2017 All Area Boys Basketball Team
With over 300 area boys varsity basketball players, for one to become part of the select group that earns All-Area honors is a feat both impressive and challenging.
From there, excelling on the court to such a level to become one of the five players selected to the All-Area First Team is a task even more difficult.
The process of selecting those five First-Team players is no walk in the park, either. It requires a holistic, season-long process of evaluating all factors that come into play when determining the area's top players. Individual statistics, defense, sheer talent, competition level and team success are all among the categories taken into careful consideration to determine which players, at the end of the year, stood the tallest.
Sometimes those players also stand tall in size, but, in each instance, all five proved they tower over the competition in ability.
Take, for example, Hancock guard Noah Kannegiesser, who earned First-Team honors for the second consecutive season after leading the area in scoring at 25.6 points per game. Three times this season, an area player surpassed 40 points in a single game; all three times that player was Kannegiesser.
Or there is Willmar's Noah Slagter, whose electric scoring and rebounding prowess as a guard makes him, undisputedly, a deserving First-Team member.
Central Minnesota Christian School guard Matthew Van Eps stands even shorter than both of those players on the floor, but you would be hard-pressed to find an area player with a more solid all-around game than his. Van Eps does it all on both ends of the floor—and, most importantly, his Bluejays stand taller than any area team as the only squad to qualify for the state tournament.
Joining Van Eps from CMCS is forward Ethan Brouwer, who led the team in scoring while providing a physical and imposing defensive presence in the post. With both Van Eps and Brouwer as defensive stalwarts, the Bluejays ranked third out of 414 teams in the entire state in scoring defense, allowing just 43.3 points per game en route to their third consecutive state appearance.
Then there is Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City forward Gabe Eisenbacher, who stands above nearly all players whenever he steps on the floor, but also brings an unmatched energy as a double-double machine and the area's third-leading scorer.
Given the cutoff of five players for the All-Area team, that naturally means that there will be some deserving players left off the First Team. This season, that groups includes Litchfield's Owen Boerema, a lanky-yet-hyper-efficient swingman and scoring machine; New London-Spicer's Brandon Adelman, who was fourth in the area in scoring while also adding five assists per game; and Travis Dreyer of Montevideo, who returned with a vengeance from a torn ACL to lead the Thunder Hawks' late-season surge as one of the most formidable area forwards.
5-11, Jr., Guard
With both a smoothness and explosiveness to his game that creates a lethal combination, Kannegiesser followed up his All-Area First-Team selection from last season by leading the area in scoring by a whole four points with an average of 25.6 points per game.
With his senior season still ahead, Kannegiesser is ranked in the area's top 20 all-time scorers. Given his work ethic that has made the gym his home away from home, the sky's the limit for Kannegiesser.
"Noah is one of the hardest working players I have ever coached," Hancock head coach Cory Bedel said. "He lives in the gym or outside working on his game any chance he can. He is a great leader on the floor offensively and defensively. The other players really feed off of his skill."
Also averaging four assists and three rebounds per game, Kannegiesser set the school record for assists (403) and steals (197) while leading the Owls to a 17-6 regular season record.
Hancock would go as Kannegiesser did, as he led the team in scoring in all but three games this season.
6-0, Jr., Guard
It wouldn't take much prior basketball knowledge for one to watch nearly any of Willmar's games this season and come away with the conclusion that Slagter was the best player on the floor.
A year after receiving honorable mention, Slagter increased his scoring by nearly five points while regularly posting rebounding numbers envied by many a post player. Dangerous from the outside and off the dribble, Slagter was second in scoring and seventh in rebounding among All-Area players with 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded player in the area than Slagter.
"Noah is not only the best player on our team, he is one of the best in the state," Cardinals head coach Matt Williams said. "He takes on the burden of being our primary ball handler and scorer every night, and when (senior forward) Tyler Johnson was lost with injury, he added being our leading rebounder."
Adding to the impressiveness of Slagter's season was the competition he and his Cardinals were consistently going up against. Willmar, the only Class AAA team in the area, played the toughest schedule of any local squad, but that didn't slow down Slagter. In four games against Class AAA state qualifiers, Slagter posted two double-doubles and averaged just under 19 points.
After earning all-conference honors in his first two seasons, Slagter will enter his senior campaign just shy of the boys' all-time scoring record at Willmar. For obvious reasons, Williams will welcome him back with open arms.
"Off the floor he is a better person than he is a player, and that is saying a lot," Williams said.
Matthew Van Eps
Central Minnesota Christian School
5-9, Sr., Guard
As the Camden Conference Player of the Year and the leader on both ends of the floor for the conference-champion Bluejays, Van Eps had already posted an impressive season entering the sub-sectional tournament.
It was a pair of plays in the section semifinal that saved CMCS' season, though, that clinched Van Eps' spot as a All-Area First Team player.
Van Eps hit the game-winning jumper for the Bluejays with 23.7 seconds to play in the Section 3A semifinal against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, just moments after he kept the game tied with a chasedown block on a fastbreak layup attempt for the Knights. CMCS took a 57-55 lead on Van Eps' jumper and held on for a 57-56 win to advance to the section final, in which the senior guard scored a game-high 22 points and had eight assists in a 73-37 dismantling of Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
Of course, one standout play—or, in this case, two—isn't enough to earn a player First Team All-Area honors, but Van Eps' late-game heroics served as a perfect depiction of his season.
