Minnesota state boys basketball: JCC reaches title game

MINNEAPOLIS -- Slow start? No problem.Jackson County Central fell in an early hole for the second time in as many games at the Class AA State Tournament Friday. Both times, it kept its composure. This time, it put the Huskies in the state title game.

JOHN AUTEY/PIONEER PRESS Jackson County Central’s Bodey Behrends puts a shot up and in over Annandale’s Jarod Wilken in the first half of Friday night’s Minnesota high school state boys basketball Class AA semifinal at Target Center. JCC defeated Annandale to reach today’s championship contest against Braham.


MINNEAPOLIS - Slow start? No problem.
Jackson County Central fell in an early hole for the second time in as many games at the Class AA State Tournament Friday. Both times, it kept its composure. This time, it put the Huskies in the state title game.
“To me we were a little passive coming out,” JCC head coach Trent Sukalski said. “During the timeout out we just said we needed to get more aggressive. We felt like we were the better team but we needed to start playing. We weren’t playing. We were just standing there.”
“We come out kind of passive sometimes but (Coach Sukalski) always gets us going,” said Huskies’ senior point guard Matt Ringkob. “Sometimes it just takes a while to find our rhythm.”
They found it and never looked back. The Huskies became the only unseeded team out of all four classes to advance to the state title game with a 63-46 win over Annandale.
The Huskies will play Braham for the right to call themselves state champions. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Target Center.
“This is something we’ve worked hard for for a long time,” Sukalski said. “I remember having a conversation with both of these guys last year when we lost in the subsection finals. We blew like a 12-point lead. These guys were in the gym the next day. They said, ‘Coach, we don’t wanna lose again.”
After the game, Ringkob said it had already set in that in less than 15 hours he would be ending his high school career by playing for a state championship.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity,” he said. “It wouldn’t be possible without incredible coaches and guys on the team that support each other.”
Annandale used a pair of 3-pointers by Alex Alama to build a 13-4 lead. The lead was still at nine, 17-8, with 9:54 on the clock before the Huskies started to find some offensive rhythm.
It started when Colton Timmer put back an offensive board. On the next trip, Jacob Christopher drained a 3-pointer before Bodey Behrends further ignited the JCC faithful with an authoritative block on the other end.
“He’s such a dominating force in the paint defensively,” Sukalski said of Behrends. “Guys don’t want to go in there. He can control a game defensively.”
A couple buckets for Behrends sandwiched around a Ryan Christopher pull-up jumper after some nifty footwork kept the Huskies close. That put them in the position to take their first lead with 4:33 on the clock when Matt Ringkob drained a 3-pointer to set the score at 23-22.
“I didn’t even realize that we went up after that shot,” Ringkob said. “I’m just glad my teammates found me once I got open.”
A great effort by Timmer when he pulled down two of his own misses and laid in the third chance put the Huskies back up 25-23. Two Ringkob free throws and a Timmer jumper gave JCC a 29-23 lead at the half. It finished the first half by out-scoring the Cardinals 21-6 over the final 9:22.
A Ringkob triple and a Behrends layup off of a beautiful feed by Timmer gave the Huskies their largest lead to that point, 34-26, early in the second half. Annandale didn’t go away. Nick Bieniek knocked down a pair from long range to keep the Huskies within reach at 34-30 four minutes out of the break.
“We just had to be more aggressive,” Behrends said. “That was it.”
No matter what the Cardinals did, however, JCC wasn’t about to give up its lead. Jacob Christopher swished a 3-pointer from the corner before Behrends got the Huskies fans on their feet. Ringkob launched an attempt at three from the top of the key that narrowly missed. In one swift motion, the 6-9 senior grabbed the rebound and stuffed it home on a thunderous dunk.
“We felt that one of the big reasons we fell short last season was our rebounding,” Sukalski said. “That was one thing we really wanted to shore up. In the first half we didn’t rebound and at halftime that was a big emphasis. Of course, it’s nice to have Bodey there to throw it down once in a while.”
Five straight points by Ringkob started by a corner three capped off a 14-2, 11-0 run for the Huskies that put them up by 17.
Another Behrends dunk and a Jacob Christopher free throw extended the lead to 18 with less than five minutes to play. From there, it was all cruise control with Zach Bargfrede putting it in with just seconds on the clock to bring the game to its final.
After shooting 39.3 percent from the field in the first half, JCC was 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) in the second. Behrends led the effort with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds, seven blocked shots and two assists. Ringkob tallied 19 points and six boards with Timmer scoring 10 and grabbing seven caroms.
The Cardinals went 16-for-53 from the field and lost the turnover battle 13-6. Alex Hohenstein scored a team-best 12 points with Bieniek adding 10 off the bench. Jarod Wilken had a game-best nine rebounds.
The plan for the night before the state title game is simple, according to Sukalski. The players will be getting some sleep. Himself, probably not so much.
“The guys put me back to work right away,” he said. “I gotta get to work on Braham right away.”
JCC 29 63
Annandale 23 46
HUSKIES (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - J. Christopher 2-0-2-8, R. Christopher 0-1-2-4, Behrends 0-9-2-20, Timmer 0-5-0-10, Ringkob 3-3-4-19, Bargfrede 0-1-0-2. Totals 5-19-10-63.
CARDINALS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Hohenstein 1-3-3-12, Weege 0-1-0-2, Fobbe 0-1-0-2, Wilken 0-3-1-7, Alama 3-0-0-9, Bieniek 3-0-1-10, Anderson 0-1-0-2, Wikan 0-0-2-2. Totals 7-9-7-46.

Jackson County Central’s Matt Ringkob attempts a layup against Annandale’s AJ Hinz (left) and Jarod Wilken (right) in a Friday Minnesota state Class AA boys basketball semifinal game at Target Center. JOHN AUTEY/PIONEER PRESS

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