Conference Preview: The Metro West is up for Grabs
As we approach the end of October, we’re getting closer to the start of another high school season. In the upcoming days, Prep Girls Hoops will be previewing conferences around the Twin Cities. In this edition, we take a closer…
As we approach the end of October, we’re getting closer to the start of another high school season. In the upcoming days, Prep Girls Hoops will be previewing conferences around the Twin Cities. In this edition, we take a closer look at the Metro West Conference. The Metro West is home to the 2017-2018 Class 3A State Champion Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks. The conference is a blend of 3A and 4A schools, which makes for some really interesting match-ups. There is so much talent in the MWC this year that it wouldn’t come as a surprise if any one of a number of teams comes away with the conference championship.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR COOPER TO REPEAT?
ROBBINSDALE COOPER had a dream season in 2017-18. The Hawks ran the table in Metro West, and finished the regular season with a record of 24-2. From there, they went on to win their first ever girls basketball state championship. This season, Cooper will be without the services of 2018’s Jada Buford, Ty’neccia Longs and Ja’Hyia Gaston. But senior guard Aja Wheeler and sophomore standouts Kierra Wheeler and Andrea Tribble will all be back for the Hawks. It will be worth keeping an eye on Cooper’s transition from the elite-level speed and quickness that last year’s seniors possessed. But there’s little doubt that head coach Kiara Buford will have Cooper reloaded and looking towards another state tournament run.
THE HAWKS’ BIGGEST CHALLENGERS
Speaking of Hawks, CHASKA is coming off of roller-coaster season a year ago. The young squad started 0-8 before completely flipping the script and winning 9 of their last 11. The Hawks are looking to build off of last season’s experience for their returning core. Senior post Marissa Grothe looks to be much improved from a season ago. Kaylee VanEps and Destinee Bursch are a solid sophomore combo. And freshman Mallory Heyer is a top 3 player in the class of 2022. Heyer is an uber-talented, do-it-all player that led the team in scoring last year as an 8th grader. Chaska will go as these four go. If they are able to take a step forward in their collective development, it will be an exciting winter for the purple and gold.
ST. LOUIS PARK had a solid 17-9 record a year ago, but finished just 1-5 vs. Cooper, Chaska, and Chanhassen in Metro West play. The Orioles had an incredibly balanced scoring attack as seniors Lindsey Olson (MSU-Mankato commit) and Sophie Olmen, juniors Jordyn Turek and Shayla Miller, as well as sophomore Raegan Alexander all scored at least 7 points per game a year ago. They’ll all be back, along with sophomore Kendall Coley, who is a top 10 player in the class of 2021. SLP boasts what is arguably the deepest roster in the conference going into 2018-19.
DARK HORSE TEAMS
BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S finished 2017-18 with the same record as SLP at 17-9. Unlike the Orioles, though, BSM finished with a conference record of just 7-7. The Red Knights bring back the dynamic backcourt trio of Aiana Whitfield, Cheyenne Carter, and Isabel Fleming. The senior scorers will be one of the most experienced groups of guards in the conference. But the biggest news for BSM comes in the form of Fridley transfer Patience Williams. Williams averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers last year as a sophomore. She was a major stock-riser during the AAU season and could be the missing piece that puts the Red Knights in contention for a Metro West title.
CHANHASSEN had a similar start to their southern neighbors last year. The Storm lost 6 of their first 7 before righting the ship and finishing the season strong. This season, Chan will need to replace their leading scorer, Sidney Brastad. But returning juniors Tori Tollefson and Julia Gronholz should provide veteran leadership to the Storm. And Callin Hake is as well-rounded of a guard as you will find in the freshman class. She’s our preseason choice for breakout player of the year in the Metro West. PGH recently found out that Hake’s Minnesota Fury teammate Nicole Bowlin made the decision to start her high school career at Holy Family, which will be a big blow for the Storm this winter.
While Patience Williams is a huge addition for Benilde-St. Margaret’s, she is not the most heralded transfer in the Metro West. That honor belongs to BLOOMINGTON KENNEDY’s newest post, Destinee Oberg. Oberg is a top 3 player in the 2019 class and will be playing her college basketball at the University of Arkansas. The Holy Angels transfer makes Kennedy a fascinating team to watch. Between her, aggressive guard Zaraya March, and sharpshooter Samantha Husting, look for the Eagles to exceed expectations this season.
BLOOMINGTON JEFFERSON had a relatively balanced scoring attack a year ago, with five players averaging between seven and thirteen points per game. Logan Mahoney, Samantha Sunnarborg, and Alyssa Felt will lead the way for the Jaguars throughout their senior campaigns. Unfortunately, Jefferson will be without their leading scorer from a year ago. 2019 point guard Caroline Anderson tore her ACL and will miss most of, if not the entire year. Freshman Abby Titus will be another name to keep an eye on for the Jags this winter.
RICHFIELD lost their top two players from last year’s 3-22 team. Breanna Wendland averaged 19 points per game, and is now playing at Iowa Lakes Community College. Salem Maher is an uber-talented freshman who averaged over 17 points per game for the Spartans as an 8th grader. But she made the decision to transfer before her high school career began, and will be suiting up for Hopkins this winter. Wendland and Maher accounted for 65% of Richfield’s scoring a season ago.
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
Candidates are listed alphabetically
Mallory Heyer – Chaska – 2022
Destinee Oberg – Bloomington Kennedy – 2019
Lindsey Olson – St. Louis Park – 2019
Aja Wheeler – Robbinsdale Cooper – 2019
Aiana Whitfield – Benilde-St Margaret’s – 2019
Article cover photo courtesy of the Pioneer Press
Photo of Mallory Heyer courtesy of The Chaska Herald
Photo of Aja Wheeler courtesy of MN Girls Basketball Hub