Just one team in the state of Minnesota is undefeated entering the state boys’ basketball tournament. It’s not the nationally ranked Hopkins Royals…not last year’s undefeated 3A champions St. Paul Johnson…it’s the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars, a perfect 30-0 on the season. The Jaguars headline a Class A tournament field that includes five teams ranked in the final Minnesota Basketball News poll of the year and two teams that are making their first trip to state.
The Jaguars, champions of the Central Minnesota Conference, are making their first appearance at the state tournament and they’re making it in style. Not only are they undefeated on the season, they dominated their section to win that first section crown. Every one of their Section 6A wins came by at least 27 points, the last of which being a 66-39 win over Norman County East in the section finals. They’ll take on the Goodhue Wildcats, winners of Section 1A. After losing their final three games of the regular season, the Wildcats won four straight in the sections, winning the title with a 58-48 win over Rushford-Peterson. Goodhue, co-champions of the Hiawatha Valley League-Blue and 24-7 on the season, made their only other state tournament appearance in 2004.
The second quarterfinal features two top-5 teams, Maranatha Christian and MACCRAY, who are each making their second appearance at state (Clara City, one of the towns that makes up MACCRAY, appeared twice before consolidation). Maranatha, ranked #3 in the final poll of the season, went undefeated in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association and is currently 26-2 this year. Since a 17-point loss to Eden Prairie in January, the Mustangs have rolled off 15 wins in a row, including a Section 4A championship win over defending Class A champs Minnesota Transitions Charter 52-50. MACCRAY, 26-3 this season, won the Camden Conference-North with an undefeated conference record. The fifth-ranked Wolverines won the Section 3A title by defeating Hills-Beaver Creek 70-61 in the finals.
There’s all kinds of history in the third quarterfinal, as Fosston, winners of the first state basketball tournament in 1913 (a 29-27 win over Mountain Lake), takes on Chisholm, who’s making their 19th trip to state. The Fosston Greyhounds were a mainstay in the field those first few years, making the trip to state seven times in the tournament’s first nine years. Until this season, however, the Greyhounds had been absent from state- a drought of 90 years. Fosston’s currently 21-6 on the year, and after a second-place finish in the Pine to Prairie Conference’s North Division, the Greyhounds took the championship of Section 8A with a ten-point victory over Warren-Alvarado-Oslo. They’ll play the ninth-ranked Bluestreaks of Chisholm, champions of Section 7A. The Bluestreaks bring a 27-3 record to the state tournament; they too finished second in their conference, the Iron Range Conference, then won four straight in the sections to make state. They’re looking for their fifth title.
The final quarterfinal features eighth-ranked Springfield, the only team to return from the 2010 tournament, against Upsala. Springfield, champions of the Tomahawk Conference, bring a 23-3 record to their third state tournament. They defeated conference rival Sleepy Eye for the third time this year in the Section 2A championship game. Upsala, 25-3 this season, finished tied for first in the Prairie Conference with Browerville. After splitting their two regular season matchups, the Cardinals defeated Browerville in the Section 5A quarterfinals, then upended second-ranked Sebeka in the semifinals en route to the section crown. Upsala’s making their first trip to the state tournament.
The Class A schedule:
Quarterfinals (all games Thursday at Williams Arena):
Goodhue vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, 11am
MACCRAY vs. Maranatha Christian, 1pm
Chisholm vs. Fosston, 3pm
Springfield vs. Upsala, 5pm
12pm and 2pm Friday @ Target Center
12pm Saturday @ Target Center