by MATTHEW DAVIS
Champlin Park and Park Center colliding on the court became a passing of the guard of sorts when they met on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Last year, the Pirates went to the state boys basketball title game last year in Class 4A, but they graduated many key players. The Rebels have been up and coming in recent seasons, and they’ve been on a tear with the No. 4-rating in the state this season.
They kept tearing away in a 77-57 win to stay unbeaten in Northwest Suburban Conference play. Wednesday’s poll fittingly had the Rebels at their highest ranking of the season in Class 4A at No. 3.
Overcoming adversity also marked the Rebels’ win over the former state runner-up. A strong start by the Pirates put them ahead 8-0 early. A couple three-pointers by Marty Hill sparked the Rebels in whittling the lead to four points, and he drained another later to give the Rebels a 23-21 lead they would never relinquish.
Ian Smith and Alex Hilley both led the Rebels with 12 points apiece. Leading scorer Brennan Witt had 10 points.
Elijah Wright had a game-high 16 points for the Pirates, and Isaac Matthews had 13. Isaiah McKay, the Pirates’ top scorer, had only 10, seven below his season average.
A quick turnaround on Wednesday, Jan. 15, proved to be no problem for the Rebels in a 95-72 rout of Spring Lake Park. Jeremy Johnson had a game-high 26 points for the Rebels, and Witt hit a double double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Smith came close to a double double with 16 points and 8 assists. The Rebels (15-1, 10-0 NWSC) ran their win streak to 14 games. They have a key conference game coming up on Friday at No. 7 Robbinsdale Armstrong (13-2, 9-1 NWSC) at 7 p.m.
With wins on Tuesday for both teams, the Rebels and Falcons will battle for first place in the conference. They met back on Dec. 5 when the Rebels won 88-65.
The Falcons reeled off eight-consecutive wins before a tough double overtime loss in Shakopee on Jan. 11. Similar to the Rebels, spreading the ball has been key for the Falcons’ success. They have five players averaging double figures as the Rebels do. Both teams also average 18 or more assists per game. They will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Falcons’ gym.
Witt leads the Rebels in scoring with 16.9 points per game, and Johnson has the second-highest average with 12.9. Witt also leads in rebounding with 6.7 per game, and Hill cleans the glass 4.7 times per game.
Smith has been a force with both passing and stealing. He averages 5.6 assists per game, and 2.2 steals per game. He also chips in significantly with scoring at 12.9 points per game.
The Falcons have two top scorers with almost even averages. Evan Nolan and Jerome Dixon average 15.5 and 15. 4 points per game respectively. The team also creates turnovers, averaging 17 per game.