Playoff seedings taking shape . . .

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

The winter sports’ playoffs began Saturday for the Minnewaska Area dance teams and the basketball and wrestling teams aren’t far behind.  I thought it was time to look again at some possible first-round playoff opponents for the Lakers.  

•  In girls basketball, which is set to begin Saturday, Feb. 25, the Lakers (7-12) are currently ranked third of the eight teams in their half of Section 3AA, but Minnewaska could drop down a notch or two depending upon a few upcoming games. Minnewaska started out 0-7, but has improved to 7-12 overall and 3-6 in the WCC thanks to seven wins in its last 12 games.

The Lakers have already defeated third-ranked Litchfield (9-10) and sixth-seeded West Central Area (8-10), while also losing to seventh-seeded Morris Area (5-13), but Minnewaska Area plays both WCA and Morris Area once more and the second time will be the key to where the Lakers end up with a final ranking.  

As things stand right now, the Lakers would open up at home against sixth-seeded WCA, whom they beat earlier this year in a close game, 60-54, while the top two seeds are NLS (19-0) and Montevideo (15-3).  The Lakers have played Montevideo tough twice this year, but NLS will be extremely tough to beat.  In the other half of the section are top-seeded Luverne (16-2) and second-ranked Pipestone Area (10-7).

In other Class AA sections, Section 1AA is loaded with Goodhue (18-3), Rochester Lourdes (19-3) and Caledonia (18-3), among others, while Section 6AA has 10 teams at .500 or better including top-seeded Albany (18-1) and ninth-seeded Spectrum (15-2), and Section 5AA has only five of the 16 teams at .500 or better including Providence Academy (16-2).  The Section 3AA continues Feb. 28, March 3 and March 10 with the championship game at SMSU in Marshall.

•  In wrestling, despite winning six-straight matches going into Saturday’s Kimball Invitational, the Lakers will probably still be seeded seventh out of the 10 teams in Section 5A, unless they can pull off a big upset against a top-tiered team, including BBE (11-5).

KMS (12-2), Canby (13-4) and BBE (14-5) will most-likely be seeded as the top three, while Paynesville Area (12-5), Minneota (13-6), Minnewaska (13-8) and Benson (15-8) are among the teams fighting for seeds 4-7, and ACGC (12-13), Ortonville (2-9) and BOLD (0-21) bring up the rear. As things stand now, the Lakers would be seeded seventh and wrestle 10th-seeded BOLD with the winner moving on to face second-seeded Canby.

The Section 5A Team Tourney is slated to begin Thursday, Feb. 16 with the “Final Four” set for Friday, Feb. 18 and the Section Individual Tourney is set for Saturday, Feb. 25 at Minnewaska Area High School.

The Lakers sent Chase Smith and Jacob Blair to the state tourney last year and should have a good shot at sending 2-3 wrestlers again this season.  Top wrestlers for the Lakers this winter are eighth-grader Miles Wildman (23-1), sophomore Chase Smith (23-1) and senior Nick Ankeny (22-2), who are all ranked among the top 10 in state, while senior Chase Boelke is 18-8 and three others have 16-8 records.

•  In boys basketball, the Lakers are ranked eighth of the eight teams in their half of Section 3AA.  Unless Minnewaska goes on a winning spree in its last eight regular-season game, the Lakers will be seeded eighth and will play the top seed, which will be one of the following four teams — Eden Valley-Watkins (13-4), Paynesville Area (15-4), WCA (13-5) or Morris Area-CA (13-6).  In the other half of the section, the top three teams are Jackson County Central (9-7), Pipestone Area (10-7) and Windom Area (12-7) so really, the section is wide open and any one of a number of teams can get hot and claim the section title.

Among the other Class AA sections, Section 2AA has seven of its 16 teams with .500 records or better, including Maple River (19-2), Lake Crystal-WM (17-1), Norwood-YA (16-2), MN Valley Lutheran (15-3) and Waseca (15-4).  In Section 5AA, 10 of the 16 teams are at .500 or better, including Holy Family (16-2), Mpls. North (10-6) and Maranatha (16-2), while Section 6AA is also loaded with 11 teams at .500 or better, including Albany (16-1) and Mora (14-3).  

The first round of the Section 3AA Boys Basketball Tourney is set for Saturday, March 4 with the remainder set for March 9, 11 and 16.  Go Lakers!