By Jeff Wald

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the middle of February, which means the crunch time of the winter high school sports season is upon us.

It’s a great time of year regardless of the sport you follow. State tournaments are upon us with the alpine and Nordic ski meets this week at Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik. Girls hockey teams will be punching state tournament tickets over the next several days, and wrestling team sections start as early as this weekend.

Conference titles are on the line with each big game, and many match-ups come now come with playoff implications. You’ve got to love this time of year if prep sports is your bread and butter. There are plenty of big match-ups this weekend, so here’s our big four.

Friday Boys Basketball: Maranatha Christian Academy (20-1) at Heritage Christian Academy (19-3)

It’s not very often in small school basketball that two top teams meet up in conference play, but that’s the case Friday night as Class A powers Heritage Christian Academy and Maranatha Christian Academy meet in Maple Grove. Maranatha is the top ranked team in Class A, while Heritage is ranked No. 7. It’s our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.

Maranatha leads the Minnesota Christian Athletic Conference at 12-0, and Heritage is two games behind at 10-2 and needs a win to stay alive in the conference race. The two teams have already met this year, with Maranatha running away to a 78-54 victory.

Heritage has a balanced scoring attack, led by Zach Weld’s 19 points per game this season. Christian Pieper (1.7), Drew Kleinschmidt (13) and Brad Basco (13.5) also all score in double figures. Heritage got off to a 12-0 start before losing to Maranatha, then won six in a row after that before losing two of their past three games.

Maranatha, which controls its own destiny in the conference race, has five players who average double figures in scoring. Isaiah Hanson leads the way at 17 points per game. Garrison Gillard adds about 15, Grantham Gillard scores about 12, Jeremiah Hanson added 11.8 and Josh Goldschmidt scores 10 points per game.

Maranatha’s only loss of the season came to Duluth East back on Jan. 19. They’ve won seven straight since. Expect this one to be much closer than the first match-up with Heritage playing on its home court.

Friday Girls Hockey
Minnetonka (23-4) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (25-2)
(Section 6AA Championship)

It doesn’t get much better than when two top teams meet for a chance to play in the state tournament. That’s the match-up Friday night as No. 1 Minnetonka faces No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Parade Ice Garden with a trip to the girls state hockey tournament on the line. Earlier this season, the Skippers beat the Red Knights 2-1 in a tournament and lost to them 3-0 in mid-December. Laura Bowman leads Minnetonka with 26 goals, and Amy Peterson’s 48 points lead the squad. Benilde is led by Kelly Pannek’s 69 points and Brittany Wheeler’s 28 goals.

Friday Girls Basketball: Bloomington Kennedy (21-2) at Eastview (22-1)

The South Suburban Conference title is on the line Friday night as two of the top teams in Minnesota meet in girls basketball. No. 1-ranked Bloomington Kennedy travels to No. 3-ranked Eastview, with the Lightning needing a win to pull even in conference play with two games left. When the two teams met on Jan. 2, Kennedy claimed a 57-49 victory. The Eagles are paced by Jade Martin’s 17.9 points per game. The Lightning is led by Madison Guebert, who averages 21.3 points per game.

Saturday Boys Hockey: Blaine (18-4-1) at Minnetonka (17-5-1)

There’s a great non-conference boys hockey match-up Saturday night in the west metro as No. 4-ranked Minnetonka hosts No. 7-ranked Blaine. The Skippers have won eight of their past nine games, while the Bengals have won 12 straight games as both teams get ready to head into the section playoffs. Blaine is led by Tyler Cline’s 24 goals and 45 points. Minnetonka is led by Max Coatta’s 28 goals and 51 points.

Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally Friday night as Mike Max and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.


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