After losing 17 of the last 19 games played in the Wisconsin versus Minnesota Border Battle, Wisconsin broke through to win five of the seven match-ups Saturday at Stevens Point Area Senior High to capture the 12th annual event, co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook and The Breakdown.
Though Minnesota still leads the all-time series 42-29, Wisconsin got the better of their western neighbors for the first time since 2014, when the Badger state won all six of the contests played at Kaukauna High School.
Here are some observations from Saturday's games:
10 Individual Standouts (Wisconsin)
Jordan McCabe, 6-0, PG, Sr., Kaukauna
The West Virginia recruit put on a shooting, passing and ball handling show for the nearly 2,000 fans in attendance as he led Kaukauna to its 14th victory in 16 outings with a resounding 122-103 victory over a Minneapolis North squad that could very well be ranked No. 1 among Class 2A schools in this week's state prep poll. McCabe, who earlier in the season surpassed 2,000 points for his four-year prep career, finished with 36 points and 13 assists and absolutely controlled the contest with his ability to break pressure, locate his sharpshooting teammates on the wing and dump the ball down low to the Ghosts' post players. His stellar performance helped Kaukauna set a school record for most points scored in a game, and cemented his status as one of the leading candidates for the Mr. Basketball award.
Drew Blair, 6-3, G, Sr., Stevens Point
Blair is making a strong push for a spot on the first-team All-State squad with a senior season that has been nothing short of sensational. Though the Panthers' chances of capturing a fourth consecutive WIAA Division 1 state title probably went out the door when Joey Hauser was lost for the season in November due to an ankle injury that required surgery, Blair has more than done his part to keep SPASH among the top teams in the Wisconsin Valley Conference. On Saturday, Blair was matched up against a very talented Minnehaha Academy program that includes one of the nation's top sophomores in guard Jalen Suggs. Blair did not back down from the spotlight against such a talented team and individual as he scored 40 points and was efficient in doing so. Blair made 12 of 23 shots from the floor, all 14 of his foul shots and 2 of 6 from three-point range. The left-handed wing guard committed to defending NCAA Division II champion Northwest Missouri State last summer and is playing like one of the top five players in Wisconsin in 2017-18 under the guidance of SPASH coach Scott Anderson.
Petey Brookshaw, 6-0, G, Sr., Prescott
Like Blair, Brookshaw was an absolute pleasure to watch. His ability to push the ball in transition, weave in and around the defense, make three-point shots and get to the basket helped Prescott stay within striking distance of Lake City until the final horn sounded. A four-year varsity player for coach Nick Johnson and a North Dakota State recruit for baseball, Brookshaw scored 34 points for the Cardinals, who dropped a hard-fought 84-77 decision and moved to 14-2 on the campaign. Brookshaw made 13 of 23 shots from the floor, dished out 11 assists and had eight rebounds -- outstanding production for a player who has put up similar numbers all season.
Johnny Davis, 6-5, WG, Soph., La Crosse Central
Davis is a very good high school basketball player, and he figures to be an even bigger and better player in 24 months. His physical strength is impressive for such a young player, and yet he still has plenty of room to grow in that area, which is a frightening thought for opponents of La Crosse Central in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Davis battled foul trouble in the Red Raiders' 65-60 victory over a very good North St. Paul squad, but he still managed to score 23 points. He is relentless in attacking the basket and plays at 110 mph on every possession. Ranked No. 2 among state prospects in the class of 2020 by WisSports.net, Davis owns a scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin, and once he improves his perimeter shot and continues to add muscle and strength to his long basketball frame, there's a strong chance he could be ranked among the best nationally in the 2020 class.
Sam Ferris, 6-0, G, Sr., Xavier
Xavier's backcourt of seniors Hunter Plamann and Sam Ferris proved to be the difference for the Hawks, who pulled away from Minnetonka in the second half to record the school's 44th win a row, a 74-59 decision over the Skippers. Ferris, in particular, turned in an exceptional showing at SPASH as he went nine of nine from the floor, two of two from the foul line and one of one from three-point range. He also had five rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Hawks. Moreover, he played with poise and precision against a team that had more size and depth. On the season, Ferris is averaging 14.5 points, 8.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 steals for a Xavier squad that takes a 16-0 mark into Thursday's game at West De Pere.
