While boys hockey takes center stage March 2-5 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the final hurdles for berths in the state boys basketball tournament take place throughout Minnesota with four classes of section finals. In the first of a two part story, here’s who is left standing in Classes AAAA & AAA.
In Section 1, the perennial power Lakeville North Panthers look for a return trip to Target Center but the Rochester John Marshall Rockets, led by Michael and Matthew Hurt hope to put “The Big Hurt” on Lakeville North.
Section 2 has a pair of Lake Conference teams, the Eden Prairie Eagles, who upset top seeded Shakopee and the Edina Hornets. The two teams split in the regular season. Who will win the rubber game?
Section 3 has the state’s top Class AAAA team, the Apple Valley Eagles, led by Gary Trent Jr. and Tre Jones. They face their South Suburban Conference rivals the Eagle Wildcats for a rip to state. The Eagles are the team to beat.
The Section 4 title pits a couple of surprise teams as district rivals North St. Paul and Tartan square off. The Polars, seeded fourth knocked off top seeded Woodbury in the semifinals and the third seeded Titans sent Cretin-Derham Hall back to St. Paul.
It’s down to the final four in Section 5 with the Osseo Orioles facing the Park Center Pirates and the Mounds View Mustangs taking on the Champlin Park Rebels. Can the talented Rebels pick up another section title?
Over in Section 6, the top seeded Hopkins Royals face their former Lake Conference rivals the Cooper Hawks. The Royals are one of the state’s top teams but the Hawks, who ended second seeded Wayzata’s season could still have the momentum for another upset.
Blaine and Forest Lake battle for the Section 7 crown and in Section 8, the Maple Grove Crimson take on the Elk River Elks. Could the Northwest Suburban Conference have three of the eight tournament berths in AAAA?
Now to Class AAA. In Section 1, the Red Wing Wingers face the Northfield Raiders. The Wingers could make it three straight against the Raiders.
In Section 2, the Marshall Tigers battle the Waseca Blue Jays. A suprise in Section 3 as the fifth seeded St. Thomas Academy Cadets take on the third seeded Simley Spartans. The Cadets upset St. Paul Highland Park in the semifinals. Who will come out of that section?
Upsets were the norm in Section 4 with top seeds Mahtomedi and St. Paul Johnson meeting defeat. It will be the “Battle of Fridley” for the title as the Totino-Grace Eagles square off against the Fridley Tigers.
Monticello and Rocori play for the Section 5 title and in Section 6, the four time state champion DeLaSalle Islanders challenge the Delano Tigers. The Islanders have won nine straight games. Could they make it ten?
Four teams remain in Section 7, with te Princeton Tigers facing the top seeded Chisago Lakes Wildcats and the third seeded Hermantown Hawks taking on the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks.
Wrapping up part one will be the Section 8 title game with the Fergus Falls Otters facing the Alexandria Cardinals.
Next up will be the Class AA & A sections.