The games start to mean more. The players are starting to find a groove. The coaches know the strengths and weaknesses. That means that the level of play is going to increase. The cream is going to rise to the top.
A whole bunch of fun stuff happened this week in boys basketball. Let’s dive in.
Top 5 Performances
1. Will Tschetter, Stewartville
Stewartville’s Will Tschetter (42) takes a shot over Caledonia’s Casey Schultz (2) during a boys basketball game Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Caledonia. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Nolan Stier was out, so Will Tschetter had to play point guard against one of the most vicious defenses in the state. But he still managed to shine. The Stewartville standout scored 31 points and ripped down 20 rebounds in the 72-60 loss to No. 3 Caledonia. He was on pace for 40 points and 26 rebounds at halftime. Tschetter’s midrange jumper was on fire, and he made two deep 3-pointers too. Tschetter has packed 20 pounds of muscle onto his frame, and he’s really developing into a superstar.
2. Reid Johnson, Chatfield
Chatfield senior Reid Johnson (1) is an area player to watch this season. Last year as a junior he averaged just under 20 points a game. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reid Johnson made an absolute statement with a 35-point outing in Chatfield’s 87-58 victory over Dover-Eyota. Johnson splashed eight 3-pointers and just could not be stopped. He’s one of the best players in the Three Rivers and Chatfield can beat anyone when Johnson is on fire.
3. Ethan Slaathaug, Hayfield
Hayfield’s Ethan Slaathaug (34) is a player to watch this season and a high-scoring one as well. Last year as a junior he averaged 22.9 points per game. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
For the second-straight week, Slaathaug makes it onto the Top Five Performances. The Hayfield star only made one 3-pointer, but he still finished with 34 points in the Vikings’ 74-42 win over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. It’s a major success if you hold Slaathaug to less than 20 every night.
4. Makuei Riek, Rochester Mayo
Mayo’s Makuei Riek (10) dunks the ball during a boys basketball game against Century Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. Century beat Mayo 67-62. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Makuei Riek was tabbed as a potential breakout player in the offseason, and he’s really coming into his own. The high-flying, 6-foot-5 forward exploded for 25 points in Mayo’s 75-55 win over rival John Marshall. Riek can shoot the 3-pointer and he also can get to the rim for explosive jams. He’s a budding superstar.
5. Grant Klebig, John Marshall
John Marshall’s Grant Klebig (11) takes a shot during a boys basketball game against Century Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Grant Klebig makes his well-deserved debut in the High School Basketball Focus after a monster effort in Friday’s loss to Mayo. Klebig scored a career-high 28 points thanks to six 3-pointers in the tough loss. Klebig and the Tuckner boys (Ty and Logan) are a nice trio for the Rockets.
(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 Warriors (6-1)
Caledonia’s Andrew Kunelius (5) takes a shot over Stewartville’s Mason Schindler (23) during a boys basketball game Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Caledonia. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Previous rank: (1)
Obviously, Caledonia is really talented. But its toughness, grittiness and culture was on full display. The Warriors didn’t complain when Eli King went down. They didn’t wince when Austin Klug rolled his ankle less than 48 hours before the Stewartville game. Andrew Kunelius is one of the most improved players in the state, and you won’t find many guys who are tougher than Casey Schultz. Klug will be out a few weeks, but Caledonia remains No. 1 until some southeastern Minnesota team finds a way to knock it off.
2. Stewartville Tigers (6-1)
Stewartville’s Nolan Stier (0) takes a shot during a boys basketball game against Goodhue earlier this week as the 2021 season gets underway. Stier, a senior point guard, is an area player to watch for this season. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Previous rank: (2)
Stewartville’s not dropping in the rankings because of a close loss to Caledonia. The Tigers didn’t have Nolan Stier and Bode Mayer, and they hung with the short-handed Warriors right until the very end (tied at 57 with 5 minutes left). Stewartville is a beast on the boards. Tschetter, Miles Hettinger and Eli Klavetter will not be outworked.
3. Byron Bears (4-0)
Byron’s Easton Hulke (12) goes up for a shot during a boys basketball game against Lake City Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Lake City. Byron beat Lake City 66-27. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Previous rank: (3)
Byron got back on the floor this week and didn’t skip a beat. It manhandled both Cannon Falls and Kasson-Mantorville. The Bears have more athleticism and depth than anyone in the HVL. The weight room gains are obvious, too. Byron and Stewartville will be an electric showdown.
4. Austin Packers (5-2)
Austin’s Emmanuel Manyuon (10) tries to get past Century’s Ryan Ohm (32) during a boys basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. Austin beat Century 56-49. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Previous rank: (4)
Every time Austin steps on the floor, there’s a good chance it’s going to have three of the top-five players in the game. Okey Okey, Teyghan Hovland and Emmanuel Manyuon have all been excellent this season for the Packers, and then Victor Idris showed how good he was on Tuesday when he dropped 16 points and seven rebounds on Century. Mankato East handed Austin a 13-point defeat, but there’s a reason why East is undefeated and rolling this season. Austin has impressive wins over Century, Winona and Mankato West under its belt.
