Despite a 1-8 record, Andover has shown an ability to compete with some of the top programs in the state even though its record might indicate something else.
The Huskies dropped all three games at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Holiday Classic hosted by Augsburg College Dec. 27-29.
The Huskies opened with a 79-56 loss to No. 2-ranked (Class AAAA) Hopkins, followed that with an entertaining 71-64 loss to fourth-ranked (Class AAA) St. Paul Johnson and finished with a 75-66 loss to Henry Sibley.
The losses extended the Huskies’ current streak to four, matching that of an 0-4 start to the season.
“It’s been tough playing well enough to win in a number of our games and only coming away with one win,” Andover coach Nick Tibesar said about the one-win start – a 78-49 victory over Coon Rapids Dec. 18. “We’re confident that we are a better team than our record shows and our guys are extremely eager to get after it in the second half.”
Hopkins led 38-26 at the half of the tourney opener and added another 11 points to the lead in the second half to cruise ahead. Andover’s Kane Ruhl led the team with 12 points and Evan Olson added 10 points.
Hopkins had three players in double-digits led by Jamal Davis with 13 points.
Andover came out strong against Johnson’s aggressively quick offense and transition game in a 69-64 loss.
Huskies junior stand-out Connor Wilkie had a game-high 23 points on his return to the court after missing the last four games with a concussion.
Despite 29 turnovers, Andover competed with the Governors and would have had a lead at the half if it wasn’t for a Robert Chattard buzzer-beating shot to tie the game at 44.
Andover led 30-24 at one point during the opening half in what turned out to be a lot of end-to-end action.
“It was a track meet from the jump,” Tibesar said.
Johnson led by a handful of points in the second half, but the Huskies wouldn’t go away. Jake McNallan converted on a back door-cut to retake the lead 61-60 with 2:38 left.
The Huskies struggled against the Governors’ pressure defense, turning the ball over five times on the next six possessions as Johnson built to a modest, but sufficient five-point lead.
Jalen Mobley and Pierre Conwell had 23 and 14 points, respectively, for the Governors.
Wilkie also had eight rebounds and Cameron Wold had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocked shots. McNallan finished with 10 points for the Huskies.
According to MinnesotaHoops.com (Minnesota Basketball News), Wilkie was the most impressive player on the floor on his return to the court.
He garnered First-Team All-Tournament team honors along with Johnson’s Conwell and Mobley and Tartan’s center Brody Jackson and guard Xavier Hall.
According to Tibesar, having Wilkie back in the line-up should help turn around the team’s fortunes. “In the four games he’s played for us this year, he’s led the team in points and rebounds, in addition to being an important leader on this team, as a junior captain,” Tibesar said.
Tibesar praised the way others stepped up over the stretch to fill in for Wilkie, particularly Wold and Jake Hoberg. “They’ve contributed some huge minutes and scored effectively while guarding bigger players,” Tibesar said.
Sophomore post Zach Swanson has also stepped up his play in the paint, he said.
Swanson had 15 points in the lone win against Coon Rapids.
• St. Francis improved to 9-0 after winning both games at the Dassel-Cokato Tournament Dec. 27-28.
The Saints opened with a 71-51 win over Detroit Lakes as sophomore center Blake Moreno led the way with 21 points, junior forward Jake Johnson had 15 points and junior guard Austin Carlson had 14 points.
St. Francis followed that with an equally impressive 89-79 win over Zimmerman Dec. 28.
Johnson once again lit up the gym with a game-high 36 points and Carlson added 15 points in the win.
St. Francis returns to North Suburban Conference play at Fridley Jan. 4 before a home gave against Totino-Grace Dec. 8.
• PACT lost its Mounds Park Academy Tournament opener to St. Croix Lutheran 66-50 Dec. 27. Panthers’ senior guard Drew Zieroth had a game-high 19 points and junior guard Danny Mooers had 10 points in the loss.
• Seventh-ranked (Class AAA) Spring Lake Park (6-4) dropped back-to-back games against Hayfield, Wis., (70-59) and Bloomington Kennedy (74-56) in the Tartan Tournament Dec. 27-29.
The Panthers regained their form to overwhelm Bemidji 78-47 in the tourney finale Dec. 29. Spring Lake Park took out its aggression in the opening half by posting a 50-24 lead. Five Panthers scored 11 points or more, led by TC Robinson and Trevor Hall, who had 13 points each.
Kennedy’s Dejon Davis had a game-high 28 points, while Robinson countered with 21 points as the Eagles six-point halftime lead was too much.
Jason Olson is at email@example.com