A little more than two weeks ago, it was Minnehaha Academy leading the charge in a high school basketball weekend that culminated in more than 17,000 fans turning out at Target Center to watch what was essentially an exhibition game.
This past weekend, fans witnessed another Hockey Day Minnesota, drawing North Star State viewers in with a successful combination of hockey and targeted marketing.
Now comes the serious business of concluding regular seasons and preparing for the postseason.
The appetizer to the upcoming smorgasbord of the winter season takes place Saturday when boys' swimming and diving teams compete in the True Team State Meet at the University of Minnesota. While not an official MSHSL-sponsored state tournament, for many teams, this is the pinnacle; the True Team concept rewards overall team strength rather than just the best individual swimmers. The Class 1A meet begins at noon Saturday, the 2A meet at 5 p.m.
As far as the races for section seedings go, let's take a look at a few of the more competitive races. Seeding in each section is based on QRF (Quality Results Formula) ranking.
With barely two weeks left in the girls' hockey season, Edina, Andover, Maple Grove and Stillwater are all in comfortable positions for No. 1 seeds in their sections. However, in Class 2A, Section 2, Eden Prairie still has a chance to slip by Minnetonka for the top spot, but the Eagles will need to beat the Skippers on the road Tuesday to earn that chance. Minnetonka has won two previous meetings.
Also Tuesday, Mound Westonka hosts Hutchinson in a key Class 1A, Section 2 matchup. Mound Westonka won a previous meeting 3-2 in overtime, and another victory would put the White Hawks in a strong position for the No. 1 seed.
In boys' hockey, Rosemount in Section 3 and Andover in Section 7 are two Class 2A schools with solid grips on No. 1 seeds. In Section 6, Blake is slightly ahead of Cretin-Derham Hall thanks to the Bears' 3-1 victory over the Raiders on Dec. 28. While both teams have tough games ahead, Blake's schedule looks more daunting. The Bears, fresh from a 3-2 Hockey Day victory over Blaine, have road games with Benilde-St. Margaret's (Tuesday) and Eden Prairie (Saturday) coming up.
A battle for the top spot between White Bear Lake and Stillwater in Section 4 looks like it's brewing, with Hill-Murray possibly having a say. The Bears beat Stillwater 4-3 in OT on Jan. 9 but have to play the Ponies at Stillwater on Feb. 4 and have two games left against Suburban East Conference leader Cretin-Derham Hall.
In girls' basketball, the tightest section race is likely Class 4A, Section 4, where top-10 teams Park Center and Centennial lead the pack. As of now, Park Center is slightly ahead in the QRF rankings despite losing to Centennial 73-71 Tuesday. But the Pirates have to be concerned about the loss of forward T'Naye Griffin, who was injured in that game. Her return this season looks doubtful.
In Class 4A, Section 8, St. Michael-Albertville has a difficult task ahead if it wants to hold off Maple Grove for the top seed. The Knights have two games remaining against Hopkins, Wayzata and Eden Prairie.