This year's Tip-Off Classic was delayed six weeks but considering the exciting finishes, the superstar showdowns, and some top-notch breakout performances, it may have been worth the wait.
The Stars Shine
• Lakeville South fell behind Minnetonka 23-15 but then the Alex Richter show began. Richter back cut for scores, he attacked in the open floor finishing with a couple rim-rocking jams, he hit turn around jumpers out of the post, Alex attacked with the bounce to spin for jumpers, and dribble attacked and spun for scores at the rim. Richter was also bullying Tonka players inside for production. He did all of this score to 30 points clearly dominating in a 91-67 victory.
• Braham super scorer Tyler Vaughan had a rough start in his game with Holy Family making 3 of his first 8 looks but all of a sudden he changed gears and attacked the rim for 11 points in about a three minute span. His scoring total jumped from 7 points to 18 points on his way to 22 in the first 18 minutes of the game. At this point Tyler was showing nearly everything he had: seven first half boards, his quick firing three point stroke complete with pretty release, and his ability to shake defenders in both the half court set as well as the open floor to score at the rim. In the second half Tyler found his grove from the arc ending the game with six three point makes and a game high 37 points.
• One of the marquee showings of Saturday was Vanderbilt signed Shelby Moats against William & Mary signed Thomas Schalk. The pair are division one signed four man of a different kind. Moats is your strong based pick and pop four man while Schalk is your slippery, skilled, jack of all trades forward. Shelby was good scoring 21 points but on this day Schalk had the upper hand down the stretch. Late in the game Schalk posted up on the block against the Waconia zone, turned towards the basket over his shoulder, and hit a contested short jumper while being fouled by Shelby. The basket put four fouls on Moats and it closed a Waconia lead to four points. Then in the game's final minute Schalk scored a key up and under bucket to give Apple Valley a three point lead. Back the other way in the closing seconds Moats airballed a three-point attempt (the shot was hotly contested and it may have been tipped) and the follow up was missed. Schalk scored 27 points with 14 boards and Apple Valley won 67-65.
• Isaiah Zierden showed even more of his game Saturday against a tough, athletic, and deep Cretin-Derham Hall team. Isaiah was pounded when he went near the lane or came off of picks including one elbow to the face that wasn't called. The blow only made Isaiah stronger as he played the part of game changer for the Red Knights. Down the stretch Coach John Moore used Isaiah as the primary ball hander going against the aggressive ball pressure of Cortez Tillman and Isaiah thrived. He created shots for others, Isaiah made some threes, and most importantly Zierden attacked the room for several contested buckets including the shot that tied the game at 60 with 30 some seconds to play. Zierden scored 26 points, he calmly handled the point down the stretch, and his stop and go attack got up and down minimizing the effectiveness of the Raider ball pressure.
• The big three of Hopkins controlled the game against Osseo as Minnesota signed Joe Coleman scored 25 points, Northern Iowa signed Marvin Singleton scored 21 points, and Rivals top 100 junior Siyani Chambers controlled the game with 21 points and numerous assists. Chambers has multiple duties as he had to run his teams offense plus score and then go back the other way and defend speedy Osseo guard Terez Van Pelt (who scored 18). Chambers was in control of the game from start to finish allowing the number one team in state to stay undefeated.
• Benilde-St. Margaret's junior four man Kyle Washington did a great job working for lost post position against 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6 Cretin-Derham Hall tough guys C.J Neumann and Conor Quicksell. Once Washington caught the ball on the block it was most often over. Considering Washington's length, athletic ability, and touch on his shot there just wasn't much the Raiders could do once Kyle caught. He softly placed five or six shots off the window on his way to a hard fought 14 points.
• Maranatha Christian overcame a double figure deficit to defeat Henry Sibley 71-66 on Saturday led by 22 points and a dozen assists from standout junior point guard Darian Pittman. Pittman was breaking everyone done with his dribble attack and creating for his teammates (especially SaVaughan Jordan who scored 20 points). Pittman was to strong, to controlled, and to sudden with first dribble for the Warriors to stop.
