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Minneapolis North surges through Prairie Seeds Academy into tournament play

By Ben Farber, SportsEngine, 03/17/17, 9:15AM CDT


The Polars' offense exploded in section play, scoring at least 111 points in three out of four playoff games.

Minneapolis North senior Isaac Johnson drives for two of his team high 26 points against Prairie Seeds Academy. The Polars defeated the Lycans 120-43 advancing to next week's Class 1A state tournament. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

Minneapolis North senior Jaquan Sanders-Smith goes in for a layup against Prairie Seeds Academy Friday night. The Polars defeated the Lycans in the Class 1A, Section 4 finals 120-43. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

For the second straight year, Minneapolis North downed Prairie Seeds Academy in the finals of the Section 4, Class A bracket to earn a berth in the state tournament. On Friday at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, the Polars dominated in every manner imaginable and secured an eye-popping 120-43 victory.

Over the past few days, the defending Class 1A state champion Polars have made a habit of blowing out their opponents in sectionals. For the Polar powerhouse, Friday was more of the same.

Minneapolis North won its four section tournament games by an average of 75 points.

“I think we’re one of the best teams in the state, period,” said Polars coach Larry McKenzie.

Friday’s game seemed decided almost as soon as it began. Midway through the first half, the Polars held a 24-2 advantage. At halftime, they led 68-14.

Minneapolis North was determined to stamp out any notion of a budding rivalry with Prairie Seeds Academy. Although the two sides have battled in the section final in back-to-back years, the Polars have taken the two contests by a combined 110 points.

“[Prairie Seeds’] coach said we were in for a ‘rude awakening’ tonight. I think he gave our team a little extra motivation,” said McKenzie.

The Minneapolis North starters went gangbusters in the first half, hounding and confounding the Lycans. In the second half, the second unit carried the mantle.

Definitively dominant on both offense and defense, the Polars controlled the boards and the passing lanes. Minneapolis North ruled in every conceivable statistical category. Not only did the team outscore the Lycans by 73 points, they outrebounded Prairie Seeds Academy 39-23, out-assisted them 16-3, out-stole them 15-4 and out-blocked the Lycans 8-3.

Western Illinois commit Isaac Johnson led Minneapolis North with 26 points (23 in the first half) and 11 rebounds. Junior wing Tayler Johnson poured in 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals. JaQuan Sanders-Smith also finished with 18 points and junior forward Odell Wilson IV chipped in 14 points.

Senior forward A.J. Abara led Prairie Seeds with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Another benefit of Friday’s win for Minneapolis North—by virtue of building such a big lead, the Polars featured their bench heavily in the second half. The Polars’s neophytes gained precious big-game experience. Three players in particular stood out: junior guard Zion Sanford, sophomore guard Elijah Campbell, and seventh-grader Trejuan Holloman.

Both Sanford and Campbell finished with 10 points in the contest but the box score betrays how valuable each of them truly were to their team.

“Our seventh grader, we got Tre, he got some good minutes for us. The freshmen and sophomores—they’re just taking this in and the time they’re getting right now will prepare them for the years to come,” said Tayler Johnson.

In short, Friday’s game punctuated Minneapolis North’s historic season with an exclamation mark. Now, the Polars will gear up for a defense of their state title.

“It feels like a dream come true. We practiced so hard to make it here again. We lost three seniors from last year, so it feels really good to be back,” said Wilson.

Minneapolis North moves on to the state tournament after finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 in Class A by the Minnesota State Basketball Coaches Association. Its record stands at 29-2 (14-0) with its only losses coming on opening night to Apple Valley and late in the season to Hopkins.

Minneapolis North is currently ranked No. 10 overall in the state. But the Polars' coaches and players are more than confident their team can hang with the best competition in Minnesota.

“I don’t know if we’re overlooked but in terms of rankings, I don’t think we ever got enough love in spite of playing a tough and competitive schedule. Our schedule was as tough as a 4A team’s. We compete. We lost to Apple Valley and Hopkins—two powerhouses. Our guys feel that, maybe because we’re Class A, there’s some disrespect in that regard,” said McKenzie.

“But it doesn’t matter. I think we’re playing pretty good right now. We’re going to take it one game at a time. If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, I think we have a good chance to repeat,” he added.

Prairie Seeds Academy saw its stellar 2016-17 season come to a close on Friday. The Lycans finished with a record of 24-5 (14-1) and reached the section title game for the second straight year. 

First Report

Defending Class A state champion Minneapolis North is once again king of the Class 1A, Section 4 tournament. The Polars dispatched Prairie Seeds Academy by a whopping 120-43 margin on Friday night at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, knocking off the Lycans in the section title game for the second straight year.

The Polars, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A by Minnesota Basketball News (29-2, 14-0), won their four section playoff games outscoring their opponents 460-160.

Western Illinois recruit Isaac Johnson scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Polars. He recorded 23 points and 8 boards in the first half. Junior wing Tayler Johnson was everywhere—finishing with 18 points, 10 boards, four assists and four steals.

Minneapolis North also received contributions of 18 points from JaQuan Sanders-Smith, 14 points from Odell Wilson IV, and 10 points each from the second-string backcourt tandem of Zion Sanford and Elijah Campbell.

The Polars will now have an opportunity to defend their title in the Class 1A state tournament, beginning next week.

Senior forward A.J. Abara led Prairie Seeds Academy with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The loss closes the book on a terrific season for No. 15-1A Prairie Seeds (24-5, 14-1) that saw the club finishing first in the Twin Cities Athletic Conference. 

Prairie Seeds Academy senior AJ Abara drives around a Minneapolis North defender in the Class 1A, Section 4 final Friday night. North defeated Prairie Seeds Academy to advance to the state tournament. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

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