Notable victories have come against a ranked Hutchinson team, Shakopee, and New Prague. Leading the squad is senior Cole Frechette with 12.3 points per game followed by the 10.5 from Augustana signed football player Andy Jirik. It's really a team effort though as the top six scorers are all seniors averaging between six and a dozen points a game. R.D. Brown recently had an outstanding contest against Prior Lake scoring 25 points off the bench.
4. Another one of the state's best coaches has quietly got his team going in the meat of the season. Coach Bob Vaughan and Braham started the year with a struggle losing to Minnehaha Academy by 30 points. That loss may have helped them fade away from thoughts and if that wasn't the case then the 16 point loss to Rush City (one of the section favorites) helped slam the door. However, the Bomber brigade isn't going away quietly winning seven straight games and a rematch with Rush City is scheduled for February 18th. Is Braham ready for another state tournament challenge? That game should tell the state a lot.
5.Five undefeated teams remain in Minnesota and they are St. Paul Johnson of class AAA, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and Morris Area of class AA, and Ada-Borup and MACCRAY of class A. There are however a lot more winless teams including seven of them in class A (not counting the few teams who have played three or four times and just stopped) and the biggest surprise has to be Rothsay who was 15-9 last year. Cotton has also had some good teams recently but the closest they have come was a 27 point loss. In class AA Greenway and Park Rapids are both winless and there are no winless teams in the bigger two classes. Minneapolis Southwest, Park of Cottage Grove, and Rochester JM are all sitting at one loss though and the last two schools most long for the days of Sam Jacobson and Brent Solheim.
THE HOT LIST - PLAYERS
1. When St. Thomas Academy lost to Henry Sibley last Friday night they were still able to keep the game close through the final minute because senior shooting guard Billy Chapman had entered the zone only a few athletes reach every year. Chapman dropped eight three-pointers on the Warriors raining threes over whoever, whenever in the second half. Despite the Cadets loss Chapman still put 42 points on the board on his way to a career night. He followed that game up with a 22 point performance in a loss to Mahtomedi. This season Chapman is scoring 19.7 points a contest for the 11-7 Cadets.
2. In terms of recruitment nobody's name is hotter than that of Chaska's Jake White. His team is struggling losing three in a row and four of their last five but Jake continues to fight averaging 22.7 points a game.
That fight has impressed several coaches who have come to see him including Colorado State who offered White a scholarship last night. White has accumulated offers from Northern Iowa, Wichita State, and the Rams so far this year and you have to think several others would have offered by now if they thought they had a chance to get in on Jake. White has been traveling a lot lately seeing Wisconsin, Wichita State, and Northern Iowa recently and he's going to be an unofficial guest of Northwestern this weekend when the Wildcats welcome Minnesota to Evanston.
3. How about these numbers reported on Kyle Noreen after the Minnesota Transitions 122-95 win over Red Lake this past Saturday! The stat line says 9 of 11 shooting from the field including 4 of 5 from the three-point arc for 28 points to go along with 15 assists, 14 rebounds, and 11 steals. And let's not forget that brother Kevin Noreen hit on 17 of 28 shots and 18 of 20 free throws for 55 points to go with 19 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 steals. Teammate Rodney Owens made 9 of 11 shots for 30 points to go with 7 assists.
Let's get back to the quadruple-double of junior Kyle Noreen. Kyle is also the defensive stopped for the 17-3 Minnesota Transitions Wolves who are number one in the Minnesota Preps Class A poll. Kyle is averaging 18.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and 5.3 steals a contest.
4. It's been an extremely rough season for the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars. They are 3-12 but the vast majority of the games have been close. In fact, they are losing games by an average of 3.9 points a night! Talk about heartbreak. With the struggling record the strong play of point guard Marcus Alipate has been lost on the Twin Cities. Marcus is averaging 18.7 points a contest with seven assists and before a ten point performance against Eagan this week Alipate had put up games of 28, 24, 25, and 26 points consecutively.
5. Last Saturday St. Peter won a grueling 81-79 battle with Blue Earth improving the Saint record to 10-4. The Saints have won nine straight games and ten of their last 11 contests. In Saturday's win St. Peter sharpshooter Brodie Raymond knocked down five threes and 16 of 30 shots overall to score a season high 44 points. Raymond pushed his scoring average to up 28.9 points per contest and it was the second time he went over 40 points this season (he had 42 in a loss to Maple River). Seven times this season Raymond has eclipsed the 30 point mark and his season total of 404 points is 42.6 percent of his teams point total for the year.