HOL, 8AA boys hoops races heating up
PELICAN RAPIDS — Parity is afoot in the Heart O’ Lakes boys basketball Conference and Section 8AA this season where nearly every contest with first place on the line is anybody’s ball game.
All seven teams will be in action this coming weekend with the marquee matchup being Perham (11-4, 4-2) at Pelican Rapids (10-3, 5-2) Friday night in Pelican Rapids.
Pelican Rap 5-2
Barnesville moved into a tie for first place in the HOL at 5-2 with the Vikings and the Trojans are the hottest team in the conference having won nine straight games, doing so without star Michael Strand.
Strand has been out with mono and is expected to return in late January. His absence was just what the doctor ordered for Barnesville as the Trojans were forced to play without him and will welcome Strand back a more complete ball club.
Barnesville has not lost since a 66-64 overtime loss at Perham December 20.
Pelican Rapids continues to rely heavily on the high-scoring prowess of Ryan Bruggeman, who scored 28 points to give Perham their first loss of the season on December 13 by the slimmest of margins 56-55.
Bruggeman scored 35 in the loss to Crookston and Barnesville held the Viking star to only 15 points. Pelican will become even more dangerous if they can emulate Barnesville and force teams to defend a more balanced offensive attack. Nathan Sillerud led the Vikings with 16 points in the loss at Barnesville and Travis Haugen is more than capable of routinely putting up double digits. With home court on their side and a chance for a Pelican season sweep at hand, the Vikings and Yellowjackets matchup Friday night should be typical of the heated rivalry with every possession being important in a fast-paced flurry of action fans have come to expect from both clubs.
Perham started the season ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. Pelican Rapids rose to as high as No. 2 before dropping out of the polls for the first time last week. For the first time this season, there are no ranked HOL teams, while Section 8AA NorthEast foes East Grand Forks (10-4) and Crosby-Ironton (11-3) have moved into the mix.
Class 2A Rankings
1. St. Cloud Cathedral (15-3)
2. Barnum (14-1)
3. Esko (13-3)
4. Waseca (15-2)
5. Crosby-Ironton (11-3)
6. Byron (13-4)
7. Annandale (10-4)
8. East Grand Forks (10-4)
9. Braham (12-2)
10. St. James (11-3)
East Grand Forks defeated Crookston 74-71 in Crookston Jan. 20 and will travel to Pelican Feb. 7 and host Barnesville Feb. 15.
Perham gave Crookston their first loss of the season 61-46 in Perham. Crookston picked up home victories over HOL opponents Frazee and Pelican Rapids.
8AA SW is a five-team race with D-G-F a wild card after the Rebels handed Pelican Rapids their first loss of the season 53-41 Dec. 20. Eight of the top nine teams in the respective subsections are in the top 50 of the 2A QRF, which Section 8AA uses to seed playoff teams.
3. East Grand Forks
24. Pelican Rapids
46. Park Rapids
Perham enters Friday’s matchup on a three-game win streak after suffering their only two-game skid of the year over the holidays. The Yellowjackets have also morphed into more of a complete team seeing contributions from much deeper in the bench than earlier in the season.
The starting five did most of the work early in the year, but head coach Dave Cresap has worked a number of other players into the whole lineup as the season has progressed. Sam Willenbring has added some much-needed height in the middle on defense and has proven he can hit from outside as well on the offensive end. Jamie Hietala, Chris Kenntemich and Trey Moberg have made Perham a more complete team adding to the already proven and dangerous top five of Eli Beachy, Tyler Glines, Sam Muer, Hunter Salathe and sharpshooter Nick Bahls.
As February approaches minutes become more important and harder to earn on the court as the games get bigger and with the conference title and section seeding up for grabs all nine teams will be scrambling to find the right matchups and get the all-important notches in the win column.
8AA SW (QRF score) Section record
QRF 11 Perham (95.5)8-2
No. 16 Barnesville (88.9)6-2
No. 24 Pelican Rapids (85.2)6-3
No. 50 Hawley (66.3)5-3
No. 63 D-G-F (60.8)4-5
No. 92 Breckenridge (47.5)1-5
No. 104 Frazee (38.4)1-7
No. 114 Wadena-Deer Creek (28.4)0-7
8AA NE (QRF score) Section record
QRF 3 East Grand Forks (118.6)4-0
No. 6 Crosby-Ironton (104.3)2-1
No. 40 Crookston (73.1)8-2
No. 46 Park Rapids Area (68.6)7-5
No. 82 Pequot Lakes (51.7)3-2
No. 88 Roseau (48.2)4-3
No. 119 Bagley (26.1)0-5
No. 122 Badger/Green-MR (24.6)1-1
No. 124 Warroad (23.8)0-7
One team that has struggled to find consistency is the Hawley Nuggets who are in the middle of a Jeckyl and Hyde season.
The Nuggets looked unbeatable in their 1-3-1 zone that toppled Perham in Hawley 63-47. However, Hawley is 6-8 overall and put their first two-game win streak of the season together in the past week defeating Kindred (N.D.) and Breckenridge Jan 18 and 20.
The Nuggets face D-G-F in Glyndon Friday night and continue a two-game road trip this weekend following up Friday’s game with a visit to Frazee Saturday. The Hornets are winless in the HOL at 0-5 coming off their closest conference game of the year, a nine-point loss at Glyndon Jan. 21. Two wins by Hawley and at 8-8, they could be tied atop the HOL with a 6-2 mark.
With Barnesville, Pelican, (5-2) Perham and Hawley (4-2) all a half-game apart in the HOL standings and D-G-F lurking at 3-4 this weekend’s games will provide a wacky assortment of scenarios going down the stretch.
It’s that time of year in the Heart O’ Lakes and Section 8AA. It’s anybody’s game on any given night and the excitement will continue to build as March Madness approaches.
Follow @PerhamSports on Twitter this weekend to keep up to date on all the action as it plays out.