The Minnesota State High School League’s Class A state tournament doesn’t technically begin until March 20, but high school basketball fans can take in one of the best section tournaments in the state beforehand. The Section 2A boys basketball tournament is once again filled with some of the best teams in the state, making this section tournament a mini state tournament its own right.
When you take a look at the Class A rankings by Minnesota Basketball News, the amount of teams from Section 2A is bizarre. Of the 21 teams in Section 2A, eight are ranked in the top-20 in Class A. Not enough for you? Of the top five-ranked teams in Class A, four are in Section 2A.
With talented teams from top to bottom, Section 2A will once again be a dog fight from the opening round. While 19 wins almost certainly guarantees a home game for the first round of the playoffs, that’s not the case with Section 2A. Cedar Mountain was the unlucky team this go around. With 19 wins on the season, the Cougars will open the postseason on the road.
With some of the top teams in the state all battling for one spot in the Class A state tournament, intriguing matchups and big-time performances are bound to happen in each round until there’s only one team left standing. What team will be the one to cut down the nets and send themselves to the state tournament? That’s to be determined, but it’s safe to say that whoever does come out as Section 2A champions, will certainly have earned it.
After experiencing heartbreak in the Section 2A North Sub-Section title game last season, the BOLD Warriors are back as the No. 1 seed in the North. The Warriors return just about everybody from last year’s team that nearly knocked off Mayer Lutheran last season, and are one of the most complete teams in the section.
An improved Minnesota Valley Lutheran team snagged the No. 2 seed in the North. Led by Jake Kettner, the Chargers are a team that score with anybody.
Defending Section 2A champions Mayer Lutheran are back as the No. 3 seed this year. The Crusaders have had their struggles throughout the season, but with Baden Noennig leading the charge, Mayer Lutheran is capable of making another deep run this time around.
New Ulm Cathedral picked up the No. 4 seed. The depth of Section 2A is shown as the Greyhounds are the No. 5 ranked team in the state, yet are the No. 4 seed in their sub-section. New Ulm Cathedral coach Alan Woitas has the Greyhounds playing well once again heading into the postseason, where New Ulm Cathedral is always a tough out.
Cedar Mountain was tagged with the No. 5 seed, while Lester Prairie earned the No. 6 seed in Andrew Dahl’s first year as head coach of the Bulldogs.
In the South Sub-Section, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown earned the No. 1 seed to some people’s surprise. Like MVL, the Buccaneers are one of the more improved teams in Section 2A this year, and will be a team that needs to be taken seriously.
Springfield received the No. 2 seed. The Tigers are the defending south champs, and feature the best player in the section in Isaac Fink. After a loss in the Section 2A title game to Mayer Lutheran at the buzzer last year, Fink and the Tigers will be on a mission once again to get back to the state tournament.
Mountain Lake/Comfrey is the No. 3 seed. After Cedar Mountain and Comfrey went away with their co-op, it was Mountain Lake who was the beneficiary, by getting some nice players to add to their core from Comfrey with the new co-op.
United South Central is the No. 4 seed, while Nicollet is the No. 5 seed in the south.
Each round in both the North and the South feature some great matchups, and there are no easy wins in this tournament.
Below is an in-depth look at all the teams in Section 2A, including key players and statistics.
(1) BOLD WARRIORS
When you watch the BOLD Warriors play, you might want to grab some popcorn and watch the show. With almost their entire lineup back from last year, the Warriors are one of the most complete teams in Section 2A.
Led by a great core of guards to go along with a strong post presence inside, the Warriors are a team that score, and score in a hurry. On the season, the Warriors are 21-3 and are averaging 77 points per game. The Warriors have scored 80 or more points in eight games this season, including scoring 112 against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in late December.
In the backcourt, the Warriors are led by a great trio – Gavin Vosika, Jordan Sagedahl, and Drew Sagedahl.
Vosika is a high-motor point guard who’s no stranger to filling up the box score. Whether it’s scoring himself, getting his teammates going, or causing chaos on the defensive end, Vosika is talented enough to lead the Warriors to another deep postseason run.
Joining Vosika in the backcourt are brothers Jordan and Drew Sagedahl. Both Jordan and Drew are capable of scoring in bunches, and give the Warriors three true scorers to go along with Vosika.
