Plenty was different about this basketball season.
The players were masked up as a precaution for the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans were limited in numbers and many sat back from the comfort of their own homes as teams used live streaming to show their games. Sections and state quarterfinals were scattered across the state with the goal of pulling off a full season as safely as possible.
No matter where, when or how you saw the games, there was plenty of strong talent on the hardcourt across west central Minnesota. Whether you were watching the ultra-competitive Camden Conference North Divsiion or games scattered across the Central Lakes, Wright County, Central Minnesota or West Central conferences, you were in for a fun night of hoops.
With 15 spots on the West Central Tribune’s All-Area Boys Basketball Team, 14 schools are represented, showing the array of talent scattered across the area. Litchfield is the only school with more than one selection.
The West Central Tribune’s All-Area Boys Basketball Team was selected by the sports department based on nominations provided by area coaches.
Here is the All-Area Boys Basketball Team, presented in alphabetical order:
Riley Ashburn, sr. 6-4 F, RCW
In the ultra-competitive Camden Conference, Riley Ashburn was voted the North division’s Most Valuable Player after pushing the Jaguars to a 13-6 record.
In 19 games this season, the 6-foot-4 forward averaged 23.3 points per game on 59% shooting. He also averaged 10.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
An All-Area third teamer in 2020, Ashburn will resume his basketball career at Division III Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato.
“Riley is a ‘do everything’ type of player,” said RCW head coach Matt Huhnerkoch. “Not too many players can say they excelled at both offense and defense, but that was the type of player Riley is. Riley would be asked every game to guard the other team’s best player for the entire game and would also find time to put up 23 points a game. But Riley’s talents didn’t stop there. He was also the point guard and would set up the team’s offense. And then to top everything off, Riley was, no questions, the leader of the team. Riley made his teammates better.”
Maverick Conn, sr. 6-4 G/F, LQPV
Also making the jump from third team All-Area was Lac qui Parle Valley senior guard/forward Maverick Conn, the focal point of the Camden North champions.
Helping the Eagles to a 17-4 record and a top 10 ranking for much of the season, Conn averaged 18.7 points (61% field goals, 42% 3-pointers), 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
A three-time All-Camden selection, Conn is committed to play basketball at Division III Minnesota-Morris.
“Maverick has been a driving force behind our success the past three seasons with his play and leadership,” said LQPV head coach Barry Besonen. “He is very versatile and could do whatever we needed him to do , whether it was in the post or on the perimeter. Maverick established himself this season as a consistent 3-point threat, which along with his passing, made him a difficult cover on the perimeter. He finishes his career among the best to play at LQPV, with numbers that put him at or near the top of most statistical categories.”
Brady Kienitz, sr. 6-1 G, MACCRAY
A second team All-Area pick in 2020, MACCRAY senior Brady Kienitz wraps up one of the most prolific careers in school history. In 2021, Kienitz averaged 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game while being named All-Camden as MACCRAY went 8-11. Kienitz owns school records for: 3-pointers in a game (8); career 3-pointers (214); 3-pointers attempts in a season (197); career 3-point attempts (559); 3-point percentage in a season (43%); free throws made in a season (130); and career free throws made (293). Kienitz will play college basketball at Division III Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter.
“Brady is the best player I have ever coached in 13 seasons working with boys varsity basketball,” said Wolverines head coach Lucas Post. “He has increased every critical stat line every season from his freshman year on, which is a testament to how hard he works on his game in the offseason. He was the focal point of every defense the last two seasons and still was able to average over 20 points per game in each season while shooting 45% from the field. Brady accounted for 50 percent of our team’s scoring this season between his scoring and assist average. He would have set the all-time MACCRAY career scoring mark if the season hadn’t been shortened due to the pandemic. Brady has done all these things offensively while guarding the opposing team’s best player almost regardless of position every single game and almost always hold them under their averages.”
Avery Liestman, sr. 6-4 W, Litchfield
Making his first appearance on the All-Area squad, Litchfield senior wing Avery Liestman was a model of efficiency for the 15-6 Dragons.
A two-time unanimous Wright County Conference selection, Liestman averaged a team-high 19.4 points on 51% shooting — 59% from inside the arc and 41% from 3-point range. He also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game as Litchfield reached the Section 5AA semifinals.
