Prep basketball: Roncalli prepares for Border Battle

Prep basketball: Roncalli prepares for Border Battle

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Prep basketball: Roncalli prepares for Border Battle

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Anytime you put Minnesota and Wisconsin together, no matter the sport, sparks will typically fly.

The two states share a border and a healthy rivalry in which each side thinks they have the upper hand over the other.

On Saturday at Prior Lake High School in Minnesota, the seventh annual Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Border Battle will take place with the Roncalli boys (13-3) taking part to decide prep boys basketball superiority.

Because the games will be taking place in Minnesota as opposed to Wisconsin, the teams will be playing two 18-minute halves instead of four eight-minute quarters, something Roncalli coach Joe Rux thinks will be a learning curve for his team.

“Our kids aren’t used to playing that long without a break,” Rux said. “How our players react to the extended action will play a major factor in whether or not we come away with the win.”

The Jets were chosen by Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook to compete in the tournament for a third time, which Rux says has to do with the fact his team has won both times they’ve participated.

“They try to pick a team in each division in Wisconsin boys basketball,” Rux added. “Past success and a programs reputation definitely plays a part in being selected. Us being undefeated so far (in the tournament) doesn’t hurt either.”

Having faced tough competition all season in the Olympian Conference, the Jets will once again be tested when they square off with Eden Prairie. The Eagles (12-3) happen to be the No. 5 ranked team among 4A schools in the Land of a Thousand Lakes according Minnesota Basketball News.

Through six years and 32 games, each state has won 16 games although schools from the dairy state were 5-1 last year. Roncalli has already taken on one school from Minnesota, a 66-49 defeat of Maple River on Jan. 19 in La Crosse.

Senior guard Nate Lassila leads the Jets offense with an average of 19.9 points per game while teammate Nick Stelzer adds 12.4 ppg. A wild card for Roncalli is senior Isaiah Bessert (8.5 ppg), who is capable of draining shots from Ludington, Mich.

Roncalli’s stout defense will have its hands full guarding a pair of stellar Eden Prairie prospects in junior guard Andre Wallace and senior point guard Grant Schaeffer. Wallace is the No. 4 prospect in the class of 2014 in Minnesota according to the Breakdown, while Schaeffer is No. 14 in the class of 2013 by the same publication.

“Both Wallace and Shaeffer are very talented and do many things so well,” Rux said. “Their overall athleticism is actually our biggest concern.”

When asked what he has in mind defensively, Rux mentioned the Jets will have to do what they’ve been doing all season, playing tough team-wide defense.

“We don’t have a player who is 6-6 and can jump out of the gym to try and matchup against either of them,” Rux stated. “We have to try and contain them as a team.”

Rux knows his team will have its hands full, but is optimistic of Roncalli’s chances.

“Each year we’ve done this we’ve been the underdog,” Rux mentioned. “We’ll be the underdog again this year but if past experiences are any indication that is just fine with us.”

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