Throughout a high school basketball season, certain games define what a team is made of more than others. Call it a litmus test, a barometer, measuring stick, or whatever you’d like. But for the ninth-ranked Osseo boys basketball squad, this past week has been one of those moments.

Not only were they tasked with hosting the fourth-ranked Minnetonka Skippers (6-2) Jan. 4, they played host to the top-ranked Park Center Pirates (7-0) Jan. 7.

Back-to-back games against two, top-four teams will surely reveal what this Orioles team is made of in early January, and they started the week with a statement 85-75 win over Minnetonka.

The first half proved to be a scoring fest, with the Orioles taking pole position going into halftime by grabbing a 48-38 lead. After intermission, Osseo kept the status quo by relying on a dominant and balanced scoring attack, in which five players scored in double-figures, led by senior center Blessed Barhayiga’s career-high 21 points.

Minnetonka, playing catch-up all half, couldn’t muster a run that would overtake Osseo’s lead and the Orioles walked off their home court with an 85-75 win to start the new year. Senior forward Lewis Cargeor added a career-high 18 points, and sophomore forward Isaiah Johnson notched his career-high also with 17 points. Senior guards Tyirece Waits and Benard Omooria each added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Then Jan. 7, the Orioles hosted arguably their toughest challenge of the season: district rival, unbeaten, and top-ranked Park Center. In front of the largest home crowd in some time at Osseo Senior High, the Pirates, led by standout senior guard and University of Minnesota commit Braeden Carrington’s game-high 26 points, beat the Orioles 64-49 to remain undefeated on the season.

Osseo jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead, with each bucket causing a thunderous roar from the packed student section, but from that point on, the Pirates found their rhythm. Defensively, the visitors put the clamps on Osseo, forcing 27 turnovers, which led to 18 Park Center points.

“You’re not going to win high-level games with 27 turnovers,” Osseo head coach Tim Theisen said.

The early eight-point lead suddenly shriveled away and it was Park Center who took a four-point lead into halftime. That is when Carrington and the Pirates’ offense came to life, exploding for 40 second-half points, which paced Park Center for a 15-point win.

“We wanted to try and contain Braeden. That was key number one,” Theisen said. “He rose to the challenge, credit him. We lost him in transition and he made shots. But we know Park Center is not a one-man show.”

Indeed, the Pirates got key contributions from senior forward Leo Torbor and senior guard Cody Pennebaker, who scored 18 and 16 points, respectively. Osseo senior guards Tyirece Waits and Benard Omooria scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, however, the Orioles’ depth took a hit in the second half, when senior forward and key contributor Lewis Cargeor went down and left the game with a leg injury.

Of the current top-10 ranked teams in the state, Osseo has faced five ranked schools, with a little more than half of the season remaining, something they did intentionally.

“We knew this was the gauntlet of our schedule,” Theisen said. “This is a tough schedule but we set it up that way to prepare us and show us our weaknesses. We have to get stronger with the ball and we have got to be able to finish around the rim.”

Copyright © 2021 at Sun Newspapers/ APG Media of East Central Minnesota. Digital dissemination of this content without prior written consent is a violation of federal law and may be subject to legal action.

Load comments