Kevin Jordan and Tony Couture talked strategy for an hour Sunday.
The conversation wasn't about defense or offensive sets. It was about preparing student-athletes for the biggest game of their young lives.
Couture's Little Falls boys' hockey team has played in the last four state tournaments. Wednesday will be Jordan's first state boys' basketball tournament, and the first for Little Falls, since 1977 - before any current Flyer players were born.
"I wanted to pick his brain on some of the things he does organizational-wise for the state tournament," said Jordan. "I wanted to learn what he tries to drive home to his kids before a state game. It was a good conversation."
Sophomore point guard Alex Scott drove past St. Cloud Apollo's Greg Wimberly during the Little Falls Flyers' Section 8-3A championship victory last week. Scott and the Flyers will face St. Thomas Academy in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Wednesday. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Another topic may have been the St. Thomas Academy Cadets. Couture's Flyers lost to the Cadets in this season's state quarterfinals. St. Thomas went on to win the state title. The Flyers won the consolation title. The Cadets are the Flyers' opponent in the Class 3A state boys' basketball tournament as well.
The Section 1 champion Cadets (22-6) are the defending 3A state champions and the No. 2 seed in the first year of seeding the top four teams in the 4A and 3A tournaments.
"They have a good 6-foot-7 player and he does everything," said Jordan. "Their offense centers around him. Then they have four guys around him, who can all shoot the 3. They get a lot of offense with their half-court pressure defense. They create a lot of turnovers and turn those into transition points."
Alex Schneider is St. Thomas' big man. He's averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game and shooting 51 percent from the field. He's committed to play football at Holy Cross next season.
Surrounding Schneider are Michael Fitzgerald (14.7 points), Jake Szymanski (7.8 points) and Tom Anderson (4.6 points). But Cadets head coach Mike Sjoberg said his team's key player is point guard Fritz Waldvogel, who is averaging 10.7 points to go with 117 steals, 181 assists and 191 rebounds.
"We only have one big strong kid and that's Alex, but the guy who makes our team go is Fritz," said Sjoberg. "He's our heart and soul. He's our best defender and he can shoot the 3."
Class 3A state quarterfinal
Who: Little Falls Flyers vs. St. Thomas Academy Cadets
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Mariucci Arena, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
At stake: Trip to state semifinals vs. Grand Rapids/Willmar winner 8 p.m. Thursday at Target Center, Minneapolis
St. Thomas has won seven straight. Its last loss came Feb. 22 against Tartan. Its other losses were to Henry Sibley, Simley, Hopkins, Cretin-Derham Hall and Robbinsdale Armstrong.
The Flyers are 6-0 in March and Jordan credits a refocus on defense for the team's Section 8 title. Little Falls' defense will again be the priority against St. Thomas.
"The key for us is to play hard on defense," Jordan said. "We need to give help on the inside guy and still get a hand in the face of their outside shooters."
Little Falls drained 11 threes against St. Cloud Apollo in the section title game. The Flyers are shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc and 45.5 percent from the field. They've made a total of 542 3-pointers compared to 186 for St. Thomas.
That outside potency is what St. Thomas is concerned about.
"Looking at their statistics, when they're making their 3s they are very good," said Sjoberg. "They made a pile against Apollo and it wasn't just one or two guys.
"They're playing some young kids and it takes a while for those guys to be at their best. But they're playing at their best right now. I think we are, too. I think we're healthy and probably playing our best basketball of the season right now."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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