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West metro basketball boasts plenty of early pizazz

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 12/06/15, 1:13AM CST


Staff writer Jim Paulsen’s primer on west metro basketball for 2015-16.

Orono center Meghan Mandel (44) drives to the basket against Marshall's Morgan Saustad (34) and Gabby Hess (32) during the first half of the Class 3A girls basketball semifinals at Williams Arena Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Minneapolis, MN.](DAVID JOLES

Early returns

Boys: Hopkins’ Amir Coffey, who missed last season with a knee injury, made a splash when he signed with Minnesota, his father Richard’s alma mater. But it’s been teammate Xavier Johnson who has been the story for the Royals. Johnson scored 30 points in a season-opening victory at Bloomington Kennedy and 21 in a victory at Lakeville South. … Minneapolis North’s depth was on display in its 97-63 victory over Minneapolis Southwest as six Polars scored in double figures.


Girls: Orono looks poised to make another charge at the Class 3A championship after holding off Wayzata, which many believe is a top-10 team in Class 4A, 55-53 in the season-opener for both teams. Orono got offensive production from the usual suspects, with center Meghan Mandel and guard Tori Andrew each contributing 17 points. The Spartans were 30-2 in 2014-15 and took third place in the state tournament.


Rocky start

Boys: Is Eden Prairie, No. 4 in Class 4A, ranked a little too high? Probably not, considering the depth of talent on the Eagles’ roster, but it is safe to say that a season-opening 74-73 loss to Burnsville at home got their attention. They bounced back with a 97-88 victory at Prior Lake on Tuesday.


Girls: Osseo is going to need its supporting players to step up and help out Star Tribune preseason dream team guard Kiara Russell or the season will get away from the Orioles quickly. Russell accounted for nearly half of their points, 20, in a 51-41 loss to Rogers. She is talented enough to win some games on her own, but it won’t happen often without help.


Under the radar


Myles Hanson, Chaska: Basketball wonks know all about this smooth-shooting 6-5 junior swingman. By the time this season is over, Hanson will be far more well-known. He can score in myriad ways, has excellent range and can be electric in the open floor.

Jericho Sims, Cristo Rey Jesuit: Cristo Rey, a Catholic school that opened in 2007, has hardly made a blip on the local athletic scene. Behind Sims, an athletic 6-6 junior wing, that should change. He could start for nearly any state team.



Kitri Zezza, St. Michael-Albertville: While teammates Sydney Tracy and Rae Johnson carry the scoring load, it’s Zezza, a lockdown senior who provides the pizazz to the defense. “Best defender I have seen,” coach Kent Hamre said.

Morgan Hill, Minneapolis South: As Tayler Hill’s little sister, the 5-7 sophomore guard has had to live with unrealistic expectations. She’s blossoming as a player, utilizing her speed and athleticism to show off some of the family knack for scoring.


Do not miss

Boys: Saturday, Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka. Three of the four No. 1-ranked teams in the most recent Associated Press state rankings will be in action in this 16-team blowout. Among the notable games: Minneapolis North (No. 1, 1A) vs. Fridley, 12:45 p.m.; Apple Valley (No. 1, 4A) vs. Hopkins (No. 2, 4A), 3:45 p.m., and DeLaSalle (No. 1, 3A) vs. Champlin Park (No. 7, 4A), 7 p.m.


Girls: Feb. 1, Eden Prairie at Minneapolis North. Eagles coach Faith Johnson Patterson returns to coach at Minneapolis North, a team she led to five state championships from 1997 through 2009, for the first time. “This time I will be on the visitors’ side. It will be a very emotional game for me,” she wrote in a preseason preview.

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