Eden Valley-Watkins

vs. Maple Lake

7:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8

A leader in the Central Minnesota Conference title race could emerge following Thursday's contest between Eden Valley-Watkins and Maple Lake, the teams tied atop the league standings. 

The Eagles (15-1, 7-1) have won eight straight after falling 67-47 to the Irish on Jan. 5. A victory in the rematch will be paramount if Eden Valley-Watkins wants to keep some control over its conference destiny, but it could also give the Eagles an idea of how the postseason will go, as Maple Lake is also Class 2A, Section 6 rival. 

Although defense has been Eden Valley-Watkins' strength, the Eagles have shown the ability to score when called upon, such as in their 80-53 win over Pierz on Jan. 25. While an offensive explosion might not be necessary, Eden Valley-Watkins will have to find a solution for putting the ball in the basket against the Irish and their stingy defense. Look for Eagles senior Dominic Schlangen, who leads the team with 10.3 ppg, to fuel the offense on Thursday.

Kimball was the last opponent to score more than 56 points against Maple Lake (13-4, 7-1), yet the Irish prevailed 69-62 in the Dec. 21 matchup.

Despite its excellent defense, Maple Lake just jettisoned an 11-game winning streak, falling 41-39 to Kimball in the rematch on Feb. 2.

The Irish have the talent to reignite its offense, led by Mitch Hoistad (13.8 ppg), Cole Trager (12.6 ppg) and Joseph Stokman (10.6 ppg).