Prep basketball: State tourney spots on the line for area teams
With the boys basketball playoffs heading into the second round and most girls teams set to go, here’s what’s become clear:
BBE, behind star guard Brian Goodwin, and Dawson-Boyd — charged by the Lee boys, Joey and Michael — are the area’s two presumptive favorites to earn state tournament berths.
A skilled and well-rounded ACGC team is getting riled up at just the right time, but an 18-win Willmar team bent on a rematch with No.2-ranked Marshall in Class AAA bit the dust in sudden fashion on Tuesday.
On the girls’ side, it’s been a down year for Tribune-area teams, with 12 of 19 area teams all but assured of finishing below .500. Dawson-Boyd and New London-Spicer stand out as potential state tournament teams.
Here’s a look at how the postseason might play out in the boys and girls tournaments:
BBE (24-1) will move closer to the state record for consecutive home wins (70) after the Jaguars dismantle Royalton (3-21) in the second round of the Section 5A playoffs tonight in Brooten. The Jaguars looked shaky at times last year as they attempted to defend their 2012 Class A state championship. They do not look shaky now. They average 77 points per game and they give up just 49 per game. And talk about revving up for the postseason: BBE has topped 90 points in all of its last three games and won them by an average of 45 points. Seeing Class A’s top-ranked team in a state championship game for the third time in four years wouldn’t be a surprise.
Dawson-Boyd (23-2) might have a little tougher path to the state tournament. The Blackjacks have won two straight since Southwest Minnesota Christian ended their unbeaten season string at 21 games and Canby handed them a second straight defeat in the Camden Conference championship game. D-B waxed RCW by 47 points to open the playoffs and throttled MACCRAY by 30 in the second round. But ahead lies Canby (23-4) at 8 p.m. Friday at Southwest Minnesota State. And SWMC (24-2) is still looming in the other 3A subsection.
The latest Class A state poll has BBE at No. 1, SWMC at No. 5, D-B at No. 8 and Canby at No. 9. If the Blackjacks survive that trek they will certainly will be ready for anything the state tournament throws at them.
Aside from ACGC (18-7) in Section 2A and New London-Spicer (15-10) in Section 6AA, none of the other six area boys teams left appear poised to extend their shelf life beyond next week.
Even ACGC, which plays North subsection foe Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (14-12) on Friday in LeSueur, will need to play better than it has all season to advance to state. The South subsection of 2A features three teams that have won 20 games or more.
Litchfield (8-17), enduring a down year after two straight Class AA state title game appearances, takes on Benson (12-14) in 6AA tonight in Litchfield, while also in 6AA Minnewaska (11-14) and Paynesville (11-13) tangle tonight in Paynesville. Another 6AA team, Morris/Chokio-Alberta (9-14) plays at Eden Valley-Watkins (14-9).
NLS should have little trouble with St. John’s Prep tonight in New London, and after that the Wildcats could make some noise. They struggle in the mostly Class AAA Wright County Conference this season but the Wildcats are 6-1 against section teams this season. EVW, which is 9-1 in the section, could be tough in the South but the North would be a toss-up: NLS defeated 16-9 Melrose by 19 points this season and while the Wildcats didn’t play Sauk Centre (16-7), the Mainstreeters split two games with Melrose during the regular season.
In Section 6A, Hancock (4-19) broke a five-game losing streak and got Owls’ seniors a playoff win over Ashby. But that likely is the end of the road for the Owls. They play Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (20-3) tonight and even a monumental upset would put the Owls up against No. 3 West Central Area (17-7) or Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (14-8). Another upset? On the other side of the bracket sits Battle Lake (24-0), which is ranked No. 2 in Class A behind BBE.
New London-Spicer, driven by the incomparable Taylor Thunstedt, has the best shot of any Tribune-area team of cracking the state tournament field.
Despite a few sub-par performances, the Wildcats (18-5) are ranked No. 3 in Class AA in Minnesota.Scores.net QRF rankings, behind only 25-0 New Richland-H-E-G and No. 2 Kenyon-Wanamingo (25-1). Four of their five losses have come against Class AAA schools, and the five teams that have bested them average almost 17 wins this season.
A darkhorse in NLS’ Section 6AA run is Morris/Chokio-Alberta (16-8), and the Wildcats also will face stiff resistance from 6AA North teams such as Sauk Centre (18-5), Staples-Motley (17-6) and Osakis (20-2). But for an indication of where the Wildcats’ heads are at right now, they beat 22-2 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted — the top-ranked team in Section 5AA and the No. 4 team in the state — by 11 points on Tuesday.
A test of the Wildcats’ mettle comes Thursday when they travel to play Morris/CA before wrapping up their regular-season schedule at Litchfield (7-16) on Friday.
BOLD, Montevideo and Lac qui Parle Valley are bunched up among a quirky mix of teams in Section 3AA. Only Fairmont (22-4) is a QRF Top 10 team at No. 9.
BOLD (14-10) and LQPV (14-9) face off in a first-round game Friday in Olivia while Monte (17-5) plays host to Pipestone at 7 p.m. Friday.
Dawson-Boyd features one of the area’s best all-around players, Justine Lee, but the 18-4 Blackjacks will need to upset defending Class A state champion Minneota (26-1) or one of two other top contenders to get into the field.
Dawson-Boyd lost to the Vikings twice, by an average of 24 points, and the Blackjacks lost to Canby (20-5) by 16 points. Also looming is Wabasso — which handed Minneota its only loss this season. The Rabbits are 21-2, with their two losses coming by a grand total of six points. The Blackjacks’ odds? Very slim.
Central Minnesota Christian School has had a nice season at 12-8, but while talented, the Bluejays appear to be struggling at the wrong time of year: They play Russell-Tyler Ruthton at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Montevideo. RTR downed CMCS by 10 points last week and the Bluejays lost by 18 points on Monday at BOLD.
In Class AAA, Willmar has shown some spark on occasion but not enough to elicit a positive vibe come playoff time. The Cardinals have two regular-season games remaining, both at home — Sauk Rapids on Thursday and Rocori on Friday — before opening the playoffs at Worthington at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
But the No. 6 seed Cardinals (11-13) haven’t shown much to make anyone believe they’ve got a deep playoff run in them. Top 2AAA seed Marshall (25-1), No. 3 Worthington (21-2) and No. 2 Hutchinson are the class of Section 2AAA. Willmar lost to Marshall by 21 points, lost to Worthington last week by 15 points and Hutchinson (16-8) took down the Cards by 12 points before Christmas.