Mankato East vs. Northfield

7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5

Want to talk about impactful games down the stretch?

The Big 9 Conference may lead the discussion.

League contender Mankato East validated its spot ahead of Mahtomedi in the Class 3A rankings with a buzzer-beating 66-64 nonconference road victory on Saturday.

On Tuesday at Northfield, the No. 5-ranked Cougars get a chance to make a statement against another ranked foe, this time in a Big 9 tilt.

For Mankato East, it's also a prelude to a pair of matchups (on Feb. 14 and Feb. 26) with an Austin squad ranked No. 4 in Class 3A and looking for its own signature victories.

And all three matchups will likely determine who wins the Big 9 championship and shape the final state rankings.

The Cougars have defeated Northfield in four consecutive meetings, and junior guards Jax Madson, a contributor to last year's state tournament team, Joich Gong and junior center Jordan Merseth lead the offense for Mankato East (14-1, 11-0). The trio combined for 47 points in the victory over Mahtomedi.

Mason Zick is one of four players to average double figures in scoring for No. 7-3A Northfield (11-4, 8-4). The senior guard owns a team-best a 20.5-point scoring average, followed by senior forward Mitchell Stanchina (12.6), sophomore guard Kip Schetnan (10.9) and senior guard Blake Christensen (10.8).