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Boys' basketball: East Ridge starts season with a challenge

Courtney Brown Jr. scored 29 points in East Ridge's season opening loss to Minnehaha Academy on Saturday, Dec. 2. Bulletin file photo

New East Ridge head coach Bryce Tesdahl saw both negatives and positives in the Raptors' season opener against Minnehaha Academy on Saturday, Dec. 2.

East Ridge, ranked sixth in the state among Class 4A teams, squared off with Class 2A's top-ranked team in Minnehaha Academy at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic in Hopkins. It was a challenging matchup to start the season, with the opponent's lineup including one of the nation's top high school basketball players in Jalen Suggs.

The outcome came down to the final shot, but a missed three-pointer at the buzzer was the difference in a 60-58 loss for the Raptors. However, Tesdahl saw both positives and negatives in the loss. One of those positives included holding Suggs to eight points and two field goals.

On the other hand, the Raptors were a bit rusty on the offensive end of the floor.

"I thought, defensively, we were sharp," Tesdahl said. "We didn't finish plays and get rebounds when we needed to."

One player who did finish shots was East Ridge's Courtney Brown Jr., who led by scoring 29 points.

"He's done a great job being a leader and making shots," Tesdahl said. "He's only going to improve moving forward."

Zach Zebrowski also scored 15 points against Minnehaha.

East Ridge graduated seven seniors from last season, but plenty of other talented players return. East Ridge finished 22-6 last season, tying for the Suburban East Conference title with Woodbury after both teams finished 14-2 in league play. The Raptors fell 80-79 in overtime to Cretin-Derham Hall in the semifinals of the Class 4A, Section 4 playoffs. The Raiders eventually won the section title.

With Tesdahl at the helm replacing longtime head coach Paul Virgin, he said there are adjustments the returning Raptors are making.

"East Ridge didn't set a ton of ball screens last year," Tesdahl said. "In my offense, there are a lot of sets, a lot of philosophy around the ball screens."

Tesdahl has made it a point to reward his players after practices and games, and he has shared pictures of food the program has served to their athletes. The menu has included pizza and pasta, and so far he has not heard any complaints.

"It's not hard to please high school kids," Tesdahl said.

East Ridge will next host Minneapolis Southwest on Wednesday, Dec. 6, before playing Chanhassen on the road Friday, Dec. 8.

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