Cameron Cloud, 6-0, G, Sr., Pacelli
After scoring 12 points and hitting four triples in a 56-51 Central Wisconsin Conference South victory at Pittsville Friday evening, Cloud turned in an even more impressive showing Saturday morning/early afternoon in the Cardinals' 61-48 victory over Spring Grove. Cloud scored a career-best 29 points by making 7 of 17 shots, including 4 of 9 from three-point range. He also connected on 11 of 15 foul shots and recorded four steals as Pacelli improved to 12-4 under coach Nate Resch. Cloud's ability to make long-distance triples helps to keep the middle open for an impressive group of Pacelli frontline players that includes Garret Parks (6-5) and AJ Firminhac (6-4), among others.
Keaton Ferris, 5-10, G, Soph., Kaukauna
The cousin of Xavier's Sam Ferris played an impressive game of his own in the Ghosts' triumph over Minneapolis North as he knocked down seven three-point shots and scored 25 points for coach Mike Schalow. Ferris' is an extremely accurate shooter, but his game also includes a flair for making the right pass and some quickness off a shot fake. Ferris is on the small side, but his game is a big part of Kaukauna's success this winter, and his future appears extremely bright as he continues to add to his offensive repertoire. Ferris made 7 of 9 attempts from three-point range against Minneapolis North and is shooting at an extremely high rate from distance on the season.
Jordan Davis, 6-4, WG, Soph., La Crosse Central
The twin brother of Johnny Davis, Jordan Davis hit the biggest shot of the game in the Red Raiders' win over North St. Paul as his three-pointer with under four minutes left broke a 53-53 deadlock and gave La Crosse Central the lead for good. Jordan Davis finished with 16 points and hit a pair of triples late as the Red Raiders improved to 13-2 under coach Todd Fergot. Davis is averaging 10.3 ppg and gives La Crosse Central a strong perimeter presence with his ability to make big shots.
Hunter Plamann, 6-1, PG, Sr., Xavier
Plamann did not shoot the ball particularly well against Minnetonka, but he nonetheless had a huge positive impact on the game for the Hawks. The Minnesota-Duluth recruit did score 17 points, but his biggest contribution was pushing the ball and attacking the defense en route to handing out 10 assists. He also grabbed seven rebounds and recorded four steals. A four-year varsity player, Plamann is nearing the school's all-time scoring record held by Kip Whitlinger, who scored 1,656 points in 84 games in the early 1960s. Plamann currently has 1,542 points in 98 games. He is averaging 22.4 ppg as a senior so, barring injury, could potentially catch Whitlinger in another five or six games.
Garret Parks, 6-5, F, Sr., Pacelli
Sleeper alert. Parks is an athletic forward who can block/alter shots, score around the basket and from mid range and grab rebounds. He finished with 12 points in the victory over Spring Grove, but more importantly he shut down the Lions' 6-foot-5 senior center, Sam Sanness, in the second half. Sanness had scored 16 points in the first half, but failed to score in the second 18 minutes. Parks had six rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists and two steals to go along with his 12 points.
10 Individual Standouts (Minnesota)
Jalen Suggs, 6-4, PG, Soph., Minnehaha Academy
As good as advertised. Ranked among the top 10 players nationally in the 2020 class, Suggs has a mature 6-foot-4 frame, a strong perimeter jump shot, stellar athleticism and the confidence to make big plays with the ball in his hands. He finished with 36 points in the Redhawks' victory over Stevens Point.
Prince Aligbe, 6-5, F, 8th Grade, Minnehaha Academy
Aligbe turned in a pair of rebound dunks, including a two-handed flush in the first half, that had the large partisan crowd buzzing. When you consider he is just in the eighth grade and carries a strong physical frame on an athletic 6-foot-5 body, the sky could be the limit for Aligbe.
