St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley are used to squaring off for state glory at this time of the year.
Maybe not on the basketball floor, however.
The two wrestling powerhouses square off today in the Class AAAA Quarterfinals, the unseeded Knights the winners of Section 8 with a win over Rogers last week, the No. 2 Eagles the champs in Section 3.
Apple Valley is a favorite in this tournament, boasting Duke point guard Tyus Jones’ little brother, Tre, and college recruit Gary Trent Jones, Jr., son of former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Gary Trent.
The Eagles won the tournament in their last appearance – 2013. For the Knights, it’s their first trip to the 4A dance, and their first appearance at a state tournament since 2008.
“We know what we’re up against when we get down there. Every team from top to bottom in that bracket is going to be solid. So we’re going to go out there and really enjoy it. It’s a great atmosphere,” said head coach Tim Anfenson of the Knights.
Still, the Knights players think they can match up well with anyone. STMA ran off 10 straight wins at one point of the season, and saw state qualifiers in Orono and Forest Lake during the year.
“I’ll take this group against anyone, really,” said Caleb Holt, the section semifinal hero for the Knights. “Our team has a lot of guys who can do everything – defend, handle the basketball, get inside, hit a shot from outside. We need to worry about our game and take care of things on our side and anything can happen.”
For the Knights, getting over the Section 8 hump and getting to the big tourney was a dream come true. Now, it’s time to dance.
“This is what we’ve dreamed about since travel ball in third grade,” said senior Trevor Rothstein, whose brother, Theo, was on the last team to make state for the Knights. “We put in a lot of work over the summer and it all came together. I think, throughout the year, we’ve taken everyone’s best shot.”
NOTES from the MSHSL:
Three teams are returning to defend their 2014 titles; Esko in Class AA; DeLaSalle in Class AAA; and Lakeville North in Class AAAA. Both Esko and Lakeville North are unseeded in their respective classes this year.
Two teams are making first appearances: Nevis in Class A and Hermantown in Class AAA.
This is the 19th year of the four-class format and the 12th year that all games are being played in Minneapolis. This year and the next three years the boys’ basketball tournament will precede the girls’ basketball tournament because Target Center is hosting the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff tournament.
The seeding process had all 32 coaches of the section champions log onto a special page of the League Web site. Each coach then ranked the other teams in their class one through seven. The highest and lowest rankings for each team were discarded, leaving five rankings for each team. From those rankings, the top five teams were seeded. In conference calls with all eight head coaches of each class, League Associate Director Kevin Merkle announced the top five seeds. Tom Critchley, representing the boys’ basketball coaches association, then blindly drew the three remaining teams to establish the opponent for each seeded team. Numbers four and five automatically play each other.
The 2015 State Boys’ Basketball Tournament starts Wednesday, March 11. Quarterfinal games will be played at Target Center on Wednesday, March 11, and at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on both Wednesday and Thursday, March 11 and 12. Semifinals will be played at Target Center on Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13. The championship games of all four classes will be played at Target Center on Saturday, March 14. Third-place games will be played on Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul.