Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The holidays have wrapped up and teams are back from their post-Christmas tournaments.
Within the next week, high school squads enter the grind of the conference season. Between rivalries and familiar opponents, no match-up between conference teams is easy, hence the term grind. It’s often this time of year that the playmakers emerge and give their teams the needed spark for big wins.
The run starts now for those teams who are favorites in their conferences, and by the end of January many of the races will take shape.
This weekend is chalked up full of big events that mean a lot for several teams. The Target Center is hosting a marquee basketball event featuring the state’s top two players, and the top two boys hockey teams in state meet on Saturday. It’s just part of our big four.
Boys Basketball: Target Center Hosts Timberwolves Shootout
Minnesota has a monster 2014 recruiting class in boys basketball with three players in the top 30 nationally, and they’ll all be on display Saturday at the Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center. Reid Travis and DeLaSalle will face Blue Valley Northwest High School out of Overland Park, Kan. At 11 a.m.
The four-game tournament ends with the match-up that everyone is looking forward to. No. 2-ranked Apple Valley, led by Tyus Jones, will face Robbinsdale Cooper, which is led by Rashad Vaughn. Jones is considered the top point guard in the nation in the 2014 class, and Vaughn is one of the top shooting guards in the country. Both have been offered full scholarships by the Gophers already.
Jones has been hampered of late by back spasms, but he is expected to play Saturday. Apple Valley is 6-1 on the season and Cooper is 4-3. The Timberwolves Shootout is in its 17th year and brings and often times showcases players who end up in the NBA.
As for the High School Sports Rally on WCCO-TV Friday night, we’re featuring a boys basketball game in the northwest metro between Twin Cities rivals Osseo and Maple Grove. The Orioles are ranked No. 5 in Class 4A and are led by post Ian Theisen and senior guard Bridgeport Tusler. Theisen, who hit the game-winning shot in the state championship game last year, helps lead Osseo with 14.6 points per game. Tusler averages about 13.5 points per game, and the team is led by Wheeler Bakers 15.8 points per game. Osseo is 7-2 on the season and 4-1 in the Northwest Suburban Conference.
The Crimson are 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Northwest Suburban. They are led by Brycen Wojta’s 16 points per game. Jake Weineke also averages about 12 points per game.
Friday’s match-up is at Maple Grove, and the two teams meet again in Osseo on Feb. 15.
Boys Hockey: Hill-Murray (10-1-1) at Edina (10-2)
It’s not very often that the top two teams in the state for boys hockey meet during the regular season, especially if they’re not in the same conference. That’s exactly the case Saturday as Hill-Murray travels to Braemar Ice Arena to face Edina at 7 p.m. Saturday. The No. 1-ranked Hornets enter the contest 10-2 with losses to St. Thomas Academy and Duluth East in the Schwan Cup. The No. 2-ranked Pioneers are 10-1-1 and most recently tied St. Thomas Academy. It should be a packed house at Braemar Arena to watch two great teams. Be on the lookout for hockey legend Lou Nanne if he’s in town. Nanne has two grandsons who play for Edina. The Hornets are led by Connor Hurley’s 22 points and 10 goals. The Pioneers are led by star Zach LaValle, who has seven goals on the season.
Girls Basketball: Chaska (9-3) at Red Wing (9-2)
Two of the top teams in Class 3A for girls basketball will do battle Friday night as Chaska (9-3) heads to Red Wing (8-2) in Missota Conference action at 7 p.m. Friday. Tesha Buck is the star for Red Wing, averaging more than 29 points per game and almost 10 rebounds. Macy Kelly adds about 15 points per game and about 7.5 rebounds. Ellie Thompson leads a balanced scoring attack for Chaska with 14.9 points per game. The Hawks have three others who average at least seven points per game. It should be a great contest between two top-5 teams in Class 3A within the same conference.
Wrestling: St. Michael-Albertville Wins The Clash Duals
High school wrestling may have turned a corner in Minnesota after the Christmas break. Rochester served as host to the Clash National Duals, a tournament which features the best wrestling in the entire country. It’s a tournament Apple Valley has controlled for years with its dominant program, but a new team rose to the top this year. St. Michael-Albertville, who is right up there with the Eagles to be the best program in the state, won the 32-team tournament. The Knights are still ranked second in Class 3A behind Apple Valley in the latest Guillotine ratings. In looking at individual rankings, St. Michael-Albertville is loaded with 12 wrestlers ranked out of 14 weight classes. Seven of the ranked wrestlers are No. 1 or No. 2 in their weight class. The Knights compete in the Norwood-Young America Tournament this weekend.
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.