High School Boys Basketball Focus: Holiday tournaments returned with a bang
The second edition of the high school boys basketball focus. Five standouts, power rankings, top plays and upcoming games to watch.
The holidays have come and gone, but not before delivering some great high school basketball.
Highlighted by the Rotary Holiday Classic, holiday tournaments returned with a bang as area teams provided nail-biter after nail-biter during the holiday break.
Let's take a look at some of the top players and teams that stood out in the second edition of the High School Boys Basketball Focus for the 2021-22 season.
- Five takeaways from the Rotary Holiday Classic
- Photos: John Marshall, Byron Rotary Holiday Classic
- Photos: Lourdes, St. Croix Prep Rotary Holiday Classic
TOP FIVE STANDOUTS
1. ISAIAH HANSON, MAYO
For a team that has been hit hard by injuries and COVID-19, Hanson has been a life-saver for the Spartans.
He has scored 20-plus points in the last two games, highlighted by a 24-point performance to help Mayo knock off Lake City 70-63 in the Rotary Holiday Classic. He also had 13 points in Mayo's 69-67 win over Byron and has sunk 11 3-pointers in the last three games after drilling six against Red Wing Tuesday.
2. KEEGAN RYAN, LAKE CITY
The 6-foot-4 sophomore has a great 3-point stroke and has great touch in the paint.
He showed off his offensive skills in the Rotary Holiday Classic, recording a monster double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds in the Tigers' 67-51 over a talented Century team. His development will be one to watch.
3. ELI KING, CALEDONIA
The springy Iowa State University commit has really picked up the scoring lately.
King finished with 28 points against Dover-Eyota Tuesday, which came after an 18-point performance in a 77-49 win over Waseca in the Lewiston Auto Holiday Classic.
4. TYLER SMITH, JOHN MARSHALL
Smith is one of the many reasons the Rockets went 2-0 at the Rotary Holiday Classic.
Smith had a game-high 23 points against New Richmond (Wis.) before he and Logan Tuckner led John Marshall with 14 points against Byron in a 50-48 overtime victory. He also had a team-best 15 points against Mankato West on Tuesday. He and Tuckner provide a sneaky good JM team a great one, two punch.
5. EASTON FRITCHER, HAYFIELD
The University of Minnesota baseball commit has been incredibly impressive on the hardwood.
He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Grand Meadow on Tuesday to record his second double-double of the season. Fritcher has now reached double figures in each of the Vikings' nine games this season and is shooting over an eye-popping 60%.
(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)
1. Caledonia (8-0)
The Warriors keep a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot after three straight double-digit victories.
Caledonia — ranked No. 2 in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News — went 2-0 in the Lewiston Auto Holiday Classic knocking off Prairie du Chien 61-44 and Waseca 77-49 before receiving 28 points from Eli King in a 92-68 win over Dover-Eyota on Tuesday.
They have a big one coming up against Byron at 6 p.m. Saturday at Byron as part of the Guaranteed Rate Hoops Challenge. The following weekend they will face Minnehaha Academy in the Midwest Player's Classic in La Crosse.
2. Lewiston-Altura (9-0)
Like the Warriors, the Cardinals keep dominating, nearly going for triple digits in a 95-45 win over Fillmore Central on Monday. Thomas Menk led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds, while Kyle Fredrickson and Collin Bonow each recorded 23 points. They combined for 11 made 3s as well.
This came after another 50-point win over Alma/Pepin (Wis.) and a 74-66 victory against Waseca in the Lewiston Auto Holiday Classic.
The Cardinals have perhaps their first real test of the season Friday on the road at Rushford-Peterson. They follow that by hosting La Crescent-Hokah on Thursday, Jan. 13. Both are currently ranked in the top 20 in their respective classes by Minnesota Basketball News.
3. Mayo (4-3)
This one might come as a surprise, especially considering Mayo is just 1-3 in the Big Nine Conference after a 62-47 loss to Red Wing on Tuesday.
But the Spartans were without four starters because of injuries and COVID-19 issues. They are also coming off an impressive Rotary Holiday Classic with wins over Byron (69-67) and Lake City (70-63).
Mayo did lose starting forward Alex Miller and starting guard Jay Knoepke with injuries against Byron. Miller went down with an undetermined knee injury, while Knoepke suffered a high ankle sprain. Yet, when healthy this team has the talent no doubt, especially with the way Hanson is shooting the ball.
They will be tested with a Friday night clash against Big Nine Conference contender Owatonna followed by a showdown with Lakeville South in the Hoops Challenge on Saturday.
4. La Crescent-Hokah (7-0)
The Lancers — who are ranked No. 20 in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News — move up one spot after a 3-0 record that saw them pick up victories over Pine Island and Albert Lea at the St. Charles tournament. They have an important next couple of weeks with games against Lewiston-Altura before facing an extremely talented West Salem (Wis.) team in the Midwest Player's Classic on Jan. 14.
