Posted On: 11/27/19 2:25 PM

Folks who haven’t seen this year’s lineup for the 4th Twin Cities Thanksgiving Tipoff tournament at the University of St. Thomas might do a double take. That’s because the event, which has traditionally included only Catholic Schools from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, has nullified the separation of church and state to include public school programs from the Twin Cities and beyond. St. Agnes and Rochester Lourdes are out, and Eastview, Anoka, Grand Rapids and Crosby-Ironton are in. The now 16-team tournament will be played Friday and Saturday at UST’s Schoenecker Arena.

Here’s a rundown on the three best games to see, 10 top players to watch and the complete schedule.

TOP 3 GAMES TO WATCH

Friday at 2:15 p.m. – Holy Angels (Richfield) vs Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul)

Always a great rivalry, this contest has a different look this year thanks largely to a revamped lineup for Cretin-Derham Hall. The most obvious change is the graduation of forward Frannie Hottinger, a top-5 player in the 2019 class. The Miss Basketball finalist, is playing at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Cretin is now led by Tartan High School transfer Takara Mason, a top-60 prospect in the 2021 class who led CDH to a stunning come-from-behind win over St. Louis Park last weekend. She’s joined by another ex-Tartan player in senior guard Nevaeh Moeschter, a top-100 senior. Junior Audrey Martinez-Stewart is a key contributor, as are seniors Sydney Jackson, Anna Caruso and Ana Cullen. Freshman Tootie Lewis started last weekend.

Holy Angels has graduated Alex Walker and Emma Maestre, but the Stars are still led by junior Frankie Vascellaro, who is the #19 prospect in the class of 2021. Frankie is a consistent scorer, who contributes to the team in so many different ways. Vascellaro’s mid-range game is as good as anyone in the state, and she averaged 21 points and 8 rebounds per game last season. Holy Angels has a strong junior class that includes twin sisters Emma Henry and Isabelle Henry, 5’10 power forward Rachel Kawiecki, 6’0 forward Rebecca Little and crafty guard Cherish Henderson. Top-50 sophomore Kassie Caron appears ready for a breakthrough season.

Saturday at 11:00 a.m. – Benilde-St. Margaret’s (St. Louis Park) vs Holy Family (Victoria)

This contest features a match-up of two of the brightest young prospects on the state: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 8th grader Olivia Olson and Holy Family 9th grader Sophi Hall. The 6-foot Olson has incredible length, terrific touch and elite-level athleticism. I’m told she is also one of the best soccer goalkeepers around. We’ve written plenty about the 6’0 Hall this year. Sophi is ranked #19 in the freshman class. She’s long and athletic, has a natural flair for the game and has near-limitless potential. Chances are, however, that the veterans will make their presence felt, too.

For Benilde that would be seniors Patience Williams and Makenzie Swann. Williams is a top-20 player in the senior class. At 6’1 she is uber-athletic, and after a summer of playing against the very best players in the country on behalf of North Tartan EYBL she is battle-hardened. Swann is a terrific shooter. Talented sophomore Anisa Wolf should be an impact player this season. Holy Family is led by #26 sophomore Nicole Bowlin, a shifty point guard who just might be the best passer in Minnesota not named Paige Bueckers. Sophomore guard Lucy Hertel has been very good this fall. Senior Grace Elander nailed a buzzer beater on opening night to give Holy Family a one-point victory over Heritage Christian.

North Tartan forward Courtney Becker of LaCrosse Aquinas.

Saturday at 3:45 p.m. – DeLaSalle (Minneapolis) vs Aquinas (LaCrosse, Wisc.)

The defending class 3A state champions from DeLaSalle will take to the floor this week for the first time in the 2019-20 season. On Saturday they will face another state champion in Aquinas from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The visitors are loaded with skill, including 5’10 senior guard Lexi Donarski, who committed to Iowa State before she had even reached high school. 6’0 forward Courtney Becker is no stranger to Minnesota. The Drake commit is a long-time member of the North Tartan program, where she was a mainstay on the top team. If Courtney was from Minnesota there’s no question she would be ranked in our top 20. Donarski would be top 10.

DeLaSalle brings plenty of firepower to the encounter, as well. The Islanders are led by point guard Kiani Lockett, the #13-rated sophomore in Minnesota. The 5’9 Lockett has terrific handles, amazing court vision and is one of the best outside shooters around. She’s joined by fellow top-drawer sophomores Savannah White (#16), Sydney Runsewe (#19) and power forward Mya Williams (#31). Big forward Nurjei Weems is a top-20 senior. Newcomer Kennedy Klick is going to be great. The 6’0 wing is ranked 10th in Minnesota’s freshman class. Top 10 junior Nora Francois is currently sidelined.

10 MORE PLAYERS TO SEE

Here are 10 more players not mentioned above who we should all pay attention to.

  • Cassidy Carson – junior guard, Eastview (South Dakota)(#7)
  • Taryn Hamling – freshman guard, Grand Rapids (#20)
  • Brynn Schwanz – senior forward, Eastview (St. Thomas) (#31)
  • Lilli Mackley – junior guard, Hill-Murray (#31)
  • Leah Dengerud – sophomore guard, Totino-Grace (#42)
  • Bella Hartzell – junior guard, Hill-Murray (#63)
  • Lily Peterson – junior guard, Crosby-Ironton (#76)
  • Ella Runyon – sophomore guard, Hill-Murray (#85)
  • Maria Counts – sophomore forward, Providence Academy (#89)
  • Carla Meyer – senior guard, Totino-Grace (#105)

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Friday

  • 9:30 a.m. – Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs Providence Academy
  • 11:00 a.m. – Holy Family vs Totino-Grace
  • 12:30 p.m. – Visitation vs Crosby-Ironton
  • 2:15 p.m. – Holy Angels vs Cretin-Derham Hall
  • 3:45 p.m. – Anoka vs Grand Rapids
  • 5:30 p.m. – Winona Cotter vs Hill-Murray
  • 7:00 p.m. – Aquinas (LaCrosse, Wisc.) vs Eastview
  • 8:30 p.m. – DeLaSalle vs Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, Iowa)

Saturday

  • 9:30 a.m. – Totino-Grace vs Crosby-Ironton
  • 11:00 a.m. – Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs Holy Family
  • 12:30 p.m. – Providence Academy vs Grand Rapids
  • 2:15 p.m. – Dowling Catholic vs Holy Angels
  • 3:45 p.m. – DeLaSalle vs Aquinas
  • 5:30 p.m. – Visitation vs Winona Cotter
  • 7:00 p.m. – Anoka vs Cretin-Derham Hall
  • 8:30 p.m. – Eastview vs Hill-Murray

Top photo: Senior point guard Carla Meyer leads Totino-Grace into the Twin Cities Thanksgiving Tipoff. (Photo courtesy of StarTribune)