MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Conference play is just a different animal in sports, no matter what level we’re talking about.

But especially in high school, more and more conferences seem to balance out in Minnesota every year. The conference season is often a grind where a majority of the games are close and come down to who can execute better in late-game situations. It’s also very important to stay healthy through the grind of a conference season. That can often be the key to winning a title when it’s over.

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There are some great rivalries within conference play as teams get familiar with each other, and some games are definitely more fun to win than others. With that said, here’s our big match-ups this weekend both on the hard court and the hockey rink.

Friday Girls Basketball: Simley (16-4) at Richfield (15-3)

It should be a great battle between two top-10 teams in Richfield Friday night as No. 3-ranked in 3A Richfield hosts No. 10-ranked Simley in Classic Suburban Conference play. The game went down to the wire the first time these two teams met this season, and Friday’s winner takes control of the conference title race. It’s also our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.

Both teams enter the contest 7-1 in conference play with five games left after Friday’s game. When the two teams met back on Dec. 21, Simley escaped with a 51-49 home victory. Richfield has won 10 straight games since losing to Bloomington Kennedy, one of the top teams in the state, in a Christmas tournament. Simley has won 12 straight since suffering its only conference loss of the season to Tartan on Dec. 18.

Jessica January, one of the top players in the metro, leads Richfield in scoring at nearly 21 points per game. Sierra Ford-Washington adds about 12 points per game in a high-octane offensive approach. Richfield likes to press and create easy opportunities out of it. Richfield outscores its opponents by about a 61-45 average so far this season.

Simley is led by the duo of Abby Kain and Kyle Brown, who each average double-doubles on the season. Kain averages 16.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, while Brown scores 12.4 points and gets 12.8 rebounds per game. They’re outscoring opponents on average by about 16 points.

The Classic Suburban Conference race might be at stake with this game, and it should be a great one between two skilled teams.

Friday Boys Basketball: Roseville (15-3) at Mounds View (10-8)

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Roseville is looking to keep its lead in the Suburban East Conference as it travels to Mounds View Friday night for a conference clash. The Raiders, who have three players that average double figures in scoring, have a one-game lead over Woodbury with a 9-1 conference mark. They’re led by Logan Brown’s 13.9 points per game. Mounds View, which is always tough at home, has had an up and down season and is looking for its third win in four games. The Mustangs also have three players who score in double figures, led by Tim Hanson’s 15.3 points per game.

Friday Boys Hockey: Breck (15-3-1) at Thief River Falls (13-6)

Thief River Falls is on a roll after a rough start to the season, but they’ll have one of their toughest tests of the season Friday night as it hosts No. 2-ranked Breck in non-conference action. Thief River Falls has won 11 straight games since losing six of eight to start the season. Logan Engelstad’s 21 goals have carried the Prowlers this season. Breck enters the contest unbeaten in 11 of its last 12 games. The Mustangs are led by Matt Colford’s 53 points, including 24 goals.

Saturday Girls Hockey: Hill-Murray (15-5-3) at Edina (13-7-4)

The playoffs are just around the corner in girls hockey, and there isn’t a better way to get ready than with a battle of two top teams. Edina, ranked No. 5 in 2A, hosts No. 6-ranked Hill-Murray Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale for both teams. The Hornets, led by Taylor Williamson’s 24 goals, are looking for their third win in four games. The Pioneers, led by Sarah Bobrowski’s 17 goals, have won seven of their last eight games.

Other Key Match-Ups

Totino-Grace (14-3-1) hosts Hermantown (14-4-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis. The Eagles are ranked No. 3 in Class A, while the Hawks are ranked No. 6. The Hawks are looking for their fourth straight win, while Totino-Grace just had a seven game win streak snapped.

One of the better wrestling matches of the year takes place Saturday as No. 1-ranked St. Michael-Albertville faces No. 3-ranked Prior Lake. On paper, it’s a match the Knights should win. The Lakers have four wrestlers out of 14 weight classes ranked. St. Michael-Albertville has 12 of 14 weight classes ranked.

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Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.