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Henry Sibley scary at a good time

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 03/02/12, 6:58PM CST


Henry Sibley's boys' basketball team is deep and poised to 'put it all together' in the playoffs.

Quintin Cogshell (22) of Henry Sibley battles South St. Paul's Ryan Schlosser for a loose ball during a Feb. 28 game between the two schools.

Julius Johnson never had started a varsity basketball game before. The Henry Sibley junior had been patiently and effectively playing his role off the bench knowing his time to shine would be next year as a starter.

But when senior starter Dante' Grant told coach Lernell James that he couldn't go because of a tweaked ankle on Feb. 25, Johnson got the call.

"It was at the 12-minute mark of warmups. I told [Johnson] he was going to start, and his response was, 'OK,'" James recalled. "He was in the middle of a jump shot and never broke stride. And he drained it."

After Johnson's nonchalant response, the soft-spoken point guard recorded this line: 36 minutes played, 7-of-8 from the free-throw line, 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, one charge and no turnovers.

Sibley beat Orono 66-63.

Johnson, like Grant, has "ice water in his veins," James said.

"I'm a quiet kid. I just let my game speak for itself," Johnson said.

That victory and Johnson's attitude reflects Sibley's armed-and-ready rotation, which, unlike most teams, is rather large. Most teams like to regularly play seven or eight players. For flexibility and to hedge against injuries, James likes to roll with 10.

It also keeps players on their toes. Junior captain Nick Golberg sees it every day.

"Guys can't get too comfortable. There's always somebody underneath you looking to get a chance. No one is favored over anyone else," Golberg said. "Coach just laid it out there. He wants the hardest workers. It doesn't matter who the most talented player is because talent doesn't win every game unless you work hard."

Junior Adam Huessner's role is to score. He's fulfilled that assignment with 17.9 points per game to lead the Warriors. Grant is next with nearly 10 points per game. Junior Zach Haas starts on the wing and averages 8.5 points. Golberg adds 7 points per game as the starting post. Kessler Geschwill starts in the three or four position, rounding out a starting lineup with players who, except for Grant, will all return next year.

The Warriors' modest record -- 9-6 in conference after beating South St. Paul on Tuesday night -- includes quality victories over Minnetonka and Classic Suburban leader Tartan.

It's exactly why the Warriors are a difficult first-round playoff matchup for any team that draws them.

"I think we're kind of that scary team that nobody really wants to play in the first round, because we haven't really put it all together yet," James said. "If we do, boy, we could be a really scary team to play."

Eastview towers as the section favorite. Apple Valley, Cretin-Derham Hall, Eagan and Rosemount all loom as worthy challengers. Henry Sibley has nothing to lose.

"We're definitely carrying the underdog status a little bit," Golberg said. "Our record doesn't show how good we can be. I think we're able to surprise some people."

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