The class AAAA field in the Minnesota State High School League boys basketball tournament often creates intense hype, as many of the metro area's top stars present themselves in front of fans and college scouts. Wednesday at Target Center was a demonstration of why such a following has developed.
With Osseo eliminated in their sectional final with Park Center, everyone knew a new champion would be crowned. The answer will be discovered on Saturday, but the bracket is already generating high-profile contests.
Apple Valley worked through early bumps to prevail over Brainerd in the first state tournament visit for highly-touted point guard Tyus Jones. His leadership was evident in Apple Valley's second half comeback, but the Eagles boast a deep roster to relieve pressure from the Division I prospect. Freshman center Brock Bertram provides a road block with his 6-foot-10 frame, the same height as Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Dennis Austin can score off the block with high efficiency, and Dusty Fronk gives Apple Valley a three-point specialist for opponents to deal with.
Eden Prairie advanced out of the quarterfinals for the third straight year. A high complement of football carry-overs gives their team wide versatility, even if the basketball culture trails their football tradition. Their starters lack the name recognition of other teams, but will make themselves memorable to the teams they defeat.
Park Center is the semifinalist with the most questions after a near collapse to Lakeville North. Their go-to player, North Dakota recruit Quinton Hooker (pictured) is skilled enough to navigate through tough terrain, but appeared to suffer some fatigue in the second half before reserve forward Isaac Matthews turned a Hooker miss to a game-winning bucket in overtime.
Edina marks another new entry, taking advantage of a weaker Hopkins team in the section 6 playoffs. The Hornets have a lesser expanse of talent, but pack a powerful one-two combination in Graham Woodward and Reggie Lynch to spring a potential surprise.