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1AAAA Boys aust 2-27

SECTION 1AAAA

Owatonna team to beat

Owatonna was the obvious favorite in Section One, Class AAAA. At least it was until the past month, when Mankato West and Mayo both beat the Huskies. Still, led by star guard Drew Lundberg and solid size inside, Owatonna is still the team to beat, if only by a little bit. The Huskies have been a top-10 state ranked team all season. There is plenty of parity in this section, however, with all three Rochester public schools and Rosemount considered legitimate contenders for the title.

Owatonna (22-2) has been the only team in Section 1AAAA that has been ranked in the state’s top 10 this season. Still, the Huskies aren’t without vulnerabilities. When star guard Drew Lundberg (21 ppg, 45 percent shooting, 52 percent from 3-point distance) cools with his shooting, as he did recently in a loss to Rochester Mayo, Owatonna isn’t as scary. The 6-foot-2 Lundberg is headed to Northern Iowa on a Division I scholarship. Owatonna has size to go with him, with 6-7 sophomore forward Kyle Melcher (13 ppg, 10 rpg), and 6-7 center Jack Raney (12 ppg, 6 rpg). Owatonna is scoring 67 points per game and giving up 51. The Huskies, who were the No. 1 seed last year when they fell in the first round to Rochester Century, also lost to Mankato West this season.

Rochester Mayo (15-9) has maybe the best 1-2 combination in the section in 6-6 junior forward Jordan Hicks and 6-7 junior center Lucas Kuipers. Hicks averages 15 points and seven rebounds, while Kuipers averages 14 points and nine rebounds. Rebounding has been something Mayo has excelled at all season, out-boarding its opponents 33-22 per game. Mayo, which followed up an impressive win over Owatonna on Feb. 17 with a lackluster loss to Mankato West three days later, has played excellent basketball the last month. It’s won 10 of its last 11. Helping that along has been more balanced scoring, particularly with key contributions from forwards Andrew Valen and Sharmarke Hamud.

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Lakeville South (13-11) has had a season full of turmoil. Its head coach, Rochester native Matt Addington, was replaced by freshman coach Larry Thompson following Addington’s actions in the wake of a Jan. 26 loss. Addington said his frustrations had been building over the last two seasons and were not based on that Jan. 26 loss, which happened at the buzzer to Owatonna. Lakeville South has lost five of its last nine since then. The Cougars, who got off to a 6-0 start this season, are led by multi-athletic star Marcus Brumm. The 6-4 senior averages 18 points and nine rebounds, but has averaged 29 points over his last five games. Guard Brady Soule is a 1,000-point scorer for Lakeville South. The Cougars made it to the state Class AAA tournament last year.

John Marshall (11-11) does one thing really well, and another thing not nearly well enough. The Rockets’ specialty is rebounding, out-boarding its foes by an average of 36-24 per game. The problem area has been turnovers. JM loses the ball 19 times per game. The Rockets are led by 6-9, 295-pound center Nick Faber. He averages 12 points and seven rebounds. Shooting guard Josh Reynolds is getting healthier after knee surgery in early January and is averaging 10 ppg, while 6-5 forward Sam Kenyi averages nine points and six rebounds. JM is likely the biggest team in Section 1AAAA. The Rockets are hopeful that Reynolds will continue to get better and better at the close of this season. He’s the team’s best athlete and best shooter.

Century (11-12) has certainly had its moments this season, beating Mayo once, beating John Marshall twice, and falling by just one point two weeks ago at powerful Mankato West. However, the Panthers are one game under .500 mainly because they have trouble hitting shots. Leading scorers are 6-5 forward Marcus Allen (14 ppg), 6-4 center Grant Ignatius (10 ppg) and point guard Matt Deedrick (10 ppg). Allen and Ignatius are the team’s top rebounders.

Rosemount (8-16) has some quality wins, including beating Eden Prairie, Lakeville South and Eastview. The Irish are led by a pack of juniors. Andrew Brommer, a 6-8 forward, averages 16 points and eight rebounds. Guard Mark Wieloch averages 16 ppg and five rebounds, and Troy Hoeppner averages seven points and five rebounds. Rosemount’s strengths are its size and depth. One problem has been consistently handling pressure defenses.

Lakeville North (8-16) has had some success against good teams, including beating Mayo to begin the season. The Panthers have won their last two, beating Rosemount and Chaska. Lakeville North’s biggest problem has been its overall youth and inexperience, and a lack of rebounding strength. Its best players are junior guard Nick Judkins (12 ppg), 6-3 sophomore forward Tyler Swanson (11 ppg, 9 rpg), junior guard Derek Hahn (11 ppg) and 6-7 sophomore forward David Berthene (9 ppg).

Farmington (10-14) is familiar with at least one Section 1AAAA team, having been whipped by Mayo 67-45 on Dec. 9. The Tigers are led by 6-3 sophomore guard Josh Zitzmann, at 13 ppg. Derek Nowacki, a 6-5 forward, scores 12 ppg and 6-2 forward Jason Perkins scores 8 ppg. Farmington has lost five of its last seven games.

Hastings (2-22) has struggled all season despite being balanced. Jon Lorentz scores 15 ppg, Trent Vedders 13 ppg. and Chris Hall 11 ppg. Hastings’ tallest player is just 6-1. Hastings loves to shoot 3-pointers, averaging 25 attempts from there a game (37 percent).

Pat Ruff

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