"Matthew isn't only a phenomenal shooter and great passer, but he's one of the best defenders I've seen," Bluejays head coach Ted Taatjes said. "Every night, he guards the other team's best perimeter player and does a great job with it."
Van Eps averaged 13.7 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. He also averaged 1.7 steals per game as the lockdown defender on one of the state's top defensive units.
6-5, Sr., Forward
Making the jump from honorable mention to All-Area First Team in the span of one season is a tough task—just ask any of the eight returning Honorable Mentions from 2016.
Earning First-Team honors a year after not receiving honorable mention? That's even harder, but it's exactly what Eisenbacher did this season.
In his senior season, Eisenbacher became one of the area's most dominant post presences while also adding a sound perimeter game, as well.
"Gabe is a very gifted athlete," Falcons head coach Terry Miller said. "Gabe scored the majority of his points from the block, but is a very good outside shooter, as well. Even though he's 6-5, he was athletic enough to guard the perimeter as well as the low post."
Simply put: Eisenbacher was a matchup nightmare for opponents.
After averaging 12 points per game last season, Eisenbacher upped that figure to 20.3 points per game this season in addition to 6.4 rebounds per game.
On an ACGC team that featured a handful of viable scorers on any given night, Eisenbacher's efficiency with his shots helped make him the steady presence on offense. He shot 64 percent from the field while also hitting 75 percent of his free throws and adding over two assists per game.
A part of two state tournament teams during his career, Eisenbacher scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to surpass 1,000 points for his career on Feb. 21.
Central Minnesota Christian School
6-3, Sr., Forward
An Honorable Mention to the team last season, Brouwer progressed to become the leading scorer for a Bluejays team that is making its third consecutive state tournament appearance this season.
Brouwer, who passed the 1,000 career point mark, averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting at an efficient clip from both inside and outside. The senior forward was too strong for smaller defenders and too quick for taller ones and put his all-around game on display regularly.
"Ethan's had a great career for us," Taatjes said. "If he wasn't on a team with guys like Van Eps and Austin Marcus, you easily would have seen him scoring 21, 22 points per game. He's been tough for other teams to defend."
Brouwer made 34 3-pointers and shot a team-best 41 percent from outside the arc while making 57 percent of his 2-point attempts and 77 percent of free throws. Much like his CMCS teammates, Brouwer was effective with his touches, posting a true shooting percentage of 63 percent.
Derek Wiener, senior, forward, 6-3, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2 bpg
Layton Connelly, senior, guard, 5-11, Benson
15.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Mason Mages, senior, guard, 5-9, BOLD
17.8 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 spg
Thomas Meyers, senior, forward, 6-1, BOLD
12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg
Gavin Vosika, freshman, guard, 5-9, BOLD
9.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 spg
Austin Marcus, senior, forward, 6-2, CMCS
12.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 66 percent FG, 1.0 spg
Bentley Boike, sophomore, forward, 6-2, Dawson-Boyd
14.8 ppg, 6.3 ppg
Eli Weber, senior, guard, 6-1 Dawson-Boyd
12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.0 apg
Alex Swenson, junior, guard, 6-2 Dawson-Boyd
17.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg
Tyler Reese, senior, forward, 6-2, Hancock
13.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Josh Peterson, junior, forward, 6-2, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg
12.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 53.9 percent FG
Isaac Gerdes, junior, guard, Lac qui Parle Valley
12.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.0 spg
Owen Boerema, sophomore, forward, 6-3, Litchfield
18 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 39 percent 3FG, 62 percent 2FG, 88 percent FT
Brandon Nelson, sophomore, guard, 5-8, Litchfield
8.5 ppg, 5.2 apg
Noah Kreger, senior, guard, 5-8, Litchfield
16.8 ppg, 35 percent 3FG, 55 percent 2FG
Jackson Grussing, senior, guard, 6-2, MACCRAY
17 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg
Brady Madsen, senior, guard, 5-9, MACCRAY
14 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg
Jake Peters, senior, forward, 6-4, Minnewaska
13 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 46 percent 3FG, 2.5 apg
Riley Emery, senior, guard, 6-1, Montevideo
13.1 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg
Travis Dreyer, senior, forward, 6-5, Montevideo
15.8 rpg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 spg, 54 percent FG
Isaac Douglas, senior, guard, 6-1, Montevideo
13 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg
Jacob Zosel, senior, guard, 5-9, Morris/Chokio-Alberta
12.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3 rpg
Camden Arndt, sophomore, forward, 6-3, Morris/Chokio-Alberta
12.1 ppg, 7 rpg
Brandon Adelman, sophomore, guard, 6-2, New London-Spicer
18.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.4 rpg, 89 percent FT
Mitchell Halvorson, senior, guard, 6-1, New London-Spicer
13.0 ppg, 2.0 apg, 5.8 rpg
Jackson Ness, senior, forward, 6-1, New London-Spicer
8.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.3 spg
Brody Strand, senior, forward, 6-3, Paynesville
12 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.2 spg
Justin Schrupp, sophomore, guard, 6-1, Renville County West
17.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 spg
Nathan Serbus, junior, center, 6-5, Renville County West
11.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Noah Streed, senior, guard, 5-10, Willmar
8.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 35 percent 3FG