Boys Basketball: East Ridge goes 7-0, wins Breakdown USA championship
It was a busy weekend for the East Ridge boys basketball team, but a successful one as well.
The Raptors traveled to the Athlete’s Village at the University of Minnesota to play three games on Saturday in front of Minnesota Gophers’ head coach Richard Pitino.
The boys didn’t disappoint with a big win against Totino-Grace in the first game. Then, the Raptors faced two dominant teams with Prior Lake and Park Center.
East Ridge forward Ben Carlson said those two teams were top teams in the state and it was a good indicator at where the Raptors were before the winter season. East Ridge didn’t have all their players on Saturday with losses like Courtney Brown Jr. and Kendall Brown, but it was a good opportunity for other players to step up.
And they did just that with a two-point win over Prior Lake in the second game and a one-point win over Park Center in the third and final game.
“It was a big confidence boost for both the team and individual players because everyone stepped up,” Carlson said.
Once Saturday was over, the Raptors didn’t have time to rest as they played four games on Sunday in the Breakdown USA Summer State Tournament. The Brown brothers and Carlson agreed that it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the summer with the top teams from the state.
The nice part was the Brown brothers were back with the team on Sunday and the team chemistry clicked well with each player.
East Ridge started the day with a four-point win against Edina. Then, the Raptors won by over 20 points against Rochester John Marshall. In the third game, Tartan lost to East Ridge by 10 points allowing the Raptors to reach the championship game.
In the championship, East Ridge faced one of the top teams in the state, Eden Prairie.
“It was a statement game for us because we wanted to face the best of the best,” Courtney Brown Jr. said.
East Ridge had the better team on Sunday and dominated the game with a final score of 74-49. Courtney Brown Jr. helped the Raptors with 19 points including five three-pointers in the championship game. The Brown brothers and Carlson said it was a team effort to win the game and showed a strong defense that the Raptors needed against Eden Prairie.
“We did really well moving the ball and playing more defense,” Kendall Brown said. “I need to be more consistent with my play.”
The Brown brothers and Carlson agreed that the team chemistry is starting to build stronger and stronger with summer practices and games as well as playing with one another since seventh grade.
The confidence is also increasing since this weekend because the ultimate goal for this East Ridge team is to win the state championship this upcoming winter.
The Raptors will be working out and practicing as a team on a daily basis throughout the summer and leading into the fall. During this time, some of the players are playing on other AAU basketball teams. For example, the Brown brothers are playing on Howard Pulley which is sponsored by Nike and Carlson is playing for D1 Minnesota which is sponsored by Adidas.
The focus is to continue building as a team for the winter and making sure everyone understands the expectation of winning a state championship this season.
“It’s a good thing that we’re starting practices and such this summer because we have a head start on other teams,” Carlson said. “We know it’s going to be tough this upcoming season, so we need to be extra prepared this winter.”