Liestman also came up clutch in the biggest games of the year, with 29 points against Melrose and 24 points against Glencoe-Silver Lake. In the playoffs, he hit eight 3-pointers in a 28-point effort against Dassel-Cokato, and finished with 32 points against Maranatha Christian Academy in the second round.
“Avery has become an elite and efficient scorer at the high-school level,” said Dragons head coach Matt Draeger. “He averaged almost 20 points per game while only averaging 14 shot attempts per game. Every year we coached Avery he added something else to his game to improve his scoring efficiency. He is one of the best players I’ve coached at getting open off the ball. He also improved his rebounding and defense during the year to make him a very valuable player to us on both ends of the floor. In my opinion, he is the best scorer in the area and it’s not close. His best games are when it mattered most. … Our team will miss the leadership and encouragement he brought to our team.”
Drew Sagedahl, sr. 6-1 G, BOLD
The lone returning member of the All-Area first team from 2020, every opposing team was trying to slow down BOLD senior Drew Sagedahl.
That was much easier said than done. After losing All-Area teammates Gavin Vosika and Jordan Sagedahl, Drew led the area with 30.7 points per game to go with 7.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game as the Warriors went 5-8.
Among Drew’s accolades this season were an All-West Central Conference selection, a McDonald Award semifinal and a spot on the Mr. Basketball watchlist. Drew also holds school records for: points scored in a game (43); field goals made in a game (16); career 3-pointers 274; points per game in a season (30.7); free throw percentage in a season (88.1%); career free-throw percentage (42.1%); and career 3-point percentage (42.1%). He is second all time in BOLD history for career points (1,634).
Sagedahl will continue his basketball career at Division III St. John’s University.
“Drew has been a scoring threat for us since his freshman year and really took on the scoring load as a senior,” said Warriors head coach Jake Brustuen. “He drew our opponents’ full attention every night and was still able to find ways to score the ball. Drew was also our leading rebounder and leader in steals. Drew was a leader by example and worked hard before, during and after practice. Drew is also a big part of our youth program and was always willing to take time to help our youth and be a leader within our program. Drew still is tied for the state record for consecutive 3-point shots made, a record he set his freshman year.”
Ashton Dingmann, jr. 6-4 F, BBE
Coming back from an ACL injury that cost him his sophomore season, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa junior forward Ashton Dingmann bounced back in a big way. The Jaguars went 16-5 as Dingmann earned first team All-Central Minnesota Conference honors with 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
From Jaguars head coach Chris Anderson: “Ashton did a great job of triggering our fast breaks and making others around him better. Ashton has a great basketball IQ and understanding of how to adjust to different situations in the flow of the game. He is a great leader and is very coachable on and off the floor.”
Corbin Froelich, sr. 6-5 G, Paynesville
Corbin Froelich capped off his prep career by leading Paynesville (11-9) to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 25 years. A second team All-Area selection as a junior, Froelich averaged 25.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 steals per game while earning All-Central Minnesota Conference first team honors. He was also on the Mr. Basketball watch list. He will resume his playing career at NAIA Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.
From Bulldogs head coach Rick Hendrickson: “Corbin has a tremendous passion for basketball and he put a lot of time into improving his game. He has always been able to score in a variety of ways and presented a tough matchup for opponents with his size and quickness for a guard. He came into this season much stronger physically and shot just under 50% from the field and made 148 free throws, which was 84 more made free throws than the next closest player in the Central Minnesota Conference. If it weren’t for the shortened season, he would have shattered the school scoring record. Corbin helped lead the Bulldogs program to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 25 years.”
Peyton Johnsrud, sr. 6-3 G, Minnewaska
Making the All-Area team for the first time, Johnsrud averaged 15.1 points (44% field goal, 34% 3-pointers, 73% free throws), 2.5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game for Minnewaska (7-11). Named team MVP, Johnsrud was named All-West Central Conference and Academic All-West Central while also earning Minnesota Boys Basketball Coaches Association Academic All-State honors.
