SECTION 8AA BOYS BASKETBALL COACHES POLL – NO SURPRISE, PERHAM PICKED TO BE THE TOP TEAM

KROX has unveiled our annual Section 8AA Boys Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll and Season Preview and the defending champion Perham Yellowjackets are picked by the coaches to defend their title while a close second place is section newcomer Fergus Falls.  It will be a competitive section with East Grand Forks and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the mix.  The section lost a lot of outstanding talent to graduation and some of the teams will be looking to gel early in the season, but the section tournament, especially the quarterfinals, semi-finals and championship games should see some great games.  The section will have 18 teams this year, so each sub-section has nine teams.
We have the overall section favorites and the Sub-Section polls and season previews below.

OVERALL Section rankings (teams receiving top five votes)- 
1. Perham – 79 (11)
2. Fergus Falls – 67 (6)
3. East Grand Forks – 38
4. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton – 31
5. Breckenridge – 22
6. Barnesville – 7
7. Pelican Rapids – 3
8. Menagha – 2
Roseau – 2

North (1st place votes)
South (1st place votes)
1. East Grand Forks -11 (5)
1. Perham – 9 (5)
2. Dilworth-Glyndon-F – 12 (4)
2. Fergus Falls – 11 (3)
3. Hawley – 36
3. Breckenridge – 20
4. Crookston – 37
4. Barnesville – 28
5. Roseau – 39
5. Pelican Rapids – 31
6. Thief River Falls – 44
6. Menagha – 42
7. Warroad – 45
Wadena-Deer Creek-42
8. Park Rapids – 46
8. Frazee – 52
9. Bagley – 54
9. Staples-Motley – 53

 

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BAGLEY (Coach Darin Carstens – 8th at Bagley, 11th overall )
The Bagley Flyers were 6-21 last year and lost to Hawley 62-38 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs.  The Flyers didn’t lose a player to graduation, but they lost one player because of a transfer.  Bagley will have eight letter winners returning and should have a much improved season.  They play an exciting brand of basketball and having a veteran team this year led by some pretty solid players, it will be fun to watch them throughout the season.
Top returners – 
Kenley Gordon (Jr. 13 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, 4 spg), Alex Norum (Jr. 11 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 spg, 1 bpg), Cole Derby (Sr. 9 ppg, 4 spg), Justus Brtek (Sr), Jaxsyn Lewis (Jr), Zachary Anderson (6’5 Jr)
Top newcomers – Ashton Bellefeuille (Sr.), Rem Aufforth (Jr.), Dante Frank (Fresh)
Season outlook according to coach Carstens – “This season will be unlike last season with some good experience coming back.  We have our leading scorers all back.  With that hopefully, we can play a little more uptempo style and put more points on the board, as we should be a better shooting team and a lot better in transition.  If we continue to play defense and maybe pressure teams a little more and don’t turn the ball over we should be in every game. The conference schedule will again be a test every night.”

BARNESVILLE (Coach Chad Suter – 1st year)
The Barnesville Trojans had another solid year last year going 18-10 beating Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 58-49 in the first round of the Section 8AA tournament.  They beat East Grand Forks 58-43 and lost to Perham 55-39 in the section semi-finals.  They lose seven players to graduation, including Kellen Hinsz (now playing at Valley City State).  They will return some key pieces to the team with Adam Tonsfeldt and Hunter Zenzen to name a few.  Barnesville will be in the mix again with a group of outstanding athletes that know how to win.

Top returners – Adam Tonsfeldt (Jr. 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg, 3 spg), Hunter Zenzen (Sr. 6’3 kid that is going to Iowa State to play football next year), and a group of other quality players.
Top newcomers – Matt Samuelson (Sr. didn’t play last year and is back this year), Kaden Zenzen (Soph.), Blake Torfin, Max Olson.
Season outlook according to Coach Suter – “We have two very good leaders in Tonsfeldt and Zenzen, but other than those two, we don’t have a lot of experience coming back from last year’s team.  We have some kids that didn’t get much varsity experience last year that are going to have to step up, and give us some valuable minutes this year.  The key for this group is getting used to playing together and learning a new system, which can often take some time.”

