EDIT: Dover-Eyota and Hawley are out, both ousted in the section semis. Dover-Eyota lost to Pine Island in OT, #1 seed Hawley was shocked by #5 Wadena by 5. They are the only 2 of my 32 state tournament picks who are out with 1 week to go to the last of the section finals.
EDIT March 10: I also missed BOLD and Mpls. Washburn, but I got Sauk Centre and Braham over Esko.
Providence is one of 4 defending state champions that could conceivably repeat this year. What is almost inconceivable is that the Lions might not repeat this year. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva should be back with Carlie Wagner, but it's still a 5-on-5 game and the Lions' 5 look well-nigh unbeatable.
Class AA, Wednesday, March 13 at Target Center and Williams Arena
At Target Center
6 p.m., Section 1 vs. Section 5
Dover-Eyota (#14 QRF, 23-3) looks to be the sacrificial lamb to the Lions of Providence (#1, 19-4), though Section 1 is deeper than deep, with Pine Island (21-5), Caledonia (19-7) and Chatfield (17-7) all contending. But DE's Sarah Pease and Brandi Blattner give the Eagles an edge.
In Section 5 there are no challengers to Providence. Annandale (#2, 18-5) and Jordan (#19, 19-4) deserve a better shot but as it is they have virtually none. Leah Szabla, Natalie Ratliff, Taylor Finley and company could play up a class and still contend.
8 p.m. Section 3 vs. Section 7
Too bad the Section 7 final, probably Esko (#3, 20-2) and Braham (#7, 23-0) can't be played here, now. Esko, with 6-9 Savanna Trapp, and Braham, with likely Ms. Basketball Rebekah Dahlman, are 2 of the most exciting teams in Class AA. (Providence might be the best, but on the excitement scale not so much.) Either will be a solid favorite over the Section 3 rep. EDIT: But right now Esko's Trapp is out with an injured toe and until and unless she returns full strength, then I'm switching to Braham. Their opponent probably will be Worthington (#25, 17-5). On paper, the Trojans don't look like much but the fact is they've already defeated their top challengers, BOLD (21-3) and Martin County West (20-4).
At Williams Arena
6 p.m. Section 4 vs. Section 6
This will be an intriguing matchup of the big city school, probably either Mpls. Washburn (#6, 17-6) or Minnehaha (#12, 17-6), versus the small school team, which could be any 1 of 4 contenders--Staples-Motley (#4, 18-4), Albany (#5, 20-3), New London-Spicer (#9, 19-4) or Sauk Centre (#10, 21-1). I'll go with Minnehaha and Sauk, who met in the 2011 semi-final, Minnehaha winning 50-43. Neither is a stranger to the state tournament in recent years. Minnehaha's depth--with Nicole Nipper, 9th grader Sarah Kaminski and Chloe Gunderson all capable of scoring in bunches--is the difference, though Sauk's Macy Weller is the best player on this court.
8 p.m. Section 2 vs. Section 8
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (#9, 24-1) should waltz into the state semis if not the final. Well, it won't be a waltz but Carlie Wagner, possibly already the best player in the state in any class, will make it seem that way. They'll meet the representative of Section 8. Most of the year, that looked like Crookston (#7, 16-5) but lately it looks more like Hawley (#13, 17-4) who in fact beat Crookston 40-37 a couple weeks ago. Further, the Pirates have lost 3 of 6.
Semi-Finals and Finals
Providence and NHREG are prohibitive favorites to advance to the finals, where Providence is the prohibitive favorite. I can't predict an upset.
Braham beats Minnehaha for 3rd place.
C- Katie Nickles, Braham
F- Natalie Ratliff, Providence
F- Taylor Finley, Providence
G- Carlie Wagner, NRHEG
G- Rebekah Dahlman, Braham