East shines as celebrity stars come out
The showdown between the state's two best players, Duluth East's Rick Rickert and Minnetonka's Adam Boone turned into more of a shootout at the OK Corral, as Rickert's partners, guards Ryan Crain and Mike Sippel tipped the odds, leaving only the ...
The showdown between the state's two best players, Duluth East's Rick Rickert and Minnetonka's Adam Boone turned into more of a shootout at the OK Corral, as Rickert's partners, guards Ryan Crain and Mike Sippel tipped the odds, leaving only the Greyhounds standing after a 56-51 triumph on Saturday.
Rickert, poured in a game-high 30 points and added 12 rebounds for a Greyhound team that was finally able to grind out a win against one of the state's top Minneapolis-area teams. The East victory helped ease the string of hard fought losses to Eagan, Patrick Henry, Bloomington Jefferson and Apple Valley earlier this season.
"It was a great win against a ranked team," said Rickert. "And with Boone going to North Carolina, we knew we'd have to step up and play 'D' on him and we did."
Boone, who averages just over 27 points per game for the Skippers was held to 21 heavily-contested points on Saturday, which was a testament to both a stingy East defense and the immense talent of Boone, whose scored with tremendous creativity in the face of limited opportunity.
The superstars' luminance nearly overshadowed the gritty play of Crain, Sippel, Greg Anderson and Colin Ellefson, who supplied the 'Hounds with the solid compliment to Rickert that they've been searching for all year.
"Our guard play was more steady," said Bob Kunze, East's head coach. "They handled the ball, they handled the pressure well and they got the ball to Rick. The guard play was the difference."
The Greyhounds jumped out of the gate with an early 9-0 run to start the game, culminated by Rickert who capitalized on a Boone turnover, coming strong to the hoop for a lay-up that capped off the explosive run and whipped the thunderous East crowd into a frenzy.
But Boone answered; defiantly leading his Skippers back into the game with a three-pointer at the end of the quarter, which cut East's lead to 17-11.
The second quarter began the way the first ended, with Boone doing his best to keep the Skippers close and Rickert dicing Minnetonka with silky-smooth mid-range jump shots. Two possessions midway through the second quarter swayed the momentum toward the Greyhounds, as East's Crain brought the ball to the hoop, missing a lay-up, which was slammed in on the follow-up by Rickert. The Skippers brought the ball up court following the dunk and put it in the hands of Boone, who's power move to the hoop backfired when he was whistled for the charging foul. East took advantage of the break, grinding out the half's final minutes before Rickert hit a buzzer-beating turn-around three-pointer to give the 'Hounds a 31-24 lead at the half.
Minnetonka turned up the pressure on defense to begin the second half, blanketing Rickert and pressing the 'Hounds guards, who were up to the challenge, protecting the ball and avoiding the big mistake. East maintained a five-to-ten point cushion throughout the half, never getting the separation they craved, but managing to keep the margin just out of reach for Minnetonka.
The defining play of the game may have come with just under three minutes remaining when Rickert called for a pass on the low post, and got it, driving to the hoop for the basket and displaying the demonstrative determination that has evolved with his increasing big-time hoops exposure.
East's Anderson sealed the game for the 'Hounds with two free throws in the games waning seconds to put the game out of Minnetonka's reach.
The post-game buzz centered on University of Iowa head basketball coach Steve Alford, who made the trip Up North to check out some of what Minnesota high school basketball had to offer in the way of prospects.
The spotlight was kind to Rickert, who's been opening a number of eyes around the NCAA with his play.
"I was nervous right from the get go," said Rickert. "I wanted to show what Duluth East is made of."
Rickert did just that, impressing Alford with his vast array of skills and his raucous hometown crowd.
"It's (Minnesota's high school basketball) very similar to all the high school basketball I've seen," said Alford, dispelling any myths about the Up North game being severely inferior to that of Indiana or Iowa.
Alford, who starred for Bobby Knight's Hoosiers in his playing days, is forbidden by the NCAA to comment on any players he may be sizing up for an Iowa uniform. But an observer noted that Alford figured a player like Rickert would require some special defensive attention if he were coaching against him, involving a permanent double team and an occasional triple team if he decided to handle the ball.
Rickert took it all in stride, noting that he still needed to work on "everything" in his game before he was prepared to play NCAA Division I basketball.
"I've got to keep working on my shot and my defense is key," said Rickert. "I'd like to be an all-around player-do everything."
He's already done that at Duluth East. All that's left is the state title he wants so badly.