I saw 11 games with 22 teams on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Mounds Park, Irondale, South St. Paul, Randolph and St. Olaf. Here are 40-some of the best players I saw. Since I managed to see teams in all…
I saw 11 games with 22 teams on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Mounds Park, Irondale, South St. Paul, Randolph and St. Olaf. Here are 40-some of the best players I saw. Since I managed to see teams in all 4 classes—AAAA, AAA, AA and A—I’m going to organize them by class.
Best of Class AAAA
All of the best in Class AAAA played in one game. You can guess which one. They are, with one exception, people who need no introduction.
Center—Megan Walstad, Eastview, 6-3, senior
Power Forward—Dlayla Chakolis, Hopkins, 5-8, junior
Small Forward—Mallory Brake, Hastings, 6-0, sophomore
Point Guard—Paige Bueckers, Hopkins, 5-10, sophomore
Combo Guard–Emma Carpenter, Eastview, 5-10, junior
OK, I wanted to say a thing or two about Emma Carpenter. She is the newest to the spotlight among these 5, and I remember this fall people asking me, Who’s going to play the point for Eastview? And I would say, What? Is there a question there? No, there wasn’t and there isn’t. Emma Carpenter had already proven herself but Friday night made it totally obvious to everyone that she is an elite point guard. I mean, 14 points, 2-of-3 3s, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and zero turnovers against the #1AAAA team in this state. Most impressive of all, zero turnovers against an aggressive and as the game wore on a desperate defense. Great performance.
2nd Group Class AAAA
Center—Zareia Chevre, Tartan, 6-0, junior
Powerful presence in the lane, and runs the floor like crazy.
Forward—Krystal Carlson, Hastings, 5-11, senior
Carlson and Mallory Brake ane of the best 1-2 punches in the state. Between them, they produced at least 41 points and 16 rebounds vs. Eagan on Friday (I have not seen their numbers actually posted, I charted about ¾ of the game and these are their numbers just for that.)
Point Guard—McKenna Hofschild, Prior Lake, 5-3, junior
Didn’t even have a particularly great game vs. Providence, especially in the 1st half when her shot was not falling, but she controls the ball and the game, and her team is starting to catch up with her a bit.
Combo Guard—Sophie Findell, Irondale, 5-8, senior
Combo Guard—Molly Mogenson, Farmington, 5-8, sophomore
Findell is an experienced point guard and now a dead-eye from long range. Mogenson is a young but experienced, savvy point guard, very, very quick on both sides of the ball. Also didn’t have a great game Friday at St. Olaf as Grand Rapids controlled the ball and tempo, but she is a great player with a high basketball IQ. I also wanted to mention Caroline Anderson of Jefferson, and it’s my post, so there.
Best of Class AAA
Center—Meara Beighly, Grand Rapids, 5-11, junior
Wing—Hannah DeMars, Grand Rapids, 5-9, junior
Point Guard—Heaven Hamling, Grand Rapids, 5-8, senior
The Thunderhawks put on a clinic in methodically de-fanging a very good AAAA team in Farmington. If you saw them last year, fuggedaboudit. Heaven Hamling is still doing what Heaven Hamling does so well. But the rest of her team is vastly improved. DeMars is a dynamic wing who does everything on the floor. Beighly gives up size a lot of nights but keeps on banging. She outscored a much bigger opponent Friday night 7-3. And it pains me not to mention one of the state’s most improved players, the other forward, Maggie Miska, who virtually carried Grand Rapids early when Hamling’s shot was not dropping, DeMars was on the bench with fouls, and the Hawks were on their heels a little bit.
Wing—Shay Poe, St. Paul Harding, 5-9, senior
If Poe had played in the 1st half like she did in the 2nd, Harding’s tussle with New Life would not have been close. In the 2nd half she was the sole difference between a W and an L, period. I wish she would do that for 2 halves!
Shooting Guard—Rachie Rehnelt, Albert Lea, 5-6, senior
No respect. Rehnelt came into South St. Paul as an elder statesman, an established ballplayer with a lifetime of achievement, at least individually, to her name. And, so, South St. Paul literally beat the crap out of her. She was on her heels for a good bit of the 1st half, but she bounced back, scored 12 points in a very difficult situation, and came out with her good name intact.
Best of Class AA
Center—Anna Counts, Providence, 6-2, senior
Forward—Maggie Murphy, Providence, 6-0, junior
Counts has been extremely impressive the last 3 times Grant and I have seen her. She does everything. She scores inside, for sure. She hustles on the boards and hustles on defense. She helps out with the ball-handling, going from FT line to FT line to help inbound against full court pressure if needs be. She can be a great D3 post, and probably a pretty good one in D2, for that matter.
