The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

It was no surprise to most people when Minnehaha Academy senior Chet Holmgren, the most highly recruited high school basketball player in the country this winter, announced on April 19 that he would follow in the footsteps of ex-teammate Jalen Suggs and lend his talents to Gonzaga University next season. However, the Redhawks’ alumni reunion was a short one. A couple of hours after Holmgren’s announcement, Suggs announced that he is declaring for the NBA draft.

At his press conference, with Suggs present, Holmgren said of the Zags: “It’s a perfect fit. They play in space and play with pace. I want to get out and run. It’s more of an NBA style of play, which I want to learn and excel at.”

Holmgren and the Redhawks capped off an impressive season with an 80-29 dismantling of Alexandria in the Class 3A championship game on April 10 to make it four straight state titles. Minnehaha has not shied away from tough competition, taking on much larger Class 4A schools like Duluth East, Wayzata, Edina and Hopkins. Holmgren, who has won just about every prep award there is, both locally and nationally, showed versatility rarely seen in a 7-footer. He often took the ball up court and connected on both of his three-point shot attempts in the title game. He previously had taken just two shots from beyond the arc all season.

Minnehaha’s cupboard is not bare for next winter. Prince Aligbe, a talented 6-foot-7 forward who was injured late in the season, is expected to be at full strength along with several other talented returning players. Minnehaha is dropping back to Class 2A next year and likely will still be one of the teams to watch in a state that seems to be producing more topflight prep basketballers every year.

Minnehaha hoops
Chet Holmgren came up big for Minnehaha during the state boys' basketball tournament. Photo by Christine Wisch

CDH boys’ hoops season was impressive

Cretin-Derham Hall’s trip to the state tourney in boys’ basketball didn’t end as well as Minnehaha’s did with a loss to Wayzata in the Class 4A championship game. However, in a way the Raiders’ run might have been more remarkable.

The Raiders play in the Suburban East, one of the most difficult conferences in the state. There they have to face several larger schools, some of which have very good basketball pedigrees. CDH head coach Jerry Kline had a rebuilt roster that got tossed right into conference play when the season finally began in mid-January. The early results were not surprising when CDH started out 4-4.

 

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Then the marvelously talented Tre Holloman and his teammates found their groove. They avenged two earlier losses against East Ridge and Mounds View, and had a 9-1 run heading into sections. CDH won a heart-stopper in the section final against a Woodbury team that had beaten it twice during the regular season. The Raiders opened the state tournament with a one-point win over Rosemount. Things went smoother in their semifinal victory over Maple Grove, but Wayzata was simply too deep in the final.

Holloman, a junior, stood out and will likely be the apple of recruiters’ eyes next year with his 20.3-point average and stunning .824 free throw percentage. However, what also made the Raiders fun to watch this season was their ability to clamp down defensively. They held seven opponents to under 50 points and 16 to under 60.

At his press conference, with Suggs present, Holmgren said of the Zags: “It’s a perfect fit. They play in space and play with pace. I want to get out and run. It’s more of an NBA style of play, which I want to learn and excel at.”

Two remarkable hockey stories

The Highland Park boys’ hockey team finished this season with a 4-10 record. While that looks unmemorable, the fact that the Scots pulled it off at all was amazing.

Last summer, Highland found itself without a league to call home. The Two Rivers Conference went down to two teams and new Scots head coach Brandon Ferraro suddenly had to work the phone to find games to play as an independent. It was easier said than done, since most schedules are put together months in advance.

The Scots worked out deals with such nontraditional opponents as Waseca, Rochester Lourdes and Bloomington Kennedy. They didn’t win many games, but it was better than not playing at all. Here’s hoping that the Scots can find a conference next year and get back to a sense of normalcy.

Saint Thomas Academy, meanwhile, was expected to have a good season and its final 13-5-3 record that included a return to the state hockey tournament confirmed the prediction.

A lack of consolation play at this year’s state tournament meant the Cadets’ 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Eden Prairie made for a disappointing end to the season. However, those who watched STA marveled at the speed and shooting acumen of senior Jackson Hallum, a third-round NHL draft choice who will eventually skate at Michigan. Hallum, who led the Cadets with 41 points, wasn’t the only name to take note of, however. Senior Jared Wright was right behind Hallum with 38 points. Wright is headed to Colgate, a top-notch academic school and a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Judging by Colgate’s average of around two goals a game this season, Wright’s eye for the net may be something they’ll be thankful for in Hamilton, New York, next winter.

Still some playoff hope for the Wild

There’s still a possibility that the Minnesota Wild will be playing hockey later than usual this year. The NHL season has a couple of weeks to go. With the exception of a lost weekend in Saint Louis, the Wild have been an enjoyable group to watch for the past two months, with good goaltending and bursts of offensive excellence.

It’s been a while since there’s been reason to be hopeful for a Stanley Cup run that lasts past the first round. The NHL format this year has the top four teams in each division making the field. Minnesota will face either Colorado or Las Vegas in the first round. The Wild have had some failures in the past, but they don’t look like they’re in over their head against either foe this year.

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

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