The Little Falls Flyers will get to play where basketball was meant to be played.
After advancing to last year's state tournament, the Flyers were forced to play their Class 3A state quarterfinal game at Mariucci Arena, home of the University of Minnesota men's hockey team.
This year Little Falls (18-11) will face No. 3-seeded St. Paul Johnson at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Williams Arena.
"I've noticed a big change from last year," said Flyers head coach Kevin Jordan. "Our first two practices last year weren't very good because we were giddy and excited. This year I didn't see any of that and the kids came in with the same focus and intensity they've had all year. They've done a good job of going about getting prepared, like they have down the stretch."
Little Falls Flyers boys' basketball coach Kevin Jordan spoke to his players during a timeout in their Section 8-3A victory over St. Cloud Apollo March 19. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The Governors own a 25-4 record and were ranked No. 2 in the final Class 3A poll despite losing their last regular-season game to Minneapolis Washburn, which secured the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
Johnson topped St. Paul Harding 90-62, Hill-Murray 87-44 and Mahtomedi 89-69 to advance to the state tournament for the seventh time in program history.
Last year the Governors lost to St. Paul Como Park in the Section 4-3A final, snapping a string of two-straight appearances. They also advanced in 2004 and three times in the 1920s.
"They love to play end line to end line and they'll get after us defensively," said Jordan. "They play a lot of guys so if they play that pace, offensively it's going to be important that we take care of the basketball.
"They're not very tall. Their tallest guy is 6-foot-3. They do have a 6-5 guy that comes off the bench, but overall they're not very tall. They are athletic so we need to get a lot of touches inside to Danny (Kornbaum)."
Johnson won the St. Paul City Conference with a 12-0 record. Its other three losses came to Sioux City Heelan (Iowa), Milwaukee Washington and Eden Prairie. After the Eden Prairie loss, the team rattled off 17 straight wins. In the process Governors outscored opponents 78.0 to 59.1.
The Governors are led by senior guard Dion Suggs Young and his 12.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He's added 90 assists and 56 steals.
Little Falls Flyers vs. St. Paul Johnson Governors
When: 4 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Williams Arena, Minneapolis
What: Class 3A state boys' basketball tournament
At stake: A trip to the state semifinals vs. Minneapolis Washburn/Grand Rapids winner
Flyers keys: If we make them set up their half-court offense we'll be OK defensively. Offensively, we're going to have to be patient and not force things. - Flyers coach Kevin Jordan
Governors keys: We look for pace. We need the game to be quicker. We need them to play faster than what they are accustom to. - Governors coach Vern Simmons
Also averaging double figures is sophomore guard Estan Tyler. He's posting 10.9 points and 2.8 rebounds.
"We're pretty even between 1 through 10," said Governors coach Vern Simmons. "We have a lot of guys that are pretty interchangeable. That gives us some flexibility. These guys have been together for a while now. We have six seniors on the team and that's the most seniors we've ever had."
Junior forward Maxie Rosenbloom leads the team with 6.2 rebounds and adds 8.8 points per game. Lamar Anderson is averaging 5.2 rebounds and 9.1 points.
"Defensively it's all about not letting them score in transition and not getting offensive putbacks," Jordan said. "They have two very nice guards who can shoot and drive. Their whole team attacks the paint with drives and attacks the boards with their leaping ability."
Little Falls returns to state riding a nine-game win streak. The Flyers advanced in similar fashion to last year, knocking off heavily favored St. Cloud Apollo 63-62 to win the Section 8-3A final. It's the 10th state appearance for the Flyers, who are led by junior post Dan Kornbaum's 21.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game through 26 games.
"He's probably going to be the biggest kid we've seen all season," said Simmons. "He's our biggest concern. Our top priority will be the paint. Will we be able to rebound? Their big guy is going to be an issue because we haven't faced anyone while driving in the lane that can just raise his hands and block out the rim."
Senior forward Nick Erdrich is posting 12.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. Ronnie Kornbaum is adding 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Junior point guard Alex Scott was high their scorer in the section final with 20 points. He's averaging 6.4 points and 1.9 rebounds and has 166 assists in 26 games.
Ethan Mustonen is the fifth starter. He's providing 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.