Feb. 23—Stewartville-Minnehaha Academy was supposed to be a matchup of the two best players in Minnesota's Class of 2021, Minnehaha's Chet Holmgren duking it out against Will Tschetter on ESPNU.
But it was Stewartville's Nolan Stier that stole the headlines. Sure, Minnehaha Academy ran away from Stewartville 87-63, but southeastern Minnesota was buzzing about Stier's performance on the biggest stage.
That and more in this week's installment of the High School Boys Basketball Focus.
TOP 5 PERFORMANCES
1. Nolan Stier, Stewartville
Stier wasn't scared to play star-studded Minnehaha Academy and Chet Holmgren, the as-of-now uncommitted top recruit from Minnesota in the Class of 2021. Stier, the Stewartville guard, had a Monday night to remember on national television, dropping a game-high 24 points. Stier dazzled with four 3-pointers but he also had two huge blocks and put Minnehaha Academy defenders on skates all night long. Colleges should offer that man now.
2. Jake Braaten, Byron
Another week, another standout performance for Braaten. The Byron senior guard splashed four 3-pointers on his way to 32 points against St. Peter. It's the second time in the last four games that Braaten has eclipsed 30 points.
3. Ethan Slaathaug, Hayfield
Hayfield notched a statement win when it knocked off a very good Lyle/Pacelli squad 85-73 on Tuesday. But Slaathaug was the big story. He scored 25 points, ripped down 11 rebounds and dished 13 assists for the first triple-double of his career. Slaathaug is playing outstanding basketball right now.
4. Easton Fritcher, Hayfield
After Slaathaug nearly notched a triple-double on Tuesday, his teammate Easton Fritcher flirted with one on Friday. The Vikings cruised to a 76-53 victory over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and Fritcher filled the box score with 17 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
5. Michael Sharp, Mayo
Sharp poured in 25 points against Austin's long, athletic defense. The Spartans' senior guard is a sniper from downtown but he can score at all three levels. The Spartans haven't had the season they wanted (2-6), but Sharp has been a major bright spot.
(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.)
1. Caledonia (10-1)
Previous rank: (1)
Austin Klug made his return to the court from a nasty ankle injury and promptly got back to getting buckets. The Warriors beat Fillmore Central by 50 and St. Charles by 41. They had five players in double figures in the win over a good St. Charles team. What more can you say? Caledonia is stockpiled with talent. Its quartet of Klug, Sam Privet, Andrew Kunelius and Casey Schultz is as good as it gets.
2. Stewartville Tigers (9-2)
Previous rank: (2)
Stewartville's two losses are to Minnehaha Academy and Caledonia. Losing to arguably the two best teams in the state won't knock a team down in the Power Rankings. The Tigers are long, deep and athletic. Tschetter is playing like the second-best player in the state this season, and a national TV audience got to see how good Stier really is. Add in a supporting cast like Eli Klavetter, Miles Hettinger, Bode Mayer, Kaleb Hellickson, Alex Larson and Mason Schindler, and the Tigers will be tough to top.
3. Byron (7-1)
Previous rank: (3)
After a disappointing loss to Stewartville last Friday, the Bears took out some frustration on Rochester Lourdes (83-38) and St. Peter (91-59). The Bears are filled with a bunch of competitive guys who hate to lose. We saw it on the gridiron and we're seeing it again on the basketball court. The Bearss compete at a really high level. A Byron-Austin showdown in the Section 1AAA final would be electric.
4. Austin (8-2)
Previous rank: (4)
Mankato West is leading the Big Nine with a sparkling 9-1 record and its only blemish came at the hands of the Packers. Austin is third in the Big Nine right now after ekeing out a win over Winona (41-35) and beating Mayo (70-54) convincingly. The Packers showed their balance against Mayo when Okey Okey, Teyghan Hovland, Emmanuel Manyuon and Victor Idris all scored in double figures. Dieth Duop (seven points) wasn't far behind either.
