Boys basketball: Section 1AA tourney wide open

The winner of the Class AA, Section One boys basketball tournament has fared quite well at the state tournament the past five years. Some of those years the section has had a clear-cut favorite, but that doesn't appear to be the case in 2014.

"I think there's about eight, nine, 10 teams that could win Section One," second-year Plainview-Elgin-Millville coach Blake Karas said. "It depends which team shows up (on any given night). It's crazy and hard to predict."

P-E-M has reached the section finals the past five years. The Bulldogs won the Class AA state title in 2012 and were third in both 2009 and '10. Lourdes was the section champ in 2011 and went on to place second at state.

Byron is the defending section champ, having defeated P-E-M in the 1AA title game a year ago.

"There are so many good teams, that's what's fun about the tournament," Byron coach Kerry Linbo said.


Byron (19-8) is the No. 1 seed in the West Subsection. Second-seeded Hayfield (20-5) joins the section after earning a state berth in Section 2AA a year ago. Third-seeded Cannon Falls (18-9) and No. 4 Lourdes (14-11) also appear to be worthy contenders for the subsection title. All four of the teams play in the Hiawatha Valley League.

"I don't think they're going to do anything differently," Linbo said. "They've been spending the last part of the season polishing (their game). Every team has weaknesses."

Caledonia (23-2) is the No. 1 seed in the East Subsection and P-E-M (20-6) is the second seed.

"There's going to be good games played all the way through the tournament," Karas said. "I think it's going to be a phenomenal tournament."

P-E-M and Caledonia split a pair of games in the Three Rivers Conference this year. They could meet in the subsection final, but that is a long way off and both teams have to navigate through some tough teams to advance.

Third-seeded Chatfield (18-6), No. 5 St. Charles (17-8) and surging fourth seed Lake City (15-9) all have winning records while No. 6 La Crescent (11-14) andNo. 7 Winona Cotter(12-14) have the abilityto pull offupsets. P-E-M needed to score five points in the final 11 seconds in one game this season against Cotter to force overtime.

"I think it'sgoing to be a phenomenal tournament," Karas said.

Many of the teams have high-scoring, star-quality players who have the ability to decide games.


In the West,the top seeds Byron and Hayfield split a pair of games this season.

"It's definitely up in the air," Linbo said. "All four of those (top-seeded) teams can win it, and that's if you can get past the first round, which isn't always easy."

Class A has a favorite

While the Section 1AA title is up for grabs, the path through the Class A, Section Onetournament appears to be blocked by Rushford-Peterson. The Trojans cast a giant shadow over the section they have dominated in recent years.

R-P finished third in the state a year ago and might be better this season. The Trojans are 25-1 and have leveled many of the teams they have faced, Class A and AA foes alike.

R-P, ranked fourth in the state, split two Three Rivers Conference games with Caledonia and beat P-E-M 70-45 just this past Saturday.

"They are tough and they pressure you," Karas said.

R-P is the No. 1 seed in the East Subsection in 1A. It beat No. 2 seed Spring Grove 79-43 during the regular season. Spring Grove is 23-3.


Goodhue (16-10) is the No. 1 seed in the West Subection and Blooming Prairie (14-9), the defending subsection champ, is No. 2. Neither the Wildcats nor Blossoms faced R-P during the regular season.

Coach Tom Vix has guided R-P to a state berth six times in the past nine years, winning the Class A title in 2006 after finishing as the runner-up in 2005.

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