Jacket boys hang onto #1 section seed

North Branch’s Gabe Huset looks for a way around a much taller Big Lake defender during the Vikings’ regular season finale.

In the virtually never-ending debate on the best way to seed teams for section tournament play – strictly computer-based rankings or by a vote among section coaches – the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejacket boys basketball team has provided some pretty compelling evidence in favor of the latter.

Despite finishing the regular season with the identical record as Duluth East and defeating the Greyhounds twice, the QRF (quality results formula) rankings had East three-tenths of a point ahead of C-I for the #1 seed in the section. While in other years the difference between obtaining the first or second seed would have been minimal, thanks to last spring’s section realignment, Section 7AAAA basketball only has seven teams in it, giving the #1 seed a first round bye.

As it is, though, Section 7AAAA had opted to go with a coaches’ vote – in a face-to-face meeting no less – to determine each teams’ seeding. And when all of the votes were tallied, the Jackets’ two wins over the Hounds proved to be the deciding factor in giving C-I the #1 seed.

With that seeding, the Jackets will automatically advance to the section semifinals on Saturday, March 7, where they will face the winner of #4 seed Forest Lake and #5 seed Blaine at 1 p.m. in Elk River. East, meanwhile, will have had to beat #7 seed Anoka on Wednesday, March 4, in order to advance to the semifinals to play either #3 Andover or #6 Coon Rapids. 

Failing any sort of major upset (C-I and East were the only section teams to finish with a record over .500), the two teams will meet to determine who is the best team in the section where it ultimately should be determined – on the court. The section final game is scheduled for Thursday, March 12, in Elk River.

Season finale blowout

The Jackets are entering the section tournament following making a major statement that they are ready to defend their section crown. In their final game of the regular season, the Jackets put on their most dominating performance to date, defeating Becker 90-39.

In that game, senior Henry Abraham, who over a year ago claimed the school’s boys and girls career scoring record, eclipsed another milestone by scoring his 3,000th career point. Abraham is only the 12th player in state history to reach 3,000 points. Abraham would finish with 37 points in what turned out to be the final home game of his high school career.

Vikings receive seventh seed

Befitting a team that struggled to pick up wins during the regular season, North Branch was handed the #7 seed in Section 7AAA and will travel north to face the #2 seed Hermantown on Wednesday, March 4. The Vikings previously lost to the Hawks 87-49 earlier in the season.

The Vikings also finished their regular season on a positive note, earning their fifth win of the season by defeating Big Lake 86-68. North Branch put together an extremely strong first half, jumping out to a commanding 41-18 lead and cruising to the 18-point win.

Carson Klein had a huge game, scoring 22 points to lead the Vikings. Drew VanEerden, the lone senior on the team, added 18 points in his home finale.

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