Great rivalries in sport tend to develop when a feisty challenger rises up to knock off a champion, and a series of intriguing back-and-forth matches ensue. In the rivalry between North Tartan 9 and Minnesota Fury 2020 Blue – without…
Great rivalries in sport tend to develop when a feisty challenger rises up to knock off a champion, and a series of intriguing back-and-forth matches ensue. In the rivalry between North Tartan 9 and Minnesota Fury 2020 Blue – without question the two best AAU teams in the state’s freshman class – the Fury haven’t actually won yet. In the AAU state championship game, it took a miracle escape by North Tartan guard Kenzie Kramer (St. Michael-Albertville) to force overtime and eke out a victory. The time before that, the margin was just three. All of this history made for a dramatic buildup to Sunday’s championship game in the White Bear Lake division at the North Tartan Summer Jam.
The Fury scored the game’s first five points before North Tartan forged a one-point lead at halftime. About five minutes into the second half, NT had a nice little spurt that started when all-everything guard Paige Bueckers of Hopkins scored on a sweet floater. That was followed by forward Mallory Brake sprinting end-to-end off an inbounds steal for the layup. A long three by guard Kayhla Adams of Hopkins stretched the margin to 10. The Fury did close the gap to four points, but that’s when Bueckers concocted one of those how-did-she-do-that buckets by slipping through a phalanx of defenders in the paint, executing a partial spin move, and then banking the ball in from an awkward angle. Of course. it was also an and-1. Bueckers made the free throw and North Tartan went on to win 47-35. She finished with a game-high 18 points.
So much is written and said about Bueckers – and rightly so – that it’s easy to forget what an amazing cast this North Tartan team has. With six of the top 10 rated players in the class of 2020, and three more between 11 and 26, the squad is stacked. On Sunday, there were three players that really caught my eye. Brake is a 6-foot post from Hastings who is ranked 5th in the class. She has a terrific skill set and does many things well. She has nice rebounding instincts and a soft touch around the rim. Perhaps most importantly for her prospects at the next level, Brake can play fast. The other big who impressed was Courtney Becker. She’s not on the Northstar list because she resides outside of the state of Minnesota, but only by the width of the Mississippi River. The Fountain City, Wisc., post is so consistent and does so much of the dirty work that allows the bigger names to shine. Becker knows how to leverage her size and strength to grab more than her share of defensive rebounds, and she can score in tight quarters at the other end.
Perhaps the most unsung talent on this North Tartan team is the 5’7”Adams. “KK” is a quick-footed guard who is rated #26, but flies a little under the radar because she has yet to garner a ton of varsity minutes at Hopkins. Expect that to change this coming season. Adams uses her quickness to put a significant pressure on opposing ballhandlers, forcing turnovers at a pretty high rate. She is deadly in transition, and is an adept three-point shooter. Adams played more than usual on Sunday and put her minutes to good use.
Like North Tartan, Minnesota Fury 2020 Blue features a loaded lineup. On this day there were two players who stood out – Molly Mogenson of Farmington and Kaylie Van der Werf of Holy Angels. Mogenson is a tenacious 5-8 guard who is ranked #13 in the class of 2020. Mogenson didn’t have a point on Sunday as she spent much of the game hounding Bueckers while grabbing an impressive six rebounds. Mogenson is a relentless defender who plays the game with an edge. She’s also highly skilled and can push the pace. At 6-1, the 16th ranked Van der Werf can be a force inside. She’s long and athletic and has tremendous upside. On this day, Van der Werf had to deal with both Becker and Brake which wasn’t easy, but she held her own. Alas, it was for naught as North Tartan came out on top one more time.