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.
This season has been mostly smooth sailing for Shakopee.
The defending Class 4A, Section 2 champions are unbeaten in 10 games and have outscored opponents by 231 points. Only once, in a 90-87 victory over defending Class 4A state champion Wayzata on Dec. 14, have the Sabers, who are second in the Class 4A rankings from Minnesota Basketball News released Jan. 12, failed to win by double digits.
That trend, as well as Shakopee's 83.7-point scoring average, will be put to the test on Friday night against No. 4-4A Lakeville North. The Panthers, like the Sabers, are defense-oriented and have a long history of success.
Shakopee and Lakeville North finished at Nos. 2 and 3 in the South Suburban Conference standings behind Eastview last season, and the duo appear to be the frontrunners in the conference race this season.
The Panthers (10-2, 5-0), who won Section 1 championships eight consecutive years (2012-19), are chasing their first section title in three seasons. And they are doing it with a tall, junior-dominated lineup — one led by a sophomore.
Jack Robison, a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard, averages 19 points and fronts a strong quintet of juniors in 6-10 Nolan Winter (17.2 points per game), 6-4 guard Hudson Vaith, 6-4 JT Thornton, 6-0 Sam Nolan and 6-8 Jace Hernandez.
Lakeville North allowed an average of 56.8 points over 12 games and outscored opponents by more than 12 points per game. The Panthers' only losses have been to No. 3-4A Wayzata (68-52 on Jan. 6) and No. 5-4A East Ridge (78-63 on Dec. 7).
Shakopee, meanwhile, has an experienced and game-tested crew led by seniors Nick Katona and Cade McGraw. Sophomore Isaac Snell and seniors Quinten Snell, Yonis Mohamud and Sam West provide tenacious support.
When Braeden Carrington — the 6-foot-3 senior guard — lines up for the tip against Northwest Suburban Conference rival Park Center on Friday night, he could be the smallest player on the floor.
Carrington, a Minnesota commit who averages nearly 21 points a game, is the shortest player among No. 1-4A Park Center's top six. Leo Torbor (15.9 points per game), Cody Pennebaker (15.2 ppg) and Ayouba Bethe (10.8 ppg) all stand 6-4. JJ Ware and James Spencer are 6-6.
Totino-Grace can counter that height, as the No. 1-3A Eagles (7-2, 5-0) can put a starting five of 6-9 Patrick Bath (13.2 ppg) and Ahjany Lee, 6-7 Demarion Watson (14.2 ppg), 6-5 Tommy Humphries (12.0 ppg) and 6-4 Taison Chatman (11.6 ppg) on the floor.
The play, more than the players' heights, is what will more resemble collegiate play. These are two of the state's best teams and have a combined two losses between them. None of those losses have been to in-state schools.
Park Center (10-0, 5-0) already has victories over Edina, DeLaSalle, Wayzata, Minneapolis North and Osseo, all currently or formerly ranked among the top 10 in their class.
After a 7-0 start, Sauk Centre has lost three of its last four games and could use a victory right now.
It will take a supreme effort to pin a season's first loss on No. 3-2A Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (12-0, 3-0) and 6-8 senior Jackson Loge.
Loge averages nearly 27 points a game and will stand over (both figuratively and literally) all other players on the court on Tuesday night.
Tuesday's game with be the third of six in a seven-game stretch of road games. The Mainstreeters got off to a rough start to West Central Conference play with a four-point loss to Montevideo and a seven-point loss to Melrose.
Coach Mark Rorgerson's Tigers lost to eventual state champion Waseca in last spring's Class 2A state tournament quarterfinals.
Cherry vs. Nevis, 7:15 p.m., Jan. 18. Look out, Nevis (11-2, 5-0 Northland). No. 8-1A Cherry (8-1, 2-0 Arrowhead) has outscored opponents 268-107 in its three January games.
Hayfield vs. Maple River, 7:15 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21. Defending Class 1A state champion Hayfield (13-1, 7-0) looks primed for another title run. No. 9-2A Maple River (9-1, 5-0) was unbeaten in Gopher Conference play last season but will be challenged by the No. 5-1A Vikings.
The MN Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.