By Jeff Wald

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’re now in the home stretch of the conference seasons around the state in prep basketball and prep hockey.

It means that every night is a grind, every win is big and every slip counts as we get closer to the section playoffs. Now the push begins for teams that have a chance to win conference titles and earn high seeds to get home games for the playoffs.

It’s also that time when you look for the top players around the state to take their teams to the next level.

There are plenty of big games Friday night around the metro, and we chose four to top our list.

Boys Basketball: Minneapolis Washburn (12-2) at Eden Prairie (13-2)

In a rare late January non-conference match-up Friday night, No. 5-ranked Eden Prairie hosts Washburn, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 3A. The Eagles are 13-2, with their only two losses coming to Lakeville North and Benilde-St. Margaret’s. It’s also our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.

Eden Prairie is led by Andre Wallace (15.9 points per game) and Sander Mohn (14.3 points per game).

Washburn has won five of its past seven games and is led by Charles Smith, who averages 13.9 points per game. The Millers feature a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double figures.

I expect Washburn to keep it interesting, but the Eagles will have the edge at home.

Boys Hockey: Moorhead (14-3) at Benilde-St. Margaret’s (12-4)

In another rare non-conference match-up in late January, two state powers will face off Friday night in St. Louis Park as No. 7-ranked Moorhead faces No. 6-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Sticking with tradition, the Spuds feature a balanced attack led by Tony Uglem’s 23 points and 17 goals. Five other players also have at least 16 points. The Red Knights are loaded with talent as they have four players with at least 37 points. They’re led by Grant Besse’s 49 points and T.J. Moore’s 23 goals.

Girls Basketball: Eden Prairie (13-2) at Edina (16-1)

Two top-five teams face off in girls basketball Friday night in a Lake Conference showdown as No. 4-ranked Edina hosts No. 3-ranked Eden Prairie. The Hornets’ only loss of the season just came to No. 1-ranked Hopkins this week. They’re led by Katybeth Biewen’s 17.4 points per game. M.C. McGrory also scores more than 17 points per game. Eden Prairie is led by Shayne Mullaney, who averages more than 19 points per game. Jackie Johnson also scores about 18 points per game for the Eagles. It should be a great game that goes down to the finish, but I’ll give Edina the edge at home.

Girls Hockey: South St. Paul (16-5) at Hill-Murray (19-2)

It’s not very often that there’s two highly-ranked teams in the Classic Suburban Conference, but that’s exactly the case this year in girls hockey as Hill-Murray hosts South St. Paul Friday night. The Pioneers are ranked No. 3 in 2A, and the Packers are No. 3 in Class A. They each enter the contest on a seven game win streak, and Hill-Murray has a two-game lead in the conference race. The Pioneers are led by Hannah Brandt’s 68 points and 40 goals. Emily Reibert leads the Packers with 41 points, and Lauren Wilcox leads a balanced attack with 17 goals.

Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.


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