Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Knights in rusty armor (0-19)

As expected, Harding got destroyed by Minnehaha Academy 88-35, thus sealing their first winless season in school history. This happens just one year after finishing at the bottom of the St. Paul City Conference for the first time in school history.

This was once a team that could battle with the greats in the state. Powered by Shannon Loeblein and head coach Tom Gunderson, now at Central, Harding finished second in the 1990 and 1991 class AA state championship (they expanded to four classes in 1997).

Gunderson was replaced by Jerry Utecht, who hasn't fielded many talented teams since his tenure began in 1994. I was a Harding student the last time the lady Knights had a competitive team, in the 2003-04 season. Since then, Harding has become a doormat that everyone else can stomp on. One of my partners and I joked on the phone that we could beat them with one hand tied behind our back shooting just threes. The players don't put their hands up to take away open looks and appear lethargic overall.

Some former Harding players say Utecht doesn't do enough to make his team competitive. If you go by his record, you might win that argument. On the other end, you need solid players to contribute. Harding doesn't have that either. There is little incentive to step up your game when you play in a mostly empty gym.

I could continue to gripe, but anyone can do that. I understand high school sports are extracurricular activities and wins alone should not define the experience. However, I think the student athletes would enjoy the sport if they felt like they had a chance to win. Harding needs to find people who want to play and are willing to improve their skills throughout a season. A coach or assistant coach that could mold potential into talent would also benefit Harding.

Finishing a season without a win in a low-respected conference does have a psychological effect. Performance does come in cycles, but Harding may have reached the point where no one cares about the state of girls basketball on the far East Side of St. Paul. The bright side? Harding can't do any worse next season.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

About time Humboldt got seeded

You know it's a stretch when a sub .500 team gets the #3 seed in section 4AA, but that's exactly what happened to Humboldt. In fact, a lot of .sub 500 teams got high seeds. Despite finishing the season at 10-11, Humboldt went 3-1 against teams in the east division. The only loss was to Roosevelt, and they trailed by just one going into halftime on the road.

My big concern is Humboldt playing just 21 games. They do get the same amount of rest as everyone else, but with other teams playing the maximum 26, stamina may be an issue. The Hawks have no one above 5'10", and that could spell trouble if they have to face opponents above 6'0". Humboldt's preparation may determine the outcome. They hung in there against Highland Park and the 2nd match against Johnson, but hurt themselves with a late loss to Como Park.

Should Humboldt beat St. Bernard's, they would likely face Minneapolis Roosevelt again, who face a struggling Mounds Park Academy team in round 1. The bad news is, they would have to play at Roosevelt again.

For the record, the #1 seed in the east, St. Croix Lutheran, got blown away by Roosevelt and barely hung on against #4 St. Paul Academy this season. They got #1 thanks to their record, but don't be surprised if this team gets upset in sections.

On the west division, Jordan got the #1 seed at 23-2. Their only two games against section opponents were both wins: a blowout against Blake and a sound win over Roosevelt fueled by a strong 2nd half (Jordan trailed by three at halftime in that game). Jordan looks like they will go unchallenged in the west with the #2 seed, Blake, finishing just one game over .500.

Whoever wins the east division may just be playing for 2nd place in sections. It will take a lot to stand in Jordan's way to the state tournament.

Humboldt prediction: They beat St. Bernard's in the 1st round, possibly upset Roosevelt. If that happens, a lot will depend on what happens to St. Croix Lutheran in the 2nd round. The Hawks would have to be consistent, something we haven't seen all year. Humboldt gets knocked out in the 2nd round.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: South vs. Central (round 2)

I stumbled a couple times today, although I have to watch the tape, but Tony and I picked up where we left off. Engaging in our usual and often descriptive banter, we saw a much better game than the first time. For the record, South won 82-73, but both teams played as if it was a one-possession game throughout. Had a few more easy looks gone in for Central, the result could have been a lot different. I think the stumbles will fade, and they have as I've called more games. Next season will be challenge me to learn about mechanics.

I did like that both coaches and players stayed aggressive even when the game was over. They both knew that sections were coming up and were doing everything they could to tune up their players one last time. South is in a tough section with Wayzata, Armstrong and Hopkins and will need everything they can get to challenge those teams. One thing in South's favor is the ability to win games without their starting five. They won two when Tayler Hill was out and had the same success when Hammick had to sit. Today, when Gabrielle Roberts didn't take the floor. If South gets in foul trouble, they can go deep.

For the curious, Hill scored 31 points, only the third time this season she has eclipsed 30 in a game.

Central has a weaker section. As long as they don't get conceited, the Minutemen can use the section games to work on any mistakes that plagued them in the past. They showed no intimidation this time, a sign that they're ready to play against the stronger teams in the state. Megan Howard scored 19 points and will likely eclipse 1,000 before the state tournament. If Central qualifies, Buford and Howard will be the only two Central players in school history to play in the state tournament throughout their high school career.

