By Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
The Maple Grove boys’ basketball team is short on experience but it is long on an ingredient that’s pretty important in basketball—height.
Coach Nick Schroeder welcomes back a team that has an almost brand new varsity roster.
“Only two guys on this year’s team played varsity basketball last season,” Schroeder said.
The rest are all new players to the A squad. But while the Crimson lack experience, they have plenty of young talent and very impressive size.
In their season opening overtime 53-50 loss at Park Center last Friday, Maple Grove’s starting line-up consisted of senior Matt Lingen (6-2) and senior Taylor Schott (6-5) at forwards, senior Jake Sterling (6-5) and sophomore Reed Nikko (6-8) at the post, and freshman Brad Davison (6-2) at point guard. And the first player off the bench was sophomore forward Kayode Awosika (6-5), followed by guards Tyler Barker (6-0) and freshman guard Tywhon Pickford (6-2).
The Crimson have been a guard-oriented teams the past several seasons but they will utilize their big guys more this year.
“We have some depth at our center position, which will give us a little different look this year,” Schroeder said.
There is more size on the bench in returning letterwinners senior Brian Fotso (6-9), junior Spencer Nord (6-7), and junior forward Austin Mathison (6-2). Junior guard Tim Bishop is the other returning letterman. Newcomers on the varsity are freshman guard Jake Hutchinson, sophomore forward Jared Martinson, sophomore guard Isaac Collins, junior guards, Rory Calabria, Grant Tyler and Mitchell Rekstad and junior forward Larry Konah.
The Crimson’s size was effective at times against the quick but small Pirates. Nikko, especially, was an intimidating presence as he blocked and altered numerous Park Center shots. He displayed the ability to block shots without fouling. Sterling, Awosika, Schott and Lingen provided the muscles with their tough defense and strong rebounding and Davis battled hard to handle the Pirates’ pressure.
Maple Grove’s big guys also provided the bulk of the scoring. Nikko led with 13 points, Awosika scored 10 before leaving the game after hitting his head on the floor and Sterling had 9. Davison scored 7 points, Lingen and Schott each had 4 and Pickford 3.
The Crimson went on a 24-9 run to start the second half and built a 40-30 lead with about 7 minutes left to play. But they could not preserve the lead as the Pirates used their full-court press to cause many MG turnovers and rallied to tie it in regulation. Park Center continued to dominate in the overtime and outscored MG 7-4 to win.
Maple Grove returns to conference play Tuesday, Dec. 3 with a home game against Champlin Park. The conference will be strong again with second-ranked Osseo leading the way.
“I don’t have a prediction on order of finish,” Schroeder said. “Our conference is very good this year it will be fun to see how it all shakes out.”