BRECKENRIDGE (Coach Arley Ohm – 4th year as HC at Breckenridge, 29th overall)
The Breckenridge Cowboys went 15-12 last season and beat Park Rapids 87-56 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs before they lost to Hawley 58-53 in the second round.  Breckenridge graduated the best player in the section with Noah Christensen (now playing at NDSU) and he was the Cowboys career leading scorer while setting seven school records!  They also lost five more players to graduation.  Breckenridge has won three of the last five section championships and will be the smallest school in Class AA this year.  They play a difficult schedule and might suffer some losses because of it, but they will be ready at tourney time.
Top returners – 
Jonah Christensen (6’2 Jr. – 10 ppg, 6 rpg), Cooper Yaggie (5’10 Jr – looking to have a great year after battling through a shoulder injury last year)
Top newcomers – They will be looking for players to move up from the one-loss Junior Varsity team.
Season outlook according to Coach Ohm – “This team has a lot of depth, so guys will be battling hard for playing time at the Varsity level.  Last season our B-Squad went 24-1, so making the transition to the next level will be a process.  Look for the Cowboys to get off to a slow start with a very challenging schedule, but this might be a team to keep your eye on once March rolls around.”

CROOKSTON (Coach Greg Garmen – 24th at Crookston, 33rd-year overall)
The Crookston Pirates are coming off an 8-19 year last year with an 86-74 loss to East Grand Forks in the first round of the playoffs.  Crookston had a bulk of their scoring last year coming from Nick Garmen who is now playing basketball and tennis at Minnesota Morris.   How will the Pirates fill the big scoring void left by the graduation of Garmen?  That will be the question.  They have some pretty good players coming back, including one of the top players in the section, Caden Osborn (averaged a double-double last year), and others.  The Pirates have several starters returning and will also go with a lot of guys that don’t have a lot of experience at the varsity level and how they adjust to the “next level” will be a key to the season.
Top returners –
Caden Osborn (17 ppg, 10 rpg), Walker Winjum (8 ppg, 2 apg), Jack Garmen (all three started last year)
Top newcomers –
Carter Bruggeman, Easton Tangquist, Brady Butt
Season outlook according to Coach Garmen
– “We will not be very deep to begin with and will have to have some players step up their game.  Caden and Walker will need to be solid each game for us.”

DILWORTH-GLYNDON-FELTON (Coach Mike Clark)
The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels had an outstanding season going 19-10 last year beating Warroad 75-62 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs.  They beat Osakis 59-55 before losing to Hawley 74-59 in the section semi-finals.  DGF lose four solid players to graduation, including Tanner Tahran who was all-conference in the Heart of Lakes conference.  The Rebels will return a lot of talent with a nice mix of athleticism, tenacity, and some length.  They could be one of the top teams in the section this season. 

Top returners – Aiden Leach (Sr. 12 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg), Jacob Strand (Sr. 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 3 spg), Drew Coalwell (Sr. 7.1 ppg), Owen Leach (Fresh. 7.6 ppg)
Top newcomers – Colby Schreiber (Jr.), Ian Mickelson (Jr.), Justin Wang (Jr.), Jacob Somers (Soph.), Mason Kerr (Soph.)
Season outlook according to Coach Clark – “Experience and depth will be our strengths this season. We have many skilled players with a tremendous work ethic. Controlling the pace on both ends of the floor and being fundamentally sound in all aspects will be our focus. We are looking forward to an exciting season!” 

EAST GRAND FORKS (Coach Josh Perkerewicz – 4th year)
The East Grand Forks Green Wave had one of their best seasons in several years (since going to state in 2014) with a 22-5 record.  EGF beat Crookston 86-74 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs before losing to Barnesville 58-43 in the second round.  The Green Wave returns most of the team and all of their starters and that is why they are one of the favorites this year.  They have athleticism, speed, toughness and they play a fast-paced style that is fun to watch.  They are another year older and now is their time to shine.
Top returners –
Sam Votava (Jr. 14 ppg, 8 rpg, 7 apg, 4 spg), Julian Benson (Sr. a hard-nosed player that can shoot or drive), Nathan Willett (Sr. a post that can shoot the three or post up.  A tough match-up for most teams), Tyler Aamodt (Sr), Tanner Campos (Soph), Colton Dauksavage (Sr)
Top newcomers – “We did not lose much from last year and everyone has a chance to earn some time as long as they put the work in.”
Season outlook according to Coach Perkerewicz – “
This season we want to continue to get better every day.   The section is loaded again at the top with Perham, Breckenridge, and now Fergus Falls dropping down.  DGF has to be the top team in the North with all the talent and size they have coming back.  Every game will bring new challenges and adversity for us to overcome. We want to make sure that we are playing our best basketball by the end of the year.”

