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High School Boys Basketball Focus: Teams doing their best to navigate COVID-19 once again

The third edition of the high school boys basketball focus. Five standouts, power rankings and top plays.

Grand Meadow, LeRoy-Ostrander boys basketball
Grand Meadow’s Jace Kraft (21) goes up for a shot during a boys basketball game against LeRoy-Ostrander on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Grand Meadow High School in Grand Meadow, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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After witnessing COVID-19 greatly affect the past two seasons, many prep basketball fans entered this year with hope that we would return to a more normal season.

Turns out that won't be the case.

Once again, activities directors are scrambling to shuffle schedules around; figure out transportation, coaches are navigating absent players and players are doing their best to enjoy their season.

John Marshall is currently in a COVID-19 pause, while Rushford-Peterson, La Crescent-Hokah and Lewiston-Altura are working their way out of one after calling a timeout on their season for a stretch of eight or more days. L-A returned to the court Wednesday missing eight players because of COVID-19 protocols.

Mayo and Century have been shorthanded because of COVID-19 as well and on Wednesday, Rochester Public Schools announced it will temporarily move instruction from in-person learning to distance learning Jan. 18-28.

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But if this pandemic has shown us anything, it's that kids are resilient and they will once again find a way to get through it.

With that, here is the third edition of the High School Boys Basketball Focus. Stay safe everyone.

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The second edition of the High School Boys Basketball Focus

Ruberg elevates game, has Rushford-Peterson on the rise

    TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES

    1. HUNTER LORENSON, LAKE CITY

    It was a great two-game stretch for Lorenson.

    He made the go-ahead bucket with 31 seconds left to lift Lake City over St. Peter 53-51 on Saturday, Jan. 8, before following that with his first career double-double in one of the rarest forms possible. The sophomore netted a career-high 27 points and recorded a school-record 10 steals in the Tigers' 74-54 win over Lourdes on Tuesday. He also tallied

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    2. ELI KING, CALEDONIA

    The Iowa State University commit collected his second consecutive 28-point game in a win over Byron in the Guaranteed Rate Hoops Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 8. That also included a monster dunk against the Bears. King's uptick in scoring is coming at the right time as the Warriors have a tough seven days coming up.

    3. KAIREE GOODSON, MAYO

    Goodson continues to play well for a talented Spartans' team that is trying to steady the ship because of injuries and COVID-19.

    He followed up a 20-point performance against Owatonna on Jan. 7 with a 24-point outburst verses Lakeville South. He also had 15 points against Century on Tuesday. He can put it on the deck, finish in traffic and can shoot it. Just a solid player.

    4. WILL OPSAHL, GOODHUE

    Opsahl is making a claim to be one of the best shooters in the area.

    The junior sharpshooter has made nine 3-pointers the last two games, highlighted by a 25-point night that saw him drain five 3s in a 67-47 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on Tuesday. The Wildcats are 6-3 entering their Thursday night game against Lourdes.

    5. JASPER HEDIN, WINONA

    One of the best athletes around, Hedin has the potential to go for 30 or more every night, which he did when he poured in 30 in a 64-56 win over Century on Jan. 8. Hedin was 17 of 20 at the free throw line and also grabbed six rebounds.

    He recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Austin on Tuesday. He's averaging over 22 points and 8 rebounds per game for a Winhawks team that is 4-4 and ranked No. 14 in Class AAA by Minnesota Basketball News.

    POWER RANKINGS

    (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.)

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    1. Caledonia (10-0)

    The Warriors just keep winning.

    Caledonia — ranked No. 2 in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News — blew past Byron 80-64 in the Guaranteed Rate Hoops Challenge behind 28 points from King and 23 points from Jackson Koepke. The Warriors knocked off Wabasha-Kellogg 84-41.

    They have a big week coming up as they take on a pair of top-10 ranked Wisconsin teams in DeForest and Waunakee at the Midwest Player's Classic on Friday and Saturday at the La Crosse Center. They then have Lewiston-Altura on Monday in their first home game since Dec. 17.

    2. Lewiston-Altura (9-1)

    The Cardinals stay put despite dropping their first game of the season with a 56-52 loss to Pine Island on Wednesday. That's because the Cardinals were without eight players because of COVID-19 protocols.

    L-A still managed to enter the Minnesota Basketball News' rankings for the first time, coming in at No. 13 in Class AA.

    The Cardinals do have an opportunity Saturday to show off that new ranking when they play rival Rushford-Peterson at the Target Center in Minneapolis, before traveling to Caledonia on Monday.

    3. Lake City (8-2)

    After backing up a quality Rotary Holiday Classic with three solid wins, the Tigers surge from being No. 9 in our rankings last week to No. 3, due in part, to the aforementioned performances from Lorenson. LC is also now ranked No. 7 in Class AA by the Minnesota Basketball News after coming at No. 12 the week before.

    The Tigers beat Class AAA St. Peter on Lorenson's heroics in a game that saw Justin Wohlers lead the way with 19 points to go along with four steals. Wohlers scored 20 points and had five rebounds in Lake City's 20-point drubbing of Lourdes. Wohlers is averaging a team-high 18.8 points per contest.

