The Week that Was #6: It was a festive four days of holiday basketball across Minnesota

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Posted On: 12/30/18 11:04 PM

The number of unbeaten teams in class 4A dwindled to just four this week, including 8-0 Farmington. Should we be surprised by the Tigers’ success to date? I think not. Not after watching their participation in Holiday Tournament Week on Saturday. It was my first opportunity to see the team in person this season, and the player introductions alone provided plenty of evidence why Farmington is winning. The Tigers’ starting lineup is loaded with five scholarship-level players, at least four of whom seem destined for Division 1.

Farmington senior Kaitlin Winston will play next season for the University of Northern Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Source)
  • Senior Kaitlin Winston is a mobile, athletic 6-foot post who has already signed with the University of Northern Iowa. She is a graduate of Minnesota Suns Jefferson.
  • Junior Molly Mogensen is a physical point guard who has proven herself at the highest levels of AAU with the top Fury 2020 team. She is #11 in the Prep Girls Hoops 2020 rankings.
  • At 6’4 with a huge frame and blossoming skills, sophomore center Sophie Hart has Big 10 offers in her pocket already. She plays for the top 2021 Fury squad and is rated 12th in her class.
  • 5’9 guard Paige Kindseth is a super-athletic player who can score in a numerous ways. She’s rated 18th among Minnesota sophomores and plays summer ball with Minnesota Stars Hersch.
  • Sophomore guard Peyton Blandin is an outstanding three-point shooter with excellent skills and quick feet. She played for North Tartan last summer and is ranked 43rd in her class.

After beating Grand Rapids by 22 on Friday night, Farmington was very impressive Saturday at the St. Olaf tournament as they blew host Northfield off the court by a score of 73-44.  Kindseth was 7 for 12 for 16 points and had 8 rebounds. Blandin and Mogensen scored 15 points apiece, while Hart had 8 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. Winston was 8 and 5. Juniors Morgan Ebel and Kate Mohr offered nice bench support, and there appears to be more available depth beyond that.

The one thing Farmington lacks is experience. They’ll no doubt be tested on Thursday by another much-improved squad in Rosemount, but the real tests are scheduled for Jan. 18 and Feb. 14 when the Tigers face Eastview. We’ll find out then if Farmington is a legitimate contender to represent Section 1AAAA, which also includes Lakeville North and Rochester John Marshall.

One of these things is not like the other

Besides Farmington, there are three other unbeaten teams in class 4A: Wayzata (12-0), Hopkins (10-0) and Robbinsdale Armstrong (8-0). Wayzata added to its perfect record by winning the Hill-Murray tournament. Hopkins and Armstrong took the holidays off. Remember the old Sesame Street game, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things isn’t the same”? We don’t need Big Bird to teach us that Armstrong’s track record is not quite the same as Hopkins and Wayzata. No offense to standout seniors Carly Krsul and Masengo Mutanda but reality is likely to come crashing home shortly. The Falcons’ next three opponents are Maple Grove, Park Center and Eden Prairie. The other 4A unbeaten to fall this week was John Marshall who are now 9-1 following a 20-point loss to Rosemount.

And then there was one

The extension of Wayzata’s winning streak meant the demise of Hill-Murray’s perfect start in 3A. The Pioneers have played some great basketball so far this year winning their first 10 games, including a convincing win Friday over Forest Lake. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, H-M simply doesn’t have the horses to hang with Wayzata – who does?! – and the Trojans proved it with a 67-42 win. Waseca also lost for the first time, falling 51-44 to Red Wing at the Winona tournament. Waseca had an 11-point lead at one time but the Wingers’ strategy of bottling up Bluejays sniper Gus Boyer paid off as the top-30 junior was held to just three shots. Boyer played all 36 minutes for Waseca while Red Wing kept cycling defenders in and out to contain her. It worked and Waseca is now 10-1. Kudos to Red Wing 8th grader Sydnee Nelson and junior Elle Thorson who led the defensive effort.

That leaves 9-0 Alexandria as the only 3A program with an unblemished record since the Cards racked up two more victories over the holidays against Roseau and Sauk Centre. It’s interesting to note the comparative strength of schedule of the 3A contenders. According to our numbers guru Todd Goudy, Hill-Murray has had the 6th most difficult schedule to date while Waseca’s is rated 13th. Alexandria’s schedule is much weaker, however, at 26th. Todd’s magic rankings formula now puts Hill-Murray at #1, Waseca at #2 and Alexandria at #3 with Benilde-St. Margaret’s and New Ulm rounding out the top 5. Have a look at the updated team rankings to see the latest data.

All five unbeaten teams in class 2A held on to their perfect records. The only class A team to drop off the list was Cromwell-Wright, which fell 57-49 to their rivals from Mountain Iron-Buhl.

