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Wolverines leap final hurdle to end 15-year state drought

Gary Nelson, the boys basketball coach at MACCRAY, is taking a team to the state tournament for the second time in his tenure. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Many prep basketball observers thought that MACCRAY would have qualified for the state boys tournament last year. The Wolverines were stopped one game short of playing at Williams Arena, but they had plenty of talent returning to make another run at state. And this season they didn't disappoint.

MACCRAY will playing in the Class A state tournament today for the fourth time -- the first time since 1996 -- in the program's history, which includes previous years when the towns of Maynard, Clara City and Raymond were not consolidated yet. Maranatha Christian, who'll meet the Wolverines at 1 p.m. today at Williams Area, also doesn't have a lot of state tournament experience as its last trip was in 2006.

A quick look at the statistics for both teams shows that MACCRAY and Maranatha Christian shoot the ball well and create a lot of turnovers on defense, which translates into a lot of wins. The Wolverines, who average nearly 75 points a game, are 26-3 while Maranatha Christian is 26-2. The Mustangs' offensive output on the season isn't as high as MACCRAY's, but the small school based in Brooklyn Park has many scoring options.

Maranatha Christian has six players that have scoring averages of 10 ppg or higher with senior center SaVaughn Jordan's average of 13.5 ppg leading the way. Darian Pittman, a junior guard who has scored over 1,500 points in his career so far, is second on the team with his average of 11.8. The smaller Mustangs also have junior guard Jamey Hammond (11.5), junior forward Zachary Goldschmidt (11.3), senior center Philip Eickman (10.4) and freshman forward Josh Goldschmidt (10.4) that can score in double figures any given night.

The Mustangs are usually undersized, but they average 33 rebounds a game. Four players -- Eickman (7.4), Jordan (6.8), Zachary Goldschmidt (6.5) and Josh Goldschmidt (6.1) -- all average six-or-more rebounds a game.

MACCRAY also features a balanced team, but 6-foot-7 senior center Seth Hinrichs is the main artery on offense. The Division I signee (Lafayette College, Pa.) averages 22 points a game by shooting 60 percent from the field, including 42 percent from three-point range, and 86 percent from the free-throw line. Hinrichs, a Mr. Basketball nominee, is a matchup nightmare of opposing coaches and also averages 10 rebounds, three steals and just two turnovers a game.

Brady Boike is also a smooth operator down in the low post for MACCRAY. The junior center is second on the team in scoring (13 ppg) and rebounding (7 rpg) and has just 47 turnovers on the season in 29 games (1.6 tpg).

Igniting the offense for the quick and athletic Wolverines are junior guards Corey Abbas and Riley Aeikens. The two combine to average nearly 10 assists a game, while Aeikens averages nearly 12 points a game and Abbas 10 more.

The Mustangs (No. 3) and MACCRAY (No. 5) were both ranked in the final state poll. Maranatha Christian hasn't lost since Jan. 25, while the Wolverines have loss just once in the last nine weeks.

Jesse Fuchs
I have been with the Tribune since the summer of 1998. I enjoy covering the high school aspect of the business and designing pages.
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