You’ve got to love February if you’re a Minnesota high school sports fan.
Conference seasons are in the stretch run, and the race for league titles is on. There’s not a night you can take off when you face a league opponent. Teams know each other’s personnel and tendencies, and it comes down to execution when there just aren’t a lot of secrets.
It’s even better when teams face off that are highly-ranked. Earlier this week, No. 1-ranked Champlin Park beat No. 2-ranked Maple Grove in boys basketball in a game that featured several Division I recruits. Tuesday, Apple Valley held off Lakeville North in a battle of No. 5 versus No. 3.
This weekend, there are great basketball match-ups all over the Twin Cities in both boys and girls basketball as teams try to position themselves for the playoffs. Here are four of them.
Friday Girls Basketball: Elk River (21-0) at Minnetonka (10-9)
One of the top teams in the Twin Cities puts its unbeaten season on the line with a road test Friday night as Elk River travels to Minnetonka in non-conference action. The Elks are ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, behind only Hopkins. It’s our Featured Game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
Elk River scores about 67 points per game, and the team is led by Gabi Haack’s 26.6 per contest. She leads four scorers who average double figures. It’s a group that also includes Ava Kramer (12.5), Kelsie Cox (10.1) and Sidney Wentland (10.9). The Elks have scored at least 68 points in each of their last eight games, and they’ve been above 70 in five of those. They put up 91 at Spring Lake Park on Monday.
The Skippers enter the contest 10-9 and are looking to snap a five-game losing streak. That ended a previous nine-game win streak for Minnetonka. Three of the Skippers’ last five losses have come by a combined 14 points. The Skippers score about 62.5 points per game. They’re led by Megan Walker’s 16.7 points per game. Katey Bratland adds about 12.7 points and Kayla Mershon scores 12.5.
It should be a great battle between a team looking to stay unbeaten and another looking to build some momentum in the closing stretch of the regular season.
Friday Boys Basketball: New Prague (17-2) at Orono (14-4)
The top spot in the East Division of the Wright County Conference is on the line between a pair of top-10 teams Friday night as Orono hosts New Prague. The Spartans are ranked No. 5 in Class 3A, while the Trojans are No. 8 in Class 4A.
New Prague has won four straight games since a 51-49 loss to Prior Lake, and three of those four wins have come by more than 20 points. The Trojans are led by Zach Hanson’s 18 points per game. Jared Milinkovich scores about 11 points per game, and his brother, Jacobs, scores about 10.
Orono has won three of its past four games and should be fired up with a rival coming into a packed gym. The Spartans are led by Max Bjorklund’s 18 points per game, and Jarvis Thomas scores about 14 per contest.
It’s always makes for a great environment when ranked teams square off with conference implications at stake.
Friday Boys Basketball: Apple Valley (17-2) at Rosemount (10-9)
One of the best teams in the state will head to a hostile environment Friday night looking to extend its lead in the South Suburban Conference. No. 5-ranked Apple Valley heads to Rosemount to take on the Irish. The Eagles have won 11 straight since a loss to Maple Grove at the Granite City Classic, and they just knocked off Lakeville North on Tuesday. They’re led by guard Tre Jones, who scores more than 21 points per game and is being sought by every college program in the country, including the Gophers.
Rosemount got off to a 6-0 start, but has been struggling since. The Irish have lost three of their past five games and lack a signature win this year. Upsetting Apple Valley would be just that. Rosemount is led by Luke Loehr and Alec Loehr, who combine for nearly 32 points per game.
Saturday Boys Basketball: Cretin-Derham Hall (13-5) at DeLaSalle (15-2)
Two of the top teams in the state in boys basketball meet Saturday night in Minneapolis as DeLaSalle, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, hosts Cretin-Derham Hall, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A. It’s a match-up featuring Division I recruits on both sides. The Islanders are 15-2 on the year and have won 10 straight. They’re led by Goanar Mar’s 23 points per game, and Gabe Kalscheur adds about 17 per contest. The Raiders had won 10 straight before falling at East Ridge, but bounced back last Friday with a win over Mounds View. Daniel Oturu, a Gophers commit, leads four scorers in double figures at 19 points per game. He also gets nearly 17 rebounds per contest. It should be a great game with plenty of athleticism on both ends of the floor.
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.