MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a great time of year to be a high school sports fan.
Every game is getting a little more important, every meet that much more crucial. Teams are trying to win conference championships in the home stretch, and playoff seedings are on the line.
It’s the month before “March Madness,” but that seems to come a little earlier every year. There are plenty of big match-ups around the state that we’re keeping an eye on, and here are four that stuck out to us.
Boys Basketball: Benilde-St. Margaret’s (16-1) at Spring Lake Park (16-1)
It should be a fantastic game Friday night as the two best teams in Class 3A square off in a North Suburban Conference showdown. Neither Benilde-St. Margaret’s or Spring Lake Park have lost a conference match-up yet (both are 8-0), and this game likely determines the front-runner in the home stretch of that race. It’s also our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
The Red Knights, ranked No. 1 in 3A, have won 15 straight games. Sanjay Lumpkin, a Division I recruit, leads four players who average double figures in scoring with 19.8 points per game. Isaiah Zierden, another Division I recruit, averages 19.2 points per game for Benilde.
The Panthers, ranked No. 2 in 3A, are not to be overlooked. They’ve won 12 straight games since losing to Eastview, the top team in the state. The Panthers can score in bunches, and they’re led by two players who average more than 20 points per game. At 26.2 points per game, Sean Scott is one of the top scorers in the metro. Bryce Williams also averages 20.2 points per game.
It’s the only regular season meeting between the two teams this year, and things don’t get any easier for Benilde. The Red Knights travel to No. 5-ranked DeLaSalle on Tuesday.
Neither team made the state tournament last season, but both could be favorites if they get there this year. It’ll be a high-octane, up tempo game, and I’ll take Benilde-St. Margaret’s in a close one tonight.
Boys Basketball: Hopkins (16-1) at Wayzata (16-0)
Hopkins travels to Wayzata Friday night in a battle of Lake Conference teams who are ranked in the top five in the state. The No. 2-ranked Royals have only lost to Benilde-St. Margarets, while the Trojans are a perfect 16-0 but enter their toughest stretch of the season with three ranked opponents ahead. Zach Robertson leads Wayzata at 19.3 points per game. Zach Stahl leads a Hopkins lineup that features four players who average double figures as he scores nearly 20 points per game. The Royals are battle tested, and I’ll give them the edge to hand Wayzata its first loss of the season.
Boys Hockey (Saturday): Minnetonka (17-3) at Edina (17-3)
Braemar Ice Arena should be a packed house Saturday night as No. 5-ranked Edina hosts No. 2-ranked Minnetonka in a Lake Conference showdown. The Hornets have won nine out of their past 10 games, including a 3-2 win over Minnetonka back on Jan. 19. Edina is led by Connor Hurley’s 40 points and Dylan Malmquist’s 19 goals. The Skippers are led by Vinni Lettieri’s 51 points and Max Coatta’s 21 goals. If you go to the game, look for hockey legend Lou Nanne in the crowd. He has three grandsons who will be playing: Letierri for Minnetonka and Louie and Tyler Nanne for Edina. I’ll give the Hornets the edge playing at home.
Wrestling: Albert Lea at Adrian
One of the top wrestling teams in the state will be in southwestern Minnesota Friday night as Adrian hosts a triangular. The Albert Lea Tigers are traditionally one of the powerhouses in wrestling, and this year is no exception. They’re ranked fifth in the state, and Adrian is ranked No. 6 in Class 3A. Albert Lea features six top-10 wrestlers out of 13 weight classes, and they’re strong in the lighter weights, led by top ranked Trevor Westerlund at 106 pounds. Adrian has two ranked wrestlers, but their whole team is consistently solid up and down the lineup. Nate Lynn leads the team with a No. 1 ranking at 138 pounds. I’ll give Albert Lea the edge, but it should be one of several good matches at the meet.
Tune into High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.