BOYS BASKETBALL: Lancers need to set pace

CANBY – Take a look at the sign welcoming you to Canby and you see the white numbers detailing the high school’s strong wrestling tradition; wander the school hallways and look at the athletes adorning the dark blue letterman jackets.

You’ll get the instant feeling that Canby is a town and a school that is proud of its past. Look anywhere else in the school and you will walk away with no doubt in your mind that the future is now.

Nothing could be more true for the Canby boys basketball team (25-4), which will make its first trip to the state tournament since 1951.

“The fans have been crazy,” McKinley Johansen said. “You watch the footage of our last game and the camera was just shaking. I went to the elementary school (Tuesday) and all the kids are making signs for you and clapping. It’s really cool.”

The Lancers will take on Fond du Lac Ojibwe in the quarterfinal round at 1 p.m. Thursday at Williams Area in Minneapolis.

The main concern is the Ogichidaags high-octane offense. Ojibwe (24-3) has outscored its opponents by 777 points, for an average scoring margin of 28.7.

Eight times this season, the Ogichidaag – an Ojibwe word for soldier, warrior and protector – have reached 100 or more points (132, 124, 113, 109, 108, 103, 102, 100). Eight more times, the Ogichidaag have scored 90 or more points (98, 96, 96, 96, 94, 93, 93 in a loss, 90), In six other games, Ojibwe has produced 81 or more points (89, 88, 86, 83, 83, 81). In two games, the Ogichidaag have posted 77 or more points (79 in a loss, 77).

Ojibwe is 22-2 this season in games when it scores 77 or more points. The Ogichidaag are 2-1 in games when they score less than 77 points – a 69-67 win at Crosby-Ironton, a 62-60 neutral court loss to Minneapolis Edison at Brooklyn Center and a 2-0 forfeit win over Carlton.

Canby averages 65.9 points and are 4-1 games when it scores 77 or more points. The Lancers scored 88 points in their first game of the season – an 88-59 home win versus Wabasso on Nov. 22, 2013. CHS has also produced point-totals of 79 (in a three-overtime loss to Russell-Tyler-Ruthton), 78 and 77.

Canby coach Jon Hanson knows they can’t let them get any momentum going.

“We have to slow them down and can’t let them dictate the pace of the game,” he said. “We can’t get into a running game with them or it’s going to be a long day. They run all over the court and all of them can shoot.”

The Ogichidaag are making their debut tournament appearance. They enter the tournament scoring an average of 91.9 points per game, led by sophomore Jordan Diver’s 25.5 points per game. Junior Davonte Williamson and senior Trevontae Brown also average double digits in scoring. Williamson averages 19.9 points per game and also leads Fond du Lac Ojibwe with 14.9 rebounds per game. Brown adds 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game The Ogichidaag enter the tournament unranked in the final Minnesota Basketball News poll.

Canby will rely on taking them in their half court sets, something they have relied on all season and will have the height and size advantage once again.

As has been the case for some of postseason play, the Lancers will be without junior center Zach Nuy (13.5 points, 6.9 rebounds), who is out with a ruptured spleen. He has participated in some light shoot-around drills, but not yet cleared for full contact play or game play.

The Lancers peaked toward the end of the season and have rode a huge wave of momentum, winning 12 straight games, including knocking off defending state champion Southwest Minnesota Christian to secure a spot in the state tournament quarterfinals.

“It’s a shows that ‘Farmer’ (coach Jon Hanson) has brought us a long way,” Nuy said. “We all worked hard and put in the effort. We knew we could do it. We just took it day by day, practice by practice and game by game.”

Canby is a team that still has a lot of room for growth as its roster features just one senior – guard Michael Slaba, who averages 15.3 points and 6.7 assists – and seven juniors. While 13 may be, traditionally, an unlucky number and if the Lancers can phase out any and all distractions, they have a strong chance to win their 13th straight game.

“I think most of the distractions are good,” Hanson said. “If we play like we have been all year, playing better defense than most and have scoring from everybody, we should be fine. We just make sure we play like we have been all year.”

Canby is making its third appearance in the state tournament. The Lancers, who were No. 9 in the final MBN poll, average 18.0 assists per game this year.

Class A Section 3 has produced some powerhouse team during the last 20 years. Teams from Section 3 have advanced to the state championship game 14 of the last 17 seasons.