Minnesota state boys basketball tournament: JCC opens against Annandale
MINNEAPOLIS -- Few teams have proven able to compensate for height disadvantages like the Jackson County Central Huskies in 2016-17. Without a starter taller than 6-3, the Huskies have used quickness, depth and sheer relentlessness to produce a 2...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Few teams have proven able to compensate for height disadvantages like the Jackson County Central Huskies in 2016-17. Without a starter taller than 6-3, the Huskies have used quickness, depth and sheer relentlessness to produce a 26-4 record heading into the Minnesota state Class AA boys basketball tournament.
Their strategy is always the same: play fast, play aggressive, open up the floor, and never take it easy no matter what the score.
Tonight (Wednesday, March 22) at 8 p.m. at Target Center in Minneapolis, JCC will match up with a familiar opponent in the first round of the 2017 tourney. The Annandale Cardinals bring a similar 26-4 record into the game and a No. 4 seed compared to JCC’s No. 5.
Although the records are similar, the styles are different. The quick, athletic Huskies will face an Annandale team whose starters measure up at 6-6, 6-6, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-2.
“We’re going to have to play our style. Make ‘em work, make ‘em run,” said JCC head coach Trent Sukalski Tuesday afternoon while watching his team do a Target Center shootaround. “We’ve got more depth than Annandale. It’s a big court, and we want to use the whole court. I told the guys, I think if it were up to them, they’d want to play it in a silo.”
One year ago, Jackson County Central defeated Annandale 64-46 in the state tournament semifinals before falling to Braham in the championship game. Last year, the Huskies could count on its outstanding 6-9 center Bodey Behrends to be a presence in the paint, but now that he’s graduated it’s just a different set of pieces from which to attack. Senior Ryan Christopher is the school’s all-time assist and steals leader, and senior Jacob Christopher is a thousand-point scorer. Chris Gumto, Nico Feroni and Easton Bahr are proven veterans. Freshman Rudy Voss plays like a veteran, too.
The Huskies are hoping for another memorable tournament after placing second in their first-ever state appearance in 2016 (Jackson appeared in 1987). Annandale is marking its fifth consecutive and sixth overall appearance.
Other first-round Class AA games today have Lake City vs. Minnehaha Academy at 6 p.m. at Target Center, New Richland-HEG vs. St. Cloud Cathedral at 6 p.m. at Williams Arena, and Breckenridge vs. Crosby-Ironton at 8 p.m. at Williams Arena. Minnehaha Academy is the tournament’s No. 1 seed. St. Cloud Cathedral is No. 2.
First-round winners won’t play again until Friday, with semifinals slated for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Target Center. Consolation semifinals are 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday at Concordia University in St. Paul.
The fifth-place game is 2 p.m. Friday at Concordia. The third-place game is noon Saturday at Concordia. The championship is 1 p.m. Saturday at Target Center.
Marshall seeded third The Marshall Tigers (26-3) are the No. 3 seed in the Class AAA tournament, which also begins today at Williams Arena. At 4 p.m., the Big South Conference team will open against unseeded Grand Rapids (24-5).
Last year, Marshall narrowly missed a state tournament berth by losing to Waseca 103-100 in four overtimes. This year the two teams split a pair of games during the regular season, but in the sectionals Marshall got it done 57-43.
Southwest Minnesota basketball fans will also be interested in how well Section 2 champion Springfield and Section 3 champ Central Minnesota Christian fare in the Class A tournament, which begins on Thursday at Williams Arena. Fifth-seeded Springfield (28-2) opens with No. 4 Nevis (28-1) at 1 p.m. Third-seeded Central Minnesota Christian (26-3) opens against North Woods, Cook (29-1) at 5 p.m.