The Sweet 16 is upon us beginning at 11:20 Saturday morning with games at both Clemens Field House and Claire Lynch at St. Ben’s in St. Joe, MN. The perennial questions pertain again this year. Can any smaller school beat…
The Sweet 16 is upon us beginning at 11:20 Saturday morning with games at both Clemens Field House and Claire Lynch at St. Ben’s in St. Joe, MN. The perennial questions pertain again this year. Can any smaller school beat a bigger school? Can anybody in A, 2A and 3A beat a 4A? And, will the championship be predictive once again.
Well, I should note that the Sweet 16 has become the Hopkins Invitational in recent years, including years when the Royals went on to win the high school championship in March. But, the past 2 years the Royals again won here only to be upset at Williams Arena. Still, the Sweet 16 was predictive that, if you wanna win a high school title, at a minimum, you’ve got to go through Hopkins to get there.
But, anyway, more broadly, will success at St. Ben’s translate into success later on, for everybody, not just the 4As?
But, the truth is that the other perennial question is, I wonder who got invited and turned ‘em down (“’em” being Pacesetter Sports, who puts on this annual event). One answer—not the only answer, but one answer—is I don’t know. But here are the participants along with their Northstar Girls Hoops ranking in our very early pre-season table, so you decide.
Class AAAA–#1 Hopkins, #6 St. Michael, #7 Moorhead, #10 Wayzata. Missing are #2 Minnetonka, #3 Centennial and #4 Eastview. Again, those are our numbers, not the numbers the Pacesetter folks used. But St. Michael, frankly, is rebuilding after the oss of Rae Johnson, so it’s hard to see them in the top 4. And, Moorhead has perhaps Minnesota’s top 2018 in Sam Haiby, but otherwise they are younger than St. Michael. Wayzata? I don’t remember why we only have them #10. That seems really low.
Class AAA--#1 DeLaSalle, #3 Grand Rapids, #4 Cooper and #10 Waseca. Missing is #2 Holy Angels, but of course Destinee Oberg has sat out most of the summer. The big question here is whether the rumored transfers into DeLaSalle will materialize and, if so, whether they’ll materialize yet at the Sweet 16?
Class AA–#1 Minnehaha, #4 Norwood Young America, #9 Maranatha and Eden Valley-Watkins, replacing #6 Annandale. EVW is highly rated, so I have no problem there. And, Maranatha? Well, we’re being cautious with the Mustangs after they moved up from Class A, but obviously they have talent. So this is in fact the best foursome by class.
Class A–#5 Bigfork, #13 Lac Qui Parle Valley, #17 Walker-Hack-Akeley and unrated Madger-Greenbush-Middle River. Handicapping Class A is always tough, so I don’t want to be too critical. Clearly, you’re going to see some great individual talent on these teams. But, still, where are Goodhue, Lyle/Pacelli, Sleepy Eye, Southwest Christian, Heritage, Ada, Cromwell, Mountain Iron-Buhl…. I think they had something better to do than to come to St. Joe to get their brains beat in by Hopkins or Wayzata. Which brings us to our second question.
Can a smaller school beat a bigger school?
This, after all, is the whole rationale for a Sweet 16. Give the little schools a change to beat the big ones. We’ll take this one bracket by bracket.
Bracket A features St. Michael vs. Lac Qui Parle and Minnehaha vs. DeLaSalle. Well, Lac Qui Parle has very little chance of beating St. Michael even with Kenzie Kramer out. Both teams can run and score, and LQP will only really be giving away much size at one position. And that is where point guard extraordinaire Kelsea Lund, 5-4 senior 20 ppg can make up for size with her speed and skills and basketball IQ. Still, St. Michael guards Kendall Cox and Jadyn Hanson will hold their own, and Vanessa Alexander and Riley Carlson will have their way inside. St. Michael 73 LQPV 60.
On the other hand, DeLaSalle vs. Minnehaha is the #1 opportunity for a smaller school to beat a bigger school. This could be a state final if 1) they were in the same class, and 2) as long as you’re not thinking Class 4A. It will be war on the inside (Olivia Travis, MC Francois, Nurjei Weems, Nora Francois vs. Avery New, Nevaeh Galloway, KS Borth-Lofton) but the key will be Ayanna Gardner and Alexis Cochran-Starr for De and Mia Curtis and the Rhoades sisters for ‘Haha on the perimeter. Starr gives De the 3-point shooting edge, but ‘Haha has 3 girls who can get to the rim versus Gardner for De. Still, I like De 58 Minnehaha 56. Best game of the week.
Bracket B features Norwood Young America vs. Wayzata and Grand Rapids vs. Badger-G-MR. NYA is the kind of 2A that could do some damage, but against Wayzata? Bren Fox can block some shots down low, but is she physical enough to slow down Kallie Theisen? Sam Miller vs. Ella Schrader could be a key if Fox does manage to break even. And NYA’s Kali Grimm and Abby and Anna Mackenthun don’t give up a lot even to Mimi Schrader and Jasmine Smiley outside. In the end, Kallie and Mimi will be the 2 best players on the court. Wayzata 63 NYA 53.
