BAYTOWN TOWNSHIP — A nine-game win streak since December has the St. Croix Prep Lions boys basketball team atop the Minnesota Charter School Conference, but the big test for coach Jon Liesener’s team comes early next week when the Lions (3-0 MCSC, 12-4) begin a stretch of games against St. Paul Academy, Concordia Academy and New Life Academy.
“Those games will have a big impact,” Liesener said. “Those will let us know how ready we are for sectionals.”
The Class A Lions started their season with four losses in their first seven games to Class AA and Class AAA schools. However, Liesener notes that SCPA’s losses were by a total of 14 points.
Since SCPA’s first seven games, the Lions’ run of victories included wins over five Class AA and AAA teams, a 31-point average margin of victory and winning the Kreischer holiday championship over Mounds Park Academy, Liesener said.
The coach attributes the Lions’ run to a balanced offense and defense.
“We have a balanced attack with five players averaging between 7 and 14 points per game,” he said. “Ultimately, our defense and focus on the little things will determine our overall success.”
With 10 regular season games left before section play, Liesener said the Lions goal is winning the conference. That goal might have received a boost with the decision last week by Prairie Seeds Academy officials to suspend that school’s boys’ basketball team for the rest of the season due to academic reasons.
Liesener would not comment on Prairie Seeds’ decision, but he said SCPA picked up teams to replace Prairie Seeds on the schedule.
“We’re hoping we can win the conference, finish out the conference season undefeated,” he said. “We’re hoping to continue to win.”
Liesener admits that the task of maintain the Lions’ winning streak could become harder heading into February. SCPA plays SPA Saturday, then has home games Feb. 12 against Minnesota Transitions and Feb. 15 against FAIR.
“I think we’re playing well. Defensively we’re sound,” Liesener said. “The guys are buying into their roles on the team and fulfilling their roles on the team.”
He adds, however, that how his team handles the next six weeks will determine how well the Lions finish the season.
“Our team’s mental focus and physical effort in practice the next six weeks will have a major impact on our success in the second half of the season,” Liesener said. “Our expectations and goals are set high, and we must continue to work daily to reach them.”
If that happens, Liesener’s Lions just might be on the prowl for a state tournament berth in March.