Commitment paying off for St. Anthony boys hoops

The seniors on this year's St. Anthony Village High School boys basketball team did not enjoy much varsity success the last two seasons. They won just five games as sophomores and six as juniors.

The worm appears to have turned this season, however, as St. Anthony is off to its best start in more than 10 years. A pair of victories last week improved the Huskies' record to 7-0.

St. Anthony head coach Chris Hergenrader says those seniors are being rewarded for sticking it out through the lean times.

"These seniors are on their third year in the system and they've taken their lumps," said Hergenrader, who is his third year as head coach. "It's nice to see it pay off for them. They stuck with it and bought in and they're leading us now."

The seven wins are already more than last year and the seven-game winning streak is longer than any St. Anthony team has achieved in the last 10 seasons.

Among the seniors who are enjoying the turnaround this fall are co-captains Nick Peterson, Nick Knutson, Tommy DeMars, Joe Wappes and Jimmy Zeller.

"Give the guys all the credit in the world," Hergenrader said. "They bought in and listened. When you go through 11 wins in two years, sometimes you might think, 'What are we doing this for?' But they haven't veered."

St. Anthony opened the season with blowout wins over St. Paul Washington, North Branch and Blake before playing a tight game against Richfield. The Huskies pulled out a three-point victory and went on to blitz St. Paul Harding and Minneapolis Edison.

Win No. 7 came on Dec. 11 against Coon Rapids (1-6), a team that is struggling similarly to how St. Anthony did two years ago. The Huskies trailed by seven at halftime but rallied in the second half for the 60-55 win.

Junior Rhys Langums led all scorers with 16 points, Peterson added 15 and sophomore Aaron Smith scored 11.

The Coon Rapids game was the second in a row in which Langums set the pace for St. Anthony. He went off for 28 points, including three dunks, on Dec. 7 against Minneapolis Edison.

Offensively, Hergenrader likes his team's unselfishness.

"I think you see tremendous unselfishness," Hergenrader said. "They don't do any ill-advised, selfish plays. It's what's best for the team."

Familiarity and repetition has been the key on defense. Nothing has changed over the three years as far as the system that the team runs.

"They've been in the same system for three years," said Hergenrader. "We've changed virtually nothing."

St. Anthony next puts its winning streak on the line on Dec. 15 when it travels to St. Paul Humboldt (2-3).

Tri-Metro Conference action begins three days later on Dec. 18 with a trip to Columbia Heights. Conference play will present a new set of challenges, including much tougher competition.

Among the Tri-Metro teams that St. Anthony must deal with this season are DeLaSalle and Fridley, which are ranked first and fourth, respectively, in Class AAA. St. Croix Lutheran and St. Agnes are a combined 11-2 heading into this week's play.

St. Anthony closes out its pre-Christmas schedule with a game at South St. Paul on Dec. 22. Over the holiday break, the Huskies' lone contest is a home game against PACT Charter on Dec. 29.

St. Anthony girls

The Huskies girls basketball team picked up its first win of the season on Dec. 11 when it beat South St. Paul 77-40. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and improved St. Anthony's record to 1-3.

Three Huskies reached double figures in the South St. Paul win. Samantha Skwarek led all scorers with 22 points and Danielle McDonald was right behind with 21. Bonnie Zeller added 16.

St. Anthony (1-3) plays a pair of home games this week, starting on Dec. 15 when Waconia (4-1) pays a visit. The Huskies then kick off Tri-Metro Conference play with a game against Columbia Heights (2-1) on Dec. 18.

The Huskies host St. Paul Highland Park (1-2) on Dec. 22 in its only game next week. Over the holiday break, St. Anthony plays in the Roseville tournament along with Lakeville South, Apple Valley, Robbinsdale Cooper, Bloomington Jefferson and Andover.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

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