I had a lot of fun this season. My goals for next year are:

1. Find a solid partner I can rely on for most games.

2. Cover a bigger group of teams (We televised South 5 times, Central 4 times)

3. Study the mechanics. I know it's not required for play-by-play, but just in case I call another solo game.

I'll be involved in some aspect of the state tournament, but you won't see me doing play-by-play until the All-Star Series. Until then, I'll fill my NCAA tournament bracket and enjoy a much needed break.

Humboldt section seed blog to come.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Broadcast preview: South vs. Central (round 2)

Finally, what you've all been waiting for. Tony Geer from Community Hoops will be my partner again. I had fun with him the last time, so I feel very comfortable about the game.

Central will need to keep their starters out of foul trouble to avoid being blown away like they were in the first meeting. Having home-court advantage may help, but South has dropped just one game this season. A solid performance by Central since the South loss has pushed them back to 3rd again in the MaxPreps poll, the same rank they held before the South game. Nationally, Central is 24th, higher than their 37th position the last time. South has held the #2 spot since their Hopkins loss, as Centennial hasn't dropped a game all year. Nationally, South is 15th and reached the #10 spot one week before dropping. South's strength of schedule is low, likely preventing them from cracking the top 10. Both teams average 79 points per game.


1. Despite their few blemishes, neither team has won a game when trailing at halftime (South: 0-1, Central: 0-2)

2. South is 4-1 against top 10 teams, Central is 1-2.

3. Georgie Jones recorded her 20th double-double Thursday night against Southwest. Through 25 games, Jones got a double-double 80% of the time. She had 13 double-doubles last season. Jones is also the only active player to break three milestones: 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks.

4. Tayler Hill scored 30 points for the second time this season in South's win against Roosevelt. The last time that happened? Hill tallied 31 against Hopkins.

5. In the first meeting, South did not allow any Central players to score 20 points or more.

If the game comes down to free throws, Central's Kiara Buford is 86% from the line (92-107) while Hill shot 18-19 en route to a 27-point performance in the first match-up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

St. Paul AAA seeds

Staying true to my word, Georgie Jones of St. Paul Central has 19 double-doubles coming into tonight's game against Southwest. For those who say she isn't division one material, Jones has shown consistency at her position, a skill valued in this sport. Having a former teammate at Marquette only helps.

Anyway, the bulk of the St. Paul City conference was seeded in section 4 for class AAA. Out of this section, Johnson got the #2 seed, Highland Park is #4, Como Park drew #6, Arlington got #7 and Harding brings up the rear at #8.

Don't get your hopes up at Harding, they're likely to suffer their first winless season in school history for girls basketball. Como will be knocked out in the 1st round. Highland Park comes in with a solid 14-9 record (soon to be 15-9 after they defeat Harding) but have no quality wins. Johnson could advance to state, but they'll need to advance past Hill-Murray and likely Minnehaha Academy to do it.

As I mentioned before, Johnson faired much better this season than last year. All of their losses were against class AAAA schools, including a mere six-point loss to Hopkins. Johnson won't have to worry about them for the tournament. They have swept every other St. Paul team in the section and have two quality wins against Plainview/Elgin-Millville and Winona-Cotter. On the other hand, neither of those schools are AAA schools. Ultimately, it may come down to team chemistry for Johnson.

Minnehaha Academy's two losses were against DeLaSalle and St. Francis, but Minnehaha hasn't played as many AAAA teams as Johnson has. They will be the favorite at 23-2, but the statistics could prove misleading.

Another factor in St. Paul's favor is location. The section semi-finals and finals will be played at Arlington. No team outside St. Paul in section 4AAA played there this season.

It makes geographical sense to group the city schools together. What effect it will have remains to be seen.

More game notes for the Central-South game and comments on Humboldt's playoff selection to follow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Central gets seeded

The Minnesota State High School League has released their bracket for section 4AAAA and, no surprise, Central drew the #1 seed. Woodbury received the #2 seed and Cretin-Derham Hall picked up the #3 spot. On paper, Central looks like they've got an easy ride to qualify for their 4th consecutive state tournament appearance, having destroyed Cretin-Derham Hall in their regular season meeting.

Central and Woodbury haven't played each other this season, but Central is scoring 79 points per game against Woodbury's 49.5 points per contest. Woodbury's style of play becomes their worst enemy if the Royals struggle in field goal shooting, a factor that played out in their loss to South in December. With South and Central mirroring each other, the pattern could re-surface in a Central-Woodbury match-up.

Obviously, Central will do themselves in if they become too conceited. However, it makes their rematch against Minneapolis South that more important in their last chance to gear up for the playoffs.

