Caledonia is just two wins away from securing a Class AA state title. Minneapolis North stands in its way from playing in the state championship game. Both Caledonia (22-1) and North (15-1) cruised in the state quarterfinals, and they'll face off Wednesday in a heavyweight bout that has all the makings of a classic game.
“I think we’re playing really well right now,” Caledonia's Sam Privet said. “We just have to keep moving forward and get a little bit better every day.”
Caledonia and Minneapolis North met in the regular season a year ago with the Warriors winning 87-85.
“We know what they bring to the table,” Privet said. “So we just have to figure some things out in practice and I think we’ll be ready to go.”
CLASS AA STATE SEMIFINALS
Who: Caledonia (22-1) vs. Minneapolis North (15-1).
When: Wednesday, 2 p.m.
Where: Target Center.
Caledonia's projected starters
G Jackson Koepke: Koepke is the fifth or so guy on the scouting report, but he doesn’t care; he’s rolling right now. He scored a team-high 22 points in Caledonia’s romp over St. Croix Prep in the state quarterfinals. Koepke can do a little bit of everything on the floor. When Caledonia is getting double-digit points from Koepke, it's all but unbeatable.
G Austin Klug: Klug has battled injuries, but when he's on the floor, he's usually the best player out there. He’s a sniper from 3-point range, but he’s more than just a shooter. Klug has a fabulous all-around game. He has a smooth mid-range jumper in his repertoire, and when he gets out in transition he becomes even more dangerous.
G Andrew Kunelius: Kunelius has to be one of the most improved players in the state. He's gone from a seventh man to the second-best player on a championship-caliber team. After Eli King went down with a knee injury and Klug sustained a foot injury, Kunelius stepped up and played the top role, delivering multiple 30-point performances. That’s not his role now that Klug is back. Caledonia has so many shot-creators, and on any given night, Kunelius could take the keys to the Warriors’ offense.
F Casey Schultz: Nobody guarded Stewartville superstar Will Tschetter better than Schultz this season. He’s got the length, strength and speed to be able to guard anyone on the floor. His defensive versatility is an incredible asset and he’s stronger than anyone who guards him, so when he gets to the rim, Schultz is usually finishing through any form of contact. He still has the long-range jumper in his bag, so he’s a tough cover.
C Sam Privet: Privet might have the highest upside of anyone in Caledonia outside of Eli King. The 6-foot-8 big man can shoot from downtown (three 3-pointers against St. Croix Prep) while also blocking shots, running like a deer in transition and finishing around the basket. He’s a new-age big man who fits in seamlessly with Caledonia’s high-level guards.
North’s projected starters
G Clifford Brown III: Brown can fill it up from 3-point distance with his clean, lefty stroke. He’s probably the Polars’ best shooter but he doesn’t do a ton off the bounce.
G Andre Gray II: Gray is a big part of the Polars’ suffocating defense. He’s not a huge scorer, but he’s more than serviceable offensively –– 12 points vs. Moose Lake-Willow River in the Class AA quarterfinals.
G Willie Wilson: Wilson is the Polars’ top guard. He loves to create off the bounce using high pick-and-rolls with Davon Downley Jr. They’re a terrific 1-2 punch. Wilson will seek out contact and finish through it. The versatile guard can post up on the block and tear the rim off in transition. Wilson is ranked 215th in the Class of 2022 according to 247Sports. Wilson and Eli King are two of Minnesota’s top guards in the entire class. He’s really good and only getting better.
F Davon Townley Jr.: The 6-foot-7 big man dropped 14 points on Moose Lake-Willow River in the quarterfinals. The senior is a physical beast. He’s got a great feel for the game and knows when to slice to the rim for easy buckets. He's also a menace on the glass. If Caledonia doesn’t box him out, it'll be in for a long night. But Schultz matches up really well with him. Those are two tough, bruisers who hate losing and play with an edge.
F Marcus Owens: Owens is a 6-foot-7 forward who doesn’t have the ball in his hands a ton so he leans on his guards to get him the ball in advantageous positions inside. The senior has good touch around the rim and can also really pass when he’s going to work on the block. Owens is a great rim protector so Caledonia can’t be weak around the basket or he will block shots into the fourth row of Target Center. Privet will likely get the assignment of guarding him, and that’ll be a great matchup between two big men that can really do it all.
Keys to the game
Offense: Limit live-ball turnovers.
Minneapolis North’s defense relies on turning up the pressure. Owens and Townley Jr. don’t give up many easy looks on the inside, so the Polars can play some zone and try to funnel things in the direction of their 6-7 twin towers. Their guards can be extra aggressive because they know they have help. But Caledonia can handle the pressure because all five guys on the floor can not only shoot it, but more importantly, create shots for their teammates. Caledonia’s one of the best passing teams around. It just needs to limit the live-ball turnovers. Throwing the ball out of bounds trying to make a play is one thing. But those turnovers that result in the Polars’ flying the other way for easy buckets in transition give Minneapolis North life. That’s what they thrive on. If Caledonia’s guards are able to withstand the pressure and they move the ball quickly and with a purpose, Caledonia’s shooters are going to get some really good looks against the Polars’ pressure.
Defense: Take away Townley Jr. or Wilson
Wilson and Townley Jr. are the two alphas for Minneapolis North. Wilson is one of the best guards in the Class of 2022. Townley Jr. is a physical monster on the inside who makes plays left and right. Caledonia has to take one of them away. If both of the Polars’ stars are cooking, then the Warriors could be in trouble. Wilson can be a bit turnover prone, and the Warriors’ defense could potentially take advantage of that. Townley Jr. isn’t much of a jump shooter so if Casey Schultz can keep him out of the lane (easier said than done) then Caledonia could be in good shape.
Minneapolis North gets all the talk and all the hype videos and all the love. The Warriors’ trio of guards in Jackson Koepke, Austin Klug and Andrew Kunelius could be the difference-makers, and coach Brad King knows how to use them. The Polars have a slight advantage inside, but Schultz and Privet can give them trouble because of their ability to shoot 3-pointers. Caledonia cannot afford for either of their big men to get in foul trouble. This game is going to be so fun. The starters on both sides are evenly matched, so the bench production could be the difference-maker. Both teams have sixth men who can fill it up in De’Meiko Anderson (Minneapolis North) and Jashon Simpson (Caledonia). If King was in the lineup, Caledonia cruises. But even without their superstar, the Warriors have what it takes to advance to the Class AA state finals. No. 2 Caledonia 80, No. 1 Minneapolis North 77