Section 6-2A in boys basketball is typically one of the top sections in Minnesota, and it looks as good as ever this winter.
Four of those programs are in the top 10 of the Minnesota-scores.net QRF in Annandale (8-0, No. 3), Melrose (12-0, No. 4), Mora (13-0, No. 7) and Albany (11-2, No. 8). There are nine teams total that entered Friday with at least seven wins and no more than three losses.
Osakis is a part of that group. The Silverstreaks had just two losses entering a home game with Albany on Friday night, but the Huskies followed up a double-overtime win against Pierz (10-3) on Thursday by holding off a late rally from Osakis in a 71-62 final.
“Melrose has always been good. Albany is up there,” Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher said. “Some of these teams who I thought would maybe drop off a little bit have not. Like Eden Valley, Kimball has been surprising, Pine City is up there. Sauk (Centre) doesn’t have a lot of wins, but they’re not an easy team to play. For us to be sitting sixth or seventh and have double-digit wins and be fighting for a home playoff game shows you how tough our section is.”
Albany’s only two losses have come to two of those top teams from the section in Melrose and Mora. The Huskies average a section-high 71.8 points per game, and they finished right at that mark by closing on an 8-0 run over the final 50 seconds.
“We’ll learn from it,” Osakis freshman guard Drew Imdieke said. “It’s just good competition. We need that. Our conference games, we play well and we just need to keep playing these tough games and continue to play hard.”
"Our guys are growing together as a group. They coach each other. They encourage each other and they get on each other too, which is good sometimes. They’re holding each other accountable."
- Matt Hoelscher, Osakis head coach
There was no quit in the Silverstreaks (10-3) on Friday as they rallied from a 15-point deficit with 9:03 to play to cut it to one in the final minute. Three missed free throws on one-and-ones for Albany opened the door for that run.
Osakis sophomore Stewart Jones got free for a layup in transition. Freshman guard Mekai Hoelscher drained a three that made it 63-59 with 1:15 left, and junior guard Bauer Klimek hit a triple that bounced off the front rim, off the backboard and in to make it 63-62.
Albany’s Carter Birr connected twice from the free-throw line to extend the Huskies’ lead back to three. With 34 seconds left, Klimek shot a deep three from the right wing that caromed off the backboard without touching the rim. Albany gathered the rebound, and Nolan Rueter knocked down two free throws to make it a two-possession game.
“I thought we did a great job competing,” coach Hoelscher said. “They’re a good team. They’re physical in the post. They can shoot the three, and they’re so tough to guard defensively because they set so many screens, they’re active and can hurt you so many ways.”
The Huskies finished with 11 threes, including a desperation heave from Rueter at the end of the half. Imdieke had a driving layup in the closing seconds, but Albany quickly got the ball into Rueter, who threw it from Osakis’ three-point line and watched it bank in for a 30-23 lead.
“You got to move on to the next play. That’s basketball,” Hoelscher said. “You have to have a short-term memory. If you make a bad play or they make a great play, you have to know that within three seconds something can go good or bad for you again.”
Osakis started the second half on a 6-0 run, but the Huskies got free a few too many times on the perimeter. Rueter finished with 21 points behind five made threes. Ethan Navratil hit three triples, and Jordan Barker added two.
“It was just some miscommunications,” Hoelscher said. “We said we don’t want to double in the post. We feel confident with Brady (Mages) and Carter (Watnaas) in there. One time we doubled and gave up the three. Then sometimes we’re watching the ball defensively and don’t see guys cutting behind us, so we lose track of shooters.”
It’s an Osakis team that’s growing, Hoelscher said. The Silverstreaks play three freshmen in Imdieke, M. Hoelscher and Kyle Mages, and even many of the upperclassmen did not have much varsity experience before this year.
“Our guys are growing together as a group,” coach Hoelscher said. “They coach each other. They encourage each other and they get on each other too, which is good sometimes. They’re holding each other accountable. It’s fun to see that.”
Osakis has already wrapped up at least a share of the Prairie Conference title for a fifth straight year with a chance to win it outright in a home game against Swanville on March 2. The Silverstreaks have won a lot of those conference games by double digits, but even in losses, tests against good teams like Albany prepare them as well as any for the postseason.
“I’d rather play these games than those 30-point games,” Hoelscher said. “We talked to a few guys tonight about shot selection. They said, ‘Yep, I know. That wasn’t a great shot. It wasn’t a good possession. That was a bad pass.’ So they’re recognizing it. If we don’t learn from it, then this game wasn’t a positive. Those crucial possessions on both ends, those are just some of the growing pains we’ve been going through. To play this team the way we did, couldn’t be prouder.”
OSAKIS 23 39 - 62
ALBANY 30 41 - 71
OSAKIS TOTALS - FG - 25-49; Three-point FG - 8-21; FT - 4-6; Assists - 12; Blocks - 2; Rebounds - 16; Steals - 3; Deflections - 4; Turnovers - 11
OSAKIS - Mekai Hoelscher - 8 points, 1 rebound; Kellen Anderson - 4 points, 2 assists; Stewart Jones - 2 points; Kyle Mages - 4 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Bauer Klimek - 16 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds; Drew Imdieke - 7 points, 3 assists; Chayce Meyer - 2 points, 1 rebound; Carter Watnaas - 2 points, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 4 rebounds; Brady Mages - 17 points, 1 assist, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
ALBANY SCORING - LaQue Jefferson - 8; Carter Birr - 4; Isaiah Gerads - 11; Ethan Navratil - 13; Jordan Barker - 6; Nolan Rueter - 21; Brady Goebel - 4; Andrew Hahan - 4