Rebekah Dahlman of Braham and Carlie Wagner of NRHEG are two of the greatest scorers in the history of Minnesota basketball. (Photo courtesy of Mankato Free Press)

1,000 is 1,000 is 1,000… or is it?

The run of 1,000-point scorers continued this week with Taylor McAulay of Centennial, Lauren Jensen of Lakeville North and Emily Russo of New Prague surpassing the magic number. Makenna Steffel of BOLD topped 2,000 points this week. McAulay hit the mark in dramatic fashion as she landed a mid-court three as the halftime buzzer sounded Friday night at the Roseville tournament. She went on to score 37 points on the night. Jensen needed 13 points to reach 1,000 on Friday night at Park Center. She scored a school-record 42 in the game against Cretin-Derham Hall just to be certain.

It’s hard to believe that two players as accomplished as McAulay and Jensen hadn’t hit 1,000 before now. When you consider the realities of playing 4A ball for a premier team, however, it becomes clear that not all 1,000-point scorers are created equal. First of all, both Centennial and Lakeville North play killer schedules so they are always up against the best defenders. In the course of a typical season, a player on most class A teams might face a handful of Division 1-bound players, but Jensen and McAulay are up against those types of players pretty much every night.

The other factor is how strong their own teams have been, which means the ball needs to be shared and the points more evenly distributed. Any one player is far less likely to dominate the score sheet on a top-10 team. None of these facts detract from the small-town heroes we have admired over the years – players like Carlie Wagner, Rebekah Dahlman or Madison McKeever who had more than 10,000 points between them. All three are amazing players. With Lakeville North now having to rely more heavily on Jensen than in previous years, it’s possible that she’ll reach 2,000 before she is done. If the junior stays healthy (fingers crossed!!), Lauren will probably play another 45 or so high school games, meaning she would need to average about 22 points per game to hit 2,000. Her current average is 26.9.

A thriving threesome

We told you about 2020 wing Myia Ruzek of Lewiston-Altura in our pre-Christmas recap of the HVL-TRC Showdown in Rochester. I’m really high on her potential. Well last Wednesday, Ruzek made us look pretty smart by scoring 38 of her team’s 48 points as they beat Lanesboro by 16. It was her third time over 30 this season, and raised her average to 24 ppg. Lewiston-Altura is now 6-5 having won four games in a row, which is amazing when you consider that in the 5 years prior to Ruzek’s emergence, Lewiston-Altura had won a total of 3 conference games.

We also wrote about 9th grader Sadie Voss of Jackson County Central in our recap of the Big South Showcase a couple of weeks back. I loved what I saw from Sadie that day and believe she has tremendous potential. Voss proved that again over the holidays, leading her team with career high 20 points on Friday at the tournament in Blue Earth. Less than 24 hours later, Voss upped her high-water mark again with 27, including 5 three-pointers. Remember, this is a 9th grader who has not been focused on basketball.

Sophomore Marissa Radtke of Lester Prairie-Holy Trinity is off to a great start this season. The speedy guard is averaging about 23 ppg while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The 5’6 combo guard is rated 88th in the state in the 2021 class. She was ranked much higher at one point before going through a bit of a rough patch last winter. A summer with Grace Dickman’s North Tartan team appears to have done wonders for Radtke’s confidence. Thanks to Kip Kovar at the Herald-Journal for sharing the info on Marissa.

What’s coming up this week

There were nearly 250 high school games played in a four-day period this past week. No, we didn’t see them all but we did manage to attend tournaments at New London, Park Center, Roseville and St. Olaf. Mother Nature scuttled our plans to take in the Tri-City United event. That brings my total number of teams seen this season to 92. We’ll publish four items over the next few days highlighting the top 10 individual performances in each of the four classes.

Games to Watch

It’s a short week once again. We’ll get our first look at Richfield on Wednesday when they face Edina. On Thursday we’ll likely take in Farmington and Rosemount. There are some great outstate games, too, with Fergus Falls at Alexandria, Mesabi East at Duluth Marshall, New Prague at Hutchinson and Rochester John Marshall at Mankato West.

On Friday you can choose from Forest Lake at Roseville, Eastview at Apple Valley, Minnetonka at Edina or Centennial at Park Center. Burnsville at Shakopee should be good, too. On Saturday we might just head north for a what promises to be a lot of fun: Red Lake at Mountain Iron-Buhl. If you are into offense, you may want to join me. If not, Mankato West at Waseca will be a great one, too.

As always, if you know of players we need to see, or news you think we should share, please drop me a message on Twitter (@gmachoops) or via email (gmachoops@gmail.com).

Top photo: Point guard Molly Mogensen, the #11-rated junior in Minnesota, is one of the primary reasons why the Farmington Tigers are 8-0. (Photo courtesy of StarTribune)