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Top games: Has Lakeville South got a surprise for No. 2-4A Lakeville North?

By Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine, 02/06/23, 10:15AM CST


Feb. 7: The Cougars have a host of scoring options; will any be enough against the consistent Panthers?

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.

Lakeville North vs. Lakeville South

7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7

At Lakeville North, there is little doubt about who is the focal point of the Panthers' offense. Nolan Winter, a 6-foor-11 senior, has been the team's leading scorer for the past couple of seasons. 

That's not to say Winter is the Panthers' only scoring option. Jack Robison, a 6-foot-6 junior, and Hudson Vaith each average around 16 points. But there is a definite pecking order and it shows in consistent performances.

It's another story across town, at Lakeville South, where the Cougars have had eight different scoring leaders in their 17 games this season. It could be DaMarcus Burks, Ryan Johnson, Jackson Ressler, Reece Gerl, Joe Hager or Keaton Ressler who takes command in any given game. And there are others (Lauson Schmidt, Eli Falconer) who are capable of being that player.

It's been both a blessing (it's helped the Cougars overcome the loss of leading scorer Marley Baah-Yeboah to a season-ending ACL injury) and a curse that has contributed to less consistent performances than that over their city, conference and section rival.

Who will take the lead for the Cougars on Tuesday when they play host to North, second in Class 4A in the latest Minnesota Basketball News rankings?

Ryan Johnson (10.1 points per game) scored 26 and Jackson Ressler (9.4 ppg) added 16 when the teams met at North on Jan. 6. It wasn't enough in a 78-63 victory for the Panthers. Baah-Yeboah was injured early in the game.

Winter, of course, led North's scoring with a game-high 30 points. He's averaging 21.7 points and 11.5 rebounds and has the Panthers (14-2, 8-1) playing at a high level even without starting point guard Matt Drake, who has not played since the Panthers' 79-77 loss to No. 3-4A Eastview on Jan. 10. North is 8-0 since that game.

South (12-5, 7-3), which has dropped in and out of the Class 4A top 10 a few times this season, enters the week trying to shake off a 53-49 loss to Burnsville. 

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. Eden Valley-Watkins

7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7

The usual goals for state tournament contenders come in a step-ladder format: Win conference, win section, win state.

But for schools playing in a class lower than many of their conference rivals, such as No. 7-1A Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, that first step always is optional.

The Jaguars (14-3, 6-2) already are two games behind Eden Valley-Watkins and one behind Paynesville in the conference race, but they remain a strong contender to return to the Class 1A state tournament.

A victory on Tuesday at Eden Valley-Watkins (13-4, 8-0) would give the Jaguars a split of the regular-season series and match what they accomplished a year ago when they reached the state championship game.

Eden Valley-Watkins, which competes in Class 2A, Section 3, won 63-60 on the Jaguars' home floor on Jan. 5. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa got 36 points from Kaden Pieper, and outscored the Eagles in the second half but couldn't overcome a 29-24 halftime deficit.

Noah Stommes had 18 points, Nolan Geislinger 13 and Wyatt Moehrle 10 in the Eagles' Jan. 5 victory. Eden Valley-Watkins has won eight consecutive games.

Cass Lake-Bena vs. Ada-Borup

4:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10

Cass Lake-Bena has become an annual participant in the Class 1A, Section 8 championship game. Ada-Borup has won a place in that game in three of the past five seasons. So it's no stretch to say that this Friday afternoon game could very well be a preview of the 2023 section final.

The Panthers (17-1, 7-1) are ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and looking for their first state tournament berth since 2018. Cass Lake-Bena lost to Ada-Borup in the 2019 final, became a finalist in a schedule game against Ada-Borup in 2020 that was not played, lost to Badger-Greenbush-Middle River in 2021 and lost to Sacred Heart in 2022. It's a trend the Panthers are eager to end.

Juniors Kaydin Lee and Dominic Staples-Fairbanks and sophomore Kingsly Whitebird form the core group for the Panthers.

Ada-Borup, coming off a 68-57 loss to Fosston at the end of last week, is in the middle of perhaps the toughest stretch of its regular season. The Cougars play a tough Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton squad three days after playing Cass Lake-Bena.

Ada-Borup relies on sophomore Cadyn Dahl, who is capable of putting up 20 or more points on any given night.

Other games to keep an eye on

Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Hayfield, 6:15 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7. Turnovers spoiled the day for No. 9-1A Hayfield in a 59-58 loss at Kenyon-Wanamingo on Jan. 10. If the Vikings (17-4, 6-1) can fix that and win on their home floor, they can take the lead in the conference race. Kenyon-Wanamingo is 16-5, 6-1.

Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Hermantown, 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11. Hermantown (14-4, 7-0) fell out of the Class 3A top 10 with losses to Princeton and Esko but rebounded last week with a pair of victories. But competition doesn't get much tougher than No. 2-3A Benilde-St. Margaret's (14-3, 5-1).

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The MN Basketball Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only. 

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