Maggie Murphy is also the real deal, a 6-footer with both inside and perimeter skills.
Forward—Olivia Witt, St. Croix Prep, 6-0, senior
Came out of nowhere after sitting out with a transfer last year. A very mobile big who takes on contact and finishes at the rim, and runs the floor and, well, like Counts, does a little bit of everything for her team.
Forward—Kaly Banks, Cannon Falls, 5-10, senior
Point Guard—Tatum Pickar, Cannon Falls, 5-4, senior
The Bombers’ horses. Pickar is a classic 1 who just knows how to play the game and how to lead her team. Banks can score anywhere from 15 feet in. I also wanted to mention junior Piper Flemming of St. Paul Humboldt who played anywhere from 1 to 3. Very athletic, good skills, nice court awareness. Don’t know why her minutes were somewhat limited. And I must mention Ashley Cheeseboro of St. Croix Prep, who excels at 2 things—the S and the 3. The senior really gets into the passing lanes for deflections and Steals, and she hits to long bomb.
Best of Class A
Center—Hannah Neil, Randolph and Anna Michaud, Trinity, both 6-0 seniors
Neil is bigger and stronger and mostly stays down low, while Michaud is the more mobile and can step outside and handle it or shoot it from there, too.
Power Forward—Alyssa Whitson, Randolph, 5-11, senior
A 1,000 point scorer who is strong enough to score inside but can also let it fly from the outside. High basketball IQ, though that does not distinguish her from most of her teammates. They know how to play basketball down in Randolph, trust me.
Small Forward—Nicole Kress, Triton, 5-10, sophomore
Point Guard—Sydney Gilliland, Triton, 5-7, sophomore
Triton has to be the best 2-8 team in the state. I cannot imagine how they’ve lost 8 games, other than the one I saw to a very good Class A opponent in Randolph (7-3), which they lost because of Randolph’s depth and their own fatigue, and the inability, therefore, to get shots to drop down the stretch. But, all of that aside, look out for these kids in 2019 and 2020 because the 2 tent-poles here are sophomores. Kress is an unconscious deep 3-point shooter, until she gets tired, and Gilliland is a quick, heady 1, even after she gets tired. Hopefully their team’s reliable depth will increase so they can play fresh more of the time.
Shooting Guard—Andrea Splichal, Randolph, 5-8, junior
Like I said, Gilliland is a quick heady 1…who got outplayed by Splichal Thursday night. She is also a gym rat who knows how to play the game and how to orchestrate from the 1. And she was 8-of-9 from the line at crunch time. And I must mention her teammate, her running mate, Lindsey Grant, who only scored 2 but who defended—shadowed—Sydney Gilliland most of the night for Randolph and wore her down and forced her teammates to do too much. It was possibly the one, best, single defensive performance of the week.
The 2 Triton girls are the only 2 true Breakouts on the list above—well, also Piper Flemming, Ashley Cheeseboro (but she’s a senior) and Lindsey Grant, but technically they’re not on the list. In any event, here are some more.
Center—Sophie Hart, Farmington, 6-4, freshman
Yes, she’s a work-in-progress. What 6-4 freshman is not a work-in-progress? But she's well ahead of most.
Wing—Ashley Fritz, Hastings, 5-9, 7th grade
A younger version of Mallory Brake with normal skill development.
Combo Guard—Haidyn Pitsch, Prior Lake, 5-6, sophomore
Plays with poise and a full range of guard skills.
Combo Guard—Bethany Brocker, New Life, 5-9, freshman
More methodical than quick and her decision-making needs to mature, but she’s athletic, takes charge and does a little bit of everything.
Shooting Guard—Paige Kindseth, Farmington, 5-9, freshman
Made the play of the day at St. Olaf, closing out a 3-point shooter at the top of the key with a thunderous block, then ran it down and scored at the other end. Has a very nice shooting stroke along with that athleticism.
Center—Savanna Youngstrom, South St. Paul, 6-0, sophomore
Forward—Brynn Bauer, South St. Paul, 5-9, freshman
Both are big and athletic, both are still working on the skill side of the equation, and both have lots of upside.
Forward—Megan Erickson, Randolph, 5-8, sophomore
A smaller, younger version of her senior teammate, Alyssa Whitson. Could join Whitson on the 1,000 point list one day.
Combo Guard—Sam Skarstad, Albert Lea, 5-7, sophomore
A quick, aggressive guard on a weak team.
Shooting Guard—Carly Hagar, New Life, 5-8, sophomore
Shoots it off her shoulder like a shot-put but it goes in. Lots of them go in.