Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It looks to be an exciting week at the Target Center as the top girls basketball players and teams converge on downtown Minneapolis for the annual state tournament.
This year’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory, and familiar names are back. All four of last year’s state champions are back to defend their titles. That list includes Hopkins (4A), DeLaSalle (3A), Providence Academy (2A) and Maranatha Christian Academy (A).
Many of the state’s top players will also be in action. That list includes Nia Coffey of Hopkins, Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, Rebekah Dahlman of Braham, Tyseanna Johnson from DeLaSalle, Jade Martin from Bloomington Kennedy and Jessica January of Richfield.
Top Matchup: St. Michael-Albertville (24-5) vs. Hopkins (28-1)
One of the most intriguing matchups of the Class 4A quarterfinals is right away at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Target Center. Defending champion Hopkins takes on St. Michael-Albertville. The Royals are led by Nia Coffey, one of the best players in the metro, who averaged 18 points per game during the regular season. St. Michael-Albertville is led by Natalie Van Wyhe’s 10.5 points per game and Erin Autio’s 10.3 points per game. The Knights will have to have their best game of the season to knock off Hopkins.
In the other quarterfinals, No. 2 Bloomington Kennedy faces Anoka, No. 3 Eastview faces Rochester Mayo and No. 4 Osseo gets No. 5 St. Paul Central. I expect all the games to be competitive, but for the highest seeds to advance. It’s shaping up for Kennedy to face Hopkins in the championship, which would be a fantastic match-up.
Top Matchup: Red Wing (21-7) vs. New Prague (22-6)
There are great matchups ahead in the Class AAA bracket, but the most competitive looks to be between Missota Conference rivals Red Wing and New Prague. Both teams like to get up and down the floor and score in bunches. The Wingers are led by Tesha Buck (23.7 points per game) and Macy Kelly (14.7 points per game). New Prague is paced by Annie Dittberner (15.9 points per game) and Lexi Ruehling (13.4 points per game).
It’s not the only conference rivalry taking place in the quarterfinals as No. 1 Richfield faces Hill-Murray in a match-up of Classic Suburban teams. No. 2 DeLaSalle faces Chisago Lakes and No. 3 Fergus Falls gets Monticello. If the seeding holds, DeLaSalle and Richfield play for the state title in a game that might make you tired just watching.
Top Matchup: New Richland-H-E-G (29-1) vs. Pelican Rapids (21-7)
The Class AA bracket features two of the most prolific scorers in state history with Rebekah Dahlman of Braham and Carlie Wagner of New Richland-H-E-G. Wagner’s Panthers face Pelican Rapids in the quarterfinals, and she can fill it up to the tune of more than 32 points per game. She’s verbally committed to play for the Gophers. Pelican Rapids is led by Mackenzie Korf’s 15.6 points per game. It’s hard to pick against New Richland-H-E-G with all their talent.
In the other quarterfinals, Providence Academy faces Pine Island, Braham gets BOLD and Minneapolis Washburn faces Park Center. If the bracket shakes out, New Richland-H-E-G would face Braham for the state title. What a match-up that would be.
Top Matchup: Maranatha Christian Academy (26-4) vs. Ada-Borup (26-3)
The Class A field is one of the deepest there is as none of the teams has more than four losses on the season. Defending champion Maranatha Christian Academy faces Ada-Borup in the quarterfinals. Maranatha has three players in double figures on the season, led by Madison Lee’s 14.5 points per game. Lexi Lee averages 14 points per game and Onye Onsemenam scores 11.7 points and grabs nearly 10 rebounds per game. Ada-Borup is led by Megan Kolness’s 17.1 points per game.
In the other quarterfinals, Upsala will face Bethlehem Academy, Minneota faces Moutain Iron-Buhl and Mankato Loyola will face Win-E-Mac. If things hold, Marantha could get Mountain Iron-Buhl in a rematch of last year’s title game.
It looks to be a great week at the Target Center with the best teams in the state taking center stage. Check out High School Sports Rally Friday night to see who will advance to Saturday’s title games.