Theo John, right, is a force inside for Champlin Park. He is a 6-8 shot-blocking center.
No. 1 Champlin Park (31-0) vs. No. 3 Apple Valley (29-2), 8 p.m., Target Center
Why Champlin Park will win: Theo John. With all due respect to Rebels’ exceptional point guard McKinley Wright, it’s the 6-8 John who is the biggest threat to Apple Valley. His presence defensively, with his wide wingspan (measured at 7-1), timing and athleticism, force opponents to adjust inside. Even if John doesn’t score, he still has a major effect on every game. “Theo is a major problem inside,” Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said. “With his size and shot-blocking ability, we’ll have to make some adjustments for that.”
Why Apple Valley will win: The Eagles’ offensive execution was superb in their semifinal victory over Maple Grove. With Tre Jones distributing, Apple Valley shot a stellar 64.6 percent from the field. Their defense was even better. They did all the little things well: playing gaps, switching and closing down the lane. They have two big bodies in Spencer Rolland and Kevin Totusek inside, giving Apple Valley 10 fouls to spend frustrating Theo John. “We’ve got the basics down defensively,” Goring said. “This group is much further along defensively than other groups I’ve coached.”
Key to the game: Champlin Park’s outside shooting. The Rebels struggled with it for much of the tournament but found the range in the latter stages of their victory over Wayzata. Brian Smith and Josiah Strong hit three three-pointers in Rebels’ game-clinching 14-3 run. If Champlin Park can hit from outside, that will open up lanes for Wright to drive and John to operate down low.
Worth knowing: There is a significant history between these teams. In 2015, Apple Valley defeated Champlin Park 64-61 in the Class 4A championship game. Champlin Park was undefeated before that game, too. The Rebels defeated the Eagles 91-84 earlier this season, with Theo John collecting 20 points and 20 rebounds.