St. Paul Academy Youth Lead the Way to State

Updated: 03/10/2014 5:55 PM By: Northstar Hoops Report

The stage was set for a great section title game last Friday as St. Paul Academy faced off against Minnehaha Academy for a berth in the Class AA State Tournament.

Coach Larry McKenzie and Minneapolis North were leaving Macalester College’s gym shortly after losing by two to Maranatha Academy 67-65 in the prior contest. The crowds for the bookended games swapped places in the bleachers, and the energy was perfect.

So was it a great game? For St. Paul Academy, it was.

The Spartans led by four at half, but they went on to outscore Minnehaha 49-25 in the second half to blow the game wide open. Minnehaha’s large and electric student section was quickly silenced by SPA’s relentless, high-energy offensive attack. SPA won 73-45 in what turned into a blowout.

Sophomore Dalante Peyton played a big part in a 13-2 second half run that gave SPA their first double-digit lead. On his way to scoring 17 points in the second half — totaling 28 in the game — Peyton nailed contested jumper after contested jumper and took the ball hard to the hoop.

You could call this game “small ball” — each team toyed with their lineups and offensive sets, often placing four or five players out on the perimeter for passes and cuts. Six-foot-four-inch Joevon Walker saw some success down low for Minnehaha, scoring 16 points to lead the Redhawks. The freshman scrapped and fought all game, and you have to wonder how intimidating he will be on the block in a couple years. He played with the toughness of an upperclassman.

Walker isn’t the only young key player for Minnehaha. Freshman guard Simeon Davis and 8th-grader JaVonni Bickham saw significant time as well. After seniors Thomas Ostrem, Jahleel Davis and Joe Elmquist graduate, this will be Minnehaha’s core.

SPA is nearly as young. Harrisen Egly was the only senior who scored for the Spartans, with the rest of the team consisting mostly of sophomores and juniors. The centerpiece is Peyton, a lanky, controlled sophomore who put together a special performance in the biggest game of his young life.

Props to Peyton and the Spartans, and “see you next year” to the youthful group at Minnehaha. Just as Minnesota’s elite seniors are seeing their seasons end one-by-one — most notably Tyus Jones and Apple Valley — the state’s young talents are beginning to emerge, showing the changing of the guard.

This isn’t the last time Minnehaha and SPA will be involved in a big game in this section.

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