Don’t look now, but we are already in state tournament time for the winter sports seasons. The State Alpine and Nordic Ski Championships were held this week at Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik.
This weekend, dancers take center stage at Target Center for the annual High-Kick and Jazz competitions among the top programs in the state. We’re also well into the playoffs for girls hockey, where state tournament bids are at stake this weekend.READ MORE: Brooklyn Center Issues Last-Minute Curfew, 100 Protesters Arrested Friday Night
Boys and girls basketball teams are also in the gauntlet of their conference seasons, where every game means something as we inch closer to the postseason. Here are this weekend’s top events and match-ups.
State Dance Championships (Friday-Saturday, Target Center)
Some of the more intense competition across state tournament platforms takes place Friday and Saturday at Target Center, which is the host for the State Dance Competition. The Class A, AA and AAA Jazz competition is Friday, and the High-Kick competition for all three classes is Saturday.
Many of the usual top programs will be in Minneapolis this weekend, and the when you combine the field for Jazz and High-Kick programs, all six state champions from last year are back. The Jazz competition is Friday, with Duluth Marshall back to defend its Class A title from last year. Benilde-St. Margaret’s is looking for its third consecutive state title, and Maple Grove is back in Class AAA.
A total of 12 teams are competing in each class and will perform a preliminary dance. That field will then be cut in half for the finals. Judges will determine the three Jazz champions Friday night. Across the three classes, 15 of the 18 finalists are back this year.
Many of us are aware of the High-Kick competition, which is Saturday, and for all the wrong reasons. All three state champions are back from last year. It’s a group that includes Aitkin in Class A, Sartell-St. Stephen in AA and Faribault in Class AAA. The Emeralds won the AAA title amid controversy last year. The other five AAA finalists were disqualified for not lining up properly during the awards ceremony. It was in protest over accusations that Faribault had copied a routine from a program in Utah.
Moving on, Aitkin is looking for its third consecutive state championship and Sartell-St. Stephen is looking for its second straight. Across all three classes, 16 of the 18 finalists from last year are back for the high-kick competition.READ MORE: Deployment Of National Guard Makes Some Feel On Edge, Others More Safe
All teams competing in each dance will be scored by judges on categories that include execution, choreography, degree of difficulty and routine effectiveness.
Friday Girls Hockey: Minnetonka (21-3-2) vs. Eden Prairie (18-7-2)
A bid in the Class AA Girls State Hockey Tournament is on the line Friday night at Ridder Arena as No. 2-ranked Minnetonka faces No. 4-ranked Eden Prairie in the Section 2AA title game. The two teams know each other well, having met three times this season. The Skippers have beaten the Eagles all three times by scores of 2-1, 5-2 and 6-4. They’re led by Presley Norby’s 48 points in the regular season, which includes a team-best 30 goals. Katie McMillan and Kippin Keller also have 40 points on the season. The Eagles have won five of their past seven and beat Chaska/Chanhassen on Tuesday to advance. They’re led by Naomi Rogge’s 32 points in the regular season, including a team-high 17 goals.
Friday Girls Hockey: Maple Grove (19-5-2) vs. Centennial (18-7-2)
There’s a state tournament bid at stake Friday night at Roseville Ice Arena as No. 5-ranked Maple Grove faces No. 10-ranked Centennial in the Section 5AA title game. In their only meeting during the regular season, back in November, the Crimson came away with a 3-2 victory in overtime. Maple Grove is led by Taylor Wente’s 48 points during the regular season, including a team-high 22 goals. Centennial has a pair of one-goal victories in the playoffs that have sent them to Friday’s section title game. The Cougars are led by a pair of stars in Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser. Hughes leads the team with 68 points, including 43 goals. Linser has 62 points, including 25 goals.
Friday Boys Basketball: St. Louis Park (17-6) at Robbinsdale Cooper (15-5)
It should be a great battle between two of the top teams in the Metro West Conference for boys basketball as Robbinsdale Cooper hosts St. Louis Park Friday night. Both teams are tied for second in league play at 8-3 and looking to keep pace with conference leader Chaska. The Orioles score about 76 points per game and have won four of their past five games. They have three players who average double figures in scoring, led by Ray Whitlock’s 13.1 points per game. The Hawks got out of a four-game losing streak in January and have won four straight since. They score about 70 points per game and are led by Melvin Newbern’s 18.5 points per game. It should be a great one between conference rivals.MORE NEWS: Pedestrian Struck And Killed In Hopkins, Driver Taken Into Custody
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and David McCoy will have all the action covered.