• When it comes to Kyle Noreen you can usually count on one thing: he is going to give you a lot of everything. Minnesota Transitions dropped a couple games over the weekend but Noreen was still a force. Saturday against Duluth East he made 8 of 18 field goal attempts including three three-pointers on his way to 21 points. Kyle also grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out seven assists, blocked three shots, and had three steals.
• Efficient production is scoring one point for every minute you are on the floor and that is what Eden Prairie athlete Dylan Stewart did in the Eagles' 72-46 win over St. Cloud Apollo. Foul trouble limited Stewart's minutes to 14 but that didn't stop him from scoring a game high 14 points. Apollo didn't have an answer for his bounce.
• Shakopee forward Jason Perkins was able to clear space around the basket whenever he wanted Saturday allowing him to make a well balanced hook shot on several occasions plus "Perk" showed off his shooting touch with his face-up game. Perkins had 17 points and was next to unstoppable when he caught the ball deep on the block.
• Raijon Kelly has such a smooth game that it was surprising to see his level of aggressiveness on the floor against the Red Knights. Not that Raijon isn't aggressive, it's just that he's so smooth with all three faces of offense that it catches you off guard when he's banging into people defensively too. Kelly scored a team high 18 points including a tough shot at the buzzer to end the first half. At his length, height, and level of skill it is believed that he would be an outstanding NSIC combo guard.
* Holy Family center Ryan Dahl may be 6-foot-8, he may be 6-foot-9. Whichever listing is accurate the bottom line is Dahl is a load on the low block with a balanced 250 pounds. He's nearly impossible to move down low and he has a pretty scoring touch that he can score faced up, turning quickly to after an entry pass, or with his back to the bucket. The big man used the glass to sink five shots on five straight possessions Saturday turning a close game with Braham into a Fire victory. Dahl is getting football attention from Big Ten schools because of his size, mobility, and footwork but it shouldn't be long before basketball schools are calling on him as well. Saturday he scored 36 points against Braham, likely had 20 plus rebounds, and all that doesn't even take into account that he was whistled for three fouls in the first half missing an opportunity to further his production. Holy Family won 82-74.
* Duluth East point guard Taylor Stafford is as slippery as he is fast and his dribble attack to the rim was able to push Duluth East to a 69-65 victory over Class A number one ranked Minnesota Transitions. Stafford showed at the Granite City Classic that he has the quick first step and the stop and pop game to score in bunches. That was evident at the Top Off Classic this weekend as was his ability to create for others. Stafford finished the game with 21 points and more importantly he opened the floor for the big three point dagger that Dusty Royseth hit in the final minute to seal the deal. When it comes to junior point guards he's the hottest new name out there because he's amongst the fastest with the ball in the state and he can get you 20 whenever.
* Henry Sibley sophomore shooter Adam Heussner had his finest day in a losing effort to Maranatha Christian Academy. Adam found his stroke early and never let up hitting a variety of pull-ups, basket attacks, and catch and shoot long range attempts that all seemed to go. Coming into the game Heussner was scoring ten points a contest but against MCA Adam went for a career high 22 points.
* Apple Valley sophomore guard Dustin Fronk was as clutch as a shooter can get down the stretch in the Eagle win over Waconia. He was having a decent nine-point performance going into the final five minutes but then hit a corner jumper that created some momentum for his team. Minutes later he drained another corner three that tied the game at 60, and with about a minute-forty to go he drilled a three-pointer that gave Apple Valley their first lead of half number two at 63-60. Fronk was named the player of the game for his 17 crucial points.
* Minnetonka wing Nick Latzke had one of his better games of the year scoring 22 points that included a pair of three point makes and several aggressive attacks to the front of the rim for scores. Considering that he did it against college level wings in Alex Richter and Jon Christianson it was quite a performance for Latzke.
• Shakopee put together a strong team effort building leads of 11-2, 26-10, and 30-12 leading them to a 64-51 victory over class AAA top ten ranked Orono. The Spartans came out flat but did claw their way back into the game and they would have been even closer had it not been for a 7 of 20 free throw shooting performance. Shakopee did a nice job face guarding Jordan Smith and putting a different athlete on him seemingly ever couple of minutes. Smith scored 15 points.
