Some of the best boys basketball in the state came through Southwestern Minnesota in the 2011-12 season. Teams like Worthington and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin were able to reach the state tournament in Class AA and A, respectively. Meanwhile, the Red Rock Conference champions, Southwest Minnesota Christian, were the Class A runner-ups.
Among the Marshall area's 13 teams, no one was able to make the state tournament, but the area was still able to maintain a strong level of play, led by the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks.
Going 26-3 overall and getting as high as fourth in the Class A rankings, Dawson-Boyd was able to get to the top of the Camden Conference with a 14-1 Camden record. The Blackjacks reached the Section 3A championship game, falling to SWC.
Leading Dawson-Boyd reach the section finals for the first time since 2007-08 was junior Nathaniel Huot, the Independent's All-Area Player of the Year. One of the most complete players in the Marshall area, the 6-foot guard was third in the area with 16.9 points per game, and finished in the top 10 in assists (86) and steals (43). Huot was also the top three-point shooter in the area with 67 three-pointers made, a telling feat after missing the first month of the season with a broken bone in his shooting hand.
Not to be outdone, Marshall and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton were also able to put together impressive
seasons in 2011-12. RTR won the South division of the Camden Conference with a 11-2 conference record (18-9 overall). After seeing one of the top players in the area graduate, the Knights were able to use their younger core of players to become one of the best teams in the Camden Conference.
2011-12 Independent All-Area boys basketball team
- Nathaniel Huot, Dawson-Boyd (Player of the Year)
- Joey Lee, Dawson-Boyd
- Brett Peterson, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton
- Lee Christianson, Marshall
- Jeff DeCock, Red Rock Central
- Mason Schnaible, Marshall
- Chris Halbur, Murray County Central
- Dylan Kor, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton
- Parker Lanoue, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
- Jeramie Blegen, Lincoln HI
- Grant Hennen, Minneota
- Michael Slaba, Canby
- Jacob Comnick, Westbrook-Walnut Grove
- Zach Stelter, Dawson-Boyd
- Nate Wieneke, Murray County Central
- Aaron Brau, Wabasso
- Jamie Unke, Lakeview
- Dion Nelson, Lincoln HI
Coach of the Year
- Cory Larson, Dawson-Boyd
Despite losing one of its top returning players from last year's state tournament team, the Tigers mustered a 10-2 Southwest Conference record, and fought to a 19-9 victory. Among those wins, Marshall defeated ranked Redwood Valley and Montevideo, and swept state-bound Worthington en route to a second-place finish in the Southwest Conference.
Rounding out the starting five
Brett Peterson, RTR
g Russell-Tyler-Ruthton sophomore Brett Peterson had big shoes to fill in 2011-12, having to replace All-Area guard Taylor Newton. What the Knights got was one of the best all-around performers in the area, as the 6-3 guard topped the area in points per game (20.8).
He was also among the area leaders in total assists (118) and steals (45), and he also grabbed 6.0 rebounds per game. Getting to the line 182 times this season, Peterson converted on an area-best 78.2 percent of his free throw attempts and was named the Camden Conference South's Most Valuable Player.
Joey Lee, Dawson-Boyd
g While Huot was out with his hand injury, the Blackjacks needed someone to take the reigns, and sophomore Joey Lee stepped up in a big way.
Coming out as one of the area's top playmakers, the 6-1 All-Camden Conference guard led the area in total assists (182) and steals (82), while averaging13.7 ppg.
Improving his outside shooting from his freshman season, Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson said Lee's biggest factor on the court is his high-energy play.
"He's always active, and his stat line shows that when you look at his totals, whether it's steals, assists, rebounds or points," Larson said. "A lot of times we're putting him on one of the opposing team's best players as well."
g In 2011-12, the key for Marshall was balance, and no player on the Tigers' lineup encompassed that more than senior Lee Christianson.
