Posted On: 11/22/19 11:44 PM

Thursday was opening night in Minnesota girls high school basketball, with 25 games on the docket and a handful of potentially interesting match-ups. By the time the evening was done, however, 24 games had been played and most of them were rather one-sided affairs. The game that disappeared from the schedule was one we had highlighted in our preview of Thursday night’s action featuring Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart vs Glencoe-Silver Lake.

Turns out GSL made a scheduling error and was forced to cancel. Apparently the folks from Glencoe forgot to schedule one of their required conference games. Had they played the non-conference contest against BLHS it would have put GSL over the 26-game limit. Although it was an honest mistake, of course, it was Buffalo Lake that paid the price.

Regardless of all that, we learned a few things on opening night. Here are 5 of those things:

#1. Not all teams are created equal

Every year during the first round of section play in February we see some incredibly lopsided results. That’s inevitable with a system set up by the Minnesota State High School League that lets everyone participate in the post-season and requires the top teams to play the bottom ones. It also happens in November, however, when the games are purely optional and organized by the programs involved. That was certainly evident Thursday and there were a number of games decided by 30 points or more.

Perhaps the most-obvious example was St. Paul Como Park’s 85-15 win over Minneapolis Edison. The Cougars led 60-5 at the half. Ouch. It wasn’t much better in Cottage Grove where Park High School rolled over the Polars of North St. Paul 72-15. Double ouch. Here are three more examples:

  • Lake City rolled St. Charles by 37 in a 62-25 win. Lily Meincke, the #52-ranked player In the Prep Girls Hoops class of 2022, scored 15 points to lead Lake City. Natalie Bremer, another highly-rated sophomore at #60, scored 12 points for the Tigers as did Ava Wallerich.
  • Austin jumped out to a 29-4 lead over Rochester Century in the first 11 minutes en route to a 71-39 victory. Sophomore guard Hope Dudycha led the Packers with 20 points while her twin sister Emma Dudycha scored 12. Senior Kyra Walters also hit double digits with 10 points.
  • Orono opened its season with a 69-36 win over Dassel-Cokato. Junior Julia Knudson had 16 points to lead the Spartans. Delano transfers Haley Paulson and Kaila Youngs made their debuts for the Spartans and had 11 and 5 points respectively.

In fairness not all of the games Thursday were one-sided affairs. There were a handful of five- and six-point victories. St. Paul Academy won by a single bucket over Avail Academy. The final was 40-38.

Junior Sydney Manthana of Rockford

#2. Things don’t always go according to plan

I was at Washburn High School in South Minneapolis for the Millers’ season-opener against the Rockford Rockets. It was supposed to be a match-up of Washburn’s 6’2 senior forward Kesha White and Rockford’s hard-nosed 5’9 forward Ava Cusciota. Last time they met was two years ago and White put up 32 points and nearly 20 rebounds, so guarding her was obviously going to be a daunting task. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan.

Cusciota got into foul trouble immediately. The first two were ticky tacky calls at best. The third was a careless swat on Ava’s part. That put Cusciota on the bench just six minutes into the game, opening the door for White to do damage. Except that’s not what happened. 5’10 sophomore Aliyah Robran inherited the task of guarding White and she did an admirable job. By the time the game reached halftime Rockford was up 26-15.

The second half featured more of the same. Cusciota returned, White was neutralized and the Rockets cruised to a 70-40 victory. Sweet-shooting point guard Sydney Manthana led the Rockets from start to finish. The box score says she had 15; the scoreboard said 20. Either way she was really good as was junior Sara Byers, who is being recruited as a Division 1 track athlete. Robran finished with 11 points while Jayden Lark had 10. Senior Kari Johnson led Washburn with 10.

Kesha White of Minneapolis Washburn

#3. It’s a long road back from ACL surgery

We were excited to see Kesha White back on the court on opening night. The big forward from Washburn is oozing with talent, length and athleticism. She has D1 size and a frame to match. Kesha entered the Prep Girls Hoops rankings 18 months ago with a ton of promise. White was gradually developing her skills last year and making good progress when she was sidelined by a torn ACL that caused her to miss the high school season. As we learned once again on Thursday, it can be a long road back from knee surgery. Little seemed to go Kesha’s way. Normally White is a put-back machine, but on this night her timing was off and she missed a number of clean opportunities to score at the rim. She still pulled down some big rebounds but everything was just a little out of sync. We’re hopeful that when Kesha gets her conditioning back, and regains her scoring touch, that she will achieve her potential with is rather substantial.

#4. Not all 7th graders play like 7th graders

Last week we told you about little Addison Mack, the 7th grade point guard who was set to make her varsity debut for the Blake School on Thursday against Mayer Lutheran. What a debut it turned out to be. Mack nailed five 3-pointers for Blake and scored 23 points in her inaugural appearance. “Addi is a smart player who has a very high basketball IQ,” said Blake coach Jim DeSart. “The poise and court awareness is impressive for a 7th grader. Starting varsity did not phase her one bit. She had a very nice game.”

Mack also had 7 steals. Unfortunately things did not go quite so well for the team as a whole. Blake was out-rebounded by a margin of 22 and Mayer Lutheran departed with a 62-50 win.

#5. More new kids on the block are making their presence known

Addi Mack wasn’t the only youngster who turned in an grade-A performance on opening night. Freshman Kyra Miller came in like a Lion, too. A Providence Academy Lion, specifically. The 5’9 guard, who is a product of the Edina youth system, scored 15 points Thursday in her first varsity game to lead Providence to a 53-46 win over Maranatha. With a 5 p.m. start, this one went in the books as the first official victory of the 2019-20 season. Miller made three triples in the second half, including one in the late stages to ice it. 5’11 forward Maria Counts, herself just a sophomore, had 14 for the Lions. On the other side of the court 9th grader Chloe Jarnot scored 16 to lead the Mustangs while 7th grader Maliyah White made four threes in her first varsity game for 12 points. Like we said, the new kids are making their presence felt.

Meanwhile, Caledonia scored a 69-24 win over Spring Grove in the first game of the post-Katie Tornstrom era. They were led by another freshman as Alexis Schroeder scored 23 points in the win while her fellow 9th grader Paige Klug had 15. Remember when kids had to wait until they were juniors to play big minutes? Yeah me neither.

Top photo: 10th grader Maria Counts (left) and 9th grader Kyra Miller (center) made their presence felt on opening night for Providence Academy. That earned them a post-game broadcast interview with Mike Peden of TSB Television.