The 2018 Class AA girls state high school basketball tournament provides a pretty good illustration of one of the key trends in girls (and boys) high school basketball these days. The rich get richer. Maranatha, Minnehaha, Sauk Centre and Roseau,…
The 2018 Class AA girls state high school basketball tournament provides a pretty good illustration of one of the key trends in girls (and boys) high school basketball these days. The rich get richer. Maranatha, Minnehaha, Sauk Centre and Roseau, 4 teams that have enjoyed considerable success in recent years, have grabbed the #1, #2, #3 and #4 seeds.
The point is that in Class AA in this century, the perennials have won most of the state titles. Rochester Lourdes won its 6th, 7th and 8th state titles in 2000, 2003 and 2005. In 2002, New London-Spicer was in its 11th tournament in 18 years. In 2004 Breck was in its 3rd straight tournament. In 2008 Albany was in its 6th straight tournament. In 2009 Caledonia was in its 3rd straight tournament. In 2010, Minnehaha was in its 3rd straight, and Braham was in its 3rd in 2012. In 2013 and 2014 NRHEG was in its 2nd and 3rd straight. Last year, Roseau was in for the 3rd straight year.
• #1 seed Sauk Centre (30-0) is in the state tournament for the 8th time in 9 years. They made it to the final in 2012, 2015 and 2017, but lost each time to Providence, Dover-Eyota and Roseau. This year they were the pre-season #1 and they never lost—not a game, not their top ranking. Guards Maesyn Theisen and Kelsey Pescel will be playing in their 4th state tournament for the Mainstreeters. Theisen has scored 139 points in 9 previous state tournament games. Why Sauk Centre will win the championship: Veteran guards Theisen and Peschel will control and protect the ball and control the tempo.
• #2 Maranatha won a couple of Class A titles in 2011 and 2012. They’ve been back to the tournament every year since—all in Class A—without another title. They moved up to Class AA just this year and they have not skipped a beat. The Mustangs started the season at #6 and did nothing but move upward all season long. Jaclyn Jarnot will be playing in her 5th tournament and has scored 132 points here. Why Maranatha will win the championship: The Mustangs have too much depth and quickness. They will wear people down and pull away in the final 10 minutes of every game.
• #3 Roseau also qualifies as a have, but of the nouveau riche variety. They’re in their 4th straight tournament after never having played in one before, and of course they won it all last year. This is junior guard Kacie Borowicz’ 4th tournament. She has 151 points in 9 previous tournament games and could potentially have a 5th tournament in her future. Roseau started at #3, then dropped all the way out of the top 10, and then climbed back up to our #6. Why Roseau will win the championship: Kacie and Katie Borowicz will put on an offensive clinic and score 50 ppg between them.
Roseau played up only once (and lost) but played Minnehaha, Mountain Iron-Buhl and Sauk Centre, losing 2 of those 3. QRF gave them no credit for the tough schedule (they were rated #12), but the folks who put together the state tournament seeds apparently did.
• #4 Minnehaha is the 4th and final have. They won a Class A title in 2010 and finished 2nd in 2011. This is their 5th straight tournament and, as yet, they’re without another championship. Taytum and Terra Rhoades are playing in their 5th state tournament, and Taytum is still just a junior. The RedHawks started out at #2. Like Roseau, they got off to a slow start, but they never dropped out of the top 10 and finished as our #4.
Minnehaha could make a good case for #3 based on being rated #1 in QRF. The RedHawks played 7 AAA and AAAA opponents, for which QRF rewarded them very handsomely. But the fact is that QRF rewards teams for playing up whether they play well or not. Minnehaha played up 7 times, and lost 5 of them. Why Minnehaha will win the championship: Curtis and the Rhoades girls will get their full-court game, and outrun and outscore everybody in transition.
So, in summary, Roseau was the surprising choice for #3 (could have been lower), Minnehaha a surprise at #4 (could have been higher) and NYA a surprise at #5 (thought they’d be higher). But, on the other hand, these were the 5 teams that we thought would seed.
Compared to Sauk, Maranatha, Minnehaha and Roseau, these are teams that could be coming into the state tournament a little bit wide-eyed.
• Well, OK, I take it back. Every “have not” would gladly trade places with #5 Norwood Young America. First of all, coach Gary Lembcke has been at the helm for 34 years, and any program would be lucky to have that. And, then, this will be their 3rd tournament in 4 years, and their 4th in a dozen years. But, they haven’t won a tournament game since 2007. Kali Grimm and Bren Fox are starting in their 3rd tournament but have only played in 2 previous games. Under those circumstances, #4 Minnehaha is a tough draw.
NYA played up only twice, but won them both. Why NYA will win the championship: NYA will protect the ball and get it to Bren Fox, Sammi Miller and Kali Grimm, who will dominate the game inside.
• Then there’s Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, which has plenty of history going for it. Tracy played in the 1981, 1982 and 1984 tournaments. Milroy was the runnerup in 1985, and Tracy-Milroy returned in 1987, won it in 1988 with the great Mary Jo Miller. Tracy-Milroy-Walnut Grove played in 1989. Tracy Area won the tournament in 1992, then Tracy-Milroy returned yet again in 1995, 1996 and 1997, winning it again in 1996. Tracy has been in 10 tournaments with 3 titles, Milroy 7 with 2 titles and a runnerup. OK, Balaton is a true have not here. And, none of them have been here in 21 years. And, so, in that set of circumstances, #3 Roseau is a tough draw.
