CMCS aiming to repeat as Section 3A champs
Central Minnesota Christian School placed third in the state Class A tournament last season. All five of this year's starters received significant minutes in the 2014-15 campaign.
Central Minnesota Christian School placed third in the state Class A tournament last season. All five of this year’s starters received significant minutes in the 2014-15 campaign.
CMCS head coach Ted Taatjes said the main goal this year has not been to return to state, or even to improve on last year’s third-place finish. It is simply to improve.
“We’ve come into this year with a pretty big target on our backs,” he said.
That may be so, but the Bluejays have handled the pressure quite well up to this point. Their record is 25-3. They lost to Southwest Minnesota Christian 69-60 on Dec. 11, to Minneapolis North 79-49 on Jan. 9 and to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 54-37 in their final regular season game on
Feb. 16. They avenged the losses to Southwest Christian (74-38) and to T-M-B (70-69 in OT) and won each of their previous three section tournament games by 17 points or more.
Senior Taylor Slagter leads the Bluejays averaging 16.9 points per game and he and senior Ethan Brouwer both average 6.2 rebounds per game. Brouwer averages 12.4 points per game and senior guard Matthew Van Eps scores 12.8 points per game.
Murray County Central (26-3) has surprised no one this year by dominating the southwest portion of the state. The Rebels, who defeated Southwest Christian three times already this year, are led by one of the area’s most celebrated big men, 6-5 senior Grant Rohrer, but the talent doesn’t stop there.
“They are very good,” Taatjes said. “Grant Rohrer will probably be the best big player we’ve seen this year. And (junior guard Cole) Bassett, with his playmaking ability. … It seems like Bassett makes ‘em go, but Rohrer gets a lot of the defensive attention because he’s so polished.”
CMCS is a balanced team offensively that Taatjes calls “defense-minded” (they allow opponents only about 45 points per game). The Bluejays like to out-rebound opponents and limit them to no more than one shot. That may be difficult with Rohrer patrolling the boards.
Slagter, a long, athletic player, can score in several ways. He can shoot the jumper and he can penetrate.
“They have that tournament experience,” MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk said on Tuesday. “They’re pretty talented throughout their lineup. And they play very well together.”
The Rebels have demonstrated lately that they can win games even when not always connecting on all cylinders. They struggled in the first half in their second section game against Hills-Beaver Creek but dominated in the second half en route to a 62-46 victory. In their most recent game against Southwest Minnesota Christian ( a team they beat 81-63 and 68-50 in earlier meetings) they trailed for much of the contest and were extended into overtime before prevailing, 84-75.
The Rebels will need to be sharp to take down the Bluejays, and Bobeldyk knows it.
“We’ve got to play like we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said.