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Top games: Playing in outstate showcase, Sauk Centre and Pine City matchup with postseason implicaitons

By Ryan Williamson, SportsEngine, 01/31/22, 9:15AM CST


Feb. 5: The two Class 2A, Section 6 foes meet on neutral ground in a game that could impact seeding in this year's tournament.

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.

Sauk Centre vs. Pine City

11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 5

On Feb. 5, some of the state's top outstate programs will meet in a one-day showcase at Alexandria High School in the Breakdown Sports' Winter Lakes Classic. Two of those teams are Sauk Centre and Pine City. They faceoff in a battle of top teams that will likely be vying for the Class 2A, Section 6 crown later this season.

The Mainstreeters (12-5, 5-1) have consistently been a team to watch in Class 2A as they have made nine trips to the state tournament since 2010. 

Ranked No. 8 in Class 2A by Minnesota Basketball News, it appears that Sauk Centre is poised again to make a postseason run with some youth making big contributions.

This can be seen on Jan. 22 when Sauk Centre took down Foley. Up front, junior post Jenna Gapinski-Vogt put up 19 points while her follow frontcourt star, freshman Sienna Klaphake, had 12 points. Freshman point guard Cierra Kortan was the star of the show with 21 points to lead her team.

Pine City (14-3, 8-0) will meet up with its section rival for the first time since their season-ending loss to Sauk Centre on March 4, 2020. 

The Dragons lead the Great River Conference this season and are on quite the run, having not lost since Dec. 23.

That run has been fueled by a pair of scorers in Karly Jusczak and Kloey Lind. Jusczak, a sophomore forward, is leading the way scoring-wise as she averages more than 20 points per game.

Lind, a junior forward, is right behind Jusczak as she averages 14.4 points per game.

Pequot Lakes vs. Perham

2:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5

There was talk prior to this season that Pequot Lakes could be seen as a team that could make some noise in Class 2A this season. So far, the Patriots have walked the walk.

Recently jumping into the top 10 of Minnesota Basketball News' Class 2A rankings, Pequot Lakes sports a 17-1 record and a perfect 4-0 Mid-State Conference record. The team's lone loss so far came against No. 9-2A Albany.

Part of the reason for preseason hype surrounding the Patriots was their returning group. Four all-conference players returned for Pequot Lakes this season. That includes Maci Martini. The junior guard continues to be an offensive threat, even in the loss to Albany, where she scored a team-best 22 points.

Perham (12-4, 7-0) has followed a similar trajectory this season, as the Yellowjackets sit in first place in the Heart O'Lakes Conference.

Another strong 2A program, Perham has found success. This year, it's led by senior guard-forward Sydney Anderson. After averaging more than 11 points per game as a junior, Anderson continues to be a lethal scorer. She recently eclipsed the 1,000-career point mark on Jan. 25 against Frazee.

Stillwater vs. White Bear Lake

7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 3

Stillwater and White Bear Lake are in the heat of a battle for the Suburban East Conference crown. While the Bears got the first big win of this season series, the Ponies will look to extract some revenge and take control of the conference race.

These teams met for the first time on Dec. 17 when White Bear Lake eked out a 67-66 win on Stillwater's home floor.

The Ponies (14-2, 9-1) have not lost since that tough defeat to their conference rival. Stillwater, ranked No. 6 in the latest Class 4A rankings, has thrived with a high-scoring balanced attack.

Four different Ponies—Amber Scalia, Alexis Karlen, Amy Thompson and Lizzie Holder—are averaging more than 15 points per game this season. Scalia, a senior headed to the University of St. Thomas, leads the way with 21.5 points per game.

Against the Bears, Scalia and Thompson brought their normal production as Scalia went for 24 points while Thompson had 21. However, Karlen struggled with just six points while Holder had nine points.

White Bear Lake (13-6, 10-2) looks to not only sweep the season series but also jump ahead of Stillwater in Class 4A, Section 4 seeding. The Ponies have won each of the past three section crowns. 

Much like Stillwater, the Bears hit a rough patch this season where they lost three consecutive games. However, White Bear Lake has responded with a seven-game win streak. 

The Bears have some solid senior leadership from guard Lauren Eckerle and Nevaeh Hughes. Eckerle averages a team-best 15.7 points per game and went for 21 against Stillwater.

Hughes is the only other White Bear Lake player to average in double figures with 11.5 points per game. She had 17 points in the win over the Ponies.

Other games to keep an eye on

Marshall vs. Alexandria, 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5. After Sauk Centre and Pine City play one of the early tilts at the Winter Lakes Classic, Marshall and Alexandria will play the night cap. Both teams were state tournament participants last season with Marshall making it to the Class 3A final before falling to Becker.

Hayfield vs. Grand Meadow, 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb 4. The Vikings put their perfect 19-0 record to the test against their section rivals. This is the two teams first meeting since Jan. 16, 2021.

DeLaSalle vs. Hill-Murray, 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 3. Both these teams have shown this season that they are not afraid to play tough teams in their schedule. That continues when these two private schools meet in a non-conference matchup.

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The MN Girls' Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.

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