There is some heartburn that Tracy-Milroy-Balaton would go 29-2 and not get a seed. But the Panthers never played up and in fact their 2 losses were both to Class A teams Hayfield and Lac Qui Parle Valley. But they also beat Minneota twice, Goodhue and also defeated LQPV. If you’re TMB and you’ve got to play a seeded team, Roseau is probably a better matchup than Sauk or Maranatha. Why TMB will win it all: Dolan, Kirk and Lanoue will turn out to be the most underrated players in Minnesota.
• And, finally, Byron and Mesabi East are here for the 1st time. Byron, with 6-6 Kansas State recruit Yokie Lee, at least played in some tournament-type settings—the Breakdown Invitational at Minnetonka, and the Rotary Classic in Rochester. Mesabi East at least played in the section at UMD. And, it’s going to be absolutely essential that they hit the ground running against Maranatha at Williams Arena. Can they do it? Why Byron or Mesabi East will win the championship: Yokie Lee, or Ava Hill.
So, after 3 months of jockeying, here’s where the state tournament matchups ended up.
6 p.m. at Target #1 Sauk Centre 30-0 vs. unseeded Byron 19-10
This one does not lack for star power with Sauk point guard Maesyn Theisen, who is going to UMD, and Byron post Yokie Lee, who as we said is going to K-State. Byr[[[[[on started out slowly because they couldn’t get the ball to Lee, but their guard play (mainly junior Lexi Glynn) has improved dramatically over the course of the year. Nobody can stop Lee if Glynn can get her the ball on her spots. But Sauk is well positioned to make that difficult with Theisen and Kelsey Peschel spearheading the perimeter defense. Sauk will control the pace, and they’ll have some success keeping the ball out of Yokie’s hands. Sauk 64 Byron 54.
8 p.m. a Target #4 Minnehaha 21-7 vs. #5 Norwood Young America 27-3
Minnehaha will want to get Mia Curtis, and Terra and Taytum Rhoades running, while NYA will want a halfcourt game. Minnehaha’s weaknesses are well known. Concordia coach Matt Pryor enumerated them for us—they’re not that good in the half-court offense, and they give up some buckets. This was shortly before his team took the court and lost to the RedHawks 64-51. The bottom line, I think, is that Minnehaha’s Nevaeh Galloway and Avery New match up with NYA’s Bren Fox and Sammi Miller inside better than the Raiders’ guards match up with the quicker RedHawks trio on the perimeter. Minnehaha 61 NYA 58.
6 p.m. at Williams #2 Maranatha 26-4 vs. unseeded Mesabi East 24-6
Duluth Marshall started out as the favorite in Section 7AA and finished with a solid 21-6 record, especially considering their best players are sophomore Grace Kirk and freshman Gianna Kneepkens. Proctor defeated Marshall 61-53 in December and became the new favorite. Meanwhile, Mesabi lost to both during the regular season but got hot at just the right time. In sections, they turned the table on Marshall 62-52 and on Proctor 56-49.
Mesabi’s success is based entirely on guards Ava Hill, a sophomore, and Hannah Hannuksala, a freshman. Hill scored 23 ppg for the year and 23 per game again in section play. In the section final against Proctor she scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-7 3s, with 8 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals. Hannuksala scored 14 ppg for the year, but 21 per game in sections. Against Proctor she broke loose for 25 points on 5-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-10 3s and 11-of-12 FT, and also added 4 assists.
Maranatha will of course respond with a cast of thousands. Seriously, they go 10-deep and wear people out. In the section semi-final, they led Blake 38-32 at the half and outscored them 36-12 in the 2nd. They are likely to do something similar to Mesabi. And, it’s hard to picture Kae Saena Barth-Lofton and Jaclyn Jarnot not dominating around the rim. Maranatha 78 Mesabi East 57.
8 p.m. at Williams #3 Roseau 24-5 vs. unseeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 29-2
Here again, Roseau wants to run. TMB wants to slow it down. Roseau is of course led by the Borowicz sisters—junior point guard Kacie scores 26 ppg, freshman shooting guard Katie scores 19. 6-0 senior post Victoria Johnson scores 8 with 6 boards and 2 blocks.
TMB counters with a 3-headed monster of its own. 5-5 senior point guard Kaylee Kirk averages 11 ppg with 5 assists and 3 steals. 5-7 senior forward Evelyn Dolan scores 19 ppg with 5 boards, 2 assists and 3 steals. 5-9 senior forward Sydney Lanoue scores 13 ppg with 3 steals. This is in fact your upset special for Class AA. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 70 Roseau 67.
The Rest of the Way
Sauk and Maranatha are #1 and #2 in the seeds and in our ratings. I see no reason why they won’t play for the championship on Saturday afternoon. I like Sauk 66 Minnehaha 58, and Maranatha 71 TMB 62.
In the final, Sauk will bring more or less normal depth—they played 8 deep in the section final—but nothing like Maranatha. Sauk gets terrific play on the perimeter from the UMD recruit Maesyn Theisen plus Kelsey Peschel, Tori Peschel and Kenzie Schmiesing.
Maranatha counters on the perimeter with UMC recruit Kylie Post plus junior Breianna Smestad, freshman Macy Smith, junior K.J. Davis and 8th grader Desiree Ware, with juniors Sophia Montgomery and Kaitlin Post in true reserve. They won’t wear out Sauk’s guards as much as they do most, but they will have fresher legs down the stretch.
And, inside, it will be Maranatha senior Jaclyn Jarnot, junior Kae Seana Barth-Lofton and 6-0 sophomore Alainah Erickson versus Sauk sophomore Julia Dammann.
Not only is Maranatha deep but they’re incredibly quick and athletic, top to bottom. It says here—Sauk controls the 1st half, but Maranatha runs off with the Class AA championship in the 2nd half. Maranatha 72 Sauk Centre 69. But Sauk point guard Maesyn Theisen will be the best individual player in Class AA.