FERGUS FALLS (Coach Matt Johnson – 5th year at Fergus Falls, 11th overall)
The Fergus Falls Otters were 15-12 last year and lost to St. Cloud Apollo in the first round of the Section 8AAA playoffs.  They drop down to Section 8AA this year and they will look to be one of the top teams in the section.  Fergus Falls lost some pretty good talent with four graduating from last year’s team, including Matthew Johnson (now playing at Mary) and Nic Pearson (no playing at MN State-Fergus Falls).  They will return two of the better juniors in the state, including a 6’11 kid!!  Fergus Falls will be one of the top teams and play one of the toughest schedules in Section 8AA.
Top returners –
Dominic Aguilar (Jr. 12 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg), Chance Fazio (6’11 Jr.), Brock Kotschevar (Sr), Cody Norgren (Sr), Ethan Olson (Sr)
Top newcomers – Jack Culbertson (Sr), Abel Aho (Jr), and Luke Newman (So)
Season outlook according to Coach Johnson –
“We hope to be competitive in our conference (Central Lakes), and improve throughout the season. We hope that puts us in a position to be competitive in section 8AA at the end of the year. Our kids work really hard and play together, so it should be a fun year of basketball.”

FRAZEE (Coach Hunter Graham)
The Frazee Hornets move up from Class A back into Section 8AA after going 6-19 last year and beating Lake Park-Audubon 70-54 before losing to Henning 85-48 in the second round of the playoffs.
Frazee loses two players to graduation and everybody else is coming back this year.  The Hornets have a nice mix of athleticism and some length and they should be a much-improved team this year.  They play mostly Section 8AA teams in the regular season schedule and they have a very tough schedule, which should have them ready at tournament time.
Top returners –

Season outlook according to Coach Graham –

HAWLEY (Coach Nathan Stoa – 6th year at Hawley, 14th overall)
The Hawley Nuggets are coming off another tremendous season going 23-5 last year.  In the Section 8AA tournament, they beat Bagley 62-38, Breckenridge 58-53, and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 74-59 before losing to Perham in the championship 53-47.  Hawley has been one of the top programs in the section for a long time, but this might be unfamiliar territory for the Nuggets with a huge loss to graduation.  The Nuggets only return one letter winner from last year’s team, so they will be looking to a lot of players that are inexperienced at the varsity level.  How the players adjust to varsity will be a big key this season for Hawley.
Top returners –
Hayden Grani (Soph – the only returning letter winner will be looked at to be the “guy” as the point guard)
Top newcomers –
Justin Koski (Jr. – hard-nosed rebounder and leads with toughness), Cade Carley (Sr. – the only senior on the team – will be relied on heavily for his maturity and passion for his teammates), Brady Gratton (Soph. – Has good length and with increased aggressiveness can become a good inside/outside threat).
Season outlook according to Coach Stoa –
“The 2018-19 Nuggets were a senior-dominated team that finished the season 23-5 and in the Section 8AA finals.  The 2019-20 version of the Nuggets will look to build on the foundation left by the departing seniors by playing with defensive toughness and selflessness on the offensive end.”

MENAGHA (Coach Zach Kaiser – 2nd year as head coach, 4th year overall)
The Menagha Braves were 12-15 last year and in the playoffs, they beat Bertha-Hewitt 64-33 in the first round of the Section 5A playoffs and lost to Nevis 75-57 in the second round.  They were 3-1 against Section 8AA opponents last year with wins over Wadena-Deer Creek, Park Rapids, and Frazee.  They have some solid talent coming back this year with four players averaging around double-figure scoring and that will serve them well as they start the season.  They will be athletic and many coaches in the section are expecting the newcomers to be one of the top teams.
Top returners –
Wade Berttunen (8.3 ppg, 3 apg 1.5 spg), Tristan Aho (11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.5 spg), Jonah Howard (9.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg), and junior Charlie Hodge (10.2 ppg).
Top newcomers – “Our top newcomers will be determined through work, effort, and skill during the first weeks of practice. We have 5 seniors, 3 juniors, and potentially some other underclassmen who can compete for varsity minutes this year.”
Season outlook according to Coach Kaiser – “We should be able to wear other teams down with our speed, athleticism and a little more depth than we’re used to. We’ve got guys who are playing their third year on varsity, and that experience should be good for us when it comes to late-game situations. We will look to our experience for providing leadership and poise on and off the court. As far as our regular season schedule, things could potentially go very well for us. A lot of our losses last season came down to one or two plays down the stretch, where a couple bounces our way could have flipped our record. We’ve got dedicated and hardworking guys with good attitudes who will push each other each and every day in practice. Along with some streaks of great play last year, we improved greatly in some key areas from day one to the end of the season.”