While the Sagedahl brothers and Vosika take control of things in the backcourt, the Warriors also have a pretty good option inside with senior Carter Henry.
At 6-foot-7 with an insane vertical, Henry is a matchup nightmare for most teams in Class A. Whether it’s on the defensive or offensive end, Henry is a player who can affect a game with his impressive skill set.
Matthew Moorse rounds out the rotation for the Warriors. While the other starting four might get much of the attention, Moorse is a solid fifth guy for the Warriors to count on for big minutes.
With all things going well for the Warriors, one thing to keep an eye on will be be their depth. The Warriors are not the deepest team in the sections, and with multiple games in a short stretch, it’ll be something to keep an eye on as the tournament goes.
(2) MN VALLEY LUTHERAN CHARGERS
One of the most improved teams in the Section 2A tournament this season are the MVL Chargers. With a 20-3 record this season, the Chargers are enjoying one of their best seasons in the last three years.
The Chargers are for real. They already boast wins over Springfield, New Ulm Cathedral, Cedar Mountain, and St. Peter this season. Playing in the Tomahawk Conference, the Chargers are very familiar with teams like Springfield, NUC, and Cedar Mountain. The Chargers split with Springfield and NUC, while winning their lone matchup with Cedar Mountain.
A big reason for the improvement for MVL this season has been the play of senior Jake Kettner, who was a semifinalist for the Mr. Basketball Award. A University of Sioux Falls commit, Kettner is a big-time scorer. He’s no stranger to having big games, and is a guy who’s capable of scoring 20-plus points in any game.
Another player to keep an eye on for the Chargers is junior Dunwa Omot. Omot can fill up the stat sheet as well, and along with Kettner, provides a great one-two punch for the Chargers. Matt Munsen, a four-year starter for the Chargers is also another experienced player who can help lead the Chargers to a deep run.
The Chargers are another team who thrive on their offense. For the season, MVL averages 75 points per game, and has hit the 80-point threshold nine times this season.
While scoring is no problem for the Chargers most nights, they’ll need to get better defensively. Of the nine times they’ve scored 80 or more points, they’ve lost two of those games. That includes a 101-81 loss to Springfield.
If MVL wants to make a deep run, they’ll need their offense to continue to click, while at the same time, getting better defensively.
(3) MAYER LUTHERAN CRUSADERS
The defending Section 2A champions are back as the No. 3 seed. After graduation hit Mayer Lutheran hard last season, the Crusaders are back and reloaded with more talent to make another run.
The season hasn’t always been pretty for the Crusaders who enter with an overall record of 17-8. That record might not be impressive, but it comes with a story. In an effort to get back to the state tournament once again, the Crusaders loaded their schedule with tough non conference matchups in order to make another run in the month of March.
While the wins didn’t come like last season, several new players on the varsity roster experienced key moments in big games that will only help the Crusaders in a grueling stretch of Section 2A games.
Over the course of the season, the Crusaders have shown improvement. They had chances to pick up signature wins against North Woods, Rushford-Peterson, BOLD, Stewartville, and Jordan twice. Although they came up short in all of those, the Crusaders got the big win they were looking for with a win over Spring Grove, who’s also been in the Class A rankings this season.
The Crusaders have the go-to scorer that they will need to make a run in senior Baden Noennig. After scoring his 1,000th career point last season, Noennig became Mayer Lutheran’s all-time lead scorer this season.
Over the course of the season, Noennig is averaging 18.6 points per game for Mayer Lutheran. He’s been the go-to scorer all year long, but he’ll need some help from his teammates if the Crusaders would like to defend their title.
Mayer Lutheran has the players who can support the scoring alongside Noennig. Senior Brendan Feltmann is a quick guard who can push the tempo and get things going in motion. He’s also capable of knocking it down from 3-point range, and will be a key player the Crusaders will rely on to make another run.
Freshman Teigan Martin is also a key player for the Crusaders. As every freshman will, Martin has had his ups-and-downs over the course of the season. Even with that, he’s gained valuable experience in big games down the stretch, and will need to be a consistent threat for Mayer Lutheran.
Jacob Pallas and Zander Flucas are also key players for the Crusaders. Pallas can do it all on both ends of the floor, while Flucas gives Mayer Lutheran another inside presence to try and win the battle in the paint.
