It’s early February, which means the winter high school playoff season is just around the corner.

Less than a week, in fact. The girls hockey playoffs start next week, with more to follow before we hit March Madness. Before that happens, we have conference champions and playoff seeds to figure out.

For many athletes, a childhood dream came true this week on National Signing Day. It’s the day a high school senior can make their college choice official, putting pen to paper on a National Letter of Intent. It’s what makes all the hard work, conditioning, extra workouts and film sessions worth every second. It’s still an honor to get a free college education because you’re a talented athlete, because not everyone can.

More on that next week, but for now, this weekend is full of great prep match-ups. Here are just a few that will make Friday night busy around the Twin Cities.

Friday Girls Basketball: Hutchinson (12-5) at Orono (16-3)

The top spot in the Wright County Conference East Division is at stake Friday night as two top-10 teams meet west of the Twin Cities in what should be a fantastic girls basketball game. Orono, ranked No. 9 in Class 3A, hosts No. 3-ranked Hutchinson and is looking for a season sweep. It’s our Featured Game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.

The Spartans and Tigers met earlier this year in conference play at Hutchinson, a game Orono won 86-76. The Spartans had two stars in that victory as Madeline Loder scored 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Tori Andrew added 28 points, including 7-of-10 shooting from three-point range. The Spartans have won eight straight since a loss to Wayzata to start 2017. For the season, Andrew leads them in scoring at 20.6 points per game and Loder adds 18.

Hutchinson has won six straight since that loss to Orono. In that game, MaKenzie Rensch led the Tigers with 31 points. For the season, Tori Wortz leads Hutchinson at 15.6 points per game and Rensch adds 10.8 points. The Tigers were a state tournament team last year before falling in the quarterfinals.

It should be a great game between two top-10 teams with the top spot in the league in on the line. Orono can control its conference destiny with a victory.

Friday Boys Basketball: Tartan (17-1) at Edina (10-6)

It’s unusual to have a non-conference basketball game in early February, but that’s the case Friday night in the west Twin Cities metro as Edina hosts Tartan, the No. 10-ranked team in Class 4A. The Hornets snapped a four-game losing streak in a big way on Tuesday, knocking off previously undefeated Wayzata. Edina features one of the top scorers in the state as Walt McGrory is averaging more than 25 points per game. He’s also their top rebounder at about eight per game.

Tartan is an extremely athletic group that’s quietly having a tremendous season. The Titans only loss came about two weeks ago at Mahtomedi. They’ve won seven straight since and are 17-1 on the season. They score about 75 points per game and are led by Jordan Horn’s 18.7 points per contest.

Friday Boys Basketball: Lakeville North (15-1) at Rosemount (9-8)

The No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A should get a stiff road test Friday night as Lakeville North travels to Rosemount in South Suburban Conference action. The Panthers’ only loss of the season came just before Christmas to Apple Valley. They’ve won 12 straight since and will be a state tournament contender come March. Lakeville North is led by Wisconsin-bound forward Nathan Reuvers, who is averaging better than 27 points per game. The Irish have struggled of late, winning just three of their past 10 games. Rosemount is led by Luke Loehr’s 17.7 points per game.

Friday Boys Hockey: Grand Rapids (14-4-1) at Wayzata (6-12-1)

It’s always a fun contest when traditional powers from greater Minnesota and the metro clash on the ice. That’s the case Friday as Wayzata hosts Grand Rapids. The Trojans have had a tough winter at 6-12-1 and have lost five of their past seven. They’re led by Griffin Ness’s 20 points on the season, including eight goals. The Thunderhawks are 14-4-1 and appear poised for another run to the state tournament. They’ve won four straight, and they’re led by Michael Miller’s 50 points on the season. He and Gavin Hain are tied for the team lead with 18 goals.

Extra: Friday Girls Hockey: Cretin-Derham Hall (15-7-2) at Mounds View (16-8)

Two quality east metro teams square off Friday with a league title potentially on the line in girls hockey as No. 14-ranked Mounds View hosts No. 10-ranked Cretin Derham Hall. The Raiders and Mustangs are both in contention for the Suburban East Conference title, along with Forest Lake. It’s the final regular season game for both teams, and Cretin-Derham Hall won the previous match-up 4-1. The Raiders are looking for some momentum entering the playoffs, having lost three of their last five. They’re led by Emily King’s 23 points, including a team-best 15 goals. The Mustangs have lost two straight and are led by Rachel Anderson’s 24 points, including a team-high 17 goals.

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

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