Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

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Tonka Hoops Is BACK

Nothing exudes energy quite like the passion of thousands of fans celebrating in unison. But to a losing player, a victorious cheer hits worse than nails on a chalkboard. It stings the ears and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s exactly what the Minnetonka Skippers Boys Basketball team experienced last year, walking off the floor of the Target Center after a heartbreaking 72-68 loss to Eastview in the first round of the State Tournament. Tonka’s seniors had to exit knowing they’d never get another chance at a State Championship, and the underclassmen were left knowing it would get a whole lot tougher to make it back without those seniors in 2024. But through all that uncertainty, the Skippers emerged better than ever, with a real chance at some hardware this March.

Rolling into the section tournament, Coach Bryce Tesdahl and the Skippers boast a 21-6 record, the best regular season mark Tesdahl has ever had at Tonka. As is normally the case with very successful teams, the Skippers are old, starting 4 seniors and playing 3 other juniors, most of whom have played plenty of Varsity minutes even before this season. Having played one of the toughest schedules of any team in the state of Minnesota, the Skippers’ elite record is proof of the value of experience. Senior guard Andy Stefonowicz said, “When games get close, guys are gonna look to the Seniors for leadership. We have to be positive
and take charge”.

It certainly helps these experienced players that as far as play style goes, this is another year of typical Minnetonka basketball. In a given game, the Skippers generally only play 7 guys, all of whom are under 6’5. Being so small and thin is generally seen as a bad thing, but Minnetonka has run this system for a while now and it certainly works. Stefonowicz said, “It allows us to play quick and scrappy. We always have guys who can pressure the ball and who can score, which is huge for us.” The Tonka game plan revolves around everyone on the court being able to exploit some mismatch in the opposition, and against big, bulky opponents, it makes the Skippers a nightmare to defend.

All year, Tonka has been able to put up tons of points, but the key to a deep playoff run this year will be defense, which has been inconsistent at times during the regular season. Stefonowicz echoed that idea, saying “We know we have the talent, but we have to defend consistently, not just for a half or for 10 minutes.”

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The Skippers defense has been a point of emphasis all year, especially in the first half of games, but they always seem to be able to turn it on in crunch time when games need to be won. Among Tonka’s treasure trove of come-back wins is the erasure of a 26-point deficit at Hopkins, but all year, they have been a team you just can’t ever count out due to their experience and trust in one another. Stefonowicz said, “We know we have the talent to win close games, and we just try to stay in it one play at a time. We all
really trust one another to make the right play, which helps us always stay poised.”

Despite their unique energy and play style, the Skippers have proven themselves to be among the top teams in the state all season. With the motivation of losing in such a brutal way last year, the Skippers have their sights set on another invitation to the state tourney, and to capitalize this time around. Stefonowicz said, “This year, we don’t only want to get to the Target Center. We want to win there and keep winning.” Does this Skippers senior class have one more shining moment in them?

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