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Wisconsin wins Border Battle over Minnesota 3-2, for second year in a row

01/15/2008, 1:08pm CST
By Mark Miller

Things weren’t looking too rosy for Wisconsin after Minnesota decisively won the first two games of the second annual Border Battle Saturday at Verona Area High School.

However, things changed in a hurry as Waupun kick-started a three-game winning streak for the Badger State with a performance that can only be described as awesome. The Warriors drilled 17-of-26 shots from three-point range and looked very much like a state-title contending team while destroying Princeton, Minnesota, 83-44.

Madison Memorial and Verona followed Waupun with impressive victories of their own as Wisconsin won three of the five games played for the second year in a row in the event co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook and The Breakdown. Wisconsin will look to add to its victory total when the event is held again next year at a location to be determined in Minnesota.

Following are some observations from this year’s Border Battle:

Waupun 83, Princeton (MN) 44

* Without question, Waupun is the most entertaining team I’ve seen this season. Of course, it helps to make 17 shots from beyond the arc, but the Warriors’ had the entire gym abuzz throughout their conquest of Princeton with their unselfishness on offense, their grit and determination on defense and their overall energy level, in addition to their remarkable long-range shooting marksmanship. Coach Lucky Wurtz had his team firing on all cylinders on both ends of the court and his decision to “sandwich” Wisconsin recruit Jared Berggren in the second half all but ended any comeback hopes the Tigers’ may have had after trailing 45-29 at halftime. Waupun has shot better than 60 percent from the field in each of its past six games. The Warriors have shot better than 60 percent from three-point range in five of those six games. Truly remarkable.

* The performances turned in by co-MVPs Ryan Rasmussen and Aris Wurtz of Waupun were simply off the charts. The 6-2 Rasmussen came out on fire in the first quarter to ignite the Warriors, currently ranked too low at eighth in the WBCA/WSN poll for Division 2 schools. Rasmussen, headed to Division II Minnesota-Duluth in the fall, scored 18 points – in the first quarter – as Waupun raced to a 23-17 lead and was never threatened the rest of the way. Wurtz, a 6-4 forward who plays a lot like former Golden State Warriors great Chris Mullin, then took over in the second quarter as Princeton switched to a box-in-one defense to try to slow Rasmussen. Wurtz scored 15 in the second eight minutes to help the Warriors continue their impressive onslaught. Rasmussen finished with 30 points and Wurtz added 29 as Waupun improved to 14-1.

* I’ve seen Rasmussen and Wurtz play many times over the past four years and neither has ever played any better than they did Saturday. Coach Gary Holquist of Minnesota-Duluth got a steal in the left-handed Rasmussen, who is also a standout quarterback. Wurtz, on the other hand, remains open about his future college home. Though Wurtz may lack pure athleticism and quickness, he’s a basketball gym rat who simply knows how to position himself for success on both ends of the court.

* Berggren, the 6-11 senior from Princeton headed to Wisconsin in the fall, scored all 16 of his points in the first half. The decision of Waupun coach Lucky Wurtz to double and even triple-team Berggren in the second half certainly slowed the production of the gifted post player, who came into the contest averaging nearly 25 points and 12 rebounds per contest. A few observations on Berggren … first and foremost, he maintains a 3.9 grade-point average. That, obviously, is more impressive than anything he does on the basketball court. As far as his basketball skills, his game kind of reminds me of Brian Butch coming out of high school, though Berggren is physically more advanced than Butch at a similar age. Berggren has a nice shooting touch, is aggressive in the post and has some bounce to his game in terms of snatching rebounds and blocking shots. He’ll need to improve his overall strength, his lateral quickness and his ability to run the court, but none of those things will keep him from having an extremely productive career at Wisconsin.

Madison Memorial 78, Minnetonka (MN) 69

* After losing to Minnetonka in last year’s Border Battle in Oakdale, Minnesota, the Spartans turned the tables on the Skippers this time around behind a monster performance from Game MVP Jeronne Maymon, the 6-6 junior who finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds to propel his team to a victory in a matchup of teams currently ranked No. 2 among large schools in their respective states. Maymon is currently ranked No. 3 among state players in the Class of 2009 by, but there is absolutely no denying that in terms of consistent production on the court, Maymon is in a class by himself. This kid simply goes out and gets it done night after night for coach Steve Collins. He is an absolute rebounding machine, especially on the offensive end of the court. At 6-6, he may be a bit undersized for the power forward spot for major-college basketball, but his ability to play facing the basket and get past opponents off the dribble is most impressive and could potentially make up for his perceived size disadvantage.