One thing Mayer Lutheran can hang their hats on that most of the other teams can’t in Section 2A is their defense. Going up against top-tier competition all season long (including many Class AA schools), the Crusaders are allowing an average of just 55 points per game, the best among Section 2A teams. The Crusaders might not be the same team they were a year ago, but they still hang their hat on the defensive end and will give anyone a battle.
(4) NEW ULM CATHEDRAL GREYHOUNDS
If there’s a team that has a history of playing well at the right time this time of of year, it’s New Ulm Cathedral. In the past three seasons, the Greyhounds have won their first playoff game in all three years.
While that’s an impressive streak for the Greyhounds, the task of keeping that streak going won’t be an easy one. The Greyhounds are the No. 4 seed in the North, and will face a Cedar Mountain team in the first round who won 19 games this season.
The Greyhounds have had plenty of games against Section 2A opponents this season. In 19 games, the Greyhounds are 14-5 against section opponents.
While New Ulm Cathedral might not have the big names attached to them, they’ve gone toe-to-toe with the teams that do. The Greyhounds lost to Springfield by three, MVL by three, and BOLD by five. The Greyhounds also beat MVL once by seven the second time around.
The Greyhounds nearly pulled off a big win over BOLD Feb. 20, but let a 17-point lead in the second half slip away. New Ulm Cathedral has shown their talent in spurts this season, and will be a team that can play with anyone.
Jon Zinniel is the player to keep an eye on for the Greyhounds. In NUC’s game against BOLD, Zinniel led the way with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists as the Greyhounds nearly pulled off the win. Alex Hillesheim is another player to watch for NUC, and will be a key player for them if they want to make a run.
(5) CEDAR MOUNTAIN COUGARS
The Cedar Mountain Cougars have a new look this season, yet they still find themselves in the mix in Section 2A. Despite the co-op with Comfrey not being continued, the Cougars are right in the mix of things when it comes to the race for the Section 2A title.
The Cougars are the No. 5 seed, and will open things up on the road, despite winning almost 20 games this season. They also come into the postseason playing well after they picked up one of their biggest wins of the season against BOLD Feb. 16.
After starting the season with a 4-3 record, the Cougars have closed out the regular season winning 15 of their final 17 games. The only two losses in that stretch have came to MVL and Springfield.
Lewis Pendleton is the guy to watch for the Cougars. Pendleton is a member of the 1,000 career points club, and is a guy who can take over a game with his scoring. Whether it’s from 3-point range or getting to the hoop, Pendleton is tough matchup because of his quickness, to go along with his 6-foot-5 frame.
Andre Larsen and Tavi Nelson are also key players to keep an eye on for the Cougars. The two senior guards give the Cougars some leadership and experience, which comes into play fairly often in the postseason.
(6) LP/HT BULLDOGS
Coming into this season, there was a lot of buzz about the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs, and for good reason.
That buzz took a bit of a hit when senior Michael Ziermann elected to have shoulder surgery from an injury he sustained during the football season, ultimately putting his high school basketball career to an end.
Despite Ziermann playing just one game this season for LP/HT, the Bulldogs started the season out strong under Andrew Dahl’s first year as head coach. The Bulldogs won their first five games of the season, but have had their ups-and-downs throughout the season lately.
They enter the Section 2A tournament as the No. 6 seed with a record of 13-12 overall. Competing in the MN Christian Athletic Association, the Bulldogs have had plenty of games against high-powered offenses that should help them prepare for a postseason run.
The Bulldogs are a team that doesn’t have a true go-to scorer, but features a deep roster that can have any step up and lead the way. Parker Bayerl, Zach Jackson, Trevor Schuette, and Evan Lee have each shown times throughout the season that they’re capable of carrying the scoring load.
The Bulldogs have incredible balance when it comes to offense. Four players (Lee 9 PPG, Jackson 9 PPG, Bayerl 9.1 PPG, and Schuette 8 PPG) averaged eight or more points per game. Lee also leads the team in assists, and makes the Bulldogs go.
LP/HT also features a weapon with senior Tyler Scheevel that any team would welcome. Scheevel is one of the top on-ball defenders in the section, and will have his hands full against the abundance of talent in Section 2A.
