By Matthew Davis
Champlin Park’s stunning overtime loss in the section title game left something wanting from a stellar season, but they certainly etched themselves among Minnesota’s elite.
“Outstanding team,” Rebels coach Mark Tuchscherer first said about his team in an interview following the Section 5 final loss to Osseo.
A look around the last top 10 Class 4A poll reveals a sizeable list of teams that will not be at the Target Center either this week. Most notably, No. 1 Apple Valley with one of the nation’s top collegiate recruits in Tyus Jones lost in a shocking section final to Cretin-Derham Hall.
East Ridge ranked No. 5 in Class 4A and lost out in the same section tournament. Woodbury, ranked No. 10, fell in their respective section final. A log jam of top ten teams where in Section 6: Hopkins (No. 2), Robbinsdale Armstrong (No. 8), Minnetonka (No. 7) and Eden Prairie (No. 6). Hopkins squeaked by Eden Prairie for the Section 6 crown.
Early in the season, the Rebels took the Hopkin Royals to the brink in a 106-103 loss at their Thanksgiving Holiday Tournament. Other a 96-90 loss to Apple Valley, only a few teams have challenged the Royals as much as the Rebels did this season.
In all, only three of the top ten teams will be at state. The Rebels spent much of the season ranked No. 3 and beat top ten teams Osseo, Armstrong and Eden Prairie during the season.
Early in the season, the Rebels looked almost unbeatable as they raced to a 17-1 start. No single player carried the team as five players averaged double figures.
“These boys have a lot of character,” Tuchscherer said. “They worked together like no other team before as far as playing together and working together to accomplish their goals.”
After a loss to Osseo n Jan. 30, the Rebels returned to their winning ways on an eight-game winning streak. The Rebels did not lose a game in the months of December and February.
They won the Northwest Suburban Conference title with an 18-1 record in league play. No team could win the Rebels’ gym this year as the Rebels went 12-0 at home.
Prior to the section final, no team had taken the Rebels to overtime, and only three different teams managed to hold the high-powered Rebels offense under 80 points all season. The Rebels averaged 85.2 points per game as a team.
“We shot about 46-47 percent as a team from threes, which is unheard of,” Tuchscherer said.
Senior forward Brennan Witt led the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game with a total of 12 double doubles. Ian Smith, a senior guard, averaged 12.2 points per game and will take his game to Division II Northern State next season.
Senior guard Alec Leabo and senior forward Alex Hilley will also graduate in the spring. Leabo sparked the Rebels many times off the bench, including an 11-point game in a win over Armstrong on Jan. 24. Hilley scored 12 points in a big regular season win at Park Center on Jan. 14.
Junior guard Jeremy Johnson can give the Rebels offensive firepower again next season. Johnson averaged 14 points per game this season. He had 19 points in the semifinal win over Park Center on Tuesday, March 4.
JT Gibson can also give the Rebels some scoring punch again next season. The junior guard averaged 11.8 points per game.
Winning has become the norm for the Rebels with their fifth-straight season of 18-plus wins. They also won their second conference title in five years.
“We had four seniors that led us this year, but we have some great youth in our juniors, our freshmen and our sophomores,” Tuchscherer said. “Every year, we’re excited to play at a high level at Champlin Park.”
Contact Matthew Davis at [email protected]