The Four-Point Play: Flying under the radar
The Four-Point Play is a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball. Earlier in the year, I took a look at the four remaining undefeated teams in the area. This week, we'll follow the same idea by taking a look at some of...
The Four-Point Play is a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball.
Earlier in the year, I took a look at the four remaining undefeated teams in the area. This week, we'll follow the same idea by taking a look at some of the teams that have perhaps flown a little under-the-radar this year.
But before we dive in, some of you may be wondering, 'What makes a team under-the-radar?'-which is a fair question. The answer: Well, it's completely subjective.
It could be that one these four teams hasn't been given its due coverage in this here column. Maybe a team has bounced back after a slow start. Or, it could be that these teams have flown under the attention of state pollsters. The possibilities are endless.
Starting us off is the Jaguars, which feels a little weird in an under-the-radar column considering that they brought back nearly everyone from their section runner-up team one year ago. But alas, here we are, discussing BBE as an under-the-radar team. The FPP isn't confined to the restraints of conventional logic.
Let's get one thing straight before we dive into the numbers: The College Football Playoff committee would love BBE with its whole heart if they were in charge of ranking Minnesota Class A girls basketball. (Side note: Thank goodness they're not. Signed, a Wisconsin alumnus.) The committee has shown a deep infatuation with so-called "good losses." The Jaguars have perhaps the best list of those in the state.
Through Monday, BBE sits at 10-4, with those four losses coming to teams with a combined 45-5 record: Class A No. 9 Menahga, Class A No. 3 Goodhue, Class AA 11-2 Eden Valley-Watkins and Class AA No. 1 Sauk Centre.
The Jaguars laugh at your team's cupcake schedule.
Outside of those games, BBE has been fairly dominant, winning every game by at least 14 points.
The Jaguars don't feature a high-flying offense, but their balanced attack is tough. Macie Kirckof leads the way with 14.8 points per game* and Nicole Wesbur is next at 11.4 ppg, but with Morgan Gronli, Jenna Dingmann, Grace Illies, Cassandra Tensen, Jenna Fischer and others providing buckets, there's a lot for opponents to stop.
As for a postseason outlook, it's probably still way too early to come away with any incredibly-meaningful takeaways, but, again, we make our own rules here. The Jaguars don't play a lot of regular season games within their section, but are on track to be the top seed in Section 5A South. On the section's south side is a strong Menahga team that sits at 11-0 and already bested BBE by 26 points, but we know what happens when you look too far ahead on your schedule.
*These numbers include just 13 of BBE's 14 games and compiled from stats submitted to the Tribune. Numbers from the Eden Valley-Watkins game are unavailable.
You didn't think Mark Torgerson's team was going to stay down all year long, did you?
Following a 2-7 start to the season, the Tigers have rattled off four consecutive wins and thrust themselves right back into the Section 3AA conversation.
Morris was in real danger of dropping to 2-8 when its hot streak began on January 6 against a then-undefeated Hancock team, but the Tigers handed the state-ranked Owls a 65-56 loss in a revitalization of the rivalry series.
Beginning with that game, the Tigers have started to find their offensive groove. While Morris failed to score over 60 points in each of its first nine games, it has now done so in three of the last four-including 77 and 79 points over the two most recent contests.
Jaret Johnson has been the spark plug for that resurgence, scoring over 20 points three times during the winning streak and averaging 22.3 in the four-game stretch.
Even during its 2-7 start, there was reason for optimism for Morris.
Those seven losses came to teams that entered the week with a combined 65-17 record. The average margin of loss was 6.8 points (not including a game against Class AAAA Anoka, which has 1,794 more students at its school than Morris-which is a lot of students).
Some of the best news for the Tigers is that Section 3AA North is once again wide open and recent history has been friendly to them. Just last season, the Tigers emerged from their sub-section to to reach the section final last season despite just a 13-12 regular season record. Between Morris, Minnewaska, Redwood Valley and New London-Spicer, it should be a fun couple of weeks in March.
One way or another, the Warriors were guaranteed a spot in this week's FPP thanks to the play of Super McKenna Steffel. More on her in a second.
BOLD entered the season with plenty of promise and, after weathering an 0-2 start with losses to Minneota and Sauk Centre, is now making good on that. The Warriors have played 13 games since, winning 12 and largely dominating opponents along the way behind the play of Steffel.
The BOLD junior has gone into NBA 2K MyCareer mode, highlighted most recently by a triple-double on Thursday against Canby with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 11 steals.
Steffel's making another strong case for an All-Area first-team nod with a double-double average of 22.7 points (on 57 percent shooting) and 10.3 rebounds per game. Add in an impressive 5.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on defense, and it just simply isn't fair anymore.
The secondary scoring options are there for head coach Brian Kingery's squad, too.
Taylor Sagedahl is the Warriors' other double-digit scorer at 11 points per game, but Makayla Snow, Abby Sigurdson, Morgan Schmitz, Ashley Trongard and Brenna Weis are also capable scorers.
What the BOLD boys face in their section (three top-ten teams), the girls simply don't. Sleepy Eye (12-3) and Sleepy Eye-St. Mary (12-1) are two tough outs come the Section 2A North tournament, but the top tier in the section appears to end at the city limits of the 56085 zip code.
The Blackjacks, it turns out, were just slow-playing the table.
After dropping three of its last four games and having yet to play at its full potential, Dawson-Boyd made a statement with a 73-67 win over a previously-undefeated Minneota team on Thursday, handing the Vikings their first loss of the school year between football and boys hoops.
The 'Jacks entered the 2017-18 season as one of the area favorites with most of their scoring back from a 16-10 season one year ago. But even through a 6-1 start, they hadn't been the dominant team that was largely expected.
Now, the 'Jacks sit at 8-4 and looking to build on their season-defining win to this point with a mostly-favorable schedule from here-on-out.
Alex Swenson has been a steady force at point guard despite missing some time due to injury. Bentley Boike provides D-B with a strong threat in the paint. Romell Horton has stepped into a larger role and shot the lights out of the gym with players missing time.
By edging out LQPV by three points earlier in the year, the Blackjacks now have the upper-hand in reaching the Camden Conference championship game, where they would likely face Russell-Tyler-Ruthton.
That Knights team, by the way, is 12-0, ranked No. 3 in Class A and also in D-B's section. I'm here for that section tournament.