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Tip Off Classic preview: West gym

By Ryan James, Breakdown Sports USA, 12/10/15, 10:00AM CST


Dec. 12: Apple Valley takes on Hopkins in 1 vs. 2 battle



9:30 a.m. on West Court

Waseca vs. Browerville

Waseca is off to a tremendous start winning all seven games played so far by an average of 21 points per night.  Last night’s 16 point victory over top ten ranked and previously unbeaten WEM opened even more eyes. SMSU signed Nick Dufault is having the year he was expected to but is getting big help from a quality frontline of Jake Guse and Elijah Carter plus guards Kaleb Nelson and Malik Willingham (a freshman) have also stepped forward. The Bluejays should come into the Tip-Off Classic 8-0.

The Tigers have blown out every opponent they’ve played thus far and now have four days to prepare for Waseca.   Star junior guard Bryce Irsfeld is putting up 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game which backs up our claim of him being one of the elite junior guards in the state.  Fellow juniors Brendan Emery and Ryan Warwick team with senior big Trevor Johnson to balance things out for the Tigers.

Prediction: Waseca by 5.  They have an edge of size and depth being now a Class AAA program.  The Irsfeld/Dufault match-up should be fantastic.



11:00 a.m. on West Court

St. Croix Lutheran vs. Braham

Ade Murkey is making a case to be a Mr. Basketball candidate right now for St. Croix Lutheran.  He’s putting up 23.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game for the 4-1 Crusaders, who have beaten quality Class AA opponents in Minnehaha Academy and Minneapolis Roosevelt before losing to No. 1-ranked Class A Minneapolis North this week (by five points).  The Crusaders are also getting 17 a game from Aage Rovney and 13 points and 12.5 rebounds a night from Trenton Kruger.

The Braham Bombers are in their league right now manhandling teams by an actual average of 74.5 points per game.  They have a feared group of five in seniors John Larson, Alec Olson, Chris Olson, and Connor Tschumper plus sophomore Ryan Larson.  It’s four guards scoring all over the perimeter and Connor doing the work around the basket.  The Bombers will play, and most likely beat Pine City, on Thursday and then travel to Minnetonka for Saturday’s game.

Prediction: St. Croix Lutheran by 4.  Tough to know what Braham is until they play their first quality opponent.  And considering the Crusaders schedule has been MUCH tougher than the Bombers, you have to believe they are more battle tested.  This is a very even match-up with Braham having a bit more talent but the Crusaders being more prepared (schedule wise) and better inside.


12:45 p.m. on Main Court

Mpls North vs. Fridley

Minneapolis North, the heavy Class A favorite, was originally to play Milwaukee Riverside in this game but will receive a more than capable challenge from Fridley.  North has beaten Brooklyn Center and St. Croix Lutheran already and has a game against South on Thursday night.  The balanced Polars have five guys averaging in double figures led by Tyler Johnson (15 a night), Jamil Jackson (14), Isaac Johnson (13), Patrick Dembley (13), and Odell Wilson IV (11) — plus Ahzerik Rodgers and JaQuan Sanders-Smith are close.

Fridley is getting a late start on the season having not played in a week (only game was a win over River Falls) and it has just the game on Thursday at Highland Park to prepare for North.  Tessy Pal is the big name talent but watch out for senior Tyree Caruthers and junior Tirik Reeves, who both had good first games of the season. 

Prediction: North by 13.  Fridley has some athletes to match-up with North and a real talent in Tessy Pal but it is still just getting into the grove of the year where as North is rolling out of the gate with one of the most talented line-ups in the state.


2:15 p.m. on Main Court

Tartan vs. Linn-Mar (IA)

Tartan is 3-1, beating Como Park, Rogers, and South St. Paul like one would expect them to.  What happened at Richfield (a 70-68 loss) was unexpected so the Titans are likely to come into the Tip-Off Classic hungry to beat a strong opponent.  Jordan Horn is giving his team 16 points a game, Joevon Walker 13 a night and then junior Noah Whalen has been outstanding at 14.3 a game and senior Elijah Johnson has really came on with 14 plus a game.  The Titans are a deep team also having King Myles, Jordan Thompson, and Jarvis Thompson playing solid roles.

Linn-Mar will have three games under its belt coming into the border battle with the Titans.  They lost to Waukee in their opener but won at Bettendorf.  They have a game with Cedar Rapids Washington on Thursday and then travel to the Twin Cities.  Jordan Bohannon is their top weapon and he’s committed to Iowa as a future point guard.  He’s supported by long wing Jordan Printy, a top ten player in Iowa, and top 50 level senior Beau Klosterman.  Printy has signed with Western Michigan for next season.

Prediction: Based on the knowledge that we have acquired, Tartan will be the deeper team but Linn-Mar has the top talent in the game (Bohannon) and is more experienced.  Tartan also has the edge of not traveling an entire day so we say Tartan, by three free throws.


