Thanks to the carousel that is the Heart O’ Lakes Conference, Pelican Rapids swaps with Barnesville in the boys rankings. Battle Lake continues to prove itself worthy of the top spot.
On the girls side, Verndale and Hawley swap spots at the bottom of the top five and Fergus Falls wins its biggest game of the season.
1. Battle Lake (20-0)
This week: At Hillcrest Lutheran Academy Thursday, at West Central Area Saturday
Battle Lake showed exactly why they are 20-0 in their 81-71 win over Pelican Rapids, the Class 1A team’s fourth win over a Class 2A team.
The Battlers have four guys that can jump out of the building seen in 11 blocks between Tyler Ukkelberg, Dan Marso, Petric VanErp and Tony Ukkelberg. That length and jumping ability was also seen in the fact they won the rebound battle 40-29.
They can bomb from the outside, as they hit eight 3-pointers from four different guys and they have a post presence in Nick Trosdahl, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. This all against a 15-5 Pelican Rapids team that had won five straight.
16-5 Hillcrest Lutheran Academy and 14-5 West Central Area won’t be easy, but, at this point, it’s hard to bet against Battle Lake.
2. Perham (14-6)
This week: Host Frazee Tuesday, at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Friday, at Little Falls Saturday
Perham is 10-3 in section play with the hardest schedule of any team in the Heart O’ Lakes Conference.
The Yellowjackets fell to a team that is becoming a thorn in a lot of sides in the HOL in Hawley. The Nuggets are 10-9 overall, but 7-3 in conference and tied with Barnesville and Pelican Rapids for the conference lead with Perham behind them at 6-3.
Perham is 0-2 against Hawley, 1-0 against Barnesville and 1-1 against Pelican Rapids.
At this point, flip a coin to see what team will make it out of the HOL and the southwest subsection of Section 8AA.
3. Pelican Rapids (15-5)
This week: At Hawley Tuesday, Host Breckenridge Friday
Pelican Rapids picked up revenge on Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, knocked off East Grand Forks before falling to Battle Lake last week. Won’t get any easier with Hawley Tuesday.
Pelican gets the nod over Barnesville for their 10-4 record in section play and Barnesville falling to Breckenridge, but the Trojans aren’t going anywhere just yet. Just like everything in the HOL, this could all change with one game.
4. Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (16-1)
This week: Host Sisseton (S.D.) Tuesday, host Ortonville Thursday, at Brandon-Evansville Friday
Senior forward Carter Thiel is leading the Warriors on an incredible season. Problem is they’ll have to top a Battle Lake team that beat them 71-32 in their only loss just to get a chance to play in a section title game.
5. Fertile-Beltrami (16-4)
This week: At Norman County West Tuesday, at Fosston Thursday
The Falcons had won six straight before losing to 18-1 Cavalier (N.D.). The Falcons look set for a subsection title matchup with Northern Freeze, which beat them 70-59 earlier in the season.
If the Falcons get by Northern Freeze, they’d most likely have to take on a Red Lake team they fell to 61-55 earlier in the season.
Knocking on the door
Barnesville (15-4): This should really be knocking on the revolving door thanks to the HOL. Barnesville falls due to a loss to 7-12 Breckenridge and because the above teams seem to be guaranteed a spot in their subsection title games.
At this point, it’s hard to guarantee the Trojans win their first playoff game. Pelican Rapids and Perham seem like a better bet….for now.
1. Fergus Falls (18-0)
This week: At Sartell-St. Stephen Tuesday, host Fergus Falls Invitational Thursday
Fergus Falls had their toughest matchup of the season against Thief River Falls (ranked No. 7 in Class 3A) and still won by 10, opening the second half on a 17-4 run to take a 40-27 lead and winning 50-40.
Bailey Strand and Anna Monke had 16 each, Kristen Traiser had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Otters. Don’t see any team beating the Otters in the regular season.
2. Ada-Borup (18-0)
This week: At Win-E-Mac Thursday
The Cougars are beating teams on average by 34 points. They get 17-1 Win-E-Mac, which is ranked No. 9 in Class 1A, Thursday.
Ada-Borup beat Mahnomen 55-20 and didn’t have a player score more than Haley Gehrtz’s 11. The Cougars beat Climax-Fisher 70-16 and didn’t have a player score more than Lexi Merkens’ 14 and beat Hillsboro-Central Valley 70-58 and had five girls in double digits in scoring.
3. Pelican Rapids (17-1)
This week: Host Hawley Thursday
So much focus is on sophomore guard Mackenzie Korf and for good reason. She had 32 points 11 assists and six steals Saturday versus Little Falls and her final jumper gave her 1,000 points for her career.
What’s overlooked is Grace Forsgren and Lincoln Haiby. Forsgren had 17 points, six rebounds and three assists against Little Falls and Lincoln Haiby had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a 73-59 win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.
The Vikings become a more complete team with every game.
4. Hawley (13-6)
This week: At Pelican Rapids Thursday, at Concordia College (Moorhead) vs. Brandon-Evansville Saturday
The Nuggets are rolling. They’ve won seven straight and are 10-2 in section play, but there’s no hiding from Pelican Rapids. The Nuggets will have to top them to escape the southwest subsection of Section 8AA.
The Nuggets lost to Pelican Rapids 59-37 on Jan. 14. They head to Pelican Rapids Thursday.
5. Verndale (16-3)
This week: Host Bertha-Hewitt Tuesday, host New York Mills Thursday, at Wadena-Deer Creek Saturday
Verndale was close to dropping out of the rankings after a 65-51 loss to West Central Area and a 61-58 win in overtime against Henning, but the Pirates are 7-2 in section play and are most likely two games away from a trip to state.
The Pirates will most likely see Browerville in the Section 5A North championship. They lost the previous meeting 76-72 in the season opener. If they can get by Browerville then they are in the section title game with Isle and one win away from a trip to state.
Knocking on the door
Barnesville (14-3): Barnesville has a 58-56 loss to Frazee, a 49-34 loss to Pelican Rapids and a 53-44 loss to Hawley on the resume. The Trojans are 1-1 against Hawley and 0-1 against Pelican Rapids. Those will be the teams they need to overcome in section play to get to the section championship.
Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.