PARK RAPIDS (Coach Matt Brandt – 8th year)
The Park Rapids Panthers are coming off an 8-17 record and a first-round loss to Breckenridge in the Section 8AA playoffs last year.  Park Rapids had six of their eight wins against Section 8AA teams, but they lose a handful of players to graduation including two with all-conference honors.
Top returners –
Jeff Haas (6 ppg, 5 spg), Nic Michaelson (13 ppg, 9 rpg), Kolby Brandt (9 rpg, 5 ppg)
Top returners – James Hartig, Kaiden Walsh, Gabe Arola
Season outlook according to Coach Brandt – “
We are in rebuilding mode.  Kids put a lot of time in the summer and we are hoping that will pay off.  Both of our main scorers have graduated and we hope to build throughout the season.”

PELICAN RAPIDS (Coach John Gullingsrud – 6th year)
The Pelican Rapids Vikings went 10-17 last year and lost to Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal 71-56 in the first round of the Section 6A playoffs.  The Vikings are making the return trip to Section 8AA and they should have a pretty good year.  They lose a few to graduation while returning some very good players.  Pelican Rapids will still be young this year with four of their top players being juniors.
It will be an exciting couple of seasons for the Vikings.
Top returners –
McHale Korf (Jr. 13 ppg, 6 apg, 4 rpg, 2 spg), Jayden Rutherford (Jr. 11 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg), Logan Fahje (Jr. 9 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg), Liam Sytsma (Jr. 4 ppg, 4 apg)
Top newcomers – Logan Petznick (Sr), Kirby Nelson (Sr.), David Johnson (Sr.), Justin VerDorn (Jr), Weston Funk (Jr)
Season outlook according to Coach Gullingsrud – “We return a good nucleus of players from last year’s team and we are expecting those players to set the tone for our program this season. We have a nice mix of perimeter and inside play and should be able to score in a variety of ways offensively. Rebounding and defense will be the deciding factors for our ability to compete with the top teams in our conference and section.”

PERHAM – (Coach Dave Cresap – 26th year at Perham, 35th overall)
The Perham Yellowjackets had another outstanding season going 30-3 and finished fourth at the state tournament last year.  At state, Perham beat Redwood Valley 73-58, lost to Minneapolis North 62-46 and lost to Lake City 51-47.  They graduate a bulk of their scoring and three of the five starters.  Perham loses great players every year, but they aren’t a program that rebuilds….they reload.  The two starters they have coming back will be very good and they had success in junior varsity last year and a lot of those players will be asked to play a much larger role this year.  How the “new” players adjust to the high level they are expected to play on the varsity court will be the key to the season.
Top returners –
Finn Diggins, Charlie Rasmussen, Elijah Morris
Top newcomers –
Gunnar Anderson, Grant McMartin, Landon Stevens, Carter Aakre, Ryan Murphy, Jordan Muench, Gavin Hullikka, Caden Schossow, Carson Hespe, Gabe Thompson along with several others.
Season outlook according to Coach Cresap – “
We always have high expectations and this year is no different. Yes, we lost nearly 85% of our scoring and rebounding, but this group put in a lot of time in the off-season. They at least have given themselves a chance to be competitive this year. We always set our goals to be conference and section champions. This will be as good a section from top to bottom in a long time.”

