Tom's Pick: Albany to give No. 1 Cathedral a hoops test

Tom's Pick: Albany to give No. 1 Cathedral a hoops test

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Tom's Pick: Albany to give No. 1 Cathedral a hoops test

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St. Cloud Cathedral emerged as the No. 1 team in the state in Class 2A last week, probably a first for the program since it joined the Minnesota State High School in 1974.

The Crusaders’ first opportunity to defend its lofty No. 1 status comes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home when Cathedral is host to Albany.

It’ll be a great test.

Albany went into the weekend 7-1 in the Granite Ridge Conference and 11-3 overall. The Huskies’ lone loss was 78-76 in overtime to Cathedral on Dec. 10.

Albany has emerged as the best bet in the conference to beat the Crusaders, who are 7-0 in the GRC and 15-3 overall.

The teams’ styles are different, but their success is similar.

Cathedral has the No. 1 offense in the conference, averaging 74.1 points per game. Albany’s is fifth of eight teams at 62.4.

The Huskies, however, have the Granite Ridge’s top defense, allowing 51.5 points per game. Cathedral is tied for fourth in the conference in points allowed at 64.1.

The Crusaders are small, flashy and athletic, led by seniors Steven Neutzling and Brady Schmit and junior Brindley Theisen, Cathedral’s tallest starter at 6-3.

Albany is taller and bigger, especially inside with 6-6 Kyle Zierden, 6-5 Ben Hartmann and 6-3 Dalton Finken available for key minutes. The Huskies are also deeper. Because of injuries, Cathedral has been using seven players in key minutes.

Cathedral has won the past six meetings with Albany and has an 11-6 record against the Huskies since the 2004-05 season. Albany has had two three-game winning streaks against the Crusaders in that time.

If Cathedral losses, it moves into a tie for the conference lead and likely loses that No. 1 ranking. If Albany loses, it likely will wind up the second-best team in the GRC.

If it wins, it helps make a case for a top seed in Section 8-3A.

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