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High School Boys Basketball Focus: Standouts, power rankings, top plays and games to watch

The first edition of the high school boys basketball focus. Five standouts, power rankings, top plays and upcoming games to watch.

Lewiston-Altura, St. Charles Boys Basketball
Lewiston-Altura’s Thomas Menk (23) blocks a shot from St. Charles’ Dominic Matthews (30) during a boys basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, at Lewiston-Altura High School in Lewiston.
Traci Westcott/Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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It's officially that time of the year: Basketball season.

Once again, gyms and arenas are full of fans after a season unlike any other a year before. So far, the boys basketball players from around the area have given them plenty to cheer about.

Let's take a look at some of those top performances and teams in the first edition of the High School Boys Basketball Focus for the 2021-22 season.

RELATED:

TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES

1. ISAAC MATTI, HAYFIELD

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Hayfield junior Isaac Matti is one of four returning starters back for the Vikings from last year's Class A state championship boys basketball team. Matti is the top scorer back for Hayfield. Post Bulletin file photo.
Jerry Olson

The junior has more than made up for the graduation of standout Ethan Slaathaug for the defending Class A state champions. Matti, a 6-foot-1 guard, is a great three-level scorer, averaging 21.5 points per game, shooting 50% from the field and 32% from 3-point range in helping the Vikings' to a 6-1 start. That offensive game was firing on all cylinders on Tuesday when he poured in 32 points, including his 1,000th career point, in Hayfield's 80-49 victory over Blooming Prairie.

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2. THOMAS MENK, LEWISTON-ALTURA

Lewiston-Altura, St. Charles Boys Basketball
Lewiston-Altura’s Thomas Menk (23) goes up for a shot during a boys basketball game against St. Charles Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, at Lewiston-Altura High School in Lewiston.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The 6-foot-4 senior sharpshooter was always one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the area. In fact, one is almost left surprised when the St. John's University commit doesn't sink an open look from beyond the arc, because it always looks like it's going in. But Menk's game has evolved beyond just a great shooter. My colleague Pat Ruff wrote a good story in this week's paper on Menk's development — one that has seen great improvements in his athleticism and ability to create his own shot.

It has led to a terrific start to his senior season.

He scored 35 points in the home opener against Cannon Falls, which came after a 29-point performance against Triton. He and fellow standout guard Collin Bonow could provide plenty of excitement in Lewiston and Altura this season.

3. JUSTIN RUBERG, RUSHFORD-PETERSON

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Rushford-Peterson senior Justin Ruberg (21) is a threat to average a double-double this season and is an area play to watch for in 2021-22. Post Bulletin file photo / Traci Westcott
Traci Westcott

Ruberg scored his 1,000th career point against Fillmore Central on Dec. 7 to kick off what should be a great senior season. The 6-foot-5 forward has a great game — one that combines great footwork and touch around the rim with the ability to knock down the 3-pointer.

He has already gone over 20 points in four of the five games with the latest being a 24-point performance in a 66-30 victory over Schaeffer Academy.

4. JUSTIN WOHLERS, LAKE CITY

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Lake City senior Justin Wohlers (5) is an area player to watch this season. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist
Joe Ahlquist

The 6-foot-6 senior had a fantastic football season at quarterback and appears to have transferred that momentum to the hardwood. Wohlers recorded a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds to go along with three assists, a block and a steal in the Tigers' 66-42 victory over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on Dec. 18. This came after he finished with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in a win over Kasson-Mantorville. In those two games, he has drilled nine 3-pointers.

5. JADEN WYSOCKI, CENTURY

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Jaden Wysocki (11) led Century in scoring a year ago and he should be primed for an even bigger season in 2021-22 as a senior. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist
Joe Ahlquist

The 6-foot-7 senior put up 25 points, while tallying five assists and four rebounds to help Century pick up a big win over Big Nine Conference foe Austin. The Minot (N.D.) State University commit has an extremely smooth game. He can take over at times on both ends of the court for a Panthers squad that is expected to be right in the thick of the Big Nine Conference.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Caledonia (5-0)

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Caledonia senior Eli King, who returns after missing his junior season with a knee injury, is an area player to watch this season. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist
Joe Ahlquist

The Warriors have looked every bit like the area's top team. After missing all of last season with a torn meniscus, Eli King appears back at 100% after missing all of last season with a torn meniscus, as proven by the multiple highlight-reel dunks thrown down by the Iowa State University commit. Yet, once again the Warriors are solid up and down their roster with the likes of Jackson Koepke, Reid Klug, Ja'shon Simpson and Thane Meiners. They already have impressive wins over Onalaska, Wis. (the defending Division 2 state runner-up), Stewartville and one of the best teams in Iowa, Aplington-Parkersburg. Caledonia will play at the Winona State holiday tournament, facing off against Prairie du Chien at 1 p.m. Monday before taking on Waseca 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

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2. Lewiston-Altura (6-0)

Lewiston-Altura, St. Charles Boys Basketball
Lewiston-Altura’s Thomas Menk (23) and St. Charles’ Benjamin Krohse (35) battle for a rebound during a boys basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, at Lewiston-Altura High School in Lewiston.
Traci Westcott/Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The Cardinals have been flying high so far this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 25 points behind an offense that averages close to 80 a contest. They have one of the best 1-2 combinations around in Thomas Menk and Collin Bonow. The race for the Three Rivers Conference title will be one to watch this season. The Cardinals play Alma/Pepin Wednesday at the Winona State holiday tournament.

