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.
Lakeview has never sent a boys basketball team to the state tournament. With a 22-5 record, one of the top players in the section and a strong starting lineup, Lakers faithful had reason to be hopeful in March 2022.
But the Lakers never made it out of the Class 1A, Section 3 subsection semifinals, with Dawson-Boyd crushing the Lakeview dreams.
A year later, with the same starting five and another impressive resume (No. 8-1A ranking by the Minnesota Basketball News and a 14-2 record), the Lakers again have encouraging hopes for a first-ever state tournament appearance.
The problem: Dawson-Boyd and No. 6-1A Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (14-0, 4-0) remain in the Lakers' path. Dawson-Boyd last Thursday handed Lakeview just its second loss of the season, 76-66, and the Lakers play at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton on Tuesday night.
The good news: It's still the regular season. The less-than-good news: Both Dawson-Boyd and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton are Section 3 contenders.
A victory at Dawson-Boyd would have been a confidence-booster for the Lakeview crew led by 6-foot-2 senior swingman Nathan Fenske, who averaged 21 points as a junior. So a solid performance against the Camden South rival Knights has become all the more important for the Lakers as they prepare for the postseason.
Tuesday's game is the Lakers' second shot at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. The visiting Knights won 72-60 in what was their season-opener on Dec. 9. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton later beat Dawson-Boyd 64-53.
The Knights' Drew Werkman, a 6-foot-4 junior, scored 22 points in that December victory. He averages 18.5 points and 7.8 rebounds this season to lead an otherwise senior-dominated lineup. Aiden Wichmann averages 17.6 points and six assists and Cody Wichmann averages 11.2 points.
Owen Louwagie and Ethan Schwankl give Fenske plenty of support at Lakeview.
Defense is the name of the game at Maple Grove, where the No. 3-4A Crimson have raised eyebrows and expectations in a 13-2 start while surrendering fewer than 46 points a game.
Andover, too, has played above expectations this season but has done it with an effective offense. The No. 11-4A Huskies average nearly 82 points per game.
When the teams meet on Wednesday night in a game important for its impact on the Northwest Suburban Conference race, the team that dictates the pace likely will have the advantage.
Maple Grove did that when the teams first met on Jan. 10. The Crimson held the Huskies to their lowest scoring total of the season in a 68-58 victory at Andover. Maple Grove outscored Andover 41-28 in the second half after trailing 30-27.
It's no easy task to hold Andover's scoring down. Ben Kopetzki, a 6-foot senior, averages 26 points to go with six rebounds and nearly eight assists while Sam Musungu averages 18.5 points per game. The Huskies score on average 81.6 points per game but surrender 72.2.
Maple Grove has four players averaging in double figures, but averages just 60.3 points per game. Junior Henry Stang leads the way at 11.9 points per game followed by seniors Raoul Vaidya (11.1 points, four assists), Edwin Dorbor (10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Lincoln Palbicki (10.4 points, 8.4 rebounds).
Maple Grove was a state tournament regular from 2016-2021, winning the Section 8 championship each season. But a move to Section 5 put the Crimson in with defending Class 4A state champion and current No. 1-4A Park Center. The Pirates remain unbeaten in the Northwest Suburban conference and the favorite to come out of Section 5.
But the Crimson, Andover and No. 1-3A Totino-Grace all enter the week at 8-1 in conference play. Maple Grove has a one-point loss to Totino-Grace and closes its regular season against Park Center on March 3. Andover faces both Totino-Grace and Park Center in the final games of its regular-season schedule.
With one of the state's most recruited players entering his senior season, Holy Family called in the reserves for a state tournament push. Enter transfers Collin Mulholland and Kole Hanson and a new coach in Joe Burger and the No. 2-2A Fire began the season as one of the most-talked about teams in the state.
Boden Kapke, a 6-foot-11 senior who made a verbal commitment to Butler in September, is the centerpiece of the Fire (13-2, 2-0). He averages 23 points and 13.6 rebounds.
Hanson, a 6-foot-2 junior transfer who followed coach Burger from Edina, leads the Fire with 23.4 points per game and runs the offense. Mulholland, another 6-foot-11 senior who came to Holy Family from Canada, averages 12.2 points and gives the Fire one of the state's most imposing front lines. Braylon Cummings, a 6-foot-2 senior, averages 10.2 points per game.
A 73-59 loss to Alexandria on Dec. 29, in which Kapke was limited to 12 points and 12 rebounds, cost the Fire its No. 1-2A ranking but not its state title hopes. The Fire hold the No. 2 ranking and remain the favorite out of Section 5.
Delano (12-5, 2-1), ranked 10th in Class 3A, will have to find a way to neutralize Holy Family's decided size advantage in this matchup, but the Tigers have capable scorers, led by 5-foot-10 junior Will Strandemo (20.1 points per game). Freshman Max Iversen, at 5-foot-8, averages 17.8 points and 5-foot-10 sophomore Jake Schultz averages 12.8 points.
It will be 6-foot-6 Jackson Stewart who will be counted on against the much bigger Fire. The senior averages 8.7 points per game.
Eastview vs. Farmington, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 31. Conference play is where the truth-telling begins. Farmington rose to the middle of the top 10 early in the season but has struggled in the tough South Suburban Conference, going 3-4 and falling to 9-6 overall. No. 4-4A Eastview (11-3, 6-1) lost ground from the preseason rankings in the early season and has climbed back up the charts during conference play. But Farmington has won some big games and Eastview hasn't dominated its conference opponents, losing to Rosemount and escaping with two-point victories over Lakeville South and Prior Lake in its last three league games.
Buffalo vs. Wayzata, 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 3. The truth at Wayzata is that this team just needed a little early-season bonding. After losing its first three games, Wayzata (12-3, 5-0) has won 12 in a row, including a 112-71 effort at Eden Prairie on Jan. 24. Buffalo (13-2, 2-2) has had a predictably harder time in league play and now faces No. 8-4A Hopkins on Tuesday before playing No. 6-4A Wayzata.
The MN Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.