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Minneapolis City Conference Preview

11/13/2017, 9:45am CST
By Grant McGinnis
Reprinted permission of Northstar Girls Hoops.

Geography trumps history in the battle for city supremacy

The Minneapolis North Polars are a contender once again.

Top: Morgan Hill of Minneapolis South is the premiere player in the conference (photo courtesy of StarTribune). Bottom: Andrea Gray (center) won't be around to help Alani Pettis (left) and Monique Wooten (right) at North.

If you are going to make reasonable projections about the Minneapolis City Conference, it's probably better to have a solid grasp on geography than it is to know what's in the history books. That's because the conference is all about South and North and occasionally Southwest. As for history, well the Edisons, Roosevelts, Washburns and Henrys might be important in the classroom but not so much on the court. Truth is, this year's results might not be a whole lot different than last when South went undefeated and North was 12-2. Here's our projected order of finish for 2017-18.

1. Minneapolis South, 12-0

When it comes to dethroning Nathan McGuire's Tigers, it's a big Hill(s) to climb. The Hill family has been a dominant force at South for a long time, and the Tigers rode their talent to a 14-0 conference record, 23-6 overall. They did lose two players who logged significant minutes. Senior Rose Lutz (5 & 6) was a key piece inside. Tiny but talented 2022 guard Kiani Lockett (7 ppg) transferred to De la Salle. But when you have two of the premiere players in the state and a nice supporting cast, things are going to go well. Senior Morgan Hill hasn't announced her college decision just yet but you can be sure the #7 rated player in the class will land in a big-time program. Nobody in Minnesota attacks the rim better than Morgan, and she has the stats to show for it. The 5'10" talent averaged 25 & 9 with a high score of 39!

The real story for South might be younger sister Jade, the #1 player in the Class of 2021. Jade is a tremendous distributor, a talented scorer and an outstanding ball handler. She averaged 13 ppg as an 8th grader with a 30-point game in the mix. Over the summer, Jade got taller (5'9") and bigger. One player on the rise is senior center Ariyon Kelly, a bruising 6-footer who is Minnesota's most physical defender. Kelly is drawing college interest and will log big minutes. The other important piece is junior shooting guard Solana Cushing, an outstanding 3-point sniper with high basketball IQ and solid college prospects.

2. Minneapolis North, 10-2

Hats off to head coach Crystal Flint who has done an impressive job rebuilding Minneapolis North into a contender once again. The Polars aren't likely to win their sixth state championship this year, but they will make some noise and be fun to watch. North's only conference losses a year ago were to mighty South. They did lose a significant piece of the puzzle over the summer, though, as all-conference guard Andrea Gray transferred to Hopkins. She will be missed. One player who emerged last year is the ultra-athletic Monique Wooten. She had college coaches buzzing with her leaping prowess and ability to score in waves. Wooten can get to the rim with ease, and averaged 16 ppg. She is joined by senior Serena Ballard, a crafty little point guard who averaged 10 ppg, and talented guard Alex McNeill. The most important piece in the Polars' puzzle is sophomore Alani Pettis, who can play every position. We have seen Pettis listed as big as 6 feet. In reality, she is about 5'9" but plays much, much bigger. The 23rd-ranked player in the class, Pettis plays like a power forward who can get to the basket all night long and knows how to put the ball in the hole. Alani is a natural scorer whose consistency is improving.

T3. Minneapolis Edison, 7-5

Minneapolis Edison has been through some hard times, going winless in the conference three years ago and winning two games the year after that. Mr. Edison would be proud, however, as the light bulb went on for the Tommies with a 10-4 showing last season, their first above .500 since 2011. In fact, Edison went 20-6 overall, albeit with a soft schedule. Against North, they lost by 28 and 26. Against South, it was 38 and 36. Still there is reason to be optimistic. The challenge will be replacing post Larissa Ingram (9 & 9), who was the lunch-pail backbone of the squad. With two athletes as talented as senior Shanice Vaughn and junior Sierra Morrow, however, Edison will win its share. Vaughn averaged 13 & 5 and offers a unique combination of quick and physical. She gets inside frequently and shoots a lot of free throws. Morrow (19 & 9) is the most talented post in the conference, but she runs hot and cold. When Sierra is on, the athletic 6'1" forward is a force. The wildcard for Edison might be sophomore PG Jaiden Seabrooks, who made huge improvement. If that continues, Edison will likely hang onto a share of third place.

