The Prep Hoops travels took me to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial High School on Monday for a grudge match between top teams in the area. Here are our Five Things to Know!
One.  The Atmosphere.   I pulled into own and immediately noticed people parking their big trucks in snowy areas not designated as parking lots.  Cars everywhere.  Walking into the building their were two concession stands set to handle the big crowd (the pulled pork sandwich was great) and kids running everywhere in the lunch/stage area.  Looking to my right I saw the gym, packed. There were only six minutes to go before announcements when I walked in so my first thought was “where in this place is there space to sit”? 
LCWM has a fairly good sized gym for Class AA school complete with a giant mural of a Knight on a horse (the Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial High School) as well as a castle painted in the corner.  Plus photos of current athletes all over.  All the local students were dressed in Hawaiian gear while the opposing students were led by a boisterous young Martin County West fan who was told by his mom to calm down about eight times (he never listened).  The starting line-up was announced with the lights dimmed, spotlights on, and the Chicago Bulls running of the bulls music blaring.  The perfect stage for a high school basketball team that was ranked and undefeated, against another that was 14-4.  
Two.  LCWM Handles the Zone.  For me the biggest reason that LCWM won the game was their ability to handle the zone.  Martin County West played a zone and never came out of it, playing right into the strength of their opponents in my opinion.  LCWM’s ball movement was outstanding and they did a great job of getting the ball to the high post (with a dribble or quick pass) and then moving the ball to the opposite side.  The ball movement led to a number of feet set, comfortable rhythm threes (they hit ten).  In addition, LCWM controlled the clock because the zone didn’t extend so if the Knights wanted to wait 25 seconds before they started moving the ball – they had the lead most of the game – they could.  Also, LCWM won the rebound battle 30-24 and the difference was putback chances as the zone had trouble moving to their box-hit responsibilities and completing them (sometimes it was a small guard vs 6’5 250 pound Gage McManemy).  
Three.  Zack Wells.   LCWM guard Zack Wells is a 6-foot-0 junior.  He was one of the two most athletic players on the floor, one of the two strongest players on the floor, and Wells was the most all around productive player on the court last night.  Wells scored 18 points, dished out five assists, grabbed five boards, defended with intensity and discipline, and most importantly I thought he led his team.  When we speak of leadership on the court we are talking about many different things.  First off, verbal leadership of course.  But more than that is making the right play consistently.  Wells did that.  When the ball needed be pulled out, Wells did.  When he saw cracks in the zone, Wells attacked them (and he did the same with a quick transition push).  Wells did a great job reversing the ball side to side and his one dribble attack with a kick to the wing moved the defense consistently.  More importantly, in tight spots Wells took the ball as a leader and made the right plays for his team to win big possessions.  And finally, with the game on the line late, Wells stepped to the line and hit five of his final six foul shots.  Stepped up in the clutch like a leader does. 
Four. More Knight Standouts.   The first player I point to is sophomore Jamis Ulman.  Jamis is a six foot underclassmen with an incredible feel for the game.  Ulman had as much to do with the pace that LCWM set against the opposing zone as Wells did.  Love the timing and placement of Ulman’s passes.  Every pass put his teammate in a comfortable spot and forced the defense to react quicker than their bodies would allow.  Ulman also had five assists for his team plus he made all six of his foul shots in the second half.  Love his feel, Jamis Ulman is a player to keep an eye on.  When you have that type of feel you will play college basketball.  Sophomore Ethan Anderson hit five threes also playing a big role while Gage McManemy ended possessions on one end with his defensive boards, and he kept possessions alive the other way with his o-boards (ten boards in all).  
Five.  Martin County West was Undefeated for a Reason.   MCW wasn’t just beating pushovers, this is a good team and a good program.  Wins over Mankato Loyola, Spring Grove, RTR, Hancock, St. Clair, and a 66-47 win over LCWM in the season opener prove that this is a Class A title contender.  They were just caught on a bad night I would say and didn’t react well to struggle for the first time this season.  
At 6’6 as a junior Zach Anderson plays point guard.  Not only is Anderson 6’6 he’s quite long and is very skilled, easily the top prospect in the game.  Anderson didn’t have his best game scoring eight points with six boards. Mitchell Weber and Tanner Sinn stepped in and there was a point where Sinn’s inside/out offense (17 points) helped MCW take a second half lead.  Weber kept his team fighting at the end with a game high 22 points but the team just couldn’t find the rhythm to win the game.