MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Teams are gearing up for championship Saturday in girls basketball this week as the state tournament got started Wednesday at the Target Center and Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
After Friday night, the field for the boys state tournaments next week will be determined and seeding will take place over the weekend. It’s the last tournament of a hectic winter season.
We do know already that one of the best teams in the state won’t be at the Target Center next week. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAA, lost 71-66 Thursday night to No. 2-ranked Minneapolis Washburn. It was just the second loss of the year for the Red Knights.
WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally will be at probably the most anticipated game of Friday night in Burnsville.
Section 3AAAA: Eastview (27-1) vs. Apple Valley (23-5)
Two of the best players in the state happen to play for rival schools in Apple Valley. They’ll battle for a trip to the Class AAAA State Tournament Friday night at Burnsville High School. Eastview beat Apple Valley twice during the regular season to claim the South Suburban Conference title. Now one of the hardest things to do is beat the same team three times in one season.
That’s what the Lightning, ranked No. 3 in the state, have to do to get to the state tournament. Eastview is led by Joey King, who is headed to Drake next year on a basketball scholarship. He’s their leading scorer and rebounder.
The No. 5-ranked Eagles are led by sophomore point guard Tyus Jones. He’s one of the top scorers in the metro and has already received scholarship offers from several major Division I schools, including Duke, Michigan State and the Gophers.
As hard as it is to beat the same team three times in a year, I can’t go against King and Eastview. It will be a battle that will come down to the wire, but Lightning will strike a third time.
Section 1AAAA: Lakeville North (27-1) vs. Owatonna (22-6)
No. 2-ranked Lakeville North faces No. 6-ranked Owatonna for the Section 1AAAA title Friday night at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. These two teams have a history in section finals, with the Huskies winning last year and falling in the state quarterfinals to state champion Hopkins. Quentin Smith is Owatonna’s top perimeter threat, while the Panthers are led by Tyler Flack and Ryan Saarela. Lakeville North had a great season in one of the top conferences in the state, and I like them to move on.
Section 3AAA: St. Thomas Academy (18-10) vs. St. Paul Johnson (19-8)
St. Thomas Academy faces St. Paul Johnson Friday night for a trip to the Class AAA State Tournament in what promises to be an entertaining game. Both teams know how to score and play at a fast pace. Thomas Sjoberg leads the Cades at more than 20 points per game. Marcus Marshall paces the Governors high flying attack. I’ll take St. Paul Johnson, which went undefeated in conference play, in a game that could very well go down to the final possession.
Section 8AA: Perham (26-2) vs. Bagley (23-6)
Perham, ranked No. 5 in Class AA, takes on Bagley Friday night at Bemidji State University for the Section 8AA title. The Yellowjackets are looking to get back to the state tournament after winning a state championship last year. Jordan Anderson and Jordan Bruhn pace Perham with a combined 36 points per game. Bagley features a balanced attack that’s hard to stop. Perham is a great story with Zach Gabbard coming back after surviving cardiac arrest last season. I’ll take the Yellowjackets to get back to the Target Center.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally Friday night after the NCAA Tournament as Mike Max and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.