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5 takeaways from the Rotary Classic boys basketball tournament

What did we learn about some southeastern Minnesota boys basketball teams at this week's Rotary Classic? Here are 5 thoughts.

Rotary Holiday Classic - John Marshall vs. Byron Boys Basketball
John Marshall's Gunnar Dokken (11) takes a shot during a Rotary Holiday Classic boys basketball game against Byron on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. The Rockets struggled a year ago, but they are off to a 4-1 start this season.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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Ten teams played in the Rotary Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament this week. Here are five takeaways from the event after each team played two games.

1. INJURIES HIT MAYO

Mayo finished the Rotary Holiday Classic with a 2-0 record, but the tournament might have been costly for the Spartans.

In a 69-67 win over Byron in the first round, Mayo lost starting forward Alex Miller and starting guard Jay Knoepke with injuries. Miller went down with an undetermined knee injury while Knoepke suffered a high ankle sprain.

“He’ll be out several weeks,” Mayo first-year coach Braden Markham said of Knoepke.

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Miller’s injury might be even more severe. Markham said Miller did not have a lot of swelling in his knee, which is a good sign, but the 6-foot-6 senior might be scheduled for an MRI this coming week.

Mayo showed some overall grit on the second day of the Rotary Classic. Two more starters were out with COVID issues but the Spartans still managed a 70-63 win over Lake City to improve to 4-2.

2. CENTURY IS BUILDING

Century has been a bit up and down this season, but coach Jacob Vetter is starting to see some progress.

“We’ve just got to be consistent,” Vetter said. “We’ve got to keep building and be consistent.”

The Panthers, who went 1-1 in the Rotary Classic, have some solid size with 6-7 guard Jaden Wysocki, and also bring 6-6 freshman Caleb Bancroft and 6-8 senior Luke Kottom off the bench. Bancroft and Kottom, a transfer from Schaeffer Academy who sat out last season, are on the Century varsity for the first time.

“They’re new to our system and are just trying to work through what we’re looking for,” Vetter said. The coach said both Bancroft and Kottom showed promise in the Rotary Holiday Classic.

“As they become more comfortable with what we’re doing, you’re going to see that growth and see what they can bring to the team,” Vetter said. “They’re getting there, it’s just going to be a process for them.”

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Bancroft could be a standout for the Panthers in the near future. He hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 47-45 win over Stewartville on Wednesday and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

3. ROCKETS ON THE REBOUND

John Marshall finished the 2020-21 season with a 2-11 record, had its season twice interrupted by COVID and didn’t get to play in the section tournament.

So far this year things are going in a positive direction for the Rockets. A year ago JM struggled to score and didn’t have a single player average in double figures. This season the Rockets have a strong 1-2 scoring punch in Logan Tuckner and Tyler Smith. Tuckner, a 6-2 junior, and Smith, a 6-3 senior, both average in double figures in scoring.

Junior guard Tiare Young is also an up and coming player for coach Jim Daly. Young hit the game-winning shot in overtime in JM’s 50-48 win over Byron in the second game of the Rotary Holiday Classic.

JM went 2-0 in the Rotary Classic and is 4-1 for the season. Last season’s woes appear to be in the rearview mirror for the Rockets.

4. STILL A SECTION 1AAA FORCE

Byron won the Section 1AAA title a year ago and the Bears looked to be the section’s main threat this season. But Ahjany Lee transferred and Isaac Dearborn suffered a season-ending knee injury in the summer.

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Despite those setbacks, Byron appears to be one of the teams to beat in Section 1AAA. The Bears suffered a pair of two-point losses — to Mayo and John Marshall — in the Rotary Classic, but are still off to a 7-3 start.

With senior forwards Jaxon Marine, who is 6-3, and 6-5 James Durst leading the way, the Bears have a strong inside game. Senior Trent DeCook and sophomore Tyler Connelly also give Byron a pair of solid guards.

“They’re growing and building, so it’s good to be in a contest like this,” Byron coach Kyle Finney said of his team after the first-day Rotary loss. “It’s great playing Mayo, they play hard-nosed basketball.”

5. STEWARTVILLE MOVING ON UP

Last season Stewartville rode the standout play of seniors Will Tschetter and Nolan Stier to reach the Section 1AA championship game.

The Tigers are without their two standouts this season, and they have also moved up to Class AAA. They are still off to a 6-3 start and could be a force during the Section 1AAA playoffs.

“We’re not the big fish in the small pond anymore, we’re the small fish in the big pond,” first-year coach Parker Lyga said.

Stewartville went 1-1 in the Rotary Classic as it beat St. Croix Central from Wisconsin before suffering a two-point loss to Century.

Despite having a young team, the Tigers have shown their ability to play competitively this season.

Henry Tschetter — Will’s younger brother — and Tegan Malone are sophomore starting guards. The Tigers also have seniors Miles Hettinger, who is 6-8, 6-5 Bode Mayer and 6-foot Alex Larson in the starting lineup.

Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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