Roughly halfway through the winter sports season, it’s time to amend something written in these pages (by yours truly, in fact) when the boys’ basketball season began: Minnehaha Academy might be the best collection of boys’ basketball talent in Minnesota, but the best team? Clearly that title belongs to Eden Prairie.
The undefeated Eagles (12-0) are the poster children for the benefits of teamwork, a throwback for unified play in a time when individual achievements build followings (and brands) and going viral equals validity.
The core of Eden Prairie — seniors Drake Dobbs, Connor Christensen, Austin Andrews and John Henry — make up not only the state’s most alliterative group of players, they’re the most cohesive. In their fourth year of playing together, the Eagles’ veteran foursome have settled into clearly defined roles, each as important as the other. All four average between 10.6 and 17.0 points per game, making them balanced enough to pick up the slack when needed, as when Christensen, a 6-7 high-intensity forward, missed Friday’s 75-55 victory over Wayzata with a touch of the flu.
The proof of Eden Prairie’s team-trumps-all concept is obvious simply by looking at the teams they’ve vanquished, a list that includes Cretin-Derham Hall, Prior Lake, Eastview, East Ridge, Edina and Wayzata, all of whom boast highly-touted Division I-level talent.
And expect these Eagles to be plenty ready by the time the post-season roll around. Top teams like Hopkins (whom they play Thursday in the first of two meetings), Park Center and Minnehaha Academy remain on their schedule.
As long as we’re at it, who is the best team in the metro in the other team sports?
Hopkins has the best player in state history in Paige Bueckers leading by the most talented roster in the state and are guided by head coach in Brian Cosgriff, who knows how to handle talent. They Royals are 13-0, with a margin of victory of nearly 40 points per game. Who else?
This might be the hardest sport to gauge. Andover is 10-3-1, but just 3-2-1 in its past six games. Rosemount is living up to expectations with a 13-3 record and has not lost two games in a row all season. White Bear Lake started 8-0-1, but has dropped two of its past four, including a surprising 4-1 loss to Irondale on Jan. 2. Blake, Maple Grove, Stillwater and Lakeville South can make solid arguments. But the choice here is Eden Prairie. The Eagles (11-2-1) boast perhaps the state’s most talented roster and look like they have righted the ship after a 1-2-1 stretch over the holidays.
Edina, riding a streak of three straight Class 2A titles, is 18-1, has won 18 games in a row and has allowed more than one goal in a game just once, a 4-2 victory over North Wright County on Dec. 21. Talented Andover is 19-1 and is the only team to beat the Hornets (1-0 in the season-opener on Nov. 7). Edina, with its suffocating defense and strong goaltending, is tempting, but the head-to-head result carries more weight. Andover, slightly.
Simley. While Shakopee, Stillwater and St. Michael-Albertville have legitimate state title hopes, Class 2A Simley can claim big victories at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament and the elite Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wis.