5. Rushford-Peterson (6-2)
The Trojans move up this week thanks to a four-game win streak that has seen them hold opponents to 33.5 points per game.
The most impressive came on Tuesday when they held Wabasha-Kellogg to just five first half points in a 54-18 victory. Justin Ruberg, Malachi Bunke and Grady Hengel get a lot of pub, but watch for Dawson Bunke, who drilled five 3-pointers en route to 17 points against the Falcons.
R-P — which is ranked fifth by Minnesota Basketball News — has the big game against Lewiston-Altura Friday before matching up with a solid Chatfield squad on Thursday, Jan. 13.
6. Hayfield (9-1)
The Vikings have won seven straight since losing to Rushford-Peterson on Dec. 9.
They have done it in dominating fashion with each win in the streak coming by at least 24 points. The most noteworthy was a 66-41 victory over previous one-loss Lyle/Austin Pacelli in the Hayfield Holiday Tournament. Ethan Pack led the way with 24 points on four made 3-pointers, while Isaac Matti finished with 18.
The Vikings host Triton Thursday before taking on St. Clair — ranked No. 11 by Minnesota Basketball News in Class AA — in the Hoops Challenge on Saturday.
7. John Marshall (4-2)
The Rockets enter the rankings after a strong showing at the Rotary Holiday Classic.
Smith and Tuckner combined for 43 points in a 68-58 victory against New Richmond on the first day of the tournament before the Rockets prevailed in a thrilling 50-48 overtime victory over Byron, thanks to the heroics of Tiare Young.
The junior guard went the full length of the court in less than five seconds before sinking the floater to lift JM. Young finished the game with seven points after scoring 11 against New Richmond. It appears he has what it takes to be the third scoring option after Smith and Tuckner.
8. Byron (7-3)
The Bears had some tough luck in the Rotary Classic, suffering a pair of two-point losses to Mayo and John Marshall in the Rotary Classic.
It came on the heels of a 60-59 win over Stewartville on Dec. 23 one that saw Tyler Connelly and Jaxon Marine each finish with 21 points.
A couple of plays here and there and Byron is probably No. 2 on this list. They have a chance to make a statement Saturday against Caledonia at the Hoops Challenge.
9. Lake City (5-2)
The Tigers had an impressive 67-51 win over Century to kick off their Rotary Holiday Classic schedule, thanks to Ryan's double-double.
The development of Ryan will be key for LC.
The Tigers fell to Mayo 70-63 to cap off the tournament. Justin Wohlers finished with 25 points on four 3-pointers to lead Lake City, which travels to Pine Island Thursday, before taking on St. Peter in the Hoops Challenge Saturday.
10. Century (4-4)
The Panthers drop to No. 10 after a pair of losses to Lake City (67-51) and Northfield (81-72 2OT). They too, have been hit hard by COVID-19. Yet once healthy, they are one of the most talented squads around.
They did knock off Stewartville 47-45 after 6-foot-6 freshman Caleb Bancroft's put back beat the buzzer. He, along with 6-foot-8 Schaeffer Academy transfer Luke Kottom, are beginning to find their grooves, which only makes the Panthers that much more dangerous.
They face a talented Winona team Thursday and Red Wing on Saturday before a big game against Mayo on the 11th.
Honorable Mention: Stewartville, Plainview-Elgin-Millville.
Here is that aforementioned buzzer beater by Bancroft for the walk-off victory over Stewartville. The freshman has great hands and a soft touch around the rim.
Here is the Young buzzer beater — one that sees him go the full length of the court before sinking a pretty floater for the overtime victory over Byron. The Rockets have three good ones in Young, Tuckner and Smith.
🚨Rochester’s Rotary Classic🚨— Jodi Gunderson Daing (@JodiGunderson2) December 30, 2021
🏀*PLAY OF THE WEEK* 🏀
Tiare Young AKA Mr. IceMan 🥶 Putting up buckets with the WINNING shot in OT for John Marshall Rockets. Has the heart of a lion on the court and won’t stop… Don’t be sleepin on this Junior! 😉 @christiyoung77 @tiareyoung12 pic.twitter.com/MgCRSipUpI
Check out this move and finish from KaiRee Gadson. Lot of talent on this Mayo team.
UPCOMING GAMES TO WATCH
Lewiston-Altura at Rushford-Peterson, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Expect a packed house in Rushford as the fifth-ranked Trojans host Three Rivers Conference rival and undefeated Lewiston-Altura.
Menk and Bonow vs. Ruberg and Bunke. Sign me up.
Guaranteed Rate Hoops Challenge
This is a unique event that will see 10 games be played across three different locations (Mayo High School, Byron High School and Kasson-Mantorville High School).
It will also see six girls games be played as well.
Caledonia, Byron, Hayfield and Lake City will play in Byron with the Warriors and the Bears being the featured match-up at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Austin, Owatonna, Stewartville and Kasson-Mantorville will all be in Kasson, while Lourdes, PEM and Mayo all play at Mayo. Lourdes and PEM play each other.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors.