A couple of seasons ago, coach Tyler Biwan’s Blake team would be approaching Tuesday’s game at Minnehaha Academy as something to endure and finish as quickly as possible. After a few seasons of development and growth, this season’s Bears are looking forward to playing what might be the best team in the state.
“Chronologically, we’ve gone into this game being a little fearful, to having a little confidence, to ultimately going in there and thinking we’ll give them a game,” Biwan said.
Blake is sixth in the Class 2A rankings and gaining confidence. And with freshman Grayson Okoronkwo, who leads the team in scoring at 15.9 points per game, the Bears (9-0) have added another dimension.
More experienced players such as Robert Grace IV (10.8 ppg), Gabe Ganz (10.2 ppg) and Theo (15 ppg) and Jasper Liu (15.2 ppg) have improved and made their own mark on the game while complimenting Okoronkwo.
“We’ve got balance,” Biwan said. “We’ve got five guys who can lead us in scoring. Any one can go off on any night. And our guys are really unselfish.”
Twenty-four assists credited to Blake players in the Bears' 89-37 victory over Maranatha Christian on Feb. 5 are proof of Biwan's team being willing to spread the wealth, he said.
But of course the No. 1-3A Redhawks are not your average Minnesota high school basketball team.
With senior Chet Holmgren (21 ppg), Prince Aligbe (14 ppg), Isaiah Davis (15.2 ppg) and Hercy Miller (10.2 ppg) all popular with college recruiters, the Redhawks (7-1) remain a dominant force in the state. Biwan knows playing, let alone beating, Minnehaha Academy is a challenge.
“Chet is a 7-footer who can play the perimeter, play anywhere really,” Biwan said. “Knowing where he is all the time will be our first priority [defensively].”
It’s a challenge Biwan’s team is approaching with intensity more than apprehension this time. And, really, what do the Bears have to lose?
“We’re playing with house money,” Biwan said. “But I’m glad we only have to play them once.”