When Minnehaha Academy and Perham start their Class 2A quarterfinal game Wednesday afternoon at Target Center, 110 days will have passed since their previous meeting.
It seems much longer to Minnehaha Academy players, who felt they lacked certain intangibles in that Nov. 30 victory that they now feel they possess as the No. 1 seed in Class 2A.
As senior guard Marcellous Hazzard said, “We were a team but now we’re a family.”
Early on, tepid on-court chemistry affected everything from ball movement to shot selection. While the Redhawks (23-6) never were fewer than two games over .500, they struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Personnel changes were to blame. Gerald McCarver, a do-everything point guard, moved to Louisville after last season. His understudy, John Pryor, did not play basketball as a junior, opting to focus on baseball. Pryor, a pitcher who will play at Lipscomb University in Nashville next season, returned to the court but missed the first two games this season.
“I knew I was going to have a little more of a role on this team,” said Pryor, who worked on limiting his turnovers while running the offense with more precision.
The Redhawks taxied through the season’s first half before taking off with a 64-45 victory at St. Paul Central on Jan. 24. Minnehaha Academy, located in Minneapolis, has lost only twice since, both times to Class 3A power DeLaSalle.
Hazzard said the St. Paul Central victory “made us think, ‘Why not trust each other like we did in this game?’ ”
Hazzard, who missed all but two games last season because of an injury, contributes 12.1 points per game. He ranks second in scoring to Kaharri Carter (13.8), son of Redhawks assistant coach and former Gopher Randy Carter. Jesse Johnson, whose father, Lance, coaches the team, adds 10 points per game and leads the team in three-pointers. Thomas Gedion, a 6-6 forward, adds 10.7 points and seven rebounds per game.
“Lately we’ve trusted each other and passed the ball,” Pryor said. “We’ve gotten a lot of easy layups, fast breaks and wide-open three-pointers because of it. It’s been more of a mental adjustment because we’ve got the skill and athleticism.”