THIS WEEK IN PREPS
If the weather reports are accurate -- and so far this winter they have been spot-on -- participants in the state alpine and Nordic ski racing meet, which kicks off the winter state tournament season this week at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, will be able to focus on the reason they made the trek up north: skiing.
Too often in recent years weather issues have complicated the meet. With the recent snowstorm leaving a fresh coating of snow and temperature predictions in the mid-20s, expect competition of the highest quality.
In Wednesday's Alpine meet, Eden Prairie's Jack Post looks to defend his 2012 title against challengers Jack McNeill of Blake, Michael Murray of Bloomington Jefferson and teammate Bjorn Halverson. On the girls' side, the biggest challenge to Hermantown senior Megan Danelski's second consecutive title could be her younger sister Madison.
In Thursday's Nordic meet, there is a definite North vs. South feel on the girls' side, where Ely's Amy Bianco and Duluth East's Anna Kubek will try to hold off some of the metro's best in Roseville's Niki Reker, Irondale's Mattie Watts and Wayzata's Alayna Sonneysn. Hopkins senior Harris Dirnberger has been the No. 1-ranked boy for most of the season but will be challenged by Roseville's Lucas Mason and Eden Prairie's Tom Bye.
In other action this week:
Section finals: Sixteen sections -- eight in Class 2A, eight in 1A -- will crown champions. The biggest battle will take place Friday at Parade Ice Gardens, where the Section 6, 2A final likely will feature two-time defending state champ Minnetonka against No. 1-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret's in a game that would be better suited as a state tournament championship.
Saturday: Blaine (No. 8, 2A) at Minnetonka (No, 4, 2A), 7 p.m. The Skippers play host to the metro area's hottest team in Blaine, which has won 11 in a row, scoring nearly seven goals a game in the process.
Tuesday: Centennial (No. 9, 4A) at Minnetonka (No. 6, 4A), 7 p.m.; Roseville (No. 4, 4A) at Park of Cottage Grove, 7:15 p.m.
Friday: Bloomington Kennedy (No. 1, 4A) at Eastview (No. 3, 4A), 7 p.m. Kennedy won the first meeting in its home gym. Winning again, in a hostile environment without injured point guard Kenisha Bell, is a much more difficult assignment.
Tuesday: DeLaSalle (No. 1, 3A) at Blake (No. 3, 3A), 7:30 p.m. The top-ranked Islanders have not been seriously challenged since their only loss -- to a team from Kansas in the Timberwolves Shootout on. Jan. 5. Blake should at least give them a game. Also Tuesday: Hopkins (No. 3, 4A) at Edina, 7 p.m.; Tartan (No. 7, 4A) at Henry Sibley, 7 p.m.