The Four-Point Play: Whoa, Noah!
Move over, Mr. Felt. There is a new all-time area boys scoring leader.
Hancock guard Noah Kannegiesser scored 45 points on Monday night to pass Redwood Valley's Mike Felt atop as the all-time leading scorer of anyone to ever play basketball in the Tribune coverages area.
"It really means a lot to me to be able to say that," Kannegiesser said.
Kannegiesser needed 42 points to top Felt's 2,450 career mark, set in 2009, and broke the record with a free throw with three minutes to play in a loss at Dawson-Boyd. Kannegiesser now sits at 2,454 career points.
It has taken a superb offensive season for Kannegiesser to break the record—much less, with regular season games yet to be played.
Before the season began, I wrote the following in our All-Area watchlist section:
"If the Owls play 25 games as they did one year ago, that would require an average of 29.4 points per game" to break Felt's record. "While a figure daunting in appearance, Kannegiesser averaged 25.6 points per game to lead the area last year. If there's anyone that could put up those kinds of numbers, Kannegiesser has proven it's him."
I don't think I doubted Kannegiesser there, so I don't know why, but it feels like I doubted Kannegiesser there. To (mostly) quote Taylor Swift: Stupid Curt. I should have known. I should have known.
The all-time area record for both boys and girls belongs to New London-Spicer's Taylor Thunstedt at 2,766 points. With Kannegiesser averaging 37 points per game, I will make no further comment about the plausibility of that record coming down, for fear of looking dumb.
We are nearing the end of the prep basketball regular season, which means that section tournaments are right around the corner.
But before we get to the point of the year where Curt and Jake drive around the state of Minnesota like mad men trying to catch all of the sectional action, there are some conference battles to first wrap up.
For the first time in four years, there will be a new team representing the North division in Camden Conference boys championship game.
With Colton Husby's buzzer beater against Renville County West on Friday night, the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks clinched a spot in the Feb. 26 title game, where they will likely take on No. 3, undefeated Russell-Tyler-Ruthton.
The Camden North still may have been more competitive this year than many expected. At 9-5 Lac qui Parle Valley has been within shouting distance of the Blackjacks all year long and the race would perhaps be much tighter with a couple of bounces either way. D-B beat the Eagles in comeback fashion by three points earlier this year and is 5-1 in games decided by two possessions or less.
On the girls side of things in the Camden, Lac qui Parle Valley is slated for a title game rematch with Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (barring a Panthers sudden collapse). The Eagles are 12-2 in the conference and have seen all of their recent battles with TMB go down to the wire. After the Panthers won 51-47 in the 2016-17 regular season, LQPV won in overtime in the Camden title game; this year, TMB were winners by a point when the two sides met.
The Willmar boys can clinch the program's first Central Lakes Conference title since 2012 with a pair of wins this week. A
At 11-0, Willmar is up by 2.5 games over St. Cloud Tech while also owning a season sweep of the Tigers. Two wins would give the Cardinals a guarantee of at least a share of the title, while three wins would give them the outright crown. Wins over Rocori on Tuesday and Fergus Falls on Thursday would wrap things up quickly, but Willmar has five games remaining in its conference schedule to take care of business.
The race in the CLC for the girls is certainly one to keep an eye on. Alexandria currently leads Willmar by one game, with a season-ending showdown slated for Feb. 22. Alexandria won at Willmar earlier this year, but still has to beat Sartell and Brainerd (a combined 17-7 conference record) before that game.
If you have made it this far into the segment, then please accept my sincere congratulations. Now it's time for the Pheasant Conference to make things confusing.
Judging by the standings on Minnesota-Scores.net, you would come to the conclusion that the Hancock boys team has clinched the outright conference title. However, that's not the case.
Minnesota-Scores.net —or any other online standings that I could find—does not list Brandon-Evansville and Hillcrest Lutheran among the teams in the Pheasant. B-E and Hillcrest Lutheran are listed in the Little Eight Conference, which isn't wrong. They compete in both the Pheasant and Little Eight conferences. Jointly. Somehow.
The league doesn't play a true double round robin schedule, so some games are worth either two wins or two losses in the standings. Thus, Hancock's apparent already-clinched Pheasant title is not yet clinched.
All of this is to say that Hancock needs to just win one more conference game to clinch at least a share of the title.
BOLD and Minnewaska boys still both have an outsider's shot at the West Central Conference title, but would need Melrose (10-0 in conference) to lose two of its four remaining WCC games. Both the Warriors and Lakers, however, still have the Dutchmen left on their schedule.
The New London-Spicer boys represent another outside shot at two games behind Annandale in the Wright County West with five conference games to play.
History in the making?
With a win over Montevideo on Saturday night, the Willmar boys basketball team continued its torrid run through the regular season, improving to 20-0.
This season is now reaching historic levels.
The record for the most wins in a row to start a season for the Willmar boys is 23, achieved in the 1953-54 and 1928-29 seasons.
The 1928-29 Cardinals were 23-0 to open the year, storming through the regional tournament undefeated, including a 20-13 win over Chaska to reach the state tournament in what I'm sure was just a riveting contest of athleticism. In the state tournament quarterfinal, however, Red Wing handed Willmar a 24-18 loss to drop the Alvern Damberg-coached Cardinals to 23-1. Willmar lost its next game at state to Hendricks to finish the year at 23-2.
That 1953-54 team suffered the same fortune as the Cardinals a quarter-century before. The Cardinals wound up dropping their first game of the year in the state tournament opener against Austin, 45-40, and finished 25-1 as the state consolation champs. Willmar was led by Robert Anderson, the captain who scored a state tournament-high 72 points.
Now it's time for a little twist on things.
Because of the schedule played, it seems a bit unfair to compare this Willmar's team's 20-0 start to those of over 50 years ago.
The '29 Willmar team played most its games against smaller schools such as Kerkhoven, Appleton, Hancock, Grove City and Clara City. This year, the Cardinals have had to regularly go up against the likes of much more similarly-sized schools in the Central Lakes Conference, such as St. Cloud Tech, Brainerd and Alexandria.
Now, there's no widely-accepted beginning of the "modern era" in Minnesota high school basketball, but we will use the 1970-71 season as that marker because that was the year in which the state adopted a two-class state tournament (which has since been modified to four classes). Seven years later, in '77-78, Willmar moved to its current league, Central Lakes Conference.
In the 1970-71 season, the Cardinals opened up 19-0 through one game in the regional tournament before falling to Alexandria to finish 19-1.
So, going by this completely arbitrary marking point, the Cardinals boys are off the their best start in Minnesota high school basketball's modern era.
Games of the Week
BOLD boys at Morris/C-A
Litchfield girls at Annandale
No. 4 Willmar boys at Fergus Falls
Dawson-Boyd boys at Lac qui Parle Valley
No. 5 Marshall boys at No. 4 Willmar
Dassel-Cokato boys at New London-Spicer
Melrose boys at Minnewaska
No. 10 Willmar girls vs. Brainerd
Yellow Medicine East girls at TMB
MACCRAY girls at No. 9 Lac qui Parle Valley
Litchfield girls at Minnewaska