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Greater Grand Forks boys basketball preview: Sacred Heart retools after state tournament run

The Eagles will look to replace two 1,000-point career scorers in Sam Gapp and Kobe Tomkinson.

Sacred Heart 8A champs3.jpg
East Grand Forks Sacred Heart players celebrate their double-overtime win over Cass Lake-Bena in the Minnesota Section 8A basketball championship in Thief River Falls on Friday, March 18, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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EAST GRAND FORKS — The East Grand Forks Sacred Heart boys basketball team advanced to the Minnesota Class A state tournament last season for the first time in school history en route to a consolation championship.

The Eagles were led by two senior 1,000-point career scorers in Sam Gapp (1,228) and the school's all-time scoring leader Kobe Tomkinson (1,556).

As Sacred Heart turns to the 2022-23 season, the Eagles clearly have offensive question marks, although coach Destry Sterkel likes the pieces he'll ask to boost production this year.

"We'll have plenty of opportunities for guys to find out how they'll handle that," Sterkel said. "Can we go 30-4 and make it to state? It's a day-by-day operation, just like last year, where we'll work at getting better every day."

The primary scorers returning from last season are senior Ethan Arntson, senior Landen Denney and junior Josiah Sundby.

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Arntson averaged 11.4 points per game last year, while Sundby — the team's primary ball-handler — averaged 9.1 and Denney averaged 5.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.

"One positive is I thought Ethan, Josiah and Landen all had really incredible postseasons last year," Sterkel said. "They stepped up in big moments."

Arntson averaged 16 points per game in the playoffs.

"Ethan, Josiah and Landen are excited for the chance for it to be their team," Sterkel said.

In addition to Sacred Heart's three primary returners who logged a lot of varsity minutes, the Eagles return three others with varsity experience who'll play a larger part in the 2022-23 season.

Senior Breck Bloom, junior Mike Gapp and sophomore Parker Erickson each logged considerable minutes a year ago and will see their production opportunities increase this season.

GGF boys basketball glances

GF Red River

Coach: Kirby Krefting.

2021-22 record: 12-9, missed state tournament.

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Key returners: Sr. G Zachary Kraft (all-EDC, 16.3 points per game, 60 3-pointers); sr. G-F Reis Rowekamp (all-EDC, 15.3 ppg, 4.4 rebounds per game), soph. G Pearce Parks (5.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg); sr. F Logan Arason (5.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg); sr. C Carter Byron (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg); sr. G Hudson Flom.

Top newcomers: Soph. F Cam Klefstad; jr. G-F Zach Oehlke; jr. C Seth Miller.

Coach Krefting says: “They’ve been around and contributed to the program for a few years now, so the expectations are high. We’ll use our athleticism to run. We have good pull-up jump shooters, so we’ll spread it out. We have nice size with (Arason and Byron) to rebound and a nice 6-foot-2, athletic point guard (Parks). We want to transition and get in the open floor and get jump shots for our shooters.”

GF Central

Coach: Dan Carlson.

2021-22 record: 9-16, missed state tournament.

Key returners: Jr. F-C Erick Paye (all-EDC, 14.3 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game); jr. G Ross Wilber (9.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg); soph. G Cole Wilber (5.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg); jr. G Jack Simmers (8.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg); jr. F Leo Strandell (5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg).

Top newcomers: Soph. G Trey Wyman; jr. G-F Kendall Kjonaas; sr. C Noah Lund.

Coach Carlson says: “Most of our guys are juniors but they’re seasoned, and we’re excited about having them. They’ve worked hard in the offseason. They’re bigger and stronger. We’ve talked about the little things that are going to get us to the next level. It’s taking care of the ball and not fouling so much.”

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EGF Senior High

Coach: Josh Perkerwicz.

2021-22 record: 14-13, lost in first round of Section 8AA playoffs.

Key returners: Soph. Austin Rusling (7.2 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game); jr. Clyde Anderson (all-Northwest Conference, 10.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 steals per game); jr. Drew Carpenter (5.1 ppg); sr. Cooper Smith (4.2 ppg); sr. Caleb Zejdlik (3.3 ppg).

Top newcomers: Fr. Chase Lindgren; jr. Damian Bushaw; jr. G Caleb Johnson.

Coach Perkerwicz says: “We have to base how we play on our personnel and our personnel has us push the pace and get extra possessions and get some easy buckets in transition. Our guys have extra length and speed, and we have to utilize that to be successful to get opportunities. As of right now, we’ll hang our hat defensively.”

EGF Sacred Heart

Coach: Destry Sterkel.

2021-22 record: 30-4, Minnesota state Class A consolation champions.

Key returners: Sr. Ethan Arntson (11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game); sr. Landen Denney (5.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg); jr. Josiah Sundby (9.1 ppg, 5.9 apg, 4.0 rpg); sr. Breck Bloom (2.9 ppg); jr. Mike Gapp (2.4 ppg); soph. Parker Erickson (2.8 ppg).

Top newcomers: Jr. Jonny Speicher; soph. Greg Downs; fr. Isaac Sundby.

Coach Sterkel says: “We have quite a bit of experience. Leadership hasn’t been a dropoff from years past. Those three returners (Arntson, Denney and Sundby) have set the tone really nicely. We’ve had great practices and really good competition. Defensively, this might be one of the best groups we’ve ever had.”

Related Topics: SACRED HEART
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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