Photo by SportsEngine
We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.
The west metro continues to be the story of Class 4A as a group of schools that are within just miles of each other sit atop the state rankings. That includes Minnetonka and Chaska. They will meet for the first time this season but on a neutral floor (at St. Michael-Albertville High School).
This is the first time these two schools have met since last season's Class 4A, Section 2 final in which the Hawks downed the Skippers 61-43. The victory helped propel Chaska to the Class 4A state crown.
So far this season, both of these teams appear to be destined for more postseason success. The Hawks are ranked No. 2 in the Minnesota Basketball News' Jan. 20 Class 4A rankings while the Skippers are at No. 3.
Chaska (13-1, 7-0) had its lone loss of the season come in its second game when the Hawks lost to No. 1-4A Hopkins. Since then, the Hawks have rattled off 12 wins in a row.
That success has unsurprisingly been sparked by the play of senior forward Mallory Heyer and junior guard Kennedy Sanders. Both players starred in the 2021 postseason and are continuing to have success.
Heyer, a Minnesota commit, is averaging more than 20 points per game. Sanders, a Colorado commit, has been a leader in the back court as she averages 19.9 points per game.
Minnetonka (13-1, 2-0) has also just stubbed its proverbial toe just once. This one, however, was more surprising as the Skippers fell to No. 3-2A Holy Family Catholic on Jan. 17.
The Skippers also have two dynamic scorers in senior guard Kiani Lockett and freshman forward Aaliyah Crump. Lockett, a senior guard headed to Creighton next season, averages 17.3 points per game while Crump has proven to be effective with 14.1 points per game.
As these two teams meet, they appear to be in different parts of their schedule. Many of the Hawks' toughest games are now behind them as they look to finish off the regular season before what looks to be a grind of a section tournament.
Minnetonka, meanwhile, has the meat of its schedule coming up. The Skippers have yet to play Hopkins, No. 4-4A Eden Prairie or No. 7-4A Wayzata. They are set to play each of these teams twice before the postseason begins.
These Class 2A, Section 7 and Lake Superior Conference rivals have each taken their lumps so far this season. They will meet for the first time on Jan. 25 with each team having a chance to continue to right its own ship.
Proctor (10-5, 2-2) came out of the gate swinging with a 7-0 start to the season. Since then, the Rails have hit the skids as they have gone 3-5 in their past eight games.
However, momentum has turned around recently with wins in each of their past two games. Proctor has relied upon some experience to have success this season. Going up against Princeton on Dec. 29, senior Payton Rodberg led the way with 23 points. Junior Hope Carlson wasn't far behind with 19 points.
Duluth Marshall (7-8, 1-2) has struggled at times in its first season without Gianna Kneepkens, one of the state's top scorers and one of the best Hilltoppers to ever play.
The plan to replace Kneepkens appears to be going quite young in the back court. Freshman guard Regan Juenemann leads Duluth Marshall as she averages 24.9 points per game and has scored at least 11 points in every game this season.
Beside Juenemann is an even younger guard — eighth-grader Ava Meierotto. She is averaging 10.8 points per game.
As we approach the end of the regular season, the race for the Tomahawk Conference championship appears to be down to four schools. Two of them, Sleepy Eye and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, sit two games behind the conference lead but look to make a move. That move starts when these two schools meet on Jan. 25.
Sleepy Eye (14-2, 7-2) sits in third place. Both of the No. 9-1A Indians' losses came from conference co-leaders Sleepy Eye-St. Mary's and Minnesota Valley Christian.
This is the first time this season Sleepy Eye and the Mustangs will face off. The two schools will meet for a second time at the end of the regular season on Feb. 22.
Besides these two games, the Indians will also get another crack to avenge their two losses. If they manage to accomplish that, it will likely have a lot to do with Sleepy Eye senior Kadence Hesse, who recently scored her 1,000th career point.
Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart (10-4, 6-2) is right behind Sleepy Eye while playing an equally tough schedule. The Mustangs have a tough conference and added difficult non-conference opponents like No. 2-1A Mayer Lutheran.
Much like the Indians, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart has a senior who can dominate the game offensively. Madalynn Wulkan has been consistent all season for the Mustangs, averaging 20.1 points per game to lead her team.
Mankato East vs. Austin, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 28. The Big 9 Conference once again this year has some of Class 3A's top-ranked teams, including these two. They will meet with first place in the conference on the line.
Lakeville North vs. Rosemount, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25. The South Suburban Conference has shown its depth this season as five teams are within one game of first place. That includes these two teams, and Rosemount is just a half-game behind Shakopee for first place.
The MN Girls' Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.