Averaging 8.7 ppg and 4.5 rpg, the 6-3 guard hit 26 three-pointers and converted on 64 of 96 free throws. Christianson also tallied 51 assists and 34 steals on the way to an All-Southwest Conference selection.
"We were a very balanced team and it all started with Lee," said Marshall head coach Tom Critchley. "He was very unselfish. He distributed the ball and got the other kids involved. But when we needed someone to get to the basket, he was willing to step up.
"Good players find a way to make a difference in the game, and he was one of the better defenders around. He held Michael Busack (of Redwood Valley), with help from the other guys, to seven points. It didn't matter if a player was bigger or smaller, he found a way."
Jeff DeCock, RRC
g Emerging as one of the top scorers in the Marshall area was Red Rock Central junior Jeff DeCock, who found a variety of ways to get the ball in the hoop.
Second in the area with 18.0 ppg, the 6-1 guard pushed the Falcons to an 11-15 record, including an 8-9 mark in the Red Rock Conference. The All-Red Rock Conference pick also set the table for his teammates with 108 assists and 65 steals. No player in the Marshall area got to the free-throw line more than DeCock, who went 132-for-186 at the line (71.0 percent).
"Jeff has great offensive skills and has a knack to get to the free-throw line," said RRC head coach Brian Walker. "His quickness and jumping ability makes him a tough matchup for opponents."
g Working his way around on both the inside and outside, Marshall senior Mason Schnaible became one of the most diverse weapons in the Tigers' arsenal.
Leading the team with 9.0 ppg, Schnaible shot 43.8 percent from the field on the way to All-Southwest Conference accolades. The 6-2 guard also grabbed 3.3 rebounds per game and led Marshall with 10 blocked shots.
After capitalizing on transition buckets last year, Critchley said Schnaible was able to step up his game by expanding his range to the outside, becoming a formidable perimeter threat.
"He was effective in the half-court for us,"?Critchley said. "He also wasn't afraid to take a chance, and with the game on the line, that is when he was at his best. He shot with a lot of confidence."
Chris Halbur, MCC
g Standing at 6-2, Murray County Central's Chris Halbur became one of the most hard-nosed players in the Marshall area, averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds per game.
An All-Red Rock Conference selection, the Rebels senior helped MCC vault over the .500 mark with a 14-10 record, including 10-7 in the Red Rock Conference.
Dylan Kor, RTR
g With Peterson providing the perimeter presence, RTR junior post Dylan Kor gave the Knights one of the top paint players in the area.
Standing at 6-5, the All-Camden pick scored 11.5 points per game and grabbed 7.9 boards a game, ranking fifth best in the area. Kor was also third in the area in blocked shots (51).
Parker Lanoue, TMB
g Trying to replace a senior-heavy group from last year, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton was able to give teams fits with its outside shooting, led by junior sniper Parker Lanoue.
At 5-10, Lanoue led the Panthers with 15.8 points per game, hitting 57 three-pointers, earning All-Camden honors in the process. He was also sixth in the area with 98 assist, helping push TMB to a 11-14 record, 8-6 in the Camden.
"What was fun about seeing him have a good season is that he made himself a better player by working hard in the offseason,"?said Panthers head coach Rick Haberman. "He spent a lot of time shooting the basketball. He didn't play much on varsity last year, and then he scored better this year on varsity than he did on the B-squad last year."
g Helping Lincoln HI control the paint in the Camden Conference was senior Jeramie Blegen, who helped bump the Rebels to a four-game improvement from 2010-11.
The 6-7 All-Camden center scored 12.6 points per game and snatched 7.8 boards a game, pushing Lincoln HI to a .500 finish for the first time since 2006-07. Blegen was also the area's most prolific shot blocker, swatting an area-best 68 shots this season.
"You can't teach height, and to have a 6-7 guy in our league was pretty good,"?said Lincoln HI head coach Brock Citterman. "He's a pretty laid-back kid, but he was a good leader. Being 6-7, he was able to control the paint and he altered a lot of shots. On offense, he was a very patient player."