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.
After meeting in several postseason matchups, Hopkins (18-1) and Wayzata (17-2) appear to be poised to meet once again in the Class 4A, Section 6 championship, with one team hoping to continue its dominance while the other looks to end the losing streak.
Coming off a Class 4A title, Hopkins has had another impressive regular season thus far, beating seven ranked teams from Class 4A. The squad's 30-game winning streak was snapped at that hands of No. 1-2A Providence Academy on Jan. 28, but all in all average 78.1 points per contest with a stingy defense allowing an average of 48.9 points.
Hopkins has Wayzata's number in the postseason, beating the Trojans six times in the section tournament in the last seven seasons. Forward Sunaja Agara (19.5 ppg) and guard Taylor Woodson (15.2 ppg) are two senior playmakers for the Royals who will be looking to lead Hopkins to yet another win against Wayzata, this time on the road to essentially seal the section's top spot.
No. 3 Wayzata, however, is within striking distance of Hopkins for the Class 4A, Section 6 top seed, with the team’s only losses coming to Hopkins Jan. 17 and No. 2-4A Chaska Dec. 13. A win would help the Trojans tie the Royals in the seedings with four games remaining in the regular season.
Victories against Hopkins have been hard to come by recently, as Wayzata last beat Hopkins in January of 2018. Senior forwards Shannon Fornshell and Abby Krzewinski (11.9 ppg), sophomore guard Sophie Hawkinson (11.4 ppg), and the rest of the Trojans will have the home crowd on their side this time where they have a 7-1 record. A win for the Trojans would not only keep their hopes alive for the section’s top seed, but also increase their confidence heading into the postseason.
At this point last season, Sartell-St. Stephen and Alexandria were among the middle of the pack in the Central Lakes Conference. The tables have turned this season, however, as the Sabres (14-5) and the Cardinals (15-4) square off in a conference championship-tilting game.
Coming off a 15-12 season, Sartell-St. Stephen has played its way into competing for the conference crown by slowing the game down. The Sabres have scored 56.9 points per game and allowed an average of 49.9. The defense was on display when the team hosted Alexandria, but Sartell-St. Stephen will need a stronger offensive performance after scoring its fewest points in a game, losing 49-31 on Jan. 5.
Seniors Avery Templin and Chloe Turner have shown the ability to up the offense, setting season-highs with 31 and 27 points, respectively, and similar performances could help the Sabres tie the Cardinals in the standings. At 9-1 in the conference, Sartell-St. Stephen needs a win against Alexandria to keep its hopes of winning its first Central Lakes title since 2014-15 alive.
Alexandria, however, is back to contending for conference championships after a fifth-place finish last season. The Cardinals have an unblemished 10-0 Central Lakes record thus far and are looking to keep it that way, riding the momentum from winning 11 of their last 12 games. The offensive output has helped greatly, as the team has averaged 66.4 points per game throughout the season.
However, Sartell-St. Stephen held the team to its lowest point total earlier in the season, so Alexandria will be looking to adjust in the rematch. At No. 5 in Class 3A, a win over the Class 4A Sabres would not only help the Cardinals in the race for the conference crown but also add to their resume heading into the postseason. A win would move Alexandria one step closer to the Central Lakes Conference championship, its first since 2020-21.
Both currently atop the Class 3A rankings, this game between Benilde-St. Margaret’s (14-5) and Becker (16-3) could be a preview of what is to come in mid-March at Williams Arena.
After reaching last year's state tournament for the first time since 2010-11, Benilde-St. Margaret’s now sits at the top spot in Class 3A with three weeks remaining in the regular season. A win against Becker would not only solidify their position but give them optimism for moving even deeper in the tournament this season.
The Red Knights tout a strong offense (75.6 ppg) behind junior Olivia Olson (21.2 ppg) and sophomore Kendall McGee (21.1 ppg). They will need the offense to continue if they are to remain unbeaten against Class 3A opponents. The matchup at Becker will be Benilde-St. Margaret’s third game in five days, so rest for the Red Knights could play a role in the outcome.
Becker, on the other hand, has already made a deeper run in the postseason and is looking to seal the deal this season after falling 60-51 in the Class 3A state championship. The Bulldogs appear to be well on their way to another state tournament appearance with an 8-0 record against Class 3A, Section 5 opponents and a defense that has held opponents to 45.5 points per game.
Not only is the defensive effort strong, but No. 2-3A Becker is balanced behind four players averaging double-digits in points. Senior guards Ayla Brown (17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.9 apg) and Maren Westin (14.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.9 apg) have provided veteran leadership on the court, and hope to end their careers with the Bulldogs on a strong note, and beating a Benilde-St. Margaret’s team would provide more confidence they can reach that goal.
Goodhue vs. Winona Cotter, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7. With the end of the regular season looming, the stakes are rising for Goodhue (18-3) and Winona Cotter (14-5). The Wildcats have been on fire, winning their last 13 of 14 games and averaging nearly 70 points during that stretch (69.6). For the Ramblers, this will be their fourth game in five days as they look to remain in the top four standings in Class 2A, Section 1 with a win on the road. Both teams fell in the section semifinals last season, so expect both to be eyeing a big win for seeding and momentum heading into the postseason.
Hancock vs. Underwood, 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9. Recent meetings between Hancock (16-2) and Underwood (15-4) have come down to the wire, and this one in early February should be another treat for basketball fans. The Owls currently hold a 12-game win streak as the defending Class 1A champions. Do not underestimate the power of revenge, however, as the home-team Rockets are looking to avenge their 61-56 loss in the Class 1A, Section 6 championship and a 55-52 loss Jan. 10 of this season. Hancock and Underwood are also currently the top two teams in the Little Eight Conference.
The MN Girls' Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.