Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s getting to be that busy time of the winter in high school sports. Playoff brackets have been set in girls hockey, with other sports not behind.
On the hard court, rivals are facing off on a nightly basis as teams are going through the second round of conference play. Games are getting more important every night, and some teams have their eye on a state tournament while others are hoping to make some noise in the playoffs.
Regardless of the scenario, there are great match-ups every week on the prep sports scene. We can only choose four games to preview out of a slew of weekend match-ups, so here they are.
Friday Boys Basketball: Hopkins (16-2) at Minnetonka (16-3)
The top spot in the Lake Conference is on the line Friday night as a pair of top-five teams in the state square off in the west metro. No. 3-ranked Hopkins travels to No. 5-ranked Minnetonka in boys basketball, and it’s our featured match-up for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
In an odd twist for mid-February, these two teams haven’t faced each other yet this season. Hopkins comes in on a 12-game winning streak since losing to Apple Valley in mid-December. Minnetonka has won 14 of its last 16, but is a week removed from a loss to Edina in conference play.
It should be a high-scoring contest as both teams like to get out in transition and play at a high-tempo. The Royals have three players who score in double figures, led by Jake Wright’s 17.2 points per game. Jamal Davis and Kamali Chambers both score about 12 points per game. Coach Ken Novak Jr. is also one of the most successful in state history with more than 700 career wins.
Minnetonka is led by Riley Dearring, a Division I recruit, who averages 18.6 points per game. He’s one of four who score in double figures along with Andrew Grosz (12.4), Mike Fernando (10.4) and Malcolm Moore (10.2). The Skippers, led by successful coach Tom Dasovich, will be looking to hand Hopkins its first conference loss. But the Royals can take control of the conference title race with a victory.
The bottom line is both these teams can score with ease and play up-tempo, in-your-face basketball. Fans can expect a close game that may come down to who has the ball last.
Saturday Girls Basketball: Goodhue (18-4) at NR-H-E-G (19-1)
There’s a fantastic small town girls basketball match-up Saturday afternoon in southern Minnesota as New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva hosts Goodhue in non-conference action. The Wildcats, ranked No. 5 in Class 1A, had won 12 straight games at one point but have been up and down lately. The Panthers are ranked No. 2 in Class AA and feature one of the best players in the state for 2014 in Carly Wagner. She averages more than 32 points per game. It’s a great late-season battle between two top teams in different classes.
Saturday Boys Hockey: Holy Angels (11-9-1) at Breck (17-3-1)
Holy Angels isn’t what it used to be in boys hockey, but the Stars are still a formidable team. They’ll get a great test as they travel to Breck, the No. 2-ranked team in Class A, on Saturday. Mario Bianchi leads Holy Angels with 24 goals and 57 points. The Mustangs are led by Matt Colford’s 25 goals and 56 points. Thomas Lindstrom also has 22 goals on the season. With two teams that feature plenty of offense, this one might come down to the better goaltender. In any case, it should be a great game between two schools with traditionally strong hockey programs.
Saturday Boys Hockey: Benilde-St. Margaret’s (16-5) at Eden Prairie (10-10-1)
There will be another great non-conference battle on Saturday in boys hockey as Benilde-St. Margaret’s travels to face Eden Prairie. The Red Knights, who are led by Mr. Hockey finalist Grant Besse, have won four straight games since losing to Grand Rapids on Hockey Day Minnesota. Besse has 38 goals on the season. The Eagles will be in the second of a four-game stretch facing top-5 teams in Class AA to end the regular season. They’re led by Mason Bergh’s 17 goals.
Saturday Girls Hockey: Wayzata (14-10-1) vs. Buffalo (19-6)
(Section 6AA Playoffs: Parade Ice Garden, 2:15 p.m.)
The girls hockey playoffs are underway, and there’s a good match-up early as Wayzata will face Buffalo in the Section 6AA Playoffs on Saturday at Parade Ice Garden. The Trojans are unbeaten in three of their past four games heading into the postseason. They feature a balanced attack, led by Kaitlyn Klein’s 19 goals. Buffalo, which tied for the Mississippi Eight Conference title, is led by Katie Rooney’s 37 goals. It’s a four seed versus a five seed, which means the game is up for grabs. The winner advances to the semifinal round, and the loser is done.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.