Rebels rough up White Bear Lake in opener

Champlin Park senior Zach Johnson drives by a White Bear Lake defender during his team’s 92-74 victory Dec. 7. Johnson finished with 11 points in the win. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

His team had just rolled to a relatively easy victory in its season-opener, defeating White Bear Lake 92-74 in an effort that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would read.

In fact, if not for the nearly 15 three-point shots that White Bear Lake hit on, there’s a chance Champlin Park doubles up the Bears Dec. 7.

Yet, long after the game had ended, deep inside the bowels of his building, Rebels head coach Mark Tuchscherer couldn’t help but lament what didn’t go the way of his wishes.

Not enough ball movement. Too many missed second-chance buckets. And that perimeter defense?

“Yeah, it needs some work,” said Tuchscherer. “We can’t give up three’s like that. There was a lot I didn’t like. But there was a lot I liked too. I don’t know. We scored 90 points and won by almost 20. Maybe I should feel better. But I don’t.”

Those days should come however, mainly because as Champlin Park proved in its opener, even when things don’t look great, they can still win in impressive fashion.

Six different guys still managed to score in double-figures. Five others pulled down at least four rebounds.

They started relatively slow, allowing White Bear Lake to jump out to a quick 7-3 lead. But the Rebels responded with a 17-0 run, and essentially never looked back.

“It was a good win,” said senior captain Trevor Garrison, who nearly posted a double-double with 12 points and seven rebounds in the win. “You can see how dangerous we can be when we share the ball. Everybody on the floor can score.”

Tuchscherer echoed the sentiment; calling this the best scoring team he’s had in his tenure at Champlin Park. It also might be one of the most experienced line-ups he’s had.

Six rotation fixtures are back from last year’s team, and each played big minutes during the Rebels run into the Class 4A, Section 5 finals, where they would fall the eventual state champions from Osseo.

As a group, that team won 18 games, finishing 18-11 with a group that graduated just three guys who played consistent minutes.

“We got a lot of guys who can play high school basketball at a very high level,” said Tuchscherer. “We are still trying to figure out what our rotation is. We know the main guys, but we have a lot of players to sift through that will come off the bench.”

The team played a dozen in the opener. That won’t last, Tuchscherer said. But trimming the rotation to nine or so won’t be that simple.

The team’s second unit, – which consisted of Michael Sales, Andrew Aakre and Matt Juneau, to name three – helped spark that early run, and played a huge role in maintaining the lead throughout the second half.

“We have a bunch of guys that can come off the bench and contribute,” said Garrison. “That’s going to make us really tough to beat.”

Garrison is part of a starting five that also includes senior guards Zach Johnson and Ian Smith, sophomore guard JT Gibson and junior forward Brennan Witt.

That unit, along with the rest of the club, and gone through its early-season routine without much notice. Osseo and Park Center have garnered most of the attention among Northwest Suburban Conference schools, and rightfully so.

Osseo won both the state title and the league a year ago. Park Center was the conference runner-up and returns its entire starting five.

It’s worth noting, however, that Champlin Park split with both of those teams during the regular season last year.

“Nobody should be sleeping on us,” said Garrison. “I guess it’s kind of nice floating under the radar. There is not as much pressure. But we know what kind of team we have. We know we can play with anybody.”