Last year, Milaca’s boys basketball team lost to Annandale 72-49 in the opening round of the Section 5AA North Sub-Section Tournament.
Guess who the Wolves face in the opening round of the sub-section this year?
The Cardinals, seeded No. 2 in the North Sub-Section, host the No. 7-seeded Wolves tonight (Thursday) at 7 o’clock.
“We knew we’d be facing a very good team in the first round but we feel we’ll be ready and we look forward to the challenge,” said Milaca Coach Dustin Naumann.
Milaca lost three games last week and enters the tournament with a 7-18 record. The Wolves lost non-conference games to Maple Lake 66-48 Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Rockford 76-52 Thursday, Feb. 28. Both games were at Milaca.
On Friday, St. Cloud Cathedral topped Milaca 69-42 at Cathedral to give the Wolves a final 3-13 Granite Ridge Conference record.
But, Naumann feels tournament play is a new season.
“Last week wasn’t how we wanted to end the regular season but we’re putting that behind us,” he said. “It was disappointing but the team believes the past doesn’t define us – it motivates us to do better.”
Annandale returns most of its players from last season. The Cardinals topped Glencoe-Silver Lake 65-45 and Dassel-Cokato 73-49 last week to finish the regular season 16-9.
The Cardinals are led by 5-foot-10 senior guard Brett Ahsenmacher.
“He is quick and he can jump out of the gym,” said Naumann. “They also have some other quick, athletic guards.
“They like to press and run the court and they can also make the three-point shot. We need to break their press and get good movement on offense, along with establishing some sort of rhythm. Defensively, we need to contest and box out on their three-point shots. Limiting them to one shot per possession will be a tall task but it is a must if we are to compete with them.”
Annandale placed fourth in the rugged Wright County Conference with a 7-7 record. Waconia won the title with a 13-2 mark while Delano, coached by former Milaca head coach Terry Techam, placed second with a 12-3 record.
In other first-round games tonight, No. 3-seeded Foley hosts No. 6-seeded Maple Lake, No. 1-seeded Cathedral hosts No. 8-seeded Spectrum and No. 4-seeded Rockford hosts No. 5-seeded Kimball.
The winner of tonight’s Milaca-Annandale games faces the Foley-Maple Lake winner Saturday, March 9, at Buffalo High School at 8 p.m. The winner of the Cathedral-Spectrum games meets the winner of the Rockford-Kimball Saturday at 6 p.m. at Buffalo.
The championship game is Tuesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. at Dassel-Cokato.
Cathedral, which placed second in the Granite Ridge Conference with a 13-3 record (20-6 overall), rolled to a 39-17 halftime lead as it swept its season series with Milaca.
Sophomore forward Mike Garber led the Wolves with 11 points while sophomore forward Nick Wolbert scored six.
“This game was like running into a buzz saw,” said Naumann. “Cathedral was on fire from everywhere.
“We were beaten on the boards, which was disappointing, and we had way too many turnovers.”
Sophomore guard Brindley Theisen and junior guard Brady Schmit had 17 points each for Cathedral.
Against Rockford, junior guard Justin Fransen scored 15 points while Garber had 13 and junior center Matt VanSomeren had nine points and eight rebounds.
“Rebounding has been a strength for us but it wasn’t in this game,” said Naumann. “Rockford’s 16 offensive rebounds led to nearly 30 second-chance points.”
Junior guard Brian Kiel’s 11 points, five assists and four rebounds led Milaca against Maple Lake. Sophomore guard Levi Hunt sank three three-point baskets to finish with nine points.