South Suburban Conference Preview–2018
There’s a myth out there about the South Suburban Conference, that’s it’s a tough conference. But, the reality is that Eastview and Lakeville North are tough programs that put tough teams on the floor year after year after year. The…
There’s a myth out there about the South Suburban Conference, that’s it’s a tough conference. But, the reality is that Eastview and Lakeville North are tough programs that put tough teams on the floor year after year after year. The rest of the South Suburban? Well, now that Kennedy is gone, not so much.
Eastview and North have averaged 14 conference wins over the past 11 years. Kennedy averaged 14. Chaska averaged 13.5 before it, too, bolted to the Metro West. Eden Prairie averaged 12 before it went over to the Lake. Okay, Shakopee has averaged 14 wins since it came over from the Missota, but 2 of those 3 seasons were Taylor Koenen’ junior and senior years. Time will tell if the Sabres have the staying power to compete with Eastview and North like Kennedy and Eden Prairie used to do.
But otherwise Prior Lake has averaged 8-10 since it joined the conference in 2011. Apple Valley, Eagan and Lakeville South have averaged 7 wins, Burnsville and Rosemount 6 over 11 years, and Farmington just 3 in 3 years in the conference. Right now, Eastview and North are starting out pretty much 16-0 with challenges coming only from one another. Only Farmington seems to have a good crop of younger talent coming up, but is that a once-in-a-lifetime deal like Taylor Koenen’s class at Shakopee, or is it a trend? Time will tell. That’s pretty much the best that you can say about everybody else, too. There’s some nice individual talent, to be sure, but as for the programs, time will tell.
1. Eastview 16-2 (14-4, 2nd last year, 14 wins per year over 11 years)
2. Lakeville North 15-3 (17-1, 1st last year, 14 wins per year over 11 years)
For the record, Eastview and North have each averaged 14 wins over the past 11 years, but Eastview has gotten slightly the better of it, finishing ahead of North 7 of those 11 years with 5 conference championships to 3 for North. Each has a state championship, North in 2010, Eastview in 2014. Neither still has its state championship coach but both are well-coached, well-run programs—and I mean all the way down to the younger ages—with Molly Kasper and Shelly Clemons directing things from the top of the food chain.
So, 2018. I figure Eastview and North will split, home and home, so, no, we’re not really saying they’ll go 16-0 against everybody else. Neither one is as good as they’ve been at least some of the time recently. They’ve lost Rachel Ranke and Temi Carda, among others. So, we have Eastview losing once and North twice against the field. North is just a tad younger with sophomore guards Sarah Kuma and Lauren Jensen assuming big, big roles for the Panthers. Let’s look at the matchups.
In the post, it’s Megan Walstad of Eastview and Kiara (Ke) James for North. James is listed at 6-2, Walstad at 6-1, but, seriously, James is not bigger than Walstad. But, both are big, strong, experienced posts who know how to get their shot and will score her points. Walstad is a little quicker to the board and defensively. Advantage Eastview.
At the 4, Taylor Brown, who is also 6-2, gives North an edge in size over 5-11 Andrea Abrams. Both are mobile for their size. Both play defense, rebound and move the ball more than they score but if I really need a bucket, I’m satisfied if Brown takes the shot. Advantage North.
At the 3 spot, Macy Guebert is your girl. She’s unselfish and only scored 6 ppg last year. But, with Ranke and Pickrain gone, Eastview will need her to at least double that and there’s no doubt that she can. She hits the 3 and makes tough runners in the lane, kind of like Rachel Banham used to do. Advantage Eastview.
At the 2, North’s Lauren Jensen is a potential Ms. Basketball in a couple years. For now, she’s just a sophomore who plays like a senior. Like Guebert, she didn’t shoot it a whole lot last year but, like Guebert, it’s now up to her to put points on the board for the Panthers and there is no question whatsoever that she can do that. Mariah Alipate is probably the 2 for Eastview. She’s back after a year off with a knee and she has just committed to St. Cloud State. She’s big and strong for her skill set, and she has already shown more of a willingness to mix it up inside than we saw before the injury. Still. Advantage North. So it’s 2-2 going into the final position….
