Minnehaha Academy started the season with unprecedented accolades and all the accompanying expectations. Ranked 20th nationally by USA Today and called perhaps the best high school team in Minnesota history by the Star Tribune, the No. 1-3A Redhawks carried a predictable sense of invincibility early.
Minnehaha Academy coach Lance Johnson worried that his players might have felt they simply couldn't lose a game.
Then, the Redhawks (8-2, 0-0) did just that, losing not just one game, but two of their first five. If there was ever any hint of panic by players or fans, the team quickly wiped that away with an incredible weekend of basketball. After beating No. 2-4A Park Center 89-68 on Jan. 3 in an overcrowded home gym, the next day the Redhawks handled Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Calif., ranked 8th nationally in the USA Today preseason poll and powered by star names such as James and Wade, winning by 20 points and restoring confidence in full.
That weekend Johnson said, "Reset our expectations for the remainder of the year."
Oh boy, look out to any of the Redhawks' remaining opponents this season.
Johnson purposefully did not schedule any games last week, hoping to give his players a chance to celebrate and enjoy a weekend that became so much more eventful than even he had envisioned. The team even had a few days off from practice.
"My aim was to keep them away long enough to get hungry for the remainder of the year," Johnson said. "Our schedule is packed with marquee games, so we will have to get back to the grind as quickly as possible."
That grind starts in earnest this week, with four games including a showdown with No. 2-2A Caledonia on Friday.
Jalen Suggs, a senior who recently committed to Gonzaga, remains the face of the Redhawks. He averages 23.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Junior Chet Holmgren (17 ppg), a 7-footer, and sophomore Prince Aligbe (11.6 points and seven per game) are also standouts.
Caledonia (13-0, 3-0) enters the week unbeaten after defeating strong competition that includes No. 3-2A Lake City (69-64 on Dec. 14), No. 2-2A Waseca (81-73 on Jan. 4) and most recently No. 4-2A Minneapolis North (87-83 on Jan. 11)
Brothers Noah (25 points, 7 rebounds per game) and Eli King (14 points, 6.5 rebounds per game) form the heart of the Warriors' lineup. Austin Klug (12 ppg) chips in to help the Warriors, who are outscoring opponents by almost 22 points a game.