Boys Basketball: BBE only unbeaten team in state; Litchfield No. 4 in Class AA field
By MN State H.S. League
The coaches have selected the top seeds in all four classes for the first time -- Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in Class A, Perham in Class AA, Minneapolis Washburn in Class AAA, and Hopkins in Class AAAA.
Perham and Hopkins are also the only two schools returning to defend their 2011 titles. If Perham wins, it would be the second consecutive and overall title for the Yellowjackets. If the Hopkins Royals win, it would be their fourth consecutive and eighth overall title.
Four teams are making first appearances: Lakeview Christian Academy of Duluth, Browerville, and Prairie Seeds Academy of Brooklyn Park in Class A, and St. Croix Lutheran of West St. Paul in Class AA.
The 2012 tournament is the 100th state tournament. The first was conducted in 1913 at Carleton College in Northfield.
The tournament runs from this Wednesday to Saturday. See Scoresheet on Page B4 for a complete look at the schedule.
Class A Preview
LAKEVIEW CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (25-5) VS. BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA (30-0): The Lions of Lakeview Christian Academy are making their debut tournament appearance. They enter competition scoring an average of 93 points per game, led by junior Anders Broman's 1,293 points this season -- 44.6 points per game on 60.9 percent field goal shooting. Senior Luke Borchardt is the team's top rebounder with 9.2 per game. The Lions enter the tournament unranked in the final Minnesota Basketball News (MBN) poll. Undefeated and top-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa wrapped up the season ranked No. 1 in the final MBN poll. The Jaguars are making their second overall and consecutive appearance, in pursuit of a title after 2011's runner-up finish to Springfield. Senior Connor Goodwin averages a double-double in points (17.5 per game) and rebounds (10.3 per game). Three other players average double-digit scoring: sophomore Billy Borgerding (12.1 points per game); senior Kirby Montbriand (13.1); and sophomore Brian Goodwin (15.2).
MOUNTAIN LAKE/BUTTERFIELD-ODIN (24-5) VS. BROWERVILLE (27-2): The unranked Wolverines of Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin are making their first tournament appearance under this name. Butterfield appeared previously in 1978; Mountain Lake competed in the tournament 13 times, winning the championship in 1939. Mountain Lake was the runner-up to Fosston in the championship game of the inaugural state tournament in 1913. The Wolverines are led by the tandem of senior Beau Herrig and sophomore Carter Kirk. Herrig averages 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game and Kirk averages 17.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Browerville, ranked No. 5 in the final MBN poll, is making its first ever appearance in the state tournament. The Tigers are seeded No. 4. Senior Seth Christensen averages 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Three of his teammates posted double-figure scoring averages on the season: junior Mitch Heid (13.8 points per game), senior Seth Kellen (11.1) and junior Kyle Petermeier (10.5).
FOSSTON (24-4) VS. SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA CHRISTIAN (26-1): Champion of the first state tournament in 1913, Fosston is making its second consecutive and ninth overall appearance. The Greyhounds were unranked in the final MBN poll. Fosston did not provide team or individual statistics. Southwest Minnesota Christian is competing in its seventh tournament and first since 2002, which capped off a string of four consecutive Class A titles -- in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Eagles were ranked No. 2 in the final poll and seeded No. 2. Senior Zach Huisken, who became the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder this season, leads the team with 18.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Senior Andrew Top adds 14.0 points and 7.0 boards per game, and junior Dominic Nibbelink contributes 11.2 points and 5.0 assists per game.
PRAIRIE SEEDS ACADEMY (23-2) VS. RUSHFORD-PETERSON (24-5): Prairie Seeds Academy is making its debut appearance at the state tournament. The Lycans were not ranked in the final MBN poll. The school did not provide team or individual statistics. The Trojans of Rushford-Peterson return after a one-year hiatus to make their 11th overall tournament appearance. Ranked No. 8 by MBN and seeded No. 3, Rushford-Peterson won their only other title in 2006. Competing as Rushford, the team was Class A champion in 1989. Senior Nick Thompson averages 22.0 points per game and hits 49.7 percent of his shots from three-point range. Senior Trent Vix adds 15.6 points and dishes 5.8 assists per game.
