The 2016 Minnesota State high school boys' basketball tournament kicks into high gear this week at Target Center and Williams Arena.
The tournament tips off Wednesday in Class 2A, 3A and 4A, while it will get underway Thursday in Class 1A.
St. Croix Lutheran enters the tournament as the top seed, the same way they went into last year's tournament. But after being upset in the semifinals last year the Crusaders are hoping for a different result.
This year's first-round games will be split between Target Center and Williams Arena.
- Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton vs. St. Croix Lutheran 6 p.m. – Target Center
- Maple River vs. Braham 8 p.m. – Target Center
- Jackson County Central vs. Caledonia 6 p.m. – Williams Arena
- Annandale vs. Esko 8 p.m. –Williams Arena.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton vs. #1 St. Croix Lutheran
If there ever was a favorite to win a high school basketball tournament, it would be St. Croix Lutheran. The Crusaders (27-2) enter the tournament riding the momentum of a 13 game winning streak.
The last time they lost – January 18th – 76-55 to Wayzata. On the season, they have victories over DeLaSalle (3A), Braham (2A) and Maple River (2A), all three have reached the state tournament.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton beat Perham in the Section 8 championship to lock up their first state tournament appearance since 2004. They put away the Yellow Jackets by overcoming a seven point halftime deficit in the second half with a 17-6 run to clinch the victory.
#5 Maple River vs. #4 Braham
Neither of these schools are strangers to the state tournament. Maple River (27-3) is preparing for their 5th tournament in the last 10 years and second straight.
The Eagles were knocked out in the semifinals last season.
The Bombers (28-2) are known for their running and gunning. Braham has eclipsed the 100 point mark seven times this season.
They return to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 when they beat Albany 86-82 in front of 4,000 fans at St. Cloud State's Halenbeck Hall.
It will be the eighth overall appearance for Braham, who won three consecutive championships between 2004 and 2006.
Jackson County Central vs. #2 Caledonia
Jackson County Central makes their first state high school basketball tournament in school history. They beat Montevideo 70-65 in overtime on Thursday in the Section 3 championship.
The Huskies (23-5), led by 6-9 forward Bodey Behrends, the Huskies have won 11 straight to reach the state tournament.
Huskies head coach Trent Sukalski isn't a stranger to state tournaments. He was an assistant under Terry Culhane when the Marshall Tigers won back-to-back girls' state championships in 2001 and 2002.
Caledonia (28-2) is returning for their third straight state tournament. They were the #2 seed last year and lost in the championship to Melrose.
The Warriors have lost just one game to a Minnesota team all season.
Annandale vs. #3 Esko
Both Annandale (25-5) and Esko (27-3) are making their fourth consecutive appearances in the boys' basketball tournament.
Wednesday's matchup will be the third meeting between the two schools at state. Esko beat Annandale 60-41 in the 2014 Class 2A championship game, but Annandale beat the Eskomos 59-58 in 2013 to take third place.
The St. Cloud Times notes that in addition to both coaches – Annandale's Skip Dolan and Esko's Mike Devney – three players have been involved in both meetings.
Annandale's Brock Fobbe and Alex Hohenstein and Esko's Jaxson Turner are all making their fourth straight state tournament appearances.
This is likely to be the lowest scoring of all the 2A quarterfinal games. Annandale allows 46.4 points per game, making them the third toughest team to score on in Class 2A, while Esko allows just 39.8 points a game and is ranked ranked No. 1.
The Class A tournament begins on Thursday. This year's field includes two teams making their first state tournament appearance in St. Clair and Lake Park-Audubon.
Minneapolis North comes into the tourney as the No. 1 seed, while Central Minnesota Christian is making their second consecutive appearance.
Class 1A Quarterfinal Schedule (all games at Williams Arena)
- 11:00 a.m. – St. Clair vs. Minneapolis North
- 1:00 p.m. – Red Lake vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley
- 3:00 p.m. – Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Central Minnesota Christian
- 5:00 p.m. – Lake Park-Audubon vs. Goodhue
St. Clair vs. #1 Minneapolis North
Minneapolis North (26-5) returns to the state basketball tournament for the first time since 2003 – their 20th overall appearance in the tourney.
The Polars have previously won championships in 1980, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2003.
St. Clair (22-7) got hot at the right time. The Cyclones fell to Springfield in their regular season finale, but then turned it up a notch at tournament time to win four straight and reach the state tournament.
While the Cyclones are new to the state tournament, few programs, if any, have the storied tradition that Minneapolis North does, and this group of Polars wants to make a name for themselves.
"We use that as motivation," senior guard Tyler Johnson told the Star Tribune. "Do we want to make a name for ourselves? Can we be remembered as one of the great teams in North history?
#5 Red Lake vs. #4 Browerville/Eagle Valley
Browerville last made the state tournament in 2012, but this is the first time they have qualified for state since the Tigers have been joined by Eagle Valley.
The Tigers have won 14 straight, their only losses this season came to Kimball and Class 3A state tournament entrant Waseca. But like Browerville/Eagle Valley, Red Lake also comes into the tournament riding high.
The Warriors have won 14 straight as well. They are making their third consecutive state tournament and eighth appearance overall.
Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. #2 Central Minnesota Christian
The Blue Jays (26-3) rolled through Section 3, they were the favorite to win the section all year. They are making their second straight state tournament after finishing third last year.
It's just the second state basketball tournament appearance ever for the small Prinsburg school.
It might be interesting to note that if both Minneapolis North and Central Minnesota Christian reach the title game, the Polars handed the Blue Jays one of their three losses on the season – a 79-49 blowout in Minneapolis.
Mountain Iron-Buhl (24-6) returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2005. It is the Rangers' third overall appearance at the state tournament.
Lake Park-Audubon vs. #3 Goodhue
Goodhue (22-9) returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2011. The Wildcats won't be the flashiest team in the state tournament or have the biggest names.
Goodhue comes into the game averaging a modest 50.3 points a game. They are led by junior forward Jacob McNamara, who averages just 9.3 points and grabs 8.1 rebounds a game.
But the Rochester Post Bulletin notes they have five other players that average between 4.5 and 8.6 points a game.
Lake Park-Audubon (26-4) makes their first state boys basketball tournament. Even though, they are a random draw team the Raiders come into the tournament with the longest winning streak in Class 1A – 22 games.