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Top games: Mahtomedi and Hastings battle for Metro East Conference crown

By Brendan O'Brien, SportsEngine, 02/13/23, 10:30AM CST


Feb. 17: The Zephyrs are looking for back-to-back conference championships while the Raiders are trying to earn their first in seven years.

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.

Mahtomedi vs. Hastings

7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17

The race to the Metro East Conference championship has been tight throughout the season, with no room for errors from the top two teams in Mahtomedi (15-5) and Hastings (15-7). In one of the final conference games of the season, the winner will have a significant advantage in earning the championship.

Mahtomedi played its way to a 14-0 conference record to finish atop the conference last season. The Zephyrs are looking to not only win their first back-to-back conference titles in five years, but are looking to finish unblemished again, currently holding a 10-0 conference record this season.

Mahtomedi hit its stride in mid-January after an 85-48 loss to Eden Prairie, winning eight in a row starting with a 77-63 win over Hastings in the season’s first meeting between the teams.

Four players in the Zephyr lineup average 12 or more points per game, including senior guard Sonya Potthoff (13.9 ppg) and eighth-grade guard Mya Wilson (13.6 ppg). Sophomore forward Anna Greene (12.1 ppg) also had her way with the Raiders the first time around, leading all players with 24 points.

With a road win, Mahtomedi could continue its unbeaten conference streak and clinch at least a share of the Metro East title.

After falling to Mahtomedi Jan. 18, Hastings has hung around the conference championship conversation. Following the 14-point loss, the Raiders have won seven straight thanks to a stifling defense that has allowed just 34.7 points per game during that stretch. The offense has not been high-powered (54.1 ppg), but Hastings still has three primary different scoring options.

Sophomore guard Keagan McVicker (14.6 ppg, 7 rpg) has been the offensive leader for the Raiders while sophomore forward Haley Strain (11.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and junior forward Emma Bakker (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) play a significant role on the glass.

A revenge win at home could spoil the Zephyrs’ chances of clinching a solo title and would move Hastings one step closer to earning its first Metro East Conference championship since 2015-16.

Cloquet vs. Duluth East

7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14

The recent meetings between Cloquet (15-7) and Duluth East (13-9) have turned the two teams into rivals.

Cloquet has had the advantage in the rivalry recently, winning seven of the last 10 meetings in the last five years. That includes a tight 67-66 Lumberjacks’ win at home in the second week of the season.

After an 11-1 record and seven-game win streak early in the season, Cloquet has faltered a bit recently. However, the Lumberjacks are looking to start another win streak to close out the regular season. Fighting for a top two seed in Class 3A, Section 7, another win over a Class 4A opponent like Duluth East would extend the Lumberjacks’ win streak to three games and could serve as a confidence boost as they head into the postseason.

Look for senior forward Alexa Snesrud (17.2 ppg) and junior center Ava Carlson (13.9 ppg) to provide an offensive spark for the Cloquet offense.

After a 1-6 start to the season, including the one-point loss to Cloquet on Dec. 6, Duluth East appears to have found its footing. The Greyhounds won nine straight games before alternating wins and losses up to this point. Last time out they beat St. Francis 64-37 Feb. 10, so the team is hoping to end its alternating streak with a win over the Lumberjacks.

A win would also start to turn the tide for Duluth East in the matchup against Cloquet, as the team has twice come out on the wrong end of three close games in the last two seasons.

The Greyhounds will lean on seniors Rachel Hagen (15.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and Ashlynne Guenther (17.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg) to help come away with the win at home, as the two scored 24 and 17 points, respectively, the last time against the Lumberjacks.

Stillwater vs. East Ridge

7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17

In a highly anticipated game for not only the Suburban East race but also the Class 4A, Section 4 seedings, Stillwater (19-3) travels to East Ridge (18-4) in what could be a preview of a late-round section tournament matchup.

After winning four straight conference championships and reaching as many section title games, Stillwater is back to being one of the top teams in the state. With seven straight victories, the Ponies are picking up steam as they close out the regular season. However, one of their three losses came at the hands of East Ridge on Jan. 11, pushing the team down to the No. 2 seed currently in the section.

If Stillwater is to continue its reign over the Suburban East and make a run through Class 4A, Section 4, a road win over the Raptors would be a strong place to start.

Junior guard Amy Thompson and senior forward Lexi Karlen each average about 16 points per game, and the Ponies will likely need them to step up offensively against a stout Raptors’ defense (46.5 ppg).

Clashing for the second time against No. 9-4A Stillwater, No. 5-4A East Ridge is inching closer to breaking through for a state tournament appearance later in March. But the Raptors first need to get back on track after suffering their first Suburban East loss of the season to White Bear Lake 63-49 Feb 10.

The sky is not falling for the team, however, as they previously won nine consecutive games which helped them take the lead in the race for the top seed in the section.

East Ridge sneaked away with a 57-54 road win over Stillwater the first time these two met thanks to 26 points from senior Emily Christenson (16.5 ppg), but the Raptors might need the likes of juniors Sidney Klauer (12.5 ppg) and Isabell Sanneh (12.0 ppg) to step up on offense as well if they are to sweep the Ponies during the regular season.

Other games to keep an eye on

St. Paul Como Park vs. Minnehaha Academy, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14. Led by one of the state’s top scorers in sophomore guard Addi Mack (28.4 ppg), No. 5-2A Minnehaha Academy (17-4) has been playing well down the stretch with eight consecutive wins and a ninth due to forfeit. St. Paul Como Park (13-10) had been on fire offensively, averaging 84.2 points per game during a six-game win streak. However, the Cougars cooled down, lost four straight and now look to end their skid with a defense allowing 49.6 points per game. The task will not be easy, as Mack is coming off a 36-point performance for the Redhawks in an 84-57 win against Pine City Feb. 10.

Maranatha Christian Academy vs. St. Croix Prep, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17. In this Skyline conference battle, St. Croix Prep (15-6) has the better overall record than Maranatha Christian Academy (12-9), but the Mustangs hold the advantage over the Lions in the conference standings. Junior guard Ivy Lothenbach has led St. Croix Prep with 22.5 points per game, and the Lions are currently in the midst of a four-game win streak, although keeping that streak alive could be difficult against Maranatha Christian Academy. The Mustangs tout a balanced offense of three players averaging double-digit points, including senior guard Chloe Jarnot (16 ppg). 

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