(7) SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY’S KNIGHTS
After not winning a single game last season, the Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Knights have taken a step forward in the right direction. The Knights won eight games this season, as their young talent continues to develop.
The Knights are the No. 7 seed in the North, but have had their struggles against section opponents. Against Section 2A teams, the Knights are just 4-12.
SESM is led by junior Nick Labat who’s been on the varsity since his eighth grade year. Labat scored his 1,000th career point earlier this season, and has been a big reason for the turnaround by the Knights this season.
The Knights also have some young talent around Labat. Freshman Carson Domeier is a crafty scorer who can help carry the load with Labat. Other players to watch out for are Blake Steffensmeier and Carter Currans.
(8) SLEEPY EYE INDIANS
Looking to get out of the play-in games for a fourth-straight year, the Sleepy Eye Indians will rely on their top two guys. As the No. 8 seed, the Indians are looking to make the sub-section quarterfinals for a fourth-straight year.
Sophomore Kegan Heiderscheidt and senior Jose Ibarra are the two players to watch for the Indians. While the Indians struggle with depth inside, Heiderscheidt and Ibarra give them some talent on the perimeter.
Heiderscheidt is averaging 13.4 points per game, to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Ibarra averages 13.3 points per game, and is shooting 48.9 percent from the field.
Nate Walter is another player who scores in bunches for the Indians. He averaged 17.4 points per game, and has a high motor to turn things up for Sleepy Eye.
(9) CLEVELAND CLIPPERS
A team that might not as good as they were coming into the tournament this year as they were last year is the Cleveland Clippers. With Carter Kopet and Austin Plonsky gone to graduation, the Clippers have had a hard time filling their shoes.
After three-straight seasons with 20-plus wins, the Clippers enter the Section 2A tournament with a 6-18 record. Against section opponents, the Clippers are 3-14 this season.
(10) BLHS MUSTANGS
The Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Mustangs round out the field in the North sub-section The Mustangs are the No. 10 seed coming off a regular season record of 2-20. Both BLHS’ wins have come against Wabasso, and the Mustangs are 0-14 against section opponents. They come into the tournament on a 12-game losing streak.
Nathan Schultz and Elijah Stifter are two players to watch for the Mustangs.
SECTION 2A SOUTH SUB-SECTION
While the Section 2A North Sub-Section features most of the highly-ranked teams, the South Sub-Section has some teams at the top with state tournament aspirations.
The Springfield Tigers are still a team that needs to be dealt with. The Tigers feature the best player in the section in senior Isaac Fink. It’s been a big year for Fink, who reached the 3,000 career point milestone earlier this season. He’s only the 11th player in Minnesota to ever reach that mark.
With Fink at full strength, the Tigers are good enough to beat anyone. Add in Decker Scheffler and Mitchell Leonard, and the Tigers are down-right dangerous on offense. With Fink and Scheffler leading the charge, the Tigers are capable of putting up a big number against anyone. On the season, Springfield averaged 89 points per game.
The Tigers have lost just twice coming into the Section 2A tournament. One loss came to MVL in overtime by two, while the other loss was to Minneota, in another close one, by three points.
Despite being the No. 2 seed, the road to the Section 2A title game still runs through Fink and the Tigers.
Watertville-Elysian-Morristown, the No. 1 seed in the south is a team that can give the Tigers a game. The Buccaneers have only one loss on the season, which came to Hayfield, who is also ranked in Class A.
It’s been a big turnaround for W-E-M compared to last year. After going 13-15 last season, the Buccaneers come into the tournament with a 22-1 record.
Grant McBroom, Bladyn Bartelt, and Tanner Ranslow are three guys to keep an eye on for the Buccaneers.
Mountain Lake/Comfrey is another team that can’t be overlooked in the South. The Wolverines are the No. 3 seed, and come in with a record of 20-3.
The Wolverines played Springfield tough earlier this season, and come in playing well, as they have won eight of their last nine, to close out the regular season.
The Wolverines are a very balanced scoring team, with five players who can score in double figures on a nightly basis. Sam Paulson, Lucas Emineth, and Abraham Stoez are some players to watch for the Wolverines.
To stay updated with all things to do with the Section 2A Boys Basketball Tournament, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for scores, in-game updates, and news throughout the tournament.