5. Spring Grove (10-1)
Previous rank: (7)
Caden Grinde, Tysen Grinde, Carson Gerard and Elijah Solum anchor a Spring Grove squad that's No. 1 in the Southeast Conference. It's 10-1 and has won six in a row. The Lions have held five out of their last six opponents to fewer than 43 points.
6. Plainview-Elgin-Millville (8-2)
Previous rank: (5)
P-E-M's backcourt trio of Blake Herber, and Conner and Peyton Schumacher is one of the best in southeastern Minnesota. Herber is a terrific distributor who can flip on the scoring in a heartbeat. Conner Schumacher is one of the best two-way players in the area. Peyton Schumacher is a knockdown shooter who also plays tough defense — he slowed down St. Charles' stud Kooper Vaughn in their meeting. But if forwards Luke and Aeron Stevens keep playing at a high level, then the Bulldogs can really make some noise in the playoffs. They're dominating teams with their defense. P-E-M's six-game winning streak got stopped on Saturday by a good Goodhue team (48-47 in overtime), but the Bulldogs are still trending in the right direction.
P-E-M defensive stopper Conner Schumacher brings the clamps to the court
P-E-M's swarming defense sparks Bulldogs to important 64-48 victory over Chatfield
7. Century (8-3)
Previous rank: (6)
Century has been one of the most surprising teams in southeastern Minnesota. It's 8-3 with a brand new starting lineup and a ton of new faces. The Panthers haven't been able to knock off the elite teams in the Big Nine (Owatonna, Mankato West, Austin), but they are gritty, tough and they compete night in and night out. Jaden Wysocki is a rising star. Noah Deedrick is one of the best post players in the Big Nine. Jaecan Fratzke went off for 15 points against Mankato West on Friday, so add him to the growing list of guys who are fully capable of leading Century in scoring every night.
8. La Crescent (8-2)
Previous rank: (8)
La Crescent just keeps winning. Carter Todd is a dynamic player. Parker McQuin can do it all and Cam Manske is a lights-out shooter. La Crescent is deep and well-coached. Wins over Rushford-Peterson and Chatfield look really impressive right now, and the Lancers' only losses are only to Caledonia and Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the season-opener.
9. Hayfield (9-3)
Previous rank: unranked
This Hayfield team is good. Really good. It's suffered two losses to a 10-1 Maple River team, and it lost by two points to a good Grand Meadow team in the second game of the year. But it's way better now. It picked up a monster win against Lyle/Pacelli on Tuesday. The Vikings aren't the deepest, but their Fab Four of Ethan Slaathaug, Isaac Matti, Ethan Pack and Easton Fritcher can ball out.
10. Lyle/Pacelli (7-1)
Previous rank: (9)
Lyle/Pacelli has so much offense thanks to Buay Koak, Zach Bollingberg, Cole Walter, Jake Truckenmiller, Sam Nelsen and Jed Nelson. The Athletics suffered a tough 12-point loss to a Hayfield team that can really fill it up, but they bounced back and rolled past Grand Meadow 70-46. The Section 1A tournament is going to be a gauntlet.
This week's games to watch
Hayfield at Goodhue, Tuesday: Hayfield can really score and it loves to ramp up the pace, but Goodhue likes to slow it down and can really execute defensively. This one should be a clash of two of the better coaches in the area in Chris Pack (Hayfield) and Matt Halverson (Goodhue).
Mankato East at Century, Tuesday: The Panthers get another chance to knock off an elite Big Nine squad. This time, they get Mankato East at home.
St. Charles at Chatfield, Tuesday: This will be an outstanding game between two teams with two elite scorers in Kooper Vaughn and Reid Johnson. Maybe the supporting cast will decide it.
La Crescent at Byron, Thursday: This is a huge non-conference showdown. La Crescent (8-2) and Byron (7-1) are both excellent.
Waseca at Stewartville, Thursday: When Adam Girtman says Stewartville will play anybody, he's not kidding. Waseca and Stewartville will be an elite matchup between two of the best teams in the state.
Century at John Marshall, Friday: Not much beats a good intra-city showdown.