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Though the Chaska boys’ basketball team has been the class of the Metro West Conference each of the past three seasons, there is still a sense of nervousness for the Hawks when they head to St. Louis Park.
“I’ll admit, this is a place we’ve struggled,” said Chaska coach Dana Kallman. “We haven’t had the best luck here. But tonight, I’m satisfied.”
Kallman has good reason. The Hawks came into the Orioles’ gym and cruised, defeating St. Louis Park 92-68 while keeping themselves at the top of the conference standings.
This game was important for a number of reasons. To start, the Hawks and Orioles were among four teams tied at the top of the Metro West. With the victory, the Hawks pushed the Orioles down the standings while keeping pace with Robbinsdale Cooper for the conference lead.
For Chaska (15-5, 6-2), there was a possibility of fatigue Friday. It was the Hawks’ third game conference game this week. The Hawks lost 74-58 to Robbinsdale Cooper on Monday but rebounded with a 73-48 win against Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Wednesday.
On Friday, Chaska was able to get past any nerves quickly as the Hawks came out shooting well. That was started by junior guard Conner Krenos. Though Krenos has had quality nights in the past, Friday’s game was one for the books. Krenos had a team-high 34 points in the win and went 7-for-7 from three-point range in the first half.
Krenos came into Friday’s game averaging 10.1 points per game, but Kallman has seen his junior guard go on impressive runs before.
“When he was on JV last year, there were games where he would hit seven or eight threes,” Kallman said. “We’ve seen him do this before in other games, including against Edina.”
When Krenos wasn’t knocking down shots from the outside, Chaska had options on the inside. The Hawks feature junior Cole Nicholson and senior Parker Bjorklund. Each of the forwards stand 6-foot-6, presenting opponents plenty of difficult matchup possibilities. Bjorklund finished Friday’s game with 22 points while Nicholson had 20.
“They’re both just fantastic,” Kallman said. “They’re very skilled on both ends and execute so well. They also just play so unselfish. Not many players at the high school level play as unselfish as these guys.”
Bjorklund and Nicholson’s willingness to get others involved can easily be seen on the offensive end. As teams work to pressure Chaska’s frontcourt duo, their posts are able to kick it out to players like Krenos. And on Friday, a pass to Krenos likely meant a made three-pointer.
“Whenever they get doubled, they are great at getting it out to us on the wings,” Krenos said. “It makes my job a lot easier.”
While Krenos and the rest of the Hawks made getting into the paint offensively a priority, they were attempting to keep St. Louis Park (10-10, 5-3) out of the paint. The Orioles came in with three players — seniors Cire Mayfield, Aidan Doherty and Joey Whitlock — averaging in double figures and had benefitted all season from driving into the paint and getting quality shots off.
On Friday, they had some success with their usual strategy, but they just couldn’t keep up with Chaska’s hot shooting. They did have one big moment when Mayfield scored his 1,000th career point in the first half and received a standing ovation along with an explosion of confetti.
“(Doherty, Mayfield and Whitlock) tore us apart the last time we played,” said Kallman, who was referencing his team’s 72-66 win against St. Louis Park on Jan. 16. “Mayfield is just the engine that gets them going. They were good tonight, but we just shot the ball so well, it was hard for them to keep up.”
After Friday’s game, Chaska, ranked No. 18 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News, looked like a loose group. Players were walking around laughing and basking in its blowout win. But Krenos was quick to put things in perspective after the game.
“We come in every day with that mindset of wanting to get better every day,” Krenos said. “We’ve been working hard in practice. We know there’s a lot of work to do if we want to accomplish our goals.”
After a strong first half from three-point range, Chaska, ranked No. 18 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News, rolled on as the Hawks defeated Metro West Conference foe St. Louis Park 92-68 on Friday at St. Louis Park High School. With the win, Chaska moves ahead of the Orioles in the conference standings
The Hawks (15-5, 6-2) were aided by the strong shooting of junior guard Conner Krenos. He went 7-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half. He finished the game with a season-high 34 points after coming into Friday’s game averaging 10.1 points per game.
While Krenos was knocking down shots from the outside, his teammates were picking up points on the inside. Senior forward Parker Bjorklund finished with 22 points and junior forward Cole Nicholson had 20 points in the win.
The Orioles (10-10, 5-3) were unable to keep up with Chaska’s hot shooting. St. Louis Park was led by senior guard Cire Mayfield. He had a team-best 27 points in the loss and scored his 1,000th career point in front of the home crowd.
Senior forward Aidan Doherty aided the Orioles with 15 points while senior guard Joey Whitlock added 11 points.
The MN Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.