Gophers recruit Isaac Asuma didn't get to finish the season the way he had hoped for with a Class 1A championship, but his second consecutive state tournament appearance was still memorable with Cherry.
The 6-3 junior guard was named to the all-tournament team after Cherry ended its season with a fourth-place finish last week.
The highlight of Asuma's state tournament trip was playing at Williams Arena in front of his future coach Ben Johnson and the Gophers staff in a Class 1A quarterfinal victory over Border West.
"It was just an awesome experience to get more of a feel of Williams Arena on the court," Asuma said. "It's always fun to play there."
A year ago, Asuma erupted for 36 points in a state semifinal loss against Hayfield at the Barn. He didn't have the same high-scoring game this time, but Asuma was thrilled to get the win. And he's now a future Gopher after committing to Johnson in early March.
"Last year, I had a crazy stretch of scoring there and it was a lot of fun," he said. "This year I didn't get as many minutes as I wanted, but it was still a fun experience with my team to win."
Asuma finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists when he was limited to 22 minutes with foul trouble in the quarterfinals against Border West. In the semifinals, Asuma overcame early foul trouble to lead Cherry with 21 points and seven rebounds, but the Tigers fell 61-57 against eventual state champion Russell-Tyler-Ruthton at Target Center. The season ended with a loss to Spring Grove in the third-place game.
As the state's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2024, Asuma averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for a 27-6 team this season. He's now focused on improving his game and playing AAU ball this spring with D1 Minnesota.
"I want to become a better on-ball defender and shooter," Asuma said on his offseason goals. "I want to be a better all-around player and sharpen everything up."
Cherry reached its first state tournament since 1997 last year, but now the Tigers return all but one player from back-to-back state tourney teams, including Asuma's brother (freshman Noah Asuma) and cousin (eighth-grader Isaiah Asuma).
"It was really big for all of us," Asuma said about reaching state again. "We're going to be back and we're going to win it next year."
The Gophers finished 9-22 this season, but Asuma said previously he understood why Johnson's team had a tough time with consistency due to injuries and inexperience.
"I know this season hasn't had a lot of highs with the wins, but I still know they're playing a bunch of young guys," he said. "Some injuries happened they weren't expecting. They can't control the injuries, which are a big part of that. I think the direction they're heading with the young guys getting more experience is a good way to go about it."