Area high school games to watch this week: Playing the percentages
Closer definitely has been better for Red Lake County. The Rebels are one of the hottest teams in Minnesota Section 8A boys high school basketball. After losing three of its first four games, Red Lake County has won five straight. Red Lake County...
Closer definitely has been better for Red Lake County.
The Rebels are one of the hottest teams in Minnesota Section 8A boys high school basketball. After losing three of its first four games, Red Lake County has won five straight. Red Lake County faces its biggest challenge to date Friday when it is at Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, the team with the best record in the section.
Red Lake County averaged 57.5 points in its first six games; in its last three games, since Jan. 1, the Rebels have scored 84, 84 and 87 points. Veteran coach Steve Philion says much of the recent offensive outbursts have come down to shot selection.
"We haven't changed our offense," Philion said. "We're just taking a little different approach. We talked to the kids about shot selection. Earlier, we were shooting a lot of threes, a lot of outside shots. Now we're attacking the basket more.
"Our guards are getting more layups. And when they drive and draw the defense, they're dishing the ball off to (Kevin) Longtin. He's getting a lot of layups. It's an unselfish group. We get 15-20 assists a game. They make some really nice passes."
The percentages indicate the success of the attack-mode style. In Red Lake County's first six games, the team shot 28 percent. In its last three games, the percentage has been between 45 and 50 percent.
Longtin paces the team with his power game. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder -- an all-conference lineman in football -- averages 18 points and 12 rebounds a game. "Kevin's not a tall post player, but he's so strong," Philion said. "That strength helps his game, big time."
There's a trio of perimeter players in Scott Herberg (14 ppg, 5.8 apg, 32 steals), Michael Klein (10 ppg, 3 apg, 22 steals) and Tyler Hurst (14 ppg, 2 apg). Logan Kotrba (6 ppg) rounds out the starting five.
"I thought we had the potential to be scoring like this," Philion said. "We had kids who put in a lot of time at the basketball courts over the summer, working on their game. And Longtin, Klein and Herberg are all three-year starters. That experience is paying off."
How the Rebels match up with Warren-A-O remains to be seen. The Ponies have one of the section's most prolific scorers in Danny Mattson, a solid point guard in Christian Erickson and a strong one-two duo around the basket in Zach Riopelle and Dalton Rolland.
"Warren is probably the best team we've seen all year," Philion said. "They're huge and athletic. It will be a game where we'll see where we're at. But we're playing a lot better than we were six weeks ago."
In other area games to watch this week:
n Hatton-Northwood at Dakota Prairie, Thursday: Two of the top teams in District 3 meet. Dakota Prairie (6-2 district points, 8-4 overall) has won with a stingy defense; Hatton-Northwood (6-1, 9-3) counters with the high-scoring backcourt duo of Mike Paulson and Kyle Pederson.
n Valley-Edinburg at Grafton, Tuesday: Valley-Edinburg is the lone unbeaten in District 4 play (5-0 district points, 9-1 overall). Grafton, with its stingy defense, is still in the race at 3-1 in district points (8-3 overall).
n Valley-Edinburg at Grafton, Tuesday: These are the two unbeatens left in District 4. Grafton (2-0 points, 8-1 overall) has a balanced offense run by point guard Brooke Gaustad. Valley-Edinburg (3-0, 7-2) is led by the frontcourt duo of Briana Barclay and Kadee Gullickson.
n Red Lake County Central at Fosston, Thursday: It's a matchup of the top two teams in Minnesota's East Subsection 8A. Red Lake County Central, with its strong inside game, is in first place, with Fosston sitting in second.
n Thief River Falls at Warroad, Thursday: These have been the powers in Section 8A the last few seasons. They've met in the 8A final four times in the past five seasons, with Warroad beating the Prowlers in the section championship each of the last two years. Warroad was ranked 10th and TRF 13th in last week's Class A state poll.
n Warroad at Roseau, Tuesday: It's a big rivalry game. Roseau will be an underdog going against a veteran Warroad team that won the Class A state title last season and is ranked first in the A state poll.
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to email@example.com .