From Lakers head coach Phil Johnsrud: “Solid athlete with excellent athleticism. Extremely driven to help his team be successful. A very quiet leader by example; never wanted to outshine his teammates.”
Case Mulder, jr. 6-0 G, CMCS
Making his first All-Area appearance, junior guard Case Mulder was a catalyst for Central Minnesota Christian’s first state appearance since 2017. A two-time All-Camden Conference pick, Mulder averaged 20.3 points while hitting 56% of his 2-pointers, 38% of his 3-pointers and 73% of his free throws. Mulder also averaged 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game as the Bluejays finished the winter with an 18-5 record.
From Bluejays head coach Ted Taatjes: “Case impacted the game on both ends of the floor. Most nights he guarded the opposing team’s best player and led our team in scoring and assists. He also provided the team with consistent leadership through his intensity in practice every day.”
Ben Peterson, sr. 6-2 G, Benson
Rounding out the All-Area second team is another first timer in Benson senior guard Ben Peterson. Named the Braves’ team MVP and an All-West Central Conference pick, Peterson averaged 19.6 points (43.8% field goals, 34.5% 3-pointers, 81.4% free throws), 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Helping Benson to an 8-11 record, Peterson will play college basketball at Division III Concordia College in Moorhead.
From Braves head coach Adam Jensen: “Ben is everything a coach could want in a player. He puts in a ton of time and has a deep passion for basketball. He eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring mark in a 40-point game against Morris and finished with 1,051 career points. He has an incredible ability to score in a variety of ways despite being double- and triple-teamed many games. … His value to the basketball program extends beyond his performance on the court. He is very involved with our youth basketball program and is a top-notch student with a 3.7 GPA.”
Isaac Call, sr. 6-3 G, KMS
12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.2 spg. All-Camden Conference. Will attend Bethel University to play college baseball.
From Fighting Saints head coach Matt Fragodt: “Isaac is the player that does everything for your team. He is very good defensively and a very good rebounder. He took 24 charges this season; one game he had six charges. Offensively, he was a leader for us while we had some injuries to other players. He had to guard the best player from the other team and also score for us. His effort and heart every game will be missed.”
Brycen Christensen, so. 6-3 G/F, NLS
13 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg, 2 bpg, 54% 2-pt, 37% 3-pt. All-Wright County. Led NLS in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks.
From Wildcats head coach Skip Wright: “Brycen had an outstanding year and established himself as one of the top players in the Wright County Conference. He’s an unselfish player who can take over a game when his team needs him to.”
Tyson Michels, sr. 6-2 G, Litchfield
11.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.0 spg. Unanimous All-Wright County, Academic All-State.
From Dragons head coach Matt Draeger: “Tyson does a lot for our basketball team. He has many responsibilities. He is the most important player to a team I’ve ever coached at the college or high-school level. He led our team in every category you can lead a team except for scoring. He played the point guard position and led us in rebounds, assists, steals, deflections, and while turning the ball over less than one turnover per game. He is also one of the best defenders in the state, holding a number of all-state performers to single digits during the season. I’ve never had a kid do more for a team than he did. Tyson is a winner and he has left his impact on our program for years to come.”
Daniel Reid, sr. 6-6 C/F, CCS
16.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 44.5% FG, 34.5 3-pt, 80.6% FT.
From Eagles head coach Aaron Reid: “Daniel would have easily cruised to the school scoring title had COVID not restricted the number of games available in 2021. He ends his high-school career as a proficient scorer and leading rebounder as one of only two seniors on the Eagles’ 2021 roster. He is currently uncertain if he will pursue a basketball career in college as he wants to study pre-med this fall (at Northwestern University). Daniel was a leader and example on and off the court and will be missed in the CAL conference next year.”
Jacob Rosendahl, sr. 6-2 G, Willmar
11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1 spg. All-Central Lakes Conference. Team Offensive MVP. Will attend NAIA Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa to play college football.
From Cardinals head coach Matt Williams: “Jacob did everything for the Cardinals this season. He handled the ball, guarded the opponents’ best player and almost never came out of the game. He was our unquestioned leader in the locker room and in every practice. Jacob’s gifts go well beyond the basketball floor. Other players may end up with better numbers, but no player meant more to his team.”