East Ridge vs. Mounds View

7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17

Dave Leiser has had some pretty good basketball teams at Mounds View in recent years, but they’ve all had the same one flaw that’s kept them from reaching the state tournament — the ability to contend with some of the state’s best big players.

The past four seasons, the Mustangs have been eliminated in the Class 4, Section 5 tournament by either Park Center or Champlin Park — teams that boasted standout bigs such as 6-foot-9 Dain Dainja, a Park Center grad who now plays at Baylor, and Theo John, a 6-foot-8 senior at Marquette who used to play for Champlin Park.

“We feel like the big difference is that we had trouble with the teams that had a really strong post presence,” Leiser said. “But we weren’t the only ones.”

The Mustangs are off to an unblemished start this season, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News from Feb. 10. Mounds View (9-0) will encounter a familiar problem when it hosts rival East Ridge (5-3) Wednesday in a Suburban East showdown. The Raptors are tall and long, with 6-6 Kendall Blue at guard and 6-8 Drew Adams at forward. 

“Size works both ways,” Leiser said. “Sometimes that leads to good matchups for us, too. We hope it works to our advantage.”

Among the reasons for Leiser’s optimism is the presence of Joey Bruggers and Ryan Edelman, who are both 6-foot-5. The pair aren’t adding a lot of scoring — about nine points per game between them — but they have provided a presence for the Mustangs on the boards and on defense. Edelman played on the sophomore team last year and has been a pleasant surprise since joining Leiser’s varsity squad. He draws some of the tougher defensive assignments and continues to gain Leiser’s confidence.

The Mustangs’ top scorer from a year ago, Evan Kim, is averaging just 12.4 points a game this winter while recovering from a foot injury incurred during fall basketball. Leiser said Kim, a 6-4 senior, is finally starting to play at full strength. Dylan Wheeler, a 6-5 play-anywhere-on-the-floor junior, averages 13.4 points and junior Kobe Kirk leads the Mustangs in scoring at 14.8 points per game.

With Blue (13.1 point per game), Adams (16.6 ppg), 6-3 sophomore Alex Mattes (12.3 ppg) and senior guard Ben North, the defending conference champion Raptors remain a tough team to beat.