    4. La Crescent-Hokah (7-0)

    Like the Cardinals, the Lancers — who are ranked No. 11 in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News — stay put after a pause in their schedule. As of Wednesday, they were still slated to play Holmen in the Midwest Player's Classic on Saturday. They were originally scheduled to play against the talented West Salem (Wis.), which are ranked No. 2 in Division 3, but the Panthers dropped out of the tournament.

    5. Rushford-Peterson (6-2)

    Stop, if you have heard this before here but the Trojans went eight days between games as they had a pause in their season. They hold tight in our rankings as well as in the Minnesota Basketball News rankings, which has them at No. 4 in Class A.

    They returned with a game against a solid Chatfield squad on Thursday before the big game against Lewiston-Altura 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

    6. Hayfield (13-1)

    The Vikings ran their win streak up to 11, thanks to an impressive three game stretch.

    They followed a 66-51 win over Triton Jan. 7 with a 59-38 victory the following day over St. Clair, which was ranked No. 14 in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News at the time. Hayfield used a 17-0 second half run and 16 points from Isaac Matti to get past the Cyclones.

    Matti then finished with 18 points in a tough 44-40 win over a good Kenyon-Wanamingo team on Tuesday. He is averaging over 20 points per game for the Vikings — ranked No. 5 in Class A — used a 17-0 run to snap a tie in the second half en route to a 59-38 victory over St. Clair.

    Matti poured in 22 points as the Vikings knocked off 58-45 Randolph on Thursday.

    7. Plainview-Elgin-Millville (10-0)

    The Bulldogs make their first appearance in this year's power rankings behind an offense that has been one of the best in the area.

    The Bulldogs — ranked No. 14 by Minnesota Basketball News in Class AA — average 75.1 points per game and have scored under 70 just twice. They have three players that average in double figures with Aeron Stevens leading the way with over 20 points per game. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 29 in a 81-73 win over Triton on Jan. 6 and had 18 in a 72-56 victory over Lourdes on Tuesday.

    Stevens once again led the way on Thurdsay, scoring 21 in the Bulldogs' 77-68 victory over Fillmore Central in a game that PEM led by as much as 25 points.

    They will have perhaps their biggest test coming Monday on the road at Rushford-Peterson.

    8. Kasson-Mantorville (7-3)

    The KoMets are welcomed into the power rankings after winning for the fourth time in five games with a nice 56-52 victory over Byron on Tuesday.

    K-M only allows a 54.4 points per game, which is third best in the Hiawatha Valley League. The offense is led by Camden Holeck, who averages over 17 a game but it was Jake Hallstrom who finished with a team-best 18 points against the Bears.

    The KoMets have a big week next week when they host Winona Monday, before traveling to Stewartville Tuesday.

    9. Byron (9-5)

    The Bears stay at No. 9 on our list, dropping two of their past three games. Byron lost to Caledonia on Jan. 8, before falling to the KoMets on Tuesday.

    Jaxon Marine led Byron with 20 points against Caledonia, while DeCook added 14, before scoring a game-high 19 against K-M. Marine leads the Bears at 13.8 points per game.

    James Durst scored 14 and as one of four to finish in double figures to help the Bears snap the two-game slide.

    10. Century (6-5)

    The Panthers stay at No. 10 after they bounced back from a 64-56 loss to Winona on Jan. 6 with a pair of quality wins over Red Wing (63-51) and crosstown rival Mayo (62-61 OT).

    Jaden Wysocki continued his stellar season with 16 points against Mayo, while had 16 points, five rebounds and Ethan Wills recorded 10 points and 13 rebounds against Red Wing.

    The Panthers host Faribault Friday.

    Honorable Mention: Stewartville, John Marshall, Mayo, Winona.

    TOP PLAYS

    Another day, another monster slam from Caledonia's King.

    Here's another angle. The man just floats through the air.

    Here is a number of great plays from Winona's Hedin, who seems to be really heating up.

    Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
    What to read next
    (Blooming Prairie, Caledonia/Spring Grove, Chatfield, Winona Cotter, Dover-Eyota, GMLOKS, RACE, Hayfield, Kenyon-Wanamingo/Goodhue, La Crescent-Hokah, Lake City, Lanesboro/Fillmore Central/Mabel-Canton), Lewiston-Altura, Lyle/Pacelli, Medford, Pine Island, Lourdes, Rushford-Peterson, Houston, St. Charles, Triton, Wabasha-Kellogg, Zumbrota-Mazeppa)
    (Blooming Prairie, Caledonia/Spring Grove, Chatfield, Winona Cotter, Dover-Eyota, GMLOKS, RACE, Hayfield, Kenyon-Wanamingo/Goodhue, La Crescent, Lake City, Lanesboro/Fillmore Central/Mabel-Canton), Lewiston-Altura, Lyle/Pacelli, Medford, Pine Island, Lourdes, Rushford-Peterson, Houston, St. Charles, Triton, Wabasha-Kellogg, Zumbrota-Mazeppa)
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