North boys hoops has skill, looking for grit

Following his team’s two-point victory over Chisago Lakes on Dec. 6, North High School boys basketball coach Joe Janquart identified a few areas where his team will need to improve if it wants to get on a roll like it had last season. 

The Polars last year won 21 regular-season games, including 14 in a row, and advanced to the state tournament.

At this same time last season, Janquart probably didn’t foresee what that team would accomplish, so there’s time for this year’s Polars to develop.

“I think we have some skill,” said Janquart. “I don’t know if we have some fight. We have to find some fight.”

North found just enough fight to pull out a 68-66 win over Chisago Lakes. The Polars led by as many as eight points in the first half and looked ready to pull away but never did.

Chisago Lakes, which trailed by six at halftime, trimmed the deficit to one point early in the second half and had a handful of possessions down by only two late in the game. North was able to fend off the late charge.

“We made enough plays at the end,” said Janquart. “We were pretty fortunate tonight.”

Junior guard Bryce Phillips led the Polars with 21 points, 15 of which he scored in the first half. Senior Goodnews Kpegeol added 19 with 11 in the first half and eight in the second. Senior Michael Geving added nine thanks in part to a pair of first-half three pointers.

Kpegeol, Phillips and senior Josh Steckler bring the most experience to the team after playing key roles in last year’s success. Senior Jaquas Towns also saw some steady minutes a year ago.

As a returning state-tournament team and the co-defending Metro East Conference champion, North is likely to have a target on its back early in the season and then throughout— if it can develop like last year’s team.

“It’s a good pressure,” Janquart said. “I think our non-conference schedule is pretty good. We play some tough teams. It’s going to help us.”

North opened the season against Roseville on Dec. 1 and came away with a 63-51 victory. Kpegeol led all scorers with 21 points, Towns added 19 and Steckler also reached double figures with 10.

Putting in the work on the floor during games is something that North excelled at a year ago, and Janquart doesn’t see as much of that yet this year.

“We don’t have that yet,” said Janquart. “It’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re still looking for it.”

North followed up the win over Chisago Lakes with a game at Eagan on Dec. 8. The Wildcats outscored the Polars by 10 points in the second half to record a 68-58 victory.

Steckler led all scorers with 20 points and Kpegeol added 17 in the loss.

“Our goal isn’t now,” said Janquart. “Our goal is March. We’re going to learn now to win later. That’s the goal.”

North also faced Minnetonka last week but results were not available for this edition of the Review. 

The Polars are in action twice this week, starting with a home non-conference game against White Bear Lake on Dec. 13. 

The other game this week is on a neutral court. North faces Chaska at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 at St. Thomas Academy as part of “Metro Battle.” The second game of the night pits St. Thomas Academy against Richfield. Chaska and Richfield are both in the Metro West Conference and North and St. Thomas represent the Metro East Conference, hence the name of the event.


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


2016-17 North High School boys basketball schedule

Dec. 1 vs. Roseville   7 p.m.

Dec. 6 at Chisago Lakes   7:15 p.m.

Dec. 8 at Eagan   7 p.m.

Dec. 10 vs. Minnetonka   9:30 a.m.

Dec. 13 vs. White Bear Lake   7 p.m.

Dec. 17 vs. Chaska at St. Thomas Academy  5:30 p.m.

Dec. 21 vs. Wayzata at Hamline   7:45 p.m.

Dec. 22 vs. Cristo Rey Jesuit at Hamline   8:30 p.m.

Jan. 3 at Henry Sibley   7 p.m.

Jan. 6 vs. Simley   7 p.m.

Jan. 7 vs. Stillwater   1 p.m.

Jan. 10 at South St. Paul   7 p.m.

Jan. 17 vs. Hastings   7 p.m.

Jan. 20 vs. St. Thomas Academy   7 p.m.

Jan. 24 at Hill-Murray   7 p.m.

Jan. 27 at Tartan   8 p.m.

Jan. 31 vs. South St. Paul   7 p.m.

Feb. 3 at Mahtomedi   7 p.m.

Feb. 7 vs. Henry Sibley   7 p.m.

Feb. 11 vs. Hudson   3 p.m.

Feb. 14 at Hastings   7 p.m.

Feb. 16 at St. Thomas Academy   7 p.m.

Feb. 21 vs. Tartan   8 p.m.

Feb. 24 vs. Hill-Murray   7 p.m.

Feb. 28 at Simley   7 p.m.

Mar. 3 vs. Mahtomedi   7 p.m.


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