Class AA Preview
WATERTOWN-MAYER (28-2) VS. LITCHFIELD (24-5): No. 6-ranked Watertown-Mayer returns to tournament play for the first time since 1999, making its third tournament appearance. Senior Nate Kratch, who has more than 1,300 career points and 1,100 career rebounds, is the team's leading scorer. He averages 19.3 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 6.1 blocks per game. The Dragons of Litchfield, which beat Watertown-Mayer 63-50 on Jan. 24 in Litchfield, return for their fifth tournament appearance, but first since 2003. They were ranked No. 10 in this year's final MBN poll and are in the hunt for their fourth title. They won previously in 2000, 2002, and 2003. Junior Zach Whitchurch and senior Mitch Wollin average 11.9 and 11.1 points per game, respectively. Junior Zach Kinny snares an average of 6.2 rebounds per game.
WORTHINGTON (21-6) VS. PERHAM (27-2): Unranked Worthington is making its third appearance, but first since 1998. Senior Mitchael Weg, who is the school's all-time leader in rebounds, averages 24.2 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Junior Morgan Traylor adds an average of 12.3 rebounds per game. The Perham Yellowjackets return to defend their 2011 title. They are making their second consecutive and overall appearance and were the No. 4 team in the final MBN poll. Perham did not provide team or individual statistics.
PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE (24-6) VS. ST. PETER (28-1): After a one-year hiatus, Plainview-Elgin-Millville returns to tournament action in its fourth appearance under this name. Plainview made two additional appearances; the first in the inaugural 1913 tournament and again in 2004. The Bulldogs were not ranked in the final MBN poll. Senior Cory Speer is the leading scorer for P-E-M, averaging 15.5 points per game. Sam Ruth, another senior, leads the Bulldogs with 6.7 rebounds per game. St. Peter, which was the No. 2 team in this year's final MBN poll, is making its fourth tournament appearance. The Saints made their last appearance in 1995. St. Peter did not provide team or individual statistics.
ST. CROIX LUTHERAN (24-6) VS. BRAHAM (29-1): The unranked Crusaders of St. Croix Lutheran are making their debut tournament appearance. They did not provide team or individual statistics. The Braham Bombers return after a one-year hiatus to make their seventh appearance. They were the top team in this year's final MBN poll and are on the trail of their fourth title. They won previously in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Senior Tyler Vaughan, who has more than 3,000 career points, is the top scorer for the Bombers with 25.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Cameron Braund, another senior, adds 13.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Class AAA Preview
ROCORI (18-11) VS. MINNEAPOLIS WASHBURN (27-2): Rocori is making its 13th trip to the tournament, last appearing in 2007. The Spartans were not ranked in the final MBN poll. Junior Jonah Eisenschenk leads Rocori with 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Senior Nathan Meyer adds 13.0 points per game. Head Coach Bob Brink, who has coached the Spartans for 51 years, will retire at the end of this season. The Millers of Minneapolis Washburn, who were ranked No. 2 in this year's final poll, are returning for their eighth appearance. They made their last in 2009. Seniors Dwight Anderson and Charles Smith are the top scorers for the Millers; they average 14.3 and 13.9 points per game, respectively. Jerry Pratt, another senior, grabs an average of 5.5 rebounds per game. Minneapolis Washburn won previous championships in 1955, 1994, and 2009.
ST. PAUL JOHNSON (20-8) VS. AUSTIN (23-5): The No. 9-ranked Governors of St. Paul Johnson are making their fourth consecutive and 10th overall appearance. They bowed out in the 2011 quarterfinals and won one previous title in 2010. Senior Marcus Marshall is the top scorer for Johnson with 20.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Junior Quashingm Smith-Pugh adds another 5.8 rebounds per game. The Packers of Austin are making their 27th appearance in the tournament, but first since 1982. They won previous championships in 1935, 1946, and 1958, and were ranked No. 5 in this year's final MBN poll. Austin did not provide team or individual statistics.
DETROIT LAKES (22-7) VS. DELASALLE (23-6): The Lakers of Detroit Lakes return for the second time, but first tournament appearance since 1918. The Lakers finished the season unranked in the final MBN poll. Senior Joe Mollberg, who has more than 1,400 career points, averages 17.6 points per game. Senior Brian Labat adds 12.3 points per game and also corrals a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game. The No. 3-ranked Islanders of DeLaSalle are making their 17th appearance; their last in 2010. They are in the hunt for their sixth title, having won previously in 1985, 1988, 1998, 1999, and 2006. DeLaSalle did not provide team or individual statistics.
