State basketball preview: Royals return to the big dance, Apple Valley No. 1 seed
This week, the Woodbury boys basketball team is making its second consecutive and seventh overall appearance in the Minnesota state tournament. The Royals were ousted by Hopkins in the quarterfinal round in 2012. Woodbury won its only state championship in 1983.
This year, the coaches selected the top seeds in all four classes for the second time. The top four seeds' opponents were determined by blind draw. Prior to last year only Class AAA and Class AAAA seeded their top teams.
Woodbury garnered the fourth seed in the Class AAAA tournament and will be matched up against fifth-seed Eden Prairie in the first round.
This season, Woodbury won the Suburban East Conference and Section 4AAAA championship titles. Senior guard Renard Suggs leads the team with 19.4 points per game. Three other Woodbury players also average double-figure scoring: junior Matt Ambriz with 13.1 points per game, senior Diallo Powell with 12.6, and senior Mario Franco with 10.5. Franco is also the Royals' top rebounder with 6.2 per game. Woodbury (25-4) closed the season ranked No. 3 in the final state poll.
Unranked Eden Prairie (21-8) is making its fourth consecutive and ninth overall tournament appearance. The Eagles look to improve on last year's fourth-place finish. The duo of junior Andre Wallace and senior Grant Shaeffer lead Eden Prairie in scoring, averaging 16.1 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Senior Jack Cottrell is the leading rebounder for the Eagles with 6.0 boards per game.
The 2013 State Boys Basketball Tournament starts Wednesday, March 20. Quarterfinal games will be played at Target Center on Wednesday, March 20, and at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on both Wednesday and Thursday, March 20 and 21. Semifinals will be played at Target Center on Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22. The championship games of all four classes will be played at Target Center on Saturday, March 23. Third-place games will be played on Saturday at Concordia University in St. Paul.
This is the 17th year of the four-class format and the 10th year that all games are being played in Minneapolis.
In other first-round games, Brainerd (28-1) takes on No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Apple Valley (28-1). Brainerd returns to tournament action for the first time since 1991. It is the 10th overall appearance for the Warriors who claimed a state title in 1954. Brainerd averages 73.2 points per game and shoots 46.0 percent from the field. The Warriors closed the season ranked No. 7 in the final poll. The Eagles of Apple Valley are making their sixth overall appearance and first since 2009.
Lakeville North (23-6) takes on second-seeded Park Center (26-3). Lakeville North, the runner-up in 2012, returns in pursuit of a championship title. It is the second consecutive and third overall appearance for the Panthers who finished the season unranked in the final MBN poll. Junior JP Macura leads the team with an average of 24.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Senior Grant Erickson adds 13.2 points and 6.5 assists per game. The No. 5-ranked Pirates of Park Center return to tournament action for the first time since 1997. It is the team's third overall appearance.
In the final matchup, Andover (10-19) goes up against third-seeded Edina (22-7). Unranked Andover returns for a fourth tournament appearance, its first since 2007. Junior Connor Wilkie leads the Huskies with 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Junior Kyle Kettler contributes 13.6 points per game. The Hornets enter tournament play for the first time since 1991. It marks the seventh overall appearance for the team that claimed three consecutive championships in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Senior Graham Woodward is Edina's all-time leading scorer, leading this year's squad with an average 26.3 points per game. Senior Reggie Lynch holds the school record for blocked shots, averaging 6.0 per game, along with 8.4 rebounds and 14.1 points per game.
All semifinal and championship games will be televised live by KSTC-TV, Channel 45, and also streamed live and free on the Web at Prep45.com. Live statistics of all games will also be displayed on the League website (www.MSHSL.org).
Tickets will be available at Target Center and Williams Arena. Quarterfinal tickets cost $14 for adults and $9 for students. Quarterfinal wristbands, which are good at both venues on Wednesday only, are $19 for adults and $12 for students. Semifinal and championship tickets will be available at Target Center and are $14 for adults and $9 for students per session. Third-place tickets will be available at Concordia University and are $10 for adults and $7 for students.
>b>Class AAAA quarterfinals
Wednesday, March 20 at Target Center
10 a.m. -- Brainerd vs. Apple Valley
12 p.m. -- Eden Prairie vs. Woodbury
2 p.m. -- Lakeville North vs. Park Center
4 p.m. -- Andover vs. Edina