So, the tie-breaker here will be play at the point guard, which is how it should be. And both teams have questions. Emma Carpenter is a great athlete with a terrific shot, though she too hasn’t really looked to score for Eastview yet in the winter (3 ppg last year). She handles it okay, but she’s really more of a 2, so it might be more accurate to say that the Lightning will handle it by committee with Carpenter, Guebert and others contributing. But, for now, we’re looking at Carpenter as the 1.
At North, you’ve got more conventional point guards to choose from—specifically junior Annaliese Tschida and sophomore Sarah Kuma—but neither of them is really proven in that role for their high school team. So, for now, the 1 is a toss-up.
That leaves it to the bench and here Eastview has a clear advantage with Courtney and Cassidy Carson, Jordan Morris and Lauren Glas. So, advantage Eastview and advantage Eastview. But, really, you could also say it comes down to seniors—Walstad, Guebert and Alipate for Eastview, and James, Brown and Kari Macura for North. Once again, slight advantage to Eastview.
3. Farmington 12-6 (6-12, tied for 7th last year, average 3 wins over 3 years)
Farmington has been in rebuilding mode since joining the South Suburban in 2015, and the South Suburban is a tough place to rebuild. Most have never quite gotten it done. As noted above, the question with Farmington is whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence or a trend. Time will tell. But, for now, Farmington has a deep, quick, athletic, skilled group that is ready to make some noise.
The ring-leader is 5-8 sophomore guard Molly Mogenson—quick, strong, she pushes the pace, she distributes the ball and gets in the opposing ball-handler’s face. The forwards are solid and experienced in 5-11 junior Kaitlin Winston and 5-9 seniors Ellie Clayton and Lexi Laube. Sidney Blandin, Morgan Ebel, Tarah DeCrook and Sam Wiebold fill the 2 guard and wings. Blandin is the long-range bomber and the top returning scorer at 12 ppg, and she can also play at Mogenson’s tempo on both sides of the ball. Ebel, like Mogenson, is a sophomore and, like Mogenson, she’s a bit of a bulldog.
So, like I said, this is a deep team with a bunch of scoring options that pushes the pace effectively on both sides of the ball. The only thing they don’t have is a winning tradition, but this group is too good not to start one.
(NOTE: I neglected to mention 2 younger players who make Farmington that much better. They are of course 6-4 post Sophia Hart and wing Paige Kindseth, both 2021s and both good enough to start right now.)
4. Lakeville South 11-7 (6-12, tied for 7th, average 7 wins)
South should be somewhat improved and continues to battle against Panther hegemony in their own hometown. South can play the numbers game with a team deep with quick, small penetrators. Hopefully, senior forwards Addie Thomsen and Erin Tupy are ready to catch and finish because junior Anna Harvey, sophomore Annie Guentzel and seniors Bailey and Bianca Biffert will create many such opportunities. Hopefully, one of the latter will also become a consistent 3-point threat.
5. Shakopee 10-8 (12-6, 4th, average 14 wins in 3 years)
Shakopee continues to claw to stay near the top after the end of Taylor Koenen’s incomparable high school career. Shakopee has senior guard Rachel Garvey, long since a North Dakota commit but who has missed the better part of 2 years with injuries. Can she still drain the long bomb consistently? That is the question. Juniors Isabelle West and Ashley Herold can score inside and senior guard Jasmine Terry and junior Jaley Coplin from the outside, though none is proven as a go-to type of scorer. If Garvey is not the player everybody always expected her to be, Shakopee will have trouble scoring enough points.