Goodnews Kpegeol, 6-6, F, Sr., North St. Paul
Before the fans even sat down to watch the Polars' game with La Crosse Central, Kpegeol had buried a couple of three-point shots. He finished with four triples and 16 points and is one of the top available class of 2018 prospects in Minnesota.
Andy Stafford, 6-3, WG, Jr., Minnetonka
A rangy, junior wing prospect who showed the ability to get to the rim and make perimeter shots, Stafford finished with 19 points for the Skippers in their loss to Xavier.
Nasir El-Amin, 6-0, Jr., G, Minneapolis North
El-Amin had one of his better scoring games of his prep career as he finished with 39 points in the high possession outing the Polars lost to Kaukauna. El-Amin made three triples in the second half and had four for the game while also making seven of nine attempts from the free throw line.
Trej Holloman, 6-2, G, 8th Grader, Minneapolis North
The fact Minnesota allows seventh and eighth grade students to play varsity basketball gives kids like Aligbe and Holloman a chance to show off their impressive basketball abilities. Holloman had 16 points for Minneapolis North and, like El-Amin, showed the ability to score on all three levels.
Reid Gastner, 6-4, G/F, Soph., Lake City
A strong, physical and skilled wing prospect who dropped in 22 points for Lake City in the Tigers' narrow victory over Prescott. Gastner made four triples in the contest and had some key hoops for coach Greg Berge down the stretch of a very close game.
Nathan Heise, 6-3, G, Soph., Lake City
With Gastner and Heise returning next season, it's no wonder the organizers from The Breakdown have secured a commitment from Lake City to play in the Border Battle again next winter. Heise had 21 points and, like Gastner, made some huge perimeter shots in the closing minutes of the contest against Prescott.
Sam Sanness, 6-5, F, Sr., Spring Grove
Sanness gave Pacelli all kinds of problems in the first half when he scored all 16 of his points. The Cardinals did manage to shut out Sanness in the second half, though, and allowed the talented forward just one shot attempt in the final 18 minutes of play.
Seth Halvorsen, 6-2, F, Sr., Heritage Christian
Halvorsen was a bright spot for the Eagles, who could not overcome a balanced scoring attack of De Soto and dropped a 38-27 decision to the Pirates. Halvorsen finished with a game-high 14 points and had a thunderous two-handed dunk in the first half of the contest.
Final Scores of Border Battle
Game 1: De Soto (WI) 38, Heritage Christian (MN) 27
Game 2: Pacelli (WI) 61, Spring Grove (MN) 48
Game 3: Lake City (MN) 84, Prescott (WI) 77
Game 4: Kaukauna (WI) 122, Minneapolis North (MN) 103
Game 5: Xavier (WI) 74, Minnetonka (MN) 59
Game 6: La Crosse Central (WI) 65, North St. Paul (MN) 60
Game 7: Minnehaha Academy (MN) 73, Stevens Point (WI) 68
Looking Ahead ...
Next year's Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Border Battle is set for January 26, 2019 at East Ridge High School in Minnesota. Here are tentative pairings and times:
10:00 a.m. -- Thorp (WI) vs. Minnesota Valley Lutheran (MN)
11:30 a.m. -- Clear Lake (WI) vs. Lake City (MN)
1:15 p.m. -- Whitefish Bay (WI) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (MN)
2:45 p.m. -- Waupun (WI) vs. Rochester Mayo (MN)
4:15 p.m. -- Brookfield East (WI) vs. Apple Valley (MN)
6:00 p.m. -- Onalaska (WI) vs. Minnehaha Academy (MN)
7:30 p.m. -- Brookfield Central (WI) vs. East Ridge (MN)
To Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) and its staff led by athletic director Michael Blair for hosting the 12th annual Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Border Battle. Thanks also to the staff of The Breakdown for once again working with the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook to put on this event. See you next January at East Ridge High School.