T3. Minneapolis Southwest, 7-5

Dan Froehlichs's Lakers lost a lot of talent to graduation one year ago, but still managed to go 7-7 in conference play. Southwest won just one non-conference game, however, with a killer schedule that included Edina, Wayzata, and White Bear Lake. This year the Lakers will be much improved. They lost Dani Voss to graduation, and talented 2022 point guard Ella Campbell transferred to Edina. Still the Lakers made an upgrade at PG with the addition of freshman Cherish Henderson, one of the most dynamic players in the class. Southwest's biggest weapon is still Olyvia Youngdahl. The Suns Keitzer post is rated #64 in the Class of 2019 and is the most effective 4/5 in the conference. At 6'2", she is long, mobile and a matchup nightmare. One player on the rise is all-conference sophomore Samantha Mpaulo, a 5'7" shooting guard who logged the most minutes and is the best defender. Mpaulo is an athletic slasher whose finishing touch and outside shooting are improving quickly. Sophomore Becca Murphy is a strong, sturdy, versatile player with high IQ.  Junior Jane Diaz, an athletic 5'11" post, gives the Lakers additional strength up front. Junior co-captain Sigal Leavitt, a 5'4" guard who defends with passion, will also contribute.

T5. Minneapolis Washburn, 3-9

The glory days of Chase Coley, Lucia Renikoff and more are a distant memory as Washburn appears to have fallen on hard times. The Millers did post a respectable 7-7 record in conference play last year but didn't win a single non-conference game. The Millers were held below 30 points 10 times. They lost by more than 40 to Holy Angels and Kennedy, by 43 to South, by 51 to Big Lake, by 54 to North. Yikes! Leading scorer Jacqueline Boarman (9.5 ppg) has graduated along with Madison Lyndsley. That leaves junior Margaret Clauss and sophomores Kari and Savannah Johnson to pick up the pieces. Unless some unexpected surprises showed up for tryouts this week, it could be a long winter for Washburn.

T5. Minneapolis Roosevelt, 3-9

Teddy Roosevelt is known for a number of historic achievements, including his role leading the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. For the girls of Minneapolis Roosevelt, the 2017-18 season might just be another rough ride. The Teddies went 4-10 in conference play a year ago, 9-16 overall. They graduated Ladasha Brown and Nina Putmon, who combined for 16 points per game. Junior Jamilia Wright (11 ppg), Roosevelt's leading scorer, is back along with junior Precious Smith (7 ppg), and seniors Katiya Longs (7 ppg) and Korie Lyons (5 ppg). They'll beat Henry twice and perhaps split with Washburn but that's it.

7. Patrick Henry-FAIR, 0-12

Patrick Henry may have been one of the Founding Fathers but his knowledge of the pick and roll is questionable. The Patriots went 2-12 in conference play, 4-20 overall. The two conference wins came at the expense of FAIR, but the two schools are now a co-op program.  FAIR was an easy mark for everyone, but Henry will still benefit from additional players. It won't be enough to escape the basement. After losing senior Jauntanay Prado (12 & 6), it's difficult to see how the Patriots win a conference game. Henry returns a couple of promising youngsters in sophomore Ashantae Braxton (5 & 8) and 8th grader Kaya Caprini (6 & 6).

All-Minneapolis City Conference

C – Olyvia Youngdahl, Southwest, junior

F – Morgan Hill, South, senior

F – Sierra Morrow, Edison, junior

PG – Jade Hill, South, freshman

SG – Alanni Pettis, North, sophomore

2nd Team All Conference

C – Ariyon Kelly, South, senior

F – Monique Wooten, North, senior

F – Shanice Vaughn, Edison, senior

PG – Serena Ballard, North, senior

SG – Solana Cushing, South, junior

Stock Raisers

C – Jane Diaz, Southwest, junior

F – Becca Murphy, Southwest, sophomore

F – Jamelia Wright, Roosevelt, junior

PG – Cherish Henderson, Southwest, freshman

SG – Samantha Mpaulo, Southwest, sophomore