My next blog will have pre-game notes of South-Central: Round 2

Monday, February 18, 2008

In-between game blog

The Star Tribune's John Millea published an article today reporting on the possible future of high school state tournaments. With rising costs, professional venues such as Target Center and Xcel Energy Center may no longer become feasible for the Minnesota State High School League. If a solution isn't found by 2013, tournaments could be split to other venues.

There's still time. However, as I'm about to cover the state tournament for the first time, splitting up the tournaments would be problematic. Most of the competing schools are from the metro area, and last year's girls basketball state tournament drew record attendance thanks to a Minneapolis and St. Paul school playing each other in the title game. That would mean long trips for AA and AAA schools in the Twin Cities, including North, Humboldt and Johnson. Nervous as they may be, the kids love to play at these venues because they get to step on the same floor their idols have.

If the tournaments do indeed have to be moved, keep them to one site. Otherwise, state tournaments would feel just like any other game.

Broadcast preview of the South-Central rematch coming up soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Humboldt vs. Johnson

I got off to a bad start, the referees weren't too clear in communicating fouls which led to some miscalls early. I fixed that, but the game itself wasn't very exciting. Humboldt got off to a quick 10-2 run, but Johnson answered that with a run later in the 1st half that never seemed to end. It was more of the same in the 2nd, although Humboldt gave one last breath before succumbing in a 80-65 victory for Johnson.

My co-worker happened to be an assistant coach on the Humboldt boys team, and his connections may have led to some neutrality issues. Most of the time when I referred to Johnson, he wouldn't reply, although he elaborated on Humboldt whenever I brought them up.

That said, here's my game analysis.

Johnson has an outside chance of going deep in the state tournament. Their free throw shooting is a problem, they shoot just 61% as a team and have some issues making the easy looks count. They make up for it with outstanding defense, led by Carolyn Mobley. Their win against Humboldt can be credited to their offensive rebounding. The Governors have many sharp-shooters, something few teams have, which should get them past their section and into state.

Humboldt has faired well against teams in their section, but their weaknesses are lack of experience and no big players to help the inside game. Their shot selection needs work. I think they're better than what they showed tonight, but they need to be more consistent. The Hicks sisters mesh well, can shoot from the perimeter and go inside. The only downside? None of them are above 5'5". Finally, Humboldt has a great problem on their hands; they won't lose anyone to graduation next year.

A Super Ball was thrown on the court undetected late in the 2nd half. Fortunately, it stayed behind the players, but the officials need to pay attention for foreign objects. Someone could have been injured had there been a fast break.

Next TV Game:
Twin Cities Championship Game (likely a rematch of South vs. Central), St. Paul site @ 2:30 p.m.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Broadcast preview: Humboldt vs. Johnson

I'll be at Humboldt tomorrow for the first time in my two-year career calling their game against Johnson. Humboldt has played more competitively in the last couple years with three Hicks sisters contributing solid performances for the Hawks. Johnson picked up a few transfers before the transfer rule went into effect, and it has paid off. The Governors are 8-3 in non-conference play, compared to 4-9 last year. Their turnaround shows in the overall record column as Johnson sits at 15-4 compared to 13-12 last season.


1. Johnson comes in with a six-game winning streak.

2. As a team, Johnson is averaging 72.8 points per game against Humboldt's 55.7 points per contest.

3. Tacita Gonzalez leads the St. Paul City Conference in steals and assists.

4. Johnson defeated Humboldt 77-53 in their first meeting. Carolyn Mobley scored a game high 30 points in that contest.

5. Johnson's next game is a rematch against Central with the Twin Cities championship game at stake.

TV: SPNN, channel 15 (tape-delayed) and broadcast online on my YouTube page

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Broadcast wrap-up: Central vs. South

I scooped up Tony Geer from to handle color commentary for the South-Central game; I haven't come across anyone that knew the game inside and out like he did. I learned a couple more things to use in future games, although this broadcast season is about to end.

Regarding the game, South pretty much did what they wanted to against Central. Tayler Hill could not be contained as she continues to make her case as the best player Minnesota has ever seen. She was an impressive 17-18 from the free throw line as South cruised to a 72-52 win. As a team, South thoroughly dominated Central, a clear indicator that this team is much stronger than a year ago. They aren't invincible with the loss to Hopkins, but they remind me of Central's team from last year. South has talented starters backed up by a solid bench.

Central is still a good team, but they have more weaknesses than they did a year ago. I've got a feeling with a likely Twin Cities rematch that Big Red isn't going anywhere.

Now if only I could get a down to the wire game before the season is out.

Next TV games:
Johnson vs. Humboldt (tentatively) @ Humboldt, February 12th, 7:00 P.M.

Twin Cities Championship Game @ St. Paul site (likely South vs. Central), February 23rd, 2:30 P.M.

Programs available for DVD purchase

Autism Part 1 DVD cover

Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)

What Are You DVD cover

What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15

Vices to Verses promo

From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15

Machine 2010 highlight promo

Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15


Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15