* Plenty has been written about the rapid progression of sophomore wing guard Vander Blue, who finished with 16 points and played a terrific overall floor game for the Spartans. While Blue justifiably gets a lot of notice, it was the play of another sophomore – 6-3 point guard Tre Creamer -- that may have been the difference for Memorial, which improved to 12-2 with the impressive victory. Creamer, who like Blue has an extremely promising future, had nine points, including seven in a row to start the second half. Like Blue, Creamer plays with poise and maturity that go beyond his age. With increased strength and improved perimeter shooting, Creamer could find himself on a lot of recruiting lists in upcoming years.

* Collins and the entire Memorial coaching staff deserve much credit for the Spartans’ strong showing against Minnetonka. Collins is a high-energy coach on the sidelines and his intensity rubs off in a positive way on his players. The Spartans have certainly had a tremendous run over the past several seasons, and the fiery Collins is at the heart of Memorial’s meteoric rise to basketball greatness.

Verona 68, Tartan (MN) 64

* Thanks to a superb all-around performance from a true warrior of Wisconsin high school basketball, Verona knocked off Tartan in the final game of the day to give Wisconsin a 3-2 edge in the series for the second straight season. Game MVP Jason Ziemer, a relentless 6-4 junior who competes with as much intensity as any other player in the state, scored 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to power the Wildcats. Ziemer scored 17 of his points in the second half and was a difficult matchup for Tartan because of his ability to put the ball on the floor and somehow create scoring angles to the basket in the congested lane. Ziemer is a 6-4 power forward who does the majority of his damage in the post, though he has the ability to knock down mid-range shots as well.

* Verona, now 12-2 and primed for a rematch with unbeaten Monroe in about 10 days, also got solid performances from senior Connor Valentyn and sophomore Adam Wadzinski. Verona coach Alan Buss predictably gave Valentyn the tough defensive assignment of guarding Tartan’s Marc Sonnen, a 6-3 junior point guard who has scholarship offers from Colorado State, Northern Iowa and UW-Green Bay. Valentyn was more than up to the challenge as he helped to contain Sonnen, who battled foul trouble throughout the contest and finished with 17 points. In addition to slowing Sonnen, Valentyn was able to reach his scoring average of 12 points per contest. Wadzinski, a 6-3 sophomore, added nine points and made the game-clinching free throw with just under two seconds left.

Rockford (MN) 88, Marshall 61

* Marshall entered the contest with an six-game winning streak and quickly grabbed a 15-3 lead before things took a dramatic turn. Rockford opted to switch to a zone defense to negate some of Marshall’s size advantage and the strategy worked to perfection as the Cardinals had a hard time locating open shots, especially in the lane. Rockford, meanwhile, got its high-energy running game into full great in the second quarter and outscored the Cardinals, 24-10, to take a 31-27 lead at intermission. Rockford, ranked second among Class AA schools in Minnesota, really turned up the juice in the second half as the Rockets continually beat Marshall down the floor for layups en route to the convincing victory.

* Marshall fell to 8-4, but the Cardinals remain a team on the rise under first-year coach Jason McConnell. Marshall’s lineup is loaded with size, athleticism and underclassmen. Senior Derek Woelffer (6-6) along with juniors Alex Koeller (6-6), Mike Boebel (6-6) and Max Franklin (6-4) comprise an intimidating frontline while senior Stephen Lunda and juniors Deveron Crews and Greg Haag form a solid backcourt. Marshall is probably a year away from pushing for a berth in the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament, but opponents better not sleep on the Cardinals the rest of the season because this team is fully capable of knocking off any opponents on the tournament trail.

Maranatha Christian (MN) 65, Barneveld 41

* Maranatha Christian showed why it’s the No. 1-ranked Class A school in Minnesota as the unbeaten Mustangs (16-0) pulled away in the second half for the victory over the Eagles. Game MVP David Hanson, a versatile 6-foot-6 senior forward headed to Cal Poly, scored 27 points and had a number of blocked shots as his size in the lane was extremely difficult for the Eagles to overcome. Barneveld used some full-court pressure defense to cut the lead to 31-24 early in the second half, and the Eagles had seven possessions to further cut into Maranatha’s advantage, but they couldn’t cash in on any of them.

Tag(s): Border Battle