Columbia Heights coach Willie Braziel called his team’s 73-62 loss to St. Croix Lutheran on Feb. 11 a lesson. Now that the Hylanders, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A by Minnesota Basketball News from Feb. 17, embark on their second pass through Tri-Metro Conference opponents this winter, he hopes it is a lesson learned well.
Despite the loss, Columbia Heights (8-1) still has an advantage in the conference race with victories over No. 5-3A DeLaSalle (68-63 on Jan. 29) and No. 4-3A Richfield (75-65 on Feb. 5). The Hylanders will be fighting to hold onto that edge in Tuesday’s rematch with DeLaSalle (7-3), which is coming off a 61-55 blemish to Holy Angels on Feb. 19.
Braziel said he thinks his team got caught up in its success following a 6-0 start and a high ranking before stumbling to No. 9-3A St. Croix Lutheran.
“It was what you call a good loss,” Braziel said. “It kind of grounds you. … We’re just really an average basketball team still learning to meld together.”
But, he said, the junior-dominated Hylanders, who are playing without 6-7 junior Spencer Alvarez, who injured his knee during football season, are on the right path.
Transfer student Hassan Kamara (16.1 points per game) from Osseo and Fargo transplant Donnavin Hinsz (13.9 ppg) join Muja Burton (18.3 ppg) and Terrence Brown (6.3 points, 6.4 assists a game) to form a formidable junior group. Elijah Williams, averaging 9.2 points, is the team's lone senior starter.
In the Hylanders’ home victory over DeLaSalle in late January, the Islanders were without defensive standout Keijuan White and senior Cade Haskins (14.3 ppg) scored just six points. Nasir Whitlock, who averages 13.4 points a game, scored 23. Evan Boyd leads the Islanders with a 14.7-point scoring average.