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Top games: Maple Grove looks to avoid upset against Anoka

By Brendan O'Brien, SportsEngine, 01/23/23, 10:45AM CST


Ja. 26: The Crimson's perfect Northwest Suburban Conference record could be on the line against the surprising Tornadoes.

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.

Anoka vs. Maple Grove

7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26

Heading into the 2022-23 season, this game against Anoka (11-4) might not have been one Maple Grove (12-3) had circled on its calendar. But after the Tornadoes got off to a 9-1 start, the Crimson will have to play a strong game in order to avoid the upset.

The 2022-23 season has been quite the turnaround for Anoka. With 15 games played, Anoka has already matched its win total from a season ago and is one conference win away from matching its Northwest Suburban total from last year (6-3 thus far).

The Tornadoes have done so by playing a low-scoring style, scoring 58.2 points per game while allowing only 49.5. Despite the strong defensive effort, Anoka might need more offensive production against a Maple Grove team averaging 67.1 points per game.

Two players each averaging a double-double could be the ones who step up for Anoka in sophomore forward Madlin Freking (16.7 ppg, 11 rpg) and junior forward Lydia Lakanen (12.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg).

The Tornadoes were able to keep the score close in their only other game against a ranked opponent this season, falling 58-53 to East Ridge Nov. 26, and now they will look to play a similar game but with a different outcome against the Crimson.

Knocking off the No. 6-4A team in Maple Grove will be no easy task, as the Crimson have 28 consecutive wins against Northwest Suburban Conference opponents.

Not only has the team continued this streak, but Maple Grove has also been tested throughout the first half of the schedule, playing four games against ranked opponents beating Minnetonka, falling in tight games to Wayzata and St. Michael-Albertville and losing by 20 to Hopkins.

With that, sophomore guard Jordan Ode (19.5 ppg) and the Crimson will be ready for any challenge Anoka presents. Currently at 9-0 atop the conference, Maple Grove would move one step closer to solidifying its second consecutive Northwest Suburban conference championship with a win over Anoka, who is tied for third in the standings. The two teams will meet again in Anoka Feb. 21.

Minneapolis Roosevelt vs. Minneapolis Southwest

7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27

After finishing as the top two teams in the Minneapolis City Conference in 2021-22, Minneapolis Roosevelt (13-2) and Minneapolis Southwest (9-3) find themselves again fighting for the crown this season, as both teams are currently undefeated in conference play.

Two seasons removed from a 3-9 finish in the conference, Roosevelt has flipped the script and has been a contender in back-to-back years. With their only two losses coming to Class 4A schools, the Class 2A Teddies started 8-1 and are currently riding a five game win streak.

Junior guard Olivia Wren (18.9 ppg) leads a team that averages 57.7 points per game but allows 42.3 to opponents. The Teddies only losses in the conference stretch came at the hands of Minneapolis Southwest last season, losing 57-50 and 59-50. A win for Roosevelt would set the team up to contend for the championship the rest of the way, taking the early advantage over the Lakers.

Southwest, however, has been accustomed to conference championship battles the last few seasons, finishing second or third for four seasons before finally breaking through for a title last season with an undefeated 12-0 record.

Five games into Minneapolis City Conference play, and the Lakers are on their way to another unblemished record, dominating their opponents by allowing only 34.8 points per game.

While Southwest has a staunch defense, senior guard Virginia Johnson (18.5 ppg) leads the way for the Lakers’ offense that averages 64.5 points per game. Southwest will come ready to defend its home court, with the rematch set for Feb. 21 at Roosevelt.

Rosemount vs. Stillwater

7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28

In the heat of conference play, Rosemount (11-2) and Stillwater (12-3) will take a break from the South Suburban Conference and Suburban East Conference schedules and face off in a matchup between two high-caliber programs.

Sitting at No. 9 in Class 4A, Rosemount has not dropped back-to-back games this season but has seen the offense sputter in the last five games, resulting in a 3-2 record. Averaging 46.6 points per game during that stretch, the Irish fell 39-27 to Eastview Jan. 18.

Junior guard Avery Moeller – the team’s leading scorer at 14.7 points per game – scored only two points in that loss, so she and the Irish will look to pick up the scoring when they face the Ponies.

Nevertheless, Rosemount does have experience playing against top foes, beating East Ridge 64-52 on Dec. 29 and Lakeville South 57-46 on Jan. 10 and likely will be ready to take on another strong team in Stillwater. A test like this will be what the Irish need if they are going to repeat as Class 4A, Section 3 champions and return to the Class 4A state tournament.

Stillwater, on the other hand, is coming into the matchup on a bit of an upswing, having won three of its last four games in dominant fashion against conference foes.

The Ponies offense is balanced with three players averaging at least 12 points per game in junior guard Amy Thompson (17.6 ppg), senior forward and Minnesota-Duluth commit Lexi Karlen (15.6 ppg)  and sophomore guard Liana Buckhalton (12.8 ppg). 

Having dropped conference games to other contending teams like White Bear Lake and East Ridge, Stillwater is now second in the Suburban East Conference at 8-2. A non-conference win against Rosemount, however, could spark more momentum for the Ponies heading down the second half of the season. 

Other games to keep an eye on

Grand Rapids vs. Proctor, 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26. Currently protecting a 14-game winning streak, No. 4-3A Grand Rapids (14-2) travels to conference rival Proctor (11-5) to extend its lead in the Lake Superior Conference. Tied for second in the conference, Proctor looks to get one step closer to the conference title behind senior Hope Carlson (20.8 ppg). But beating the Thunderbirds will be no easy task, as senior guard and North Dakota State commit Taryn Hamling leads the team in scoring (22.4 ppg). 

Mayer Lutheran vs. Norwood Young America, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28. Coming in as the No. 3 team in Class 1A, Mayer Lutheran (12-2) has been dominant throughout the season, holding opponents to 50 points or less nine times. Norwood Young America (10-3), however, was not one of them, as the Raiders lost 71-64 Dec. 9 in the first meeting between the two teams. The Crusaders also struggled slowing down senior center Norah Erickson (13.3 ppg) who finished with a game-high 19 points. Senior Madeline Guetzkow (16.9 ppg) will likely need to help lead Mayer Lutheran’s offense if the team is going to extend its lead in the Minnesota River Conference.

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