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Top games: McDonald, Hibbing provide challenge for Orono

By Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, 01/25/22, 8:00AM CST


Jan. 29: Ayden McDonald, the Bluejackets' do-it-all senior, could be a handful for a Spartans' team ending a week of road games with a visit up north.

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.

Orono vs. Hibbing

12:15 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 29

Hibbing's Ayden McDonald is perhaps Minnesota's most productive all-around high school boys' basketball player.

His 30-point scoring average alone puts the 6-4 senior among the state's elite. Throw in his 6.7 rebounds, 10.1 assists and six steals each game and finding another player who contributes as much to his team becomes difficult.

McDonald and the Bluejackets will test Orono, eighth in the Jan. 20 Class 3A rankings by Minnesota Basketball News, in a Saturday matinee.

In the same game, a lack of playing time might also test the Bluejackets. Hibbing (8-2, 3-0) hasn't played a game since Jan. 4, and McDonald last played in an 80-49 loss to No. 2-3A Columbia Heights on Dec. 30.

McDonald, a guard who has committed to Augustana, set a single-season school record for assists (11.7 per game) and became the program's career leader in assists and steals last season. He is a four-year starter with scoring averages of 16.6 as a freshman, 21.6 as a sophomore and 18.4 as a junior.

Orono counters with a more balanced attack. Senior Sebastian Loder leads the way with 18.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Junior Isaiah Hagen adds 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Kyle Kallenbach (11.6 points) and Jake Farrell (10.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists) add quality depth.

The Spartans (8-3, 2-2) will be playing their third road game of the week at Hibbing after Metro West Conference games at Chaska and Bloomington Jefferson.

Hopkins vs. Minneapolis North

7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25

If ever No. 6-4A Hopkins were in need of a booster shot of motivation, this is the week the Royals would want.

To start, Hopkins plays at No. 1-2A Minneapolis North for the first time looking to reclaim bragging rights between the intercity rivals. The Polars broke an eight-game losing streak dating back to 2011 with a 72-57 victory at Hopkins last season.

Additionally, the Royals enter Tuesday's game having lost three consecutive games, including a three-point loss to No. 3-4A Wayzata and a one-point loss to No. 8-4A Minnetonka. The streak was extended on Saturday at Burnsville when Hopkins lost by 19 points to 15-1 LaCrosse (Wis.) Central.

C.J. O'Hara leads the Royals with an 18.8-point scoring average. Elvis Nnaji adds 14.8 points and Jayden Moore scores 10.8 per game.

Davon Townley and Marcus Owens combined for 40 points in the Polars' victory last season. Both are gone this season, but senior Willie Wilson (15.5 points per game) is back and leading another talented team. Five more players, including senior De'Meiko Anderson (13.5 ppg), average at least eight points for North.

For the Polars, Hopkins represents another quality opponent in their gym. North already has played No. 1-4A Park Center, No. 4-3A DeLaSalle and Edina and has No. 3-4A Wayzata and No. 5-4A East Ridge yet to come.

Farmington vs. Eastview

7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25

With a Friday showdown against No. 2-4A Shakopee on the horizon, this is a big week for No. 7-4A Eastview. One of the challenges the Lightning faces is to not overlook its Tuesday opponent, Farmington. 

The Tigers share the South Suburban Conference lead with Eastview, Shakopee and No. 4-4A Lakeville North and are coming off impressive victories last week over Shakopee and Lakeville South. Farmington, led by 23-point scorer Kyle Hrncir, is capable of pulling off an upset of another top-10 ranked team.

Eastview has won the past five meetings between the teams and has the talent to make it six in a row. Senior Kenji Scales (17.8 ppg) leads a deep group that includes Kayser Hassan (13.1 ppg), Jamal Ambrose (12.8 ppg) and junior Dylan Omweno (10.5 ppg), a transfer from Anoka.

For the Lightning (11-2, 5-1) to keep pace with Shakopee and Lakeville North in the conference race, they will have to win the challenge from teams like Farmington (8-5, 5-1).

Other games to keep an eye on

Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. Caledonia, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25It's the best of the East vs. the best of the West when these unbeatens meet. P-E-M (14-0, 2-0 Three Rivers West) has handled all challengers, winning all but three of its games by 10 points or more. No. 2-2A Caledonia (12-0, 2-0 Three Rivers East), with Eli King healthy this season, remains a state power.

Osseo vs. Totino-Grace, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25Don't let Osseo's four losses fool you; they have come against some of the state's best teams in No. 1-4A Park Center, No. 3-4A Wayzata, No. 6-4A Hopkins and No. 10-4A Owatonna. The No. 9-4A Orioles (10-4, 6-1) should give No. 1-3A Totino-Grace (10-3, 7-0) a tough game.

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