Then there is your single least-likely upset of the 1st round. Grand Rapids has known quantities in Heaven Hamling, Hannah DeMars and Meara Beighley. But, that’s soon to be 4 as senior Maggie Miska has really found her shooting touch over the summer. BGMR counters with the great Carley Mekash, but I’m not sure she’ll have much help of the sort needed against a 3A power. Grand Rapids 73 BGMR 48.
Bracket C has Hopkins. And Bracket D…. No, seriously, it’s Hopkins vs. Waseca and Maranatha vs. Bigfork. Hopkins will come in hungry, with a chip on their shoulder. What we don’t know is whether Raena Suggs will be along or not. But, either way, Waseca will need to drop about 10 3s on the Royals to stay close. Hopkins 70 Waseca 46.
Now, Maranatha and Bigfork, on the other hand…. The former Class A power versus a rising Class A power. Bigfork has guards Kia Tower and Haley Grover. Maranatha has guards Kiley Post and Breianna Smestad, plus Jaclyn Jarnot, and more. And, watch out for young guards K.J. Davis and Macy Smith. So, Maranatha will wear Bigfork out with some very serious depth. Maranatha 75 Bigfork 64.
Finally, Bracket D. Cooper vs. Eden Valley-Watkins and Moorhead vs. Walker-HA. Cooper is another team that is deeper than deep, and against a AA team that should be a deal-breaker. EVW’s top 4 players can hold their own with Cooper for awhile but, as with Maranatha, Cooper is going to wear ‘em out. Still, Alexis Nance and Kierra Wheeler versus Halle Jansen and Emma Schultz inside will be fun. Cooper 70 Eden Valley-Watkins 56.
Moorhead, again, has Haiby…and sophomores Jalen Ennen, Megan Haugo, Sam Hulst and Rylie Polomny, and they’re a little short of size. W-H-A has size for an A. Senior center Katie Benjamin is a rising star. But, Moorhead 68 WHA 51.
So, no, none of the smaller schools will beat any of the bigger ones. Again, Minnehaha and DeLaSalle is your best bet and your best game of the weekend. But, if everybody shows up healthy, De will be a little stronger and a little deeper inside.
Quarters, Semis and Finals
Since we don’t know for sure who’s going to be in the quarters, even, we won’t go on and on here. But, no guts, no glory, so here’s how things might unfold. In the quarter-finals:
DeLaSalle 63 St. Michael 52. So, yes, finally, a smaller school (3A) beats a bigger one (4A).
Wayzata 58 Grand Rapids 53. Don’t bet the family jewels on this one, Grand Rapids is for real.
Hopkins 75 Maranatha 65. Backyard brawl.
Cooper 50 Moorhead 45. Cooper has too much experience and too much depth.
In the semis:
DeLaSalle 53 Wayzata 49. And, so, again, yes.
Hopkins 62 Cooper 50.
In the finals:
1st place: Hopkins 62 DeLaSalle 53. Rather play De now than in March.
3rd place: Wayzata 53 Cooper 50. Cooper a serious threat now that they’re in 3A.
5th place: Grand Rapids 68 Maranatha 60. Remember Grand Rapids beat Hutch to win Class 3A at the recent Breakdown state tournament.
7th place: Moorhead 52 St. Michael 48 in a replay of last March’s great section final.
9th place: Minnehaha 65 Eden Valley-Watkins 51. 2 versatile teams but Minnehaha has way too many weapons. If DeLaSalle can finish 2nd here, as we expect, ‘Haha may be the 4th best team in the field.
11th place: Norwood Young American 51 Waseca 47. Bren Fox and Sam Miller inside vs. Waseca’s 3-point bombers.
13th place: Lac Qui Parle Valley 65 Bigfork 61. Great guard matchup of Kelsea and Maci Lund, LQPV, vs. Kia Tower and Haley Grover, Bigfork.
15th place: Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 56 Badger-Greenbush-Middle River 50. Another great guard matchup of Bri Raddatz, WHA, vs. Carley Mekash, BGMR, but WHA also has Katie Benjamin inside.
Girls you might not have seen yet.
Center—Katie Benjamin, Walker-HA, 6-0, senior, 16 ppg last year
Power Forward—Maggie Miska, Grand Rapid, 5-9, senior, 7 ppg last year
Small Forward—Carley Mekash, Badger-G-MR, 5-8, senior, 19 ppg
Point Guard—Kelsea Lund, Lac Qui Parle Valley, 5-4, senior, 20 ppg
Shooting Guard—Kia Tower, Bigfork, 5-5, junior, 15 ppg
Girls you’ve seen, but maybe not seen.
Center—Olivia Travis, DeLaSalle, 6-0, senior, 8 ppg last year
Power Forward—Kierra Wheeler, Cooper, 5-10, freshman, 8 ppg
Small Forward—Jada Buford, Cooper, 5-9, senior, 6 ppg
Point Guard—Taytum Rhoades, Minnehaha, 5-8, junior, 10 ppg
Shooting Guard—Amaya Battle, Hopkins, 5-7, 8th, 3 ppg