ROSEAU – (Coach Ken Hayden – 9th year)
The Roseau Rams had an outstanding year last year while going 21-7.  They beat Thief River Falls 77-52 in the first round of the Section 8AA tournament before losing to eventual section champ, Perham, 82-41 in the second round.
Roseau lost enough for two teams with 10 players graduating last year.  They lost players like Eric Hoffer, Jacob Lindemann, Jack Hirst and many more.
It will be tough for the Rams to make an easy transition, but they have several players that played significant minutes and return over 20 points per game so look for improvement throughout the season.
Top returners/newcomers –
Jace Hulst (Sr. 4 ppg), Jed Dunham (4 ppg, 3 rpg), David Nelson (3 ppg)
Season outlook according to Coach Hayden – “
We will be young and look to improve throughout the season.  There will be many new faces to the varsity team.”

STAPLES-MOTLEY (Coach Nick Doll – 2nd year)
The Staples-Motley Cardinals were 2-24 and lost to Perham 79-36 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs last year.  The Cardinals had wins over Swanville and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle last year.  The Cardinals are looking to make big strides this year and with a solid core of returners, they should be more competitive this winter.  Coach Doll is in his second year and the players know what to expect and it will be fun to see the improvement they make this year with a tough schedule.
Top returners –
Sivert Klefsaas (11 ppg, 84% from the free-throw line), Max Strickland, Ben Olander, Izaiah Demars, Ryan Wick, Issac Kronenberg, and Emmitt Winkels
Top newcomers – We have some young guys who will need to step up and give us some quality minutes on the varsity including Adam Oberlander, Isaiah Schultz, Chandler Braith, Lyle Brownell
Season outlook according to Coach Doll – “We are focused on ourselves and being better than who we were last year. I am confident we can do that. Our kids are positive, hard-working and in it together. It will be fun to see how much we improve this year.”

THIEF RIVER FALLS (Coach Jon Hams – 2nd at TRF – 10th overall)
The Thief River Falls Prowlers were 10-17 last year and lost to Roseau 77-52 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs last year.  The Prowlers were a streaky team in January and February.  They started January by losing seven games.  They bounced back to win three games before going on a five-game losing streak and they ended the regular season with a four-game winning streak.  It was a rollercoaster of a ride for Thief River Falls fans last year.  They lose four players to graduation and have everybody else coming back, which should bode well for the Prowlers.  They will return some talented players and could be a team to be reckoned with throughout the season.
Top returners –
Storm Manning (Sr. 18 ppg, 8 rpg), Brevyn Lingen (Jr. 12 ppg, 3 rbg, 3 apg), Gunner Zutz (Sr.), Zach Praska (Sr.)
Top newcomer – Storm Manning (Sr.), Gunnar Aune (Sr.)
Season outlook according to Coach Hams –
“With most of the scoring returning and our top defensive player (Gunner Zutz) I expect us to be competitive in the majority of the games we play in.”

WADENA-DEER CREEK (Coach Kevin Tumberg – 5th year)
The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines went 8-19 and lost to Osakis 72-45 in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs last year.
Top returners –
Bereket Loer (Sr., 13 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3 apg), Cooper Folkestad (Sr., 9.5ppg, 9.5 rpg), Payton Rondestvedt (So., 9 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 apg).
Top newcomers – Lucas Hinojos (Sr.), Tony Kreklau (Jr.), Zach Shaw (Jr.), Aiden Larson (Jr.)
Season outlook according to Coach Tumberg – “This season I expect us to be very quick and athletic.  We have a lot of skilled players that will be able to run like crazy.  We are looking to create havoc on the defensive end and speed teams up as much as possible.  We should be competitive all season long.”

WARROAD (Coach Vichita Ounchith 10th year as head coach, 13th overall)
The Warroad Warriors had a good year last year going 14-13 with a 75-62 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs.
The Warriors turned in another winning season even with several injuries that hampered the team throughout the year.  They lose some very good players like, Tyler Fox, Jett Shoen, Isaac Falk-Stoskopf, Kyle Spenst and several others.  Warroad returns some solid talent with some high basketball IQ and it could be another fun season for the Warriors.
Top returners –
Virgil Laznicka (Jr. 6 ppg, 3 rpg), Cole Spenst (Soph. 5 ppg, 3 apg, 2 rpg, 2 spg), Evan Grover (Soph. 5 ppg, 2 rpg), Jeremy Cole (3 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg).
Top newcomers – Dylan Fox
Season outlook according to Coach Ounchith –
“We are looking to compete early and often.  We have key returners back but will lack some experience with our depth.  We will look for our younger guys to come off the bench with high energy to keep our style of play going.”