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Prep Blog: Friday's Top High School Match-Ups

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It's hard to believe that we're getting closer to the end of January, which means conference races in several winter sports are beginning to take shape.

The conference season is where teams develop their mental toughness. Most games are a grind that come down to the wire, and the team that executes the best wins. Can you make that critical free throw or score the big goal when it matters the most? Can you get the defensive stop or make a big save with the lead?

This is the time of year where leaders emerge and seniors with experience get their chance to step up. It could lead some teams to a state tournament.

This week's match-up feature ranked teams facing each other in boys basketball, girls basketball and boys hockey. It should an eventful Friday night of action.

Friday Boys Hockey: Hermantown (16-2) at White Bear Lake (13-3)

There's a great boys hockey match-up Friday night in the north Twin Cities metro between a pair of ranked teams with a combined five losses in 34 games. One of them was a state runner-up last year. White Bear Lake, ranked No. 11 in Class AA, hosts Hermantown, ranked No. 1 in Class A. It's our featured game for WCCO-TV's High School Sports Rally.

The Hawks enter Friday's game on a roll. They haven't lost since early December, a stretch that has now grown to 13 straight games. In their last six games, Hermantown is outscoring opponents by a combined 47-8. The Hawks are led by Ryan Kero's 45 points on the season. Nate Pionk leads the squad with 20 goals. They're looking to keep their momentum rolling after getting to the state title game last year and coming up short.

The Bears are also feeling pretty good about themselves, having won four of their past five games. They've won their past two games by a combined 10-1 margin. White Bear Lake is led by Tom Giller's 38 points on the season, a mark that includes a team-best 16 goals. And it's a squad that can put the puck in the net. They've scored at least four goals in 11 of their 16 games.

It should be a great game between two talented squads.

Friday Boys Basketball: Hopkins (12-4) at Minnetonka (14-3)

A pair of top-10 teams meet Friday night in the Lake Conference as No. 3-ranked Minnetonka hosts No. 10-ranked Hopkins. The Skippers are looking to keep pace with the Royals, who are still adjusting to a season without star guard Amir Coffey. Hopkins has done much better than expected since losing him early in the season. The Royals have won eight straight games and 10 of their last 11, with three of the past four wins coming by single digits. Hopkins is led by John Warren's 17.3 points per game.

The Skippers had won 13 of their past 15 games and they'll be fired up Friday night, having lost to East Rdige 92-82 on Tuesday. Minnetonka is led by Amar Miller's 21.5 points per game, and Seth Coatta added 16.2 points for a team that averages five players scoring in double figures and scores about 85 points per game.

Friday Boys Basketball: Prior Lake (7-8) at Apple Valley (16-1)

The No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A will get a tough, physical test in league play Friday night as Apple Valley hosts Prior Lake in South Suburban Conference action. The first time the two teams met this season, The Eagles dominated the Lakers by 30 points. Apple Valley is loaded this season despite not having any seniors on the roster. The Eagles have won seven straight games since losing to now No. 1-ranked Champlin Park. Six of those wins have come by at least 20 points. They're led by Gary Trent Jr.'s 21.8 points per game. The Lakers have struggled to a 7-8 record this season, but have won three straight games. They're led by Kevin McKiernan's 15.2 points per game.

Friday Girls Basketball: Eagan (10-3) at Eastview (14-1)

There's a quality girls basketball game taking place in the southeast Twin Cities metro Friday night as No. 3-ranked Eastview hosts Eagan in South Suburban Conference action. It's a match-up of the top two teams in the league and should go a long way towards determining a league title. Since losing to Hopkins, the Lightning have won six straight games and they're led by Madison Guebert's 21.2 points per game. The Wildcats have won seven straight games and are led by Dani Bischoff's 21 points per game. If Eagan gets the upset win, it would pull even with Eastview in the league race.

Friday Boy's Hockey: Duluth Marshall (12-2-2) at Warroad (10-9-1)

It should be a fantastic match-up in boys hockey in northern Minnesota Friday night as Warroad hosts Duluth Marshall, the No. 3-ranked team in Class A according to Let's Play Hockey Magazine. The Warriors are in a rare down year with a 10-9-1 record. They're a perennial state power that's hoping to get things right before the postseason. Warroad just snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over Park Rapids on Tuesday. The Hilltoppers expect to be a state tournament team virtually every year, but they've hit a slight snag themselves with just one win in their last four games. They're led by Derek Farrell's 23 points, and their top goal-scorer is John Mckenna with 10.

Tune into WCCO-TV's High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and David McCoy will have all the action covered.

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