5. Plainview-Elgin-Millville Bulldogs (5-1)
Stewartville’s Nolan Stier (0) dribbles between Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Conner Schumacher (13) and Blake Herber (21) during a Section 1AA quarterfinal boys basketball game Monday, March 2, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Previous rank: (7)
The Bulldogs look like they’ve straightened their issues out after being demolished by Caledonia. P-E-M got its season back on track with three consecutive wins over Lewiston-Altura, Dover-Eyota and St. Charles. The defense that P-E-M is playing is ridiculous. It held Kooper Vaughn to just 17 points after he went off for 63 in St. Charles’ season-opener.
6. Century Panthers (5-2)
Century’s Noah Deedrick (30) is introduced before a boys basketball game against Mayo Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. Century beat Mayo 67-62. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Previous rank: (5)
A five-point loss to Owatonna and a seven-point loss to Austin. Those are the only blemishes on the Panthers’ resume. And they’re not really even blemishes, honestly. Century is deep, long and tough. The Panthers are fine not scoring more than 80 points because they’re locking things up defensively. Head coach Jake Vetter is exceptional at finding ways to close out games. Noah Deedrick, Jaden Wysocki, Carter Poncelet, Jub Ogak and Peter Lynch can all go off for 20 points, so Century’s a tough team to shut down.
7. Spring Grove (6-1)
Spring Grove’s Caden Grinde, left, averaged just under 17 points a year ago. The senior, who is bound to play college basketball at Division II Upper Iowa, is an area player to watch this season. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Previous rank: (8)
Caden Grinde can take Spring Grove to new heights. The Upper Iowa commit is a man on a mission this year. He’s averaging well over 20 points per game, and Spring Grove is an impressive 6-1. The Tigers sit atop the Southeast Conference.
8. La Crescent Lancers (5-1)
Previous rank: (9)
La Crescent is up to 5-1. It’s clearly one of the teams to watch in the Three Rivers Conference, but it’s going to get two major tests this week against Caledonia and Chatfield. We’ll learn a lot about Ryan Thibodeau’s group these next few days.
9. Chatfield Gophers (5-1)
Chatfield’s Cole Johnson (2) dribbles past Kingsland’s Walker Erdman (0) during a recent boys basketball game. Johnson is averaging 9.5 points a game this season. (Joe Ahlquist / email@example.com)
Previous rank: unranked
Chatfield makes its debut in the Power Rankings after edging a solid Rushford-Peterson team 51-48 and destroying Dover-Eyota. Reid Johnson has been great this year. The return of big man David Castleberg has been monstrous and Cole Johnson knows his role.
10. Lyle/Pacelli (5-1)
Lyle/Pacelli’s Buay Koak (34) is introduced before a Section 1A quarterfinal boys basketball game against Randolph Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Previous rank: unranked
Lyle/Pacelli opened some eyes when it knocked off Southland on Feb. 1. The Athletics can really play thanks to their depth and variety of scorers. L/P is 5-1 and will look to continue its surge against a good Grand Meadow team on Monday.
Five jaw-dropping stats
1. Byron is 4-0 and winning by an average of 26.5 points per game.
2. After losing by 20 to Southland in late January, Lyle/Pacelli bounced back to hand the unbeaten Rebels a 13-point loss just 10 days later. Buay Koak, Cole Walter, Jake Truckenmiller and Sam Nelsen all had at least 13 points.
3. Entering the season, Kenyon-Wanamingo had lost 72 of its last 74 HVL games. It’s already notched two conference victories this season. Trevor Steburg, Laden Nerison and Casey Wesbur are studs.
4. Spring Grove held Houston to just 15 total points.
5. La Crescent held a 33-29 halftime advantage over Winona Cotter. It outscored the Ramblers 40-19 in the second half.
This week’s games to watch
Lyle/Pacelli at Grand Meadow, Monday at 7:15 p.m.: L/P is 5-1 and Grand Meadow has beaten some good teams this year. Colt Landers is a stud that can keep the Superlarks in every game. It’ll be one of the best matchups in the Southeast Conference.
Mankato West at Rochester Mayo, Monday at 7:30 p.m.: Mankato West is solid this year but not world-beaters by any means. Mayo could make a statement with a big win at home on Monday.
Owatonna at Austin, Monday at 7:30 p.m.: This one is going to be a dandy. Two Big Nine powers facing off. Austin’s athleticism should give Owatonna trouble, but the Huskies have some serious size inside.
La Crescent at Caledonia, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.: La Crescent is 5-1 but it’ll face a daunting task against the wounded but still great Warriors.
Lewiston-Altura at Chatfield, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.: Thomas Menk and Reid Johnson are among the best shooters in the state. Expect a barrage of 3-pointers.
Chatfield at La Crescent, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.: This is a huge game for the standings in the Three Rivers.
Byron at Stewartville, Friday at 7:15 p.m.: Biggest game in the HVL all season. Byron and Stewartville are terrific. Hopefully, Nolan Stier is back for this game. This will be a doozy.