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Top games: Benilde-St. Margaret's out to make a name for itself with trip to DeLaSalle

By Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, 12/19/22, 10:30AM CST


Dec. 20: The up-and-coming Red Knights will test their mettle against the tried, true and tested Islanders.

Photo by SportsEngine

We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.

Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. DeLaSalle

7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20

DeLaSalle's leading scorer, Nasir Whitlock, is a decorated senior with state championship game experience and a scholarship to Lehigh.

Benilde-St. Margaret's leading scorer, Jalen Wilson, is a sophomore with two games of varsity experience. 

DeLaSalle (4-1, 1-1) has reached the state tournament 11 consecutive seasons and 19 times (with eight state championships) in the 2000s.

Benilde-St. Margaret's (3-0, 2-0) won a state championship in 2008 but hasn't been back to the state tournament since 2010.

A mismatch? Not at all. The Red Knights, fifth in the Minnesota Basketball News Class 3A rankings, might be looking up at the No. 2-3A Islanders but they are on a path to prove they belong with the best in the state.

And they've got a lot of young and strong legs to get them where they want to go, starting with Wilson, who has scored 30 points in each of his first two games at Benilde-St. Margaret's.

Jayden Daisy, a 6-foot-4 junior, is averaging 12.7 points and Jaleel Donley, a 6-foot-2 sophomore transfer from Hopkins, is averaging 16.3 points. Freshman Christian Wiggins averages 9.0 points and sophomore Abu Keita averages 7.0. If this isn't the year the Red Knights come out on top in Section 6, where they are competing with No. 3-3A Orono, it feels like that year is not far away.

Tuesday's game at DeLaSalle is an early opportunity for the young Red Knights to prove they belong among the state's elite. 

The Islanders, under new head coach Todd Anderson, were humbled in their season-opener, losing by 41 points to No. 1-4A Park Center, but have won four in a row since.

Seniors Myles Dillon-Parks, Riley Blaylark and PJ Pounds and transfer Jaden Morgan, a 6-foot-3 junior from Two Rivers, surround Whitlock, given a lot of attention in preseason talk of potential Mr. Basketball winners, to form the core of the Islanders' lineup.

Mahtomedi vs. Stillwater

7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20

Any outsider could see that Mahtomedi would be counting on seniors Owen Carlson and Cole Armitage for offense this season.

The two combined to average 36.5 points a game as juniors and are big reasons for the Zephyrs' high hopes in 2022-23. Mahtomedi (2-0, 0-0) is ranked fourth in Class 3A.

But fellow senior Will Underwood, with 54 points in the Zephyrs' first two games, has so far dominated the scoring. The 6-foot-3 Underwood played in just two varsity games a year ago but drew plenty of attention for his play (he averaged more than 20 points) with Howard Pulley Hoops in an AAU league over the summer.

Can Underwood continue at this pace? He certainly doesn't have to look far on Tuesday night at Stillwater for inspiration.

Max Shikenjanski, the 6-foot-3 senior who has signed to play football at the University of Minnesota, is one of the state's most prolific scorers. He averaged 16.8 points as a freshman for the Ponies, 24.2 as a sophomore and 28.3 as a junior when Stillwater finished 13-14. He's averaged 24.8 through his first five games this season.

One of Stillwater's issues has been finding consistent scoring alongside Shikenjanski. Lake de Jongh, Tyler Wiese, Joe Hoheisel, Henry Zollar and Brett Hilde have all had their moments but only Hilde (10.0) is averaging in double figures.

Orono vs. Delano

7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20

Orono and Delano once were rivals in the Wright County East and have had their share of battles. 

While Orono (3-0, 0-0) has moved to a new conference, the rivalry should still be simmering for the schools barely 13 miles apart. 

Most teams have a hard time keeping up with the high-scoring Spartans, ranked third in Class 3A. But Delano (5-1, 0-0) has the scoring to at least stay in the race.

Junior Will Strandemo, averaging 19.8 points per game, leads the Tigers. Sophomore Jake Schultz (14.8 points per game) and freshman Max Iversen (12.2) give Delano a number of offensive weapons. 

The Tigers lost their opener by one point at St. Anthony this season, but won their next four by 13, 13, 15 and 16 points before extending the win streak to five with an 83-78 victory over Becker.

Still, it's hard to keep up with the Spartans' high-scoring trio of Isaiah Hagen (25.7), Nolan Groves (19.3) and Kyle Kallenbach (15.0). Hagen (26 points) and Kallenbach (19) combined for 45 points in a 78-60 home victory over the Tigers last season.

That group led Orono to a 21-8 record a year ago. But the Spartans will be aiming to avoid the end-of-season struggles they had last year when they lost four of their last seven games, including the Class 3A, Section 6 championship game against Mound Westonka.

Other games to keep an eye on

Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Cass Lake-Bena, 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22. Anything could happen in this game. Cass Lake-Bena (2-0, 0-0) gave Mahnomen/Waubun (3-1, 1-1) a big old lump of coal with an 88-48 beating on Dec. 23, 2021, but the Thunderbirds won the rematch by 10 points late in the season. Both teams have big postseason dreams, so you can bet … ok, maybe it’s better not to bet.

Southwest Minnesota Christian vs. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22. One team likely will leave this game with its first loss of the season. Southwest Minnesota Christian (3-0, 1-0) has its first chance to make a show of force against No. 10-1A Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (2-0, 2-0), the defending section champion.

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