3. Byron (6-1)

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Byron's Trent DeCook (20), going up for a shot during the season opener against Dover-Eyota on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, is a returning starter for the Bears, who won the Section 1AAA title a year ago. Post Bulletin file photo / Traci Westcott
Traci Westcott

The defending Section 1AAA champion has been impressive, with its only loss coming against Class AAAA school Buffalo at the Tip-Off Classic in Hopkins. The Bears are 3-0 in Hiawatha Valley League play, having beaten Lourdes, Pine Island and Cannon Falls. Byron has multiple bucket-getters in James Durst, Jaxon Marine and Trent DeCook, and another one to watch is sophomore point guard Tyler Connelly. He had 18 points and six assists in the Bears' 84-68 win over Enderlin (N.D.). The Bears had a big early season road game against Stewartville on Thursday night, too.

4. Century (3-2)

The Panthers have the size, athleticism and guard play to contend in an extremely tough Big Nine Conference this season. They dropped their first two games against Farmington and top-10 ranked Owatonna but have now won three in a row after a big 68-65 win over Austin in their home opener. Jaden Wysocki led the way with 25 points, while senior guard Jub Ogak added 22 points and five rebounds. Ogak has led the Panthers in scoring in three of their five games. Century will play Bloomington Kennedy and Lake City at next week's Rotary Holiday Classic at the Mayo Civic Center.

5. La Crescent-Hokah (4-0)

The Lancers picked up one of their more impressive wins when they knocked off Three Rivers Conference foe Rushford-Peterson in overtime 47-45 on Dec. 17. They overcame a 28-14 halftime deficit against the Trojans, who were ranked No. 3 in Class A by Minnesota Basketball News. Carter Todd and Parker McQuin are a great duo who play well together. But the Lancers thrive on the defensive end, where they can offer opponents different looks. They have allowed just 48 points per game this season.

6. Stewartville (4-1)

The No. 1 question for the Tigers entering this season was, how will they play without the 30 points and 11 rebounds per game that current University of Michigan freshman Will Tschetter averaged last season. Thanks to another Tschetter, it appears Stewartville will be OK. Henry Tschetter, Will's younger brother, has come through, joining forces with Tegan Malone to help Stewartville to impressive wins over Lake City, Lourdes and Pine Island. Malone and Tschetter each average 11 points per game. Their one loss came against Caledonia, 79-61, but they will have a chance for some quality wins in the Rotary Holiday Classic with games against St. Croix Central and Mayo.

7. Rushford-Peterson (3-2)

Schaeffer Academy, Rushford-Peterson boys basketball
Rushford-Peterson’s Justin Ruberg (21) goes up for a shot defended by Schaeffer Academy’s Aidan Kluth (15) during a boys basketball game Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, at Schaeffer Academy in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The Trojans were ranked No. 3 in Class A after a 2-0 start that included an impressive 51-47 victory over Hayfield on Dec. 9. Yet, R-P dropped its next two by a combined three points to La Crescent-Hokah (47-45, OT) and Decorah, Iowa (49-48) on back-to-back nights. Justin Ruberg finished with 24 points in the Trojans' 66-30 victory over Schaeffer Academy to snap the two-game slide. R-P hosts its holiday tournament with Spring Grove, Randolph and Dover-Eyota participating in the two day event that tips off at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

8. Hayfield (6-1)

The defending Class A state champions dropped their first game since March 11, 2021, when they fell to Rushford-Peterson by four. But even with the graduation of Ethan Slaathaug and his 1,800 career points, the Vikings still have more than enough firepower in Isaac Matti, Easton Fritcher and Ethan Pack leading the way. Those three average a combined 51 of the Vikings' 73 points so far.

9. Mayo (2-2)

The Spartans started the year with two wins against solid teams in New Prague and John Marshall. Then Mayo dropped two straight to perennial powers Mankato West and Mankato East. They have one of the better players in the area in 6-foot-6 guard Makuei Riek, who scored 29 points in the season opener. We will find out a lot about the Spartans in the next couple weeks as they take on Minneapolis Henry and Byron in this year's Rotary Holiday Classic before facing off against Red Wing, Owatonna and Lakeville South in the coming weeks.

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10. Lake City (4-1)

The Tigers have already played five conference games, earning quality wins over Goodhue and Kasson-Mantorville. Their only loss came against Stewartville, 65-61, on the road on Dec. 9, which prevents them from being higher on this list. Lake City is a just a good team. It has a solid trio in Justin Wohlers, Hunter Lorenson and Ryan Heise and good depth with players like Carson Matzke and Keegan Ryan. As a team, the Tigers can really shoot the 3-pointer, having knocked down 21 in their last two games. They play New Richmond (Wis.) and Century in the Rotary Holiday Classic.

Honorable Mention: Plainview-Elgin-Millville (4-0, average margin of victory of 31 points), Spring Grove (4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Southeast Conference).

TOP PLAYS

It's going to be a fun ride this season for fans of the Lewiston-Altura boys this season. Check out this connection from Collin Bonow to Thomas Menk in the Cardinals' 91-38 victory over St. Charles on Dec. 14.

A healthy Eli King means plenty of highlights like these return.

Here's another one for good measure. It's good to have him back.

Mayo's Makuei Riek can fly, too. A lot of great guards this season around the area.

UPCOMING GAMES TO WATCH

With Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, the area has the weekend off before getting into holiday tournaments the following week.

The 2021 Rotary Holiday Classic returns this season with a great slate of games over two days at the Mayo Civic Center. Mayo, Century, John Marshall, Lourdes, Lake City, Stewartville and Byron are the area teams, while Minneapolis Henry, New Richmond (Wis.), St. Croix Central, St. Croix Prep, Bloomington Kennedy round out the rest of the field. It tips off 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.

2021 Holiday Rotary Classic schedule

There are a number of holiday tournaments outside the Rotary Classic with Winona State University hosting their annual holiday tournament, Rushford-Peterson is hosting a holiday tournament as well as St. Charles.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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