• The Buffalo versus Marshall game had several twists and turns. First off the Buffalo Bison nailed nine first half three-pointers including seven from Josh High and Dominic Gilmer giving their team as much as a 17 point lead. However, Caleb Johnson, who literally can play every position on the court if needed, spearheaded a full pressure attack that brought Marshall all the way back from the deep double figure deficit. Johnson's three pointer tied the game at 69. However, in the game's final seconds Buffalo senior Andy Ortmann broke the pressure, penetrated into the lane, and kicked out to Josh High. The senior guard caught and nailed a three at the buzzer to give Buffalo an exciting 72-69 victory. Johnson scored a game high 23 points while High had 15 and Gilmer produced 19 points. Ortmann got it done from all angles hitting several late free throws, scored 11 points, and had some vital creations for teammates.
• Myles Barnes only scored one basket Saturday night but it was a big one. Benidle St.-Margaret's and Cretin-Derham Hall seemed to be headed for a second overtime after Isaiah Zierden missed a shot but Barnes gathered the rebound and hit a falling away tough angled bank shot from about eight feet to give the Red Knights an inspiring victory.
• The Osseo versus Hopkins contest saw Hopkins jump ahead 33-18, 46-31 at the half, and ultimately 86-68 at the final buzzer. It was a highly anticipated one versus two match-up and it absolutely packed the East gym of Minnetonka High School. People were actually turned away as the gym was to full to accommodate any more viewers. Both baselines had fans lined shoulder to shoulder.
• The original show also included DeLaSalle (Riley Dearring, Jonah Travis, Bretson McNeal, Reid Travis), Tartan (Darrion Strong, Drew Preiner, Joel Awich), Chaska (Ross Travis, Jake White), and Eastview (Joey King, Frank Veldman) and four other teams but rescheduling that many squads was next to impossible. The Breakdown did manage to put together a card of ten quality match-ups.
• It's hard to individualize too much from Eden Prairie because their entire team was so strong in their 26-point win over Apollo. They had two guys in double figures (Stewart and Grant Soderberg) plus players scoring nine points, eight points, seven points, and six points. Twelve different players scored in all and it was Jack Klukas controlling everything like a conductor.
• Johnny Woodard scored a strong 25 points using his much stronger physique to get regular results. Woodard can get his shot off whenever he wants and that was again evident at the Tip-Off.
• The overall effort of Shakopee's Dylan Ulferts said a lot about his ability. Offensively he scored 14 points including some long-range jumpers and on the other end he was one of the main guys chasing around the dangerous Jordan Smith.
• Six-foot-5 Ben Thiry gave Braham 21 points and at his length with versatile talents I would assume several MIAC schools will be calling on him more often than not.
• When people talk Minnesota Transitions they often think Kyle Noreen and Rodney Owens and rightfully so. However, it's getting near the time that we in Minnesota start to add Matt Lanier's name because his tough guy production around the basket has been quite important to MTS. He led the Wolves in scoring against the Greyhounds with 25 points that included three triples and Lanier grabbed eight boards. For the season he's giving Coach John Sherman 16.5 points and 8.8 rebounds a contest.
• Every time I see Sanjay Lumpkin I think I like him better defensively. Using his length and athletic ability Lumpkin is also working as hard as anybody on the floor and it's limiting some pretty good wings. Lumpkin also scored 11 points.
• North Dakota State signed football talent Joey Sonnenfeld is as tough as they come on both the gridiron and the court. In a losing effort against Hopkins, Joey scored a game high 26 points for Osseo. His toughness continues to be raved about after every game.
• Lakeville South had more than just Alex Richter. Senior Cougar point guard Riley West beat down the Minnetonka guards with his toughness fighting his way to the paint for 21 points. Also, the rangy Jon Christianson put together 20 points scoring on aggressive lay-ins and mid range jumpers. South was the clear aggressor and their toughness was apparent from any angle you wanted to look at the game.
• Waconia senior shooter Ben Kortuem was scorching from behind the arc making seven three-pointers on his way to 27 points in the close loss to Apple Valley.