willingham

Waseca senior forward Kyreese Willingham has not been the most dominant scorer so far this season for the Bluejays, but has helped to direct an offense that’s been among the best in the state. (File Photo/southernminn.com)

Game: The Waseca boys basketball team (10-0, 6-0 Big South) will travel to Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 2 to take on the Minnehaha Academy RedHawks (10-1) in one of the season’s most anticipated matches. The game will begin at 7 p.m.

Recent results: The Bluejays have not won a game by fewer than 10 points since their 75-66 win against Marshall on January 26. Since then, Waseca is 6-0 and has defeated opponents by an average of 36.2 points per game. The RedHawks have been just as dominant — against some high-quality teams — with their only loss coming to IMG Academy of Florida (73-53) and their only single-digit victory coming against Wayzata (70-63). Their last six wins have come by an average of 24.8 points.

Last year: Minnehaha Academy won the two teams’ only meeting last season, 81-46. Gonzaga University star and future NBA top-10 pick Jalen Suggs led the charge for the RedHawks.

1. The RedHawks are led by Chet Holmgren, a McDonald’s All-American and the consensus number one basketball recruit in the nation. Standing at over 7-feet tall with an even larger wingspan, Holgrem is one of the premier shot blockers in the nation and is a offensive weapon from all locations on the floor. He can fill it up from beyond the arc and possesses an ability to handle the ball that is unnatural for a player of his size. Like Suggs, he will likely be a top NBA draft pick in the near future. Andrew Morgan — a NCAA Division-I commit himself (NDSU) — will have his work cut out for him, not only in the post but on the perimeter as well.

Still, Waseca coach Seth Anderson can’t wait to see Morgan and Holmgren go head-to-head.

“Almost every single game we play, Andrew Morgan is the best big man on the floor. It’ll be fun for those guys to be able to duke it out; see what Andrew can do against a top-tier player like [Holmgren]. I know Andrew won’t back down, and even [Matt Seberson], they won’t back down. They’re going to go at him and they’re going to battle. Obviously, they’re going to have to play very well just to keep him in check and be able to do things. Some of the things you’re able to get away with or be able to do against an average player, you just can’t do that against an unbelievable talent like a 7-footer like that. Every little jump hook and every little layup just seems that much more difficult when you’ve got a 7-footer clogging the paint. That will be a fun match up.”

But Holmgren isn’t the only top-tier basketball prospect on Minnehaha Academy’s roster. Prince Aligbe is a four-star recruit and has received scholarship offers from schools such as Georgetown, UCLA, Florida, and Illinois and brothers Hercy and Mercy Miller — sons of rapper Master P — have also drawn significant Division-I interest. Suffice it to say that the Bluejays have not faced an opponent of the RedHawks’ caliber to date.

2. In many respects, Waseca possess a similar structure to that of Stewartville, who fell to Minnehaha Academy 87-63 earlier this season. However, the Bluejays are different in a couple of respects. While both teams are built around their Division-I centers — Stewartville’s Will Tscheter is committed to play ball at the University of Michigan next winter — Waseca is arguably the deeper team overall. Kyreese Willingham and Ryan Dufault are no slouches in their own right and Zach Hoehn, Dravyn Spies, and Seberson provide solid depth. The two keys to defeating Minnehaha Academy, according to Anderson, will be strong team defense and dictating the pace of play.

“There’s just so many weapons that Minnehaha has. You look at [Holmgren, Aligbe, and the Miller boys] and guys like that. There’s not one guy that you can focus on and say ‘We take this guy away, we have a good chance at winning.’ You look at Prince and put too much focus on him, and all of a sudden Holmgren and the Millers are taking it to you. You just want to be able to do what you do defensively well and, hopefully, you can play with some strengths and play with some quickness and prevent them from getting to the spots on the floor that they want to get to and have success from.

It’s not just one guy we’re going to count on to stop anyone one-on-one. It’s going to have to be good team defense all the way around.”

3. Anderson and the Bluejays are embracing the challenge that will be going up against arguably the best high school basketball team in the state and view the matchup as a litmus test.

“You look at it as a challenge every single time,” Anderson said. “You go to practice every single day looking to get better and better. You always kind of talk about, ‘Are we practicing to beat the bad teams or are we practicing to beat the good teams? How well do we have to play to beat the good teams?’ Minnehaha [has been] at the top of the ladder these last few years, so obviously they’re always in the back of your mind. We want to play these guys and on a perfect night could we beat these guys? If we play well, how well can we compete with them? It’s just kind of and interesting and fun way to gauge how talented your team is compared to a team like that.”

Waseca will know one way or the other come the night of March 2.

Reach Regional Sports Editor Lucas Seehafer at 507-444-2375. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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