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 second meeting of the season between Minnetonka (12-6) and Eden Prairie (12-6) features two of the teams in the Class 4A top 10 rankings fighting to remain there as the regular season winds down.
Currently at No. 7, Minnetonka is coming off a challenging week. The Skippers held a 7-2 record before going 5-4 in January, and they recently lost to Wayzata and Prior Lake in back-to-back days. With seven games left including the matchup against Eden Prairie, the team does not have much wiggle room before the postseason is set, and a win against the Eagles would go a long way.
The Skippers’ youth movement of sophomore Aaliyah Crump (23.5 ppg) and freshman Lanelle Wright (10.5 ppg) led the way last time out against Eden Prairie, with Crump scoring 30 points and Wright adding 13. Another win – this time on the road – could help solidify Minnetonka as a top-10 team and earn home court advantage in the second round of the section tournament.
Like Minnetonka, No. 8-4A Eden Prairie is coming off a week with two losses and looking to get back on track to avoid falling from the rankings. Despite a strong winning record, the Eagles have struggled against Lake conference foes (1-4) and is one game over the .500 mark against Class 4A, Section 2 opponents. Breaking even with the Skippers during the regular season would help ease both of those problems.
The Eagles’ balanced scoring attack of sophomore Tori Schlagel (14.8 ppg) and seniors Molly Lenz (13.6 ppg), Ashley Fritz (12.1 ppg) and Annika Anderson (10.8 ppg) averages 69.8 points a contest, but they also allow opponents to score 61.3 points. They will look to limit the Skipper’s second-half run better than last time to come away with a different outcome, as the Eagles were outscored 37-28 in the second half.
Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, Lakeville South (12-5) and Rochester Century (11-6) are in the mix for a top-four seed in Class 4A, Section 1, making this defensive, low-scoring matchup key in shaping the postseason.
After a 9-0 start, Lakeville South has come back down to earth a bit, posting a 2-4 record in January. Four of the Cougars’ five losses have been by 10 points or less, as they manage to keep games close with a strong defensive effort (46.6 opponent ppg). They also have found success in key games with a 3-0 record against section foes and a 2-1 record against Class 4A-ranked teams, including handing Rochester Mayo its lone loss of the season and beating crosstown rival Lakeville North.
Junior Finley Ohnstad (14.9 ppg) has scored at least 20 points in the last two games, and Lakeville South will likely need Ohnstad to continue her scoring stretch for the Cougars to come away with a road win to influence section standings.
Lakeville South has another significant game against Lakeville North following Rochester Century, but this section foe is not to be overlooked. Like the Cougars, the Panthers have a stingy defense, forcing opponents to grind out wins by allowing only 43.3 points per game. Moreover, Rochester Century has allowed more than 60 points once. However, the Panthers currently have the fourth-best overall record in Class 4A, Section 1 and are 3-2 against opposing section teams, so a loss to the Cougars would likely end their chances of getting a home playoff game in the second round.
Juniors Taylor Clarey (13.2 ppg) and Audrey Whitney (10 ppg) will lead the way for Rochester Century, with Whitney coming off a season-high 21 points. The Panthers will also be looking for revenge, as they fell to the Cougars 60-38 in the first round of last season’s Class 4A, Section 1 tournament.
Monday’s matchup features the No. 1 team in Class 1A in Mountain Iron-Buhl (14-3) and one of the teams who could give the Rangers the most trouble in the Class 1A, Section 7 tournament in Ely (14-2).
After making it to the state tournament throughout the 2010s and early in the 2020s and coming away with no state championships, Mountain Iron-Buhl is looking to break through this year with a talented, balanced group.
Not only do the Rangers have one of the state’s top scorers in junior Jordan Zubich (29.1 ppg), but they also have senior Sage Ganyo (17.8 ppg) and Hali Savela (16.8 ppg) to help round out an offense that averages 81.4 points per game. Additionally, each member of the trio makes other winning plays by averaging more than six rebounds and four assists per game. Currently in the midst of a six-game winning streak, Mountain Iron-Buhl has no plans for slowing down anytime soon, with six games left in the regular season after traveling to Ely.
Ely, however, is currently right behind Mountain Iron-Buhl in the Class 1A, Section 7 standings with a 10-0 record against section opponents. Despite the strong 2022-23 season, Ely has not had the best luck against Mountain Iron-Buhl in recent history, losing 13 straight games to the Rangers dating back to 2010-11.
But with a defense that allows only 40.9 points per game, an offense that scores 67.9 points per game and a team that is one win away from matching its total in 2021-22, Ely looks to end the losing streak and spoil Mountain Iron-Buhl’s dominant run to the state tournament, starting during the regular season on its home court.
Red Wing vs. Austin, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2. Neck-and-neck in the race for the Big 9 Conference championship, Red Wing (12-3) and Austin (11-6) square off for the second time this season. The Wingers are riding the momentum of winning seven of eight games coming into the matchup and also have the most recent advantage over Austin with a 62-42 home win Dec. 13. The Packers, however, are coming off a Class 3A, Section 1 title and could use a win to remain in the hunt for the conference title.
Montevideo vs. New London-Spicer, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2. With both teams undefeated against Class 2A, Section 3 opponents, it is safe to say the meeting between Montevideo (13-2) and New London-Spicer (16-0) will have plenty on the line regarding postseason seeding. Last season, the Thunder Hawks earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A, Section 3 North subsection and beat New London-Spicer 41-26 in the section semifinals. Taking down the Wildcats will be a tall task, as New London-Spicer is one of two undefeated teams left in the entire state.
The MN Girls' Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.