Another season, another batch of weekly rankings in Minnesota.
Here’s a look at the five girls and boys high school basketball teams with the best chance to make it to the state tournament heading into the 2013-14 season.
Perham returns three starters from a team that made its third consecutive trip to the state tournament last season. Dave Wallis/Forum
1. Perham (23-8 in 2012-13)
Eli Beachy (ball) returns to help lead Perham. Dave Wallis/Forum
This week: Host Staples-Motley Tuesday and at Anoka-Ramsey tournament Saturday
Hard to bet against the Yellowjackets and coach Dave Cresap. Perham lost its top six players heading into last season and still made it to the state tournament, topping No. 2-ranked Hawley in the subsection championship.
The Yellowjackets have gone 83-12 in the last three seasons, winning a state title, finishing third in the state and winning three straight section titles. Perham returns three starters in Eli Beachy, Hunter Salathe and Tyler Glines. They will need to replace the scoring of Josh Nordick and the size of Jordan Hein.
2. Hawley (25-2 in 2012-13)
Ben Ellefson (ball) may have to make the move from forward to center for Hawley. Dave Wallis/Forum
This week: At Fergus Falls Saturday
Hawley lost two games all last season. Both came at the hands of Perham. They were ranked No. 2 in the entire state and the Nuggets couldn’t make it out of their subsection.
That’s a tough pill for them to swallow. There’s plenty of returners to help forget last season. The Nuggets return three starters in point guard Dalton Leaf (5.4 points, 4.8 assists last season), power forward Ben Ellefson (18.2 points, 9.6 rebounds) and shooting guard Jordan Harms (11 points, 3.4 assists).
They will need to replace the scoring of Devon Pekas (18.8 points) and the size of Jacob Crompton.
3. Battle Lake (22-6 in 2012-13)
This week: Host Hancock Tuesday
Battle Lake made it to the state tournament last season for the first time since 2005. The Battlers did it without a senior in the starting lineup.
Tyler Ukkelberg, who averaged 14 points and 9.3 rebounds a game last season, and Dan Marso, who led the team with 15 points a game, were both juniors. Tony Ukkelberg averaged 13 points a game and was just a freshmen. Petric VanErp was a sophomore last season and also averaged 13 points a game.
The Battlers made it to state last season with a young team that returns this season. No reason to think they won’t do it again.
4. Ada-Borup (23-6 in 2012-13)
Lance Ruebke (10) returns for Ada-Borup. Dave Wallis/Forum
This week: Host Northern Cass Tuesday
Ada-Borup enjoyed the offseason getting to think about a shot that was never taken. Trailing 56-54 to Battle Lake in the Section 6A title game, the Cougars turned the ball over on their last possession.
The Cougars lose Joel Merkens and Mitchell Ruebke, but they return Lance Ruebke, JD Kappes and Blake Fetting to a team that has eight seniors.
5. Fergus Falls (18-11 in 2012-13)
Austin Rund (right) will have to make up for the loss of many seniors for Fergus Falls. Dave Samson/Forum
This week: At Breckenridge Tuesday, host Hawley Saturday
Fergus Falls season ended on two points the Otters will never forget in the Section 8AAA title game last season. Patrick Fisher’s air ball for Sartell-St. Stephen found the hands of Tim Immelman, who tipped it in at the buzzer to give Sartell a 57-55 win and a trip to the state tournament.
The Otters have not been to state since 2004, but have made it to the section title game the last two seasons, losing both by a total of five points. Otters had eight seniors on last year’s team, including all-time leading scorer Mike Millard. Austin Rund, however, returns to lead the Otters.
Park Christian (16-10 in 2012-13)
Hunter Nickel (left) returns from an ACL tear he suffered during the football season for Park Christian. Dave Wallis/Forum
This week: Host Dilworth-Glyndon Felton Friday
The Falcons return everyone. They return leading scorers and seniors Matt Moberg and big man Hunter Nickel. They return point guard Zach Kvalvog, along with Jared Olsgaard and Duncan Hannestad.
The biggest newcomer is 68-year-old coach Erv Inninger, who has never coached high school basketball and hasn’t coached any basketball in 21 years. He remains the all-time winningest men’s coach in North Dakota State history. He was 244-150 with the Bison.
1. Fergus Falls (29-1 in 2012-13)
This week: No games
University of North Dakota commit Bailey Strand (22) returns to the point guard position for Fergus Falls. Dave Wallis/Forum
That one loss couldn’t have come at a worse time. Fergus Falls was ranked No. 1 the entire regular season last season and their first loss came in double overtime in the first round of the state tournament 79-78 to Monticello.
The Otters lose some height with Hanna Swenson, but return the rest of the starting lineup, including leading scorer and point guard Bailey Strand (University of North Dakota commit), leading rebounder Anna Monke (University of Minnesota-Duluth commit) and Brianna Rasmusson (North Dakota State volleyball commit).
2. Ada-Borup (28-4 in 2012-13)
Monica Vega (right) leads an experienced Ada-Borup team that played in the state title game last season. Michael Vosburg/Forum
This week: No games
The Cougars have been to state six times since 2006 with two state championships and last season’s runner-up finish.
Even better news for Ada-Borup is they went 28-4 and played in the state title game with one senior. Granted, losing their leading scorer Megan Kolness hurts, but the team returns everyone else, including point guard Monica Vega, who does everything on a basketball court, and forward Heidi Eggen and guard Shaina Stevenson, both of whom averaged double digits in points at the state tournament.
3. Hawley (20-5 in 2012-13)
Hawley will need a lot from Jody Noreen (center) if they want to compete for a section title. Dave Wallis/Forum
This week: No games
Hawley started last season losing three of their first four games. The Nuggets then won 19 of their next 20 games to get earn a top seed in the Section 8AA tournament and a top 10 ranking in the state. They were upset in the second round of the playoffs by Wadena-Deer-Creek.
Good news for the Nuggets is they return all but three from that team that had all offseason to think about that upset. Bad news is the one consistent starter they lose was double-double machine Drew Sannes, who is playing at Minnesota State Moorhead. The Nuggets will look to Mira Ellefson and Jody Noreen to lead them.
4. Pelican Rapids (21-8 in 2012-13)
Mackenzie Korf (4) loses her two fellow guards in sister Madison Korf and Sommer Haugrud. Vikings will need a lot from her. Dave Samson/Forum
This week: No games
The Vikings clawed, scrapped and hit 3-pointers last season. They needed two overtimes in their opening playoff game and another overtime in the section championship to get to state for the second time in program history.
Big problem is they lose Madison Korf and Sommer Haugrud, two of their top 3-point threats, along with six big seniors. Good news is they return point guard Mackenzie Korf, who can score all over the court and is only a sophomore.
5. Underwood (21-7 in 2012-13)
This week: No games
The Rockets lose team MVP Carly Masloski, along with fellow Little Eight all-conference players Megan Biegler and Greta Thormodson from a Rockets squad that lost to in the section semifinals to a Parkers Prairie team that went 26-2.
They return Kaitlyn Holen, who was also all-conference, and led the team in steals and assists along with Karlea Thorson, who earned the most improved player award for the team.
Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.