Marshall and Willmar are poised to make deep postseason runs, which gives this game the added significance of a possible Class 3A state tournament preview.
Marshall ended last season with a win, taking home third place in the Class 3A tournament. This season, the Tigers (18-3, 12-0) have pulled away to take a 4.5-game lead over Worthington in the Big South Conference West Division standings and can start to look toward postseason play.
Trey Lance leads No. 4-3A Marshall's offense for the second year in a row. He's averaging 18.1 points per game, while juniors Matthew Onken (13.3 ppg) and Bryce Paulsen (10.7 ppg) can push the offense forward.
Willmar has rebounded well from last year's 10-15 season, posting a perfect record so far. The No. 6-3A Cardinals (20-0, 11-0) have been rolling, with all but three of their wins coming by at least 10 points.
After missing out on the state tournament last season, Willmar already has wins against six of its seven Class 3A, Section 5 rivals — a good sign for a team trying to take trip to state.
Noah Slagter is the tip of Willmar's offensive spear, with the senior averaging 22.5 ppg so far this season. Junior Drey Dirksen is the only other player to average double-digit points, scoring 10.4 per game while also pulling down 9.3 rebounds per game.