6. Prior Lake 9-9 (8-10, 6th, average 8 wins over 7 years)
The Lakers return hard-nosed 5-3 point guard McKenna Hofschild but lost 6-1 D1 forward Riley Wheatcraft, so this really becomes Hofschild’s team now. She scored 23 ppg with 4 assists last year and one player cannot do a whole lot more than that, but neither one player ever enough. So the Lakers story will be told by the development of the supporting cast. Sophomores Haidyn Pitsch and Ella Schnackenberg probably have the most upside, but are they ready?
7. Apple Valley 8-10 (13-5, 3rd last year, average 7 wins over a11 years)
Apple Valley has lost more than 60 ppg of scoring from a year ago and will rebuild around a pair of posts—shooting star, senior Brynne Rolland, and defensive whiz, junior center Mykel Parham—and new coach Brian Doughty. Doughty comes from White Bear (by way of one year with the Stillwater boys), and he promises to play a little more White Bear basketball, meaning a new commitment to defense and a deeper rotation than they’re used to here. And, how to deploy the 2 posts. There’s no question they’ve both got to be on the floor.
Well, it sure makes sense to build a defensive game plan around Parham, but the Eagles don’t necessarily have the numbers right now that Doughty might like. Senior Molly Moynihan, junior Megan Baer and sophomore Kalena Meyers will lead the way on the perimeter. Doughty will have to find another 3-4 players to make White Bear basketball work in Apple Valley.
8. Eagan 4-14 (2-16, tied for 9th, average 7 wins)
9. Rosemount 3-15 (10-8, 5th, average 6 wins)
10. Burnsville 2-16 (2-16, tied for 9th, average 6 wins)
Eagan, Rosemount and Burnsville will rebuild, too. Eagan has some numbers but no proven scorer. 6-2 senior Nat Smith and 5-8 senior Lauren Boike are the top returning scorers at 8 and 7, but much will depend on Alex Jagler, 5-9 senior who returns from a knee injury after missing all of her junior season.
Rosemount loses the great point guard Maddy Olson, and will build around freshmen Helen Staley, a 6-footer, and Ivory Finley, an athletic wing.
Burnsville builds around sophomore point guard Zhane Thompson.
Center—Megan Walstad, Eastview, 6-3, senior, 11 ppg
Power Forward—Brynne Rolland, Apple Valley, 6-2, senior, 17 ppg
Small Forward—Macy Guebert, Eastview, 5-9, junior, 6 ppg
Point Guard—McKenna Hofschild, Prior Lake, 5-3, junior, 23 ppg
Shooting Guard—Lauren Jensen, Lakeville North, 5-9, sophomore, 5 ppg
Center—Mykel Parham, Apple Valley, 6-3, junior, 4 ppg
Power Forward— Taylor Brown, Lakeville North, 6-2, senior, 8 ppg
Small Forward—Emma Carpenter, Eastview, 5-10, junior, 3 ppg
Point Guard—Molly Mogenson, Farmington, 5-7, sophomore, 11 ppg
Shooting Guard—Rachel Garvey, Shakopee, 5-8, senior
Center—Kaitlin Winston, Farmington, 6-1, junior, 8 ppg
Power Forward—Ke James, Lakeville North, 6-2, senior, 12 ppg
Small Forward—Andrea Abrams, Eastview, 6-0, senior, 6 ppg
Point Guard—Anna Harvey, Lakeville South, 5-7, junior, 12 ppg
Shooting Guard—Sidney Blandin, Farmington, 5-8, senior, 12 ppg
Center—Helen Staley, Rosemount, 6-1, freshman, 5 ppg
Forward—Cassidy Carson, Eastview, 6-0, freshman
Point Guard—Zhane Thompson, Burnsville, 5-8, sophomore, 10 ppg
Combo Guard—Megan Diggan, Burnsville, 5-9, sophomore, 5 ppg
Shooting Guard—Morgan Ebel, Farmington, 5-8, sophomore, 8 ppg