3:45 p.m. on Main Court

Hopkins vs. Apple Valley

The Royals have ruled the court over the first five games.  They’ve had challenges from the north and south metro, northern Minnesota and Iowa and all of them have fell by 25 to 75 points.  The Royal running game has been flying with Amir Coffey, Simon Wright, Vinnie Shahid, and Xavier Johnson all averaging between 14 and 17 points per game.  And now, Ishmael El-Amin is expected back soon.  Their young talent is getting experienced run in these blowouts after the four listed starters (plus Erik Davis) go to the bench. 

Apple Valley has trounced all of its Minnesota opponents and last weekend beat the best upper Midwest team in the five-state area not in Minnesota (Iowa City West).  The Eagles have faced a fairly stiff schedule with Chaska, Minnetonka, and ICW but it hasn’t slowed Gary Trent Jr.  “JR” is putting up 35.6 points per game and has three times gone over the 40-point barrier. All five Eagles starters are averaging in double figures (Jordan Bolton, Cameron Kirksey, Tre Jones, and Brock Bertram are the other starters).

Prediction: I’m not picking a winner.  Why?  I have no idea who will win. No clue. I couldn’t pick one if I tried.  This is a game where you just have to sit back and watch what happens as this is the most anticipated game of the season next to the Class AAAA state title game.  Enjoy it Minnesota (a side note is that both teams play good teams the night before: Hopkins/Wayzata and Apple Valley/Lakeville South).


5:30 p.m. on Main Court

Maple Grove vs. Wayzata

The Crimson made a big statement by blasting a solid Elk River team by 32 points. They are getting the scoring balance you would expect with Taron Pickford, Tywhon Pickford, Jack Hutchison, and Brad Davison all scored 13/14 points per game and Mizzou signed Reed Nikko taking care of things in the middle.  They have Irondale on Thursday and then Friday off before taking on Wayzata.

The Trojans have one of the toughest back to back days you will see in high school basketball.  Wayzata faces Hopkins on Friday night and then Maple Grove on Saturday.  They are 3-1 (top win over Armstrong, loss to Lakeville North) heading into this gauntlet with Johnny Beeninga, Gavin Baumgartner, Jack Sowada, and Ryan Lindberg all scoring between 11 and 16 a contest. 

Prediction: Wayzata beat the Crimson in sections last year and in the off-season.  Who gets the win here?  The Trojans have the edge because of previous games but Wayzata battles Hopkins and less than 24 hours later plays this game. That swings the edge to Maple Grove for me, by a score.


7:00 p.m. on Main Court

DeLaSalle vs. Champlin Park

Islander Gabe Kalscheur looked like the next DeLaSalle star last Saturday with 27 points against Milwaukee Washington.  How will he follow that up?  He and Goanar Mar scored 45 of the team’s 57 points so they are going to need a bit more help against Champlin Park.  The Islanders have a talented Atascocita  (Texas) team to play the night before so they are getting tested early. 

Champlin Park was 31-1 last year, and the Rebels are likely to be 3-0 coming into the game with the Islanders Saturday.  McKinley Wright had 24 in a win over Armstrong and he was joined by Theo John, Aaron Kloeppner, and DJ Hunter with solid performances in beating Totino-Grace.  The Rebels play Centennial two nights before the Tip Off Classic so they will have an extra day’s rest.

Prediction: Rebels by four points.  I say this because DeLaSalle will have a tough challenge the night before and they are working so many new guys into the line-up that I believe the Rebels have more early season depth.  Game will be a battle though.


8:30 p.m. on Main Court

Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Minnetonka

No matter who graduates/leaves the program it seems like the CDH Raiders keep finding ways to win.  They are 3-0 now and if they beat Roseville Thursday they will take on Minnetonka undefeated this weekend.  Baseball standout Jordan Ammons leads the team on both ends (16.3 points per game) with Daniel Oturo off to a double-double average start and lead guard Deland Phillips adequately handling the multiple duties of playmaker.

The Skippers have had maybe the toughest early season schedule of anybody.  They lost to Apple Valley and Madison East but beat Blaine and an up and coming Chaska squad plus they have games with Edina, Orono, and EP coming up along with CDH.  Edina will be Friday, the Tip Off game Saturday.  Coach Chris Carr is led by the 24.5 points per game of Amar Miller, 17.5 a night from Seth Coatta, 13.5 a game from Max Cooper, and 10 a contest from Cedric Boone.

Prediction: 'Tonka by a three.  The way Max Cooper is playing he should give Oturo a decent match-up, Ammons will be on Coatta so you have an elite defender versus an elite shooter, the bench will be fairly even as well.  The ex-factors will be Cedric Boone and Amar Miller’s edge on an up and coming point guard on Phillips. 

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