This year's Marshall Independent All-Area Boys Basketball teams are jam-packed with talent, led by 2014 Player of the Year Brett Peterson and First Team members Neil Eichten, Joey Lee, Michael Lee, Riley Sharbono and Michael Slaba.
The five seniors and one junior (Michael Lee) are extremely versatile, well-polished players who provided plenty of offensive leadership for their team while also creating defensive challenges for opponents all season long.
Brett Peterson, a 6-foot-4 guard, shot his way into the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton history books, recording a school-record high 2,003 career points. In his senior season, Peterson averaged 27.1 points (2nd in the area), 11.5 rebounds (2nd), 5.7 assists (4th) 2.3 steals (8th) and 1.3 blocks (5th) per game.
Dawson-Boyd's Joey Lee
Marshall's Riley Sharbono
Wabasso's Neil Eichten
Dawson-Boyd's Michael Lee
Canby's Michael Slaba
"What made Brett a special player is the fact that he could see things on the court that even I couldn't see, such as passing angles," Kern said. "Brett loves the game of basketball and continually works to better his game."
While they didn't quite have the long playoff run that they had hoped for, having been ousted on a last-second shot by MACCRAY in the first round of the Section 3A tournament, the Knights finished with a respectable 14-10 overall record.
Neil Eichten also topped off his basketball career by securing a number of Wabasso, Tomahawk Conference and state records. Eichten, a 6-1 guard, now holds the record for most points scored in a season (760) and in a career (1,671).
In conference play, Eichten has the record for most points scored in a season (502) and average points per game (31.4).
"I had the opportunity to have Neil on the court for three years and it was like having another coach on the floor," Wabasso coach Josh Hadley said. "He is very basketball intelligent. Neil is pretty incredible and it has been very fun to watch him play the past four years."
At the state level, Eichten also made his mark, finishing fifth in field goals attempted (679) and free throw attempted (290) in a season. He's currently fourth overall for free-throw percentage in a game (19 of 20 for 95 percent) and sixth overall in field goals attempted in a game (38). Eichten is also eighth in free throws made in a season (217).
"Neil can do both, either shoot it from the outside or get to the basket, pretty much at will," Hadley said. "He got himself to the free-throw line a lot."
Eichten topped the offensive list in the Marshall area, collecting 760 points for a 30.4 average per game. He went 217-for-290 at the free-throw line for .748. Eichten also averaged 4.5 assists,, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game this season. The Rabbits capped the season with a 12-13 overall record.
"Teams played every kind of defense they could think of on Neil," Hadley said. "It took him away from defense a little bit because he spent so much effort offensively. I think he played every minute of every single game this year. Most of the time, teams had two people guarding him, so it was incredible that he stayed relatively healthy and was able to do what he did."
Riley Sharbono helped lead the Marshall Tigers to the state tournament, where the team fell to Orono in the first round. The Tigers concluded the season with a 24-5 record, including a first-place after going undefeated (12-0) in the Southwest Conference.
As a 6-4 guard, Sharbono finished first in the area in free-throw shooting, sinking 91 of 111 shots for 81.9 percent. He averaged 19.3 points (560 total), 6.7 rebounds (195), 2.5 assists (72) and 1.2 steals (35) per game. Sharbono also blocked 11 shots during the season.
"Riley scored, rebounded and defended at a high level," Marshall coach Travis Carroll said. "He shot a high percentage on field goals, the free-throw line and from the 3-point line."
Canby also made its first trip to the state tournament since 1951, behind the senior leadership of 6-1 guard Michael Slaba, who led the Marshall area with 199 assists this season, an average of 6.6 per game. Slaba also collected 478 points (15.9 average), 89 rebounds (3.0), 43 steals (1.4) and was 92-for-146 at the line for .630.
"Michael was a good point guard and he ran the show for us," Canby coach John Hanson said. "He ran all of our offensives, which was a lot. He was a good assists person in addition to scoring."
The Lancers also fell in the state quarterfinals, but not without a valiant fight. In fact, it took the Fond du Lac Ojibiwe three overtime periods to defeat Canby. Overall, the Lancers finished the season with a 25-5 record. They also defeated Dawson-Boyd to earn the Camden Conference title, finishing 11-3 in league play.
"The last six or seven games were probably the best in his career," Hanson said. "He used his speed to his advantage. He has a quick first step and did a nice job of penetrating to the basket. He was a good senior leader for us."
The final first-teamers are Dawson-Boyd teammates and cousins Michael Lee and Joey Lee. The Blackjacks finished the season short of their goal to get to the state tournament after falling to Canby in the Section 3A-North championship, but had a solid 23-3 season nonetheless. In Camden north competition, Dawson-Boyd finished 15-0.
"Both Lees are very special kids, on and off the court," Dawson-Boyd coach Cory Larson said. "I certainly like having both of them on my team."
Michael Lee, a 6-5 forward, ended the season third in the area in average points (21.9) and rebounds (11.0) per game, for a total of 569 points and 285 rebounds. Lee also averaged 2.8 assists (73 total), 2.2 steals (56), 1.2 blocks (30) and shot 67 of 94 at the line for 71.3 percent.
"Michael is growing into a great leader," Larson said. "He is so extremely hard to guard with his unique skill set for a kid his size. And he can defend anyone on the floor."
Like he did during the football season, 6-1 guard Joey Lee quarterbacked the team, finishing fifth in the area with 124 assists, an average of 4.8 per game. He also averaged 18.2 points (472 total), 4.1 rebounds (106) and 2.2 steals (56) per game.
"Joey has been such a great leader for us," Larson said. "He's very unselfish and extremely competitive. He has a great skill set and is very active on both ends of the floor."