Basketball Tourney: Previewing the field in 3A, 4A

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The boys' basketball tournaments are underway beginning today and both defending champs are back to reclaim titles in Class 3A and 4A.

DeLaSalle has won four straight 3A championships while Apple Valley has won two of the past three in 4A.

4A preview

#1 Osseo (29-0) vs. Eden Prairie (16-13)

Osseo enters the tournament undefeated and they still didn't get a player on the Star Tribune's All-Metro teams. Eden Prairie, meanwhile, lost 13 games – eight of them by 5 points or less – including a 56-52 loss to Osseo at the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic back in December.

“There are so many teams, three teams that were probably deserving of the No. 1 seed, Hopkins and Apple Valley and us,” Osseo coach Tim Theisen told MN Basketball Hub. “Maybe our perfect season so far has earned us that, but that does not mean we are the clear favorite. Not at all.”

#4 Maple Grove (25-4) vs. #5 Lakeville North (24-5)

The matchup to watch in this one is Division I big men recruits 6-foot-10 Reid Nikko of Maple Grove against Lakeville North's 6-foot-10 junior Nathan Ruevers. Ruevers outgunned Gopher recruit Michael Hurt from Rochester John Marshall in the section final, and it earned him a scholarship offer from Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, who was at the game.

But the X-factor could be Maple Grove junior point guard Brad Davison. He's electric going to the basket and he's been the Crimson's go-to-guy all year long.

#2 Hopkins (28-1) vs. North St. Paul (24-5)

North St. Paul is in the tournament for the first time since 1999 and their opening-round draw is against a perennial power that lost only once this season. Hopkins is of course led by Gopher recruit Amir Coffey and Division I caliber guard Ishmael El-Amin, the son of former Minneapolis North and UCONN star Khalid El-Amin.

#3 Apple Valley (28-1) vs. Blaine (19-10)

Blaine is arguably the biggest opening-round underdog against the defending champs. Apple Valley has a Mr. Basketball finalists – 7-footer Brock Bertram – and he's arguably the third best player on the team behind 5-star recruit, junior shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. and sophomore point guard Tre Jones – the little brother of Wolves rookie Tyus Jones.

And don't forget about 6-foot-6 small forward Cameron Kirksey. He's as good as they come on the defensive end for Apple Valley and he can attack the basket with the best of them, too.

3A preview

#1 DeLaSalle (21-4) vs. Fridley (13-13)

Fridley comes in as a massive underdog and DeLaSalle enters the tourney hungry for history. If DeLaSalle wins the title again, the Islanders will become the first school in state history to win five consecutive state championships.

“It’s about the legacy of the program,” Islanders head coach Dave Thorson told KSTP. “It’s a powerful thing."

The player to watch in this one is Islanders forward Goanar Mar, one of five Mr. Basketball finalists.

#4 Chisago Lakes (22-6) vs. #5 Monticello (19-10)

Chisago topped the Magic 51-48 earlier this season in what Monticello head coach Jason Schmidt called an "ugly" game.

“We know that we weren’t clicking at our highest level when we played them last time,” Schmidt told the Monticello Times. “It was a really ugly game for us.”

Monticello is back in the dance for the first time since 2006 while Chicago Lakes is back after a nearly 20-year drought (1997).

#2 Red Wing (27-2) vs. Simley (14-14)

Don't be fooled by Simley's .500 record; these Spartans can fill it up. Jack Stensgard led the state in scoring with an average of 27.7 points per game, the Red Wing Republican Eagle reports.

Red Wing also playing for their coach Doug Toivonen, who is retiring from his coaching gig at the end of the season. His son, Travis Toivonen leads the Wingers in scoring and rebounding.

#3 Fergus Falls (26-3) vs. Waseca (20-9)

Waseca has the country behind them after their stunning, buzzer-beater filled section championship win in four overtimes over Marshall. But Fergus Falls is good, despite never being ranked in polls all season.

The Otters might have a bit of momentum of their own considering they were down 10 points to Alexandria with 3:41 to go in the section final before finishing the game on a 17-4 run, according to the Fargo Forum.

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