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Top games: With two No. 1s, Park Center in Class 4A and Totino-Grace in Class 3A, entertainment value hits 100

By Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, 01/09/23, 10:30AM CST


Jan. 12: The recovering Eagles face a tall task in keeping pace with the high-scoring Pirates.

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.

Totino-Grace vs. Park Center

6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12

A metro-area television sportscaster noted with a sense of wonder that Park Center passed the 100-point mark in its victory over Rogers last week. 

But it's more routine than wonder for the Pirates, the defending Class 4A state champions and No. 1 team all season in the Minnesota Basketball News rankings. Park Center (6-0, 3-0) has scored more than 100 points in four of its six games this season and is averaging 96.5 points per game. 

With five players averaging double figures in scoring and a sixth, 6-foot-2 junior Joe Burgess, averaging 9.7 points, it's more than likely the Pirates will hit 100 again — and again — before the season is over.

Can they do it against Totino-Grace, the defending state champion and top-ranked team in Class 3A? We will find out on Thursday night in the week's premier matchup.

The Eagles (4-2, 3-0) have lost only by three points to No. 2-4A Lakeville North and an Arizona school despite battling a number of injuries to players such as 6-foot-4 senior guard Taison Chatman, considered by many at the start of the season to be among the top contenders for the state's Mr. Basketball award. Chatman, who has committed to Ohio State, has played in just three games and averaged just six points.

But with 6-foot-9 Patrick Bath (17.0 points per game) and 6-foot-4 Tommy Humphries (11.5 ppg) taking the reins, Totino-Grace remains a formidable force. The Eagles are coming off a 65-56 victory over No. 4-4A Maple Grove. Isaiah Johnson, a 6-foot-7 junior transfer from Osseo, is averaging 10.2 points, while 6-foot-4 sophomore Tyler Wagner is scoring 12.7.

The Eagles return to a Park Center gym where they lost by 30 points a year ago and are certain to be expecting a better outcome this time around. It was a statement win for the Pirates, whose only loss last season came at Totino-Grace in a three-point decision a few weeks earlier.

Despite losing all five starters from last season, the Pirates have not lost a beat. JJ Ware, a 6-foot-6 junior, has stepped into the starting five and is averaging 16.5 points. Junior Cash Chavis averages 19.9; senior CJ O'Hara, a transfer from Hopkins, is averaging 18.5; sophomore Jackson Fowlkes averages 12.2; and 6-foot-8 junior Chaing Ring averages 10.8.

Hopkins vs. Eden Prairie

7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13

The shine of a Hopkins program that took home eight state championships from 2002-2020 was gone and the future looked questionable after a senior-laden Royals squad lost nine of its last 16 games and bowed out in last season's Class 4A, Section 6 semifinals.

But with the emergence of freshman guard Jayden Moore and sophomore guard Anthony Smith III, Hopkins suddenly is back among the state's elite. The Royals (9-1, 0-0) have climbed to third in the Class 4A rankings and look to be a real threat to 2022 state runner-up Wayzata in Section 6.

The Royals begin conference play this week against another rising team, No. 5-4A Eden Prairie (5-1, 0-0), which has won four consecutive games, including an upset of Shakopee over the holidays.

Moore (22.5) and Smith (21.8) are combining for nearly 45 points a game. Moore also averages 8.1 assists as he becomes the face of a new generation at Hopkins. Vincent Hillesheim, a 6-foot-6 senior who averaged a little more than three points last season, is averaging 15.2 for a Royals team that lost seven seniors to graduation and standout guard Max Wilson (transfer to Minneapolis North) after the 2021-22 season.

Eden Prairie won the Class 4A, Section 2 championship last season with Chiddi Obiazor playing a supporting role. The 6-foot-7 senior is the Eagles' leader this season, averaging 18 points a game. He gets scoring help from 6-foot-1 sophomore Max Lorenson (15.8 points).

It will be a difficult weekend for the Eagles, who play at No. 2-4A Lakeville North the day after hosting Hopkins.

Minneapolis North vs. DeLaSalle

7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12

After a 20-day layoff, No. 3-2A Minneapolis North gets back to action in a big way, with four games this week.

The Polars (2-3, 1-0) start the week with conference games against Minneapolis South on Monday and Minneapolis Roosevelt on Tuesday and end it Saturday in LaCrosse, Wis., against Milwaukee Bradley Tech. A game on Thursday night in downtown Minneapolis against No. 3-3A DeLaSalle might be the toughest of them all. 

The Islanders (5-3, 2-0) have not lost a beat under new head coach Todd Anderson after finishing second to Totino-Grace in the 2022 Class 3A state tournament. Nasir Whitlock, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, continues to lead the way for the Islanders, seeking their 12th consecutive state tournament appearance, with a 26.5-point scoring average. Isreal Moses V (11.6 ppg), PJ Pounds (5.6 ppg) and Myles Dillon-Parks were primary contributors returning this season.

North also has a new coach, with former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Davis stepping in for the legendary Larry McKenzie. Davis' team has losses to a couple of Iowa teams and will continue to play the same tough-as-nails schedule as the Polars always have. 

Max Wilson, a 6-foot-3 senior transfer from Hopkins, junior Zashon Rich and 6-foot-5 senior AuVon Sager lead the Polars.

Other games to keep an eye on

Minnehaha Academy vs. Holy Family, 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16. Holy Family Catholic senior Boden Kapke is the main attraction in this game, but a great undercard is a matchup of high-scoring juniors, Jerome Williams at Minnehaha Academy and the Fire's Kole Hanson. The No. 6-2A Redhawks (7-3, 2-0) have scored 90 or more points three times. The No. 1-2A Fire (6-1, 0-0) will be playing its fourth game in a seven-day stretch.

Mankato Loyola vs. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10. These teams split the season series a year ago and likely will be fighting it out for the Valley Conference championship this season. After opening the season with six consecutive victories, the No. 9-1A Crusaders (8-3, 6-0) have lost three of five. The Knights enter the week at 7-1, 4-0.

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