MANKATO EAST (25-4) VS. GRAND RAPIDS (24-5): Mankato East, which was ranked No. 8 in the final MBN poll, returns for its seventh appearance. The Cougars made their last showing in 2005. This year's squad averaged a school record 74.8 points per game and shoots 48.0 percent from the field. Senior Brody Ziegler averages 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The unranked Thunderhawks of Grand Rapids return for their fifth consecutive and 11th overall appearance. They lost in the 2011 quarterfinals. Senior Austin Pohlen is the team's leading scorer, averaging 20.6 points per game. Ninth-grader Alex Illikainen leads Grand Rapids with 10.6 rebounds per game. Illikainen also adds 17.0 points per game.
Class AAAA Preview
WOODBURY (24-5) VS. HOPKINS (28-1): The Royals of Woodbury return to tournament action for the first time since 2007, making their sixth overall appearance. Woodbury won a championship in 1983. A trio of scorers leads the Royals' offense: junior Renard Suggs averages 13.4 points and 3.5 assists per game; senior Connor Mckeen adds 13.0 points on 53 percent field goal shooting; and senior Rickey Suggs contributes 12.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Woodbury closed the season ranked No. 10 in the final MBN poll. Three-time defending champion Hopkins enters competition ranked No. 1 by MBN. In addition to the past three years, Hopkins also won titles in 1953, 2002, 2005 and 2006. It is the Royals' fourth consecutive and 19th overall appearance. Hopkins senior Zachary Stahl averages 19.0 points per game on 62.6 percent field goal shooting and leads the team in rebounds, grabbing 9.1 per game. Seniors Siyani Chambers and Demitrius Martin account for 15.9 and 14.1 points per game, respectively.
DULUTH EAST (20-8) VS. OSSEO (27-2): Ranked No. 6 in the final MBN poll, Duluth East is making its second consecutive and 13th overall tournament appearance. The Greyhounds look to improve on last year's performance, when they were ousted in the quarterfinal round. Senior Johnny Woodard surpassed 2,000 career points this year and averages 23.3 points per game. Junior Akolda Manyang contributed 17.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots per game. The Orioles of Osseo, who finished third in 2011, return for a second consecutive and seventh overall appearance. Osseo won one previous championship in 2001. The team finished the season ranked No. 4 by MBN and enters tournament play as the No. 4 seed. Osseo did not provide team or individual statistics.
MOORHEAD (18-9) VS. LAKEVILLE NORTH (28-1): Unranked Moorhead returns to tournament play for the first time since 2002. It is the 23rd appearance for the Spuds, who won championships in 1928 and 1929. Moorhead's leading scorer is junior Aaron Lien, averaging 22.3 points per game. Junior Austin Nelson adds 11.7 points per game, while senior Matt Ellingson contributes 10.7 points and 4.9 assists per game. The Panthers of Lakeville North are making their second overall appearance and first since 2006. Lakeville North gets balanced scoring from three seniors: Tyler Flack averages 13.7 points per game; Brett Rasmussen adds 12.8; and Ryan Saarela hits 56.3 percent of his field goals for 12.2 points, plus 8.3 rebounds per game. The No. 2-seeded Panthers were ranked No. 2 in the final MBN poll.
EDEN PRAIRIE (22-7) VS. EASTVIEW (28-1): After a runner-up finish in 2011, Eden Prairie returns for its third consecutive and eighth overall tournament appearance. The Eagles closed the season ranked No. 8 in the final MBN poll. Senior Sander Mohn and sophomore Andre Wallace pace the Eden Prairie offense, averaging 14.2 and 14.1 points per game, respectively. Eastview was ranked No. 3 by MBN and enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed. This is the third appearance for the Lightning, who last competed in 2010. With 23.8 points per game, senior Joey King leads the Lightning in scoring. Senior Darin Haugh, who shoots 51.9 percent from behind the arc, adds 11.6 points and 3.3 steals per game. Junior Ben Oberfeld is the team's top rebounder with 7.9 boards per game.