MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you love sports, you love to watch teams and athletes when they’re at their best. There’s nothing better than watching a superb athlete take over a game and lead his or her team to victory.

That’s going to be happening a lot more frequently now that we’re wrapping January and heading into crunch time on the prep sports calendar. Conference races have taken shape in several sports and section seedings are on the line with each big win or tough loss.

Here’s a look at how some of the top teams and athletes have fared since last Thursday.

Boys Basketball: Tyus Jones Scores 35, Apple Valley Beats Prior Lake

It was a joy to watch Rashad Vaughn score like he did when he had 35 points even though he took 34 shots to do it, against Apple Valley in the Timberwolves Shootout. Jones was as consistent as a player can be in the Eagles’ 81-67 win over Prior Lake last Friday in the South Suburban Conference. Jones finished with 35 points, shooting 15-of-21 from the field. He also had seven assists. The timing was nice with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo at the game. The school is one of Jones’s final eight on his college list.

Apple Valley is 14-1 on the season and is 8-0 in conference play. The Eagles, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A behind Park Center, have a one-game lead in the South Suburban Conference over Lakeville North.

Boys Hockey: Malmquist Leads Edina Past Wayzata

Lake Conference boys hockey teams tend to beat each other up in the regular season, and it’s looking like Edina is yet again the team to beat, at least in the metro. The Hornets got two goals from Dylan Malmquist in a 5-4 win over top-ranked Wayzata. He has 13 on the season. Andy Jordahl, Ben Hull and Tyler Nanne also scored for Edina, which is 15-4 on the season and has won four of its past give games.

Boys Hockey: Hill-Murray Wins Clash With St. Thomas Academy

It’s a big deal to be a varsity hockey player at Hill-Murray, traditionally one of the best programs in the state. But when you’re an eighth grader and the head coach calls your number to come up to varsity, it would be normal to be nervous. All things considered, Joey Anderson handled it well for the Pioneers as they beat St. Thomas Academy, the No. 1-ranked team in Class A, last Thursday. Anderson, in his second career varsity game, scored the game-winning goal for Hill-Murray in a 3-1 win over the Cadets. John Dugas made 27 saves in net and would’ve had a shutout of St. Thomas academy if not for a late shut-out goal. Willie Brown and Ryan Black added goals for the Pioneers, who are ranked No. 2 in 2A. Hill-Murray took control of the Classic Suburban Conference race with the win.

Girls Basketball: Chaska Beats New Prague To Stay In Missota Race

Chaska needed a win over New Prague Friday night to keep pace with Red Wing in the Missota Conference title race. It wasn’t easy, but the Hawks survived for a win after getting a big lead early. Chaska raced out to a 16-2 lead before the Trojans made a run to cut it to 25-22 at the half. It was close the rest of the way, but the Hawks prevailed 36-34. Chaska improved to 15-4 with the win and is a game behind both Chanhassen and Red Wing in the Missota Conference. Chaska has won five of its last six games, while New Prague had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Also of note: Reid Travis scored 18 points to help lead DeLaSalle, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 3A, beat Eden Prairie, the No. 6-ranked team in Class 4A, 77-60 last Friday. Travis is truly one of the most unique athletes Minnesota has had recently in high school sports. On the basketball court, he can score inside and out and rebounds as the Islanders most dominant inside presence. On the football field, he’s an accurate passer and tough to bring down when he runs the ball.

Of the three highly-touted athletes between him, Jones and Vaughn, Travis might be the hardest to gauge what sport he would play in college. The odd part about that is he’s probably the most likely of the three to attend Minnesota.

The bottom line is if you’re a fan of basketball, take every chance you can to get out and watch any of these three play. Minnesota churns out enough talent that usually at least one player is in the top 50 or 100 every year nationally. The fact that the state has three players in the top 30 nationally for 2014 is something we won’t see again for quite some time, it just doesn’t happen all that often here. Enjoy it while you can.

It also appears the St. Michael-Albertville wrestling team is handling its status in Minnesota pretty well. The Knights are ranked No. 1 in Class 3A and No. 3 in the national high school rankings. They won the Forest Lake Duals on Saturday by beating LeSueur-Henderson 68-3, Forest Lake 51-3 and Foley 44-12. It seems as good a year as any for a team to take down Apple Valley from the top of the wrestling ranks.