Only one Class 4A girls’ basketball team made it to the new year unscathed. No, it wasn’t Hopkins or Eastview, the top two rated teams in the state for most of season.
It was current No. 2 Shakopee, which entered 2016 with a 6-0 record. The Sabres have since added two more victories this year.
They do have two meetings with Eastview and another with Hopkins before the end of the regular season.
“We’ll be tested coming up,” Shakopee coach Juan Mitchell said. “That’s what we want. We’ve played well in stretches but haven’t played great.”
A year ago the Sabers earned their first state tournament trip since 1997. They finished fourth, behind Hopkins, Eastview and St. Michael-Albertville.
“Last year we got a good taste of the state tournament,” Mitchell said. “Now we know what we need to do better this year.”
The Sabres have three starters back from that group, including 6-2 senior guard Taylor Koenen. The North Carolina recruit is the school’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounding and steals.
“Taylor is one of the best players in the state,” Mitchell said. “But we preach that we want everybody to get involved. If other players have a shot they like, we want them to take it.”
Seniors guard Annie Rhinesmith and forward Caleigh Rodning also started last season.
Koenen (19.4 points per game), Rodning (12.1) and junior forward Mateya Hutton (10.6) are averaging double digits. Hutton was a reserve on the state tournament squad.
“It’s going to take a group effort to win our conference, section and state titles,” Mitchell said.
Rolling in Red Wing
The Red Wing boys’ basketball team is one of only two remaining unbeaten squads in Class 3A through the first week of January.
The No. 2-ranked Wingers (11-0) are getting it done with defense. They are allowing just over 50 points per game.
“Defensively, we have been pretty good because our kids take a lot of pride in making it tough for the other team to score,” Red Wing coach Doug Toivonen said.
Senior guard Travis Toivonen, Doug’s son, leads the Wingers on offense. He averages 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Ben Munson (14.8) and senior forward Joe Sevlie (11.2) also score in double figures.
Two other seniors, guards Carson Bryan and Tait Kelly, complete the Wingers’ starting five.
“We have six seniors in our top group who play really well together and they along with our juniors have done a nice job of complimenting each other and finding ways to win games,” Toivonen said. “We have been playing very well up to this point.”
Nation’s wrestling best
Apple Valley senior Mark Hall, ranked No. 1 nationally (all weight classes) by InterMat Wrestling, continues to compile impressive career numbers.
The Class 3A five-time state champion broke the record for victories at The Clash — the nation’s top prep wrestling tournament — with 35 last weekend. He won all six of his matches with pins.
In the event the Penn State recruit also recorded his 250th career victory, becoming the fifth wrestler in state history to reach that milestone.
Hall was named to The Clash all-tournament team for the fourth time in his career. The Eagles went 5-1 in the meet and finished fifth overall, their only setback coming against eventual champion Buchanan, Calif.
• Red Wing sophomore forward Taylor Heise had a hat trick and one assist in a 5-2 victory over Farmington in girls’ hockey. It was her fifth hat trick of the season, and she has at least one point in 16 of the Wingers’ 17 games. Heise leads the metro area in scoring with 29 goals and 20 assists for 49 points.
• Scott West’s wrestling team successfully defended its title at Rumble on the Red in Fargo, N.D. It was the school’s fourth championship in the past six years at the event. Senior Ben Kelvington won the 145-pound weight class with a 10-1 victory over Wade Sullivan of Lakeville North. Kelvington is ranked fourth in the state at his weight in Class 2A.