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Top games: Hopkins and East Ridge face off in top-10 Saturday night showcase

By Brendan O'Brien, SportsEngine, 12/12/22, 10:45AM CST


Dec. 17: The Royals are in the beginning of their title defense quest, while the Raptors hope to make the state tournament this season.

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.

Hopkins vs. East Ridge

7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17

This weekend matchup features two top-10 teams in Class 4A who are looking to accomplish different goals: one is looking to defend a state championship, while the other is hoping to reach the tournament in mid-March.

Hopkins (5-0) has started off its Class 4A title defense well, averaging 70 points per game while holding every opponent to 65 points or less this season. Senior standout guard/forward Taylor Woodson has only played in the season opener, but the Royals are not without other talent on the roster. Fellow senior forward Sunaja Agara (19 points per game) and junior guard Liv McGill (13.4 ppg) have led Hopkins against top-tier competition. 

McGill scored a game-high 29 points in a 77-65 win against Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Dec. 2, while Agara recorded a game-high 28 points a day later in a 69-49 victory over Maple Grove.

East Ridge (5-1) has been knocking on the door of the state tournament for three seasons now. The Raptors have fallen to Stillwater in the Class 4A, Section 4 final two consecutive seasons and lost to eventual section champion White Bear Lake in the tournament semifinal last year.

East Ridge is led by Emily Christenson (16.8 ppg), one of five seniors on the roster. Christenson opened the season with a 32-point performance in a dominant 74-33 win over Totino-Grace on Nov. 25, and the No. 7-ranked Raptors might need a similar performance from her if they are to upset the No. 1 team in Class 4A.

St. Michael-Albertville vs. Chaska

7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16

Different styles of play will be tested in this southwest metro clash, with some of the state's best players battling it out to secure a signature non-conference win. 

Coming off a Class 4A state runner-up finish last season, St. Michael-Albertville (3-0) has a top-tier offense, averaging 76 points per game. A key cog in the Knights’ offense is Miss Minnesota candidate Tessa Johnson. The senior guard is averaging 23.3 points per game and dropped 28 points in the season opening 71-34 victory over Rogers Nov. 29.

St. Michael-Albertville also has done well at starting off strong and sealing the deal with wins, as the team has led at halftime in each of their three victories in this early season.

Going on the road to face Chaska (4-0) on a Friday night could arguably be the biggest test for the No. 2-4A Knights thus far. The No. 4-4A Hawks have played strong defense in the first two weeks of the season, allowing less than 60 points in three of four games.

Chaska also has its own Miss Minnesota candidate in senior guard Kennedy Sanders (20 ppg). Along with Sanders, Anna Lenzen (13.2 ppg) and Ashley Schuelke (11.5 ppg) are other seniors who have experience from the Hawks' 2020-21 state championship run.

This matchup against St. Michael-Albertville is sandwiched in between other tough opponents, as Chaska plays at Wayzata Dec. 13 and hosts Roseville Dec. 20.

Holy Angels vs. Benilde-St. Margaret's

1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17

When tournament time hits, both these teams cannot seem to avoid each other. Holy Angels (4-0) and Benilde-St. Margaret’s (2-2) have met in the last three Class 3A, Section 6 tournaments, and this lone game between the two in the regular season could be a preview of what is to come this March.

Holy Angels has started off the season undefeated thanks in large part to a balanced offensive attack. The Stars have four players including junior guard Kiera O’Rourke, who's averaging between 10 and 11 points per game this season.

Only four games into the season, Holy Angels has also won in multiple ways, dominating Hutchinson and Burnsville, while squeezing out tight victories over Grand Rapids and Shakopee. Being tested in close games could benefit the Stars in this matchup against the Red Knights.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s finally got over the hump of knocking off Holy Angels last season, beating the Stars 67-60 in the Class 3A, Section 6 championship to advance to the state tournament. Prior to that game, the Red Knights had lost four consecutive matchups against the Stars.

The Red Knights have been challenged early this year, falling to two top teams in Class 4A in Hopkins and Eden Prairie, but also have talented players in sophomore Kendall McGee and junior Olivia Olson who are averaging 22.2 and 19.8 points per game, respectively.

Other games to keep an eye on

Roseville vs. Eden Prairie, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 14: Coming off a Class 4A state tournament appearance, Roseville (2-2) is looking to prove the team can make another run. A meeting with the No. 3 team on the road will be a test, as Eden Prairie (4-0) has five solid players including senior point guard Molly Lenz (15.2 ppg). The Eagles offense averages 76 points per game, while the Raiders’ defense has allowed only 45.5 points per game.

Elk River vs. Maple Grove, 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15: In a packed Northwest Suburban Conference, Thursday night’s matchup will be the only time Elk River (4-1) and Maple Grove (3-2) meet in the regular season. The Elks and Crimson both finished in the top four of the conference standings a season ago. Maple Grove was ranked No. 6 in the Class 4A rankings to start the season but dropped to No. 9 after losses to Hopkins and Wayzata to start the year. Led by senior guard Jordan Langbehn (15.5 ppg), Elk River has held opponents to less than 45 points in each of their three wins.

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