Sure signs of spring are in the air. Temperatures are warming up, snow is melting (then refreezing and melting again, etc.), birds are starting to return, and winter sports regular seasons are coming to an end. Last week and over the next couple weeks, every winter sports teams will have either entered postseason play or at least completed their regular season schedule.
The Bluejackets enter the Section 7AAA team tournament with a 21-12 record, including three victories in the finale — a home quad against White Bear Lake, Farmington, and Irondale. There, the Jackets topped the Bears 48-27, the Tigers 43-24, and the Knights 70-12. C-I’s record is good enough to be ranking #15 in Class AAA, but because of the loaded section, according to head coach Neil Jennissen, they will probably only receive the #4 seed in the section tournament since they lost to Forest Lake, Andover, and Anoka during the regular season.
North Branch, whose last competition was back on Feb. 2, competes in the 13-team Section 4AA, and will most likely be the underdog in their opening round match. State power Simley is the overwhelming favorite in that section.
North Branch finished their season with a friendly meet against Rush City/Pine City/Hinckley/Finlayson (RPHF), beating the Flamingos 133.725 - 127.625. Dakota Esget won vault (9.4), bars (9.05), floor (8.95), and all-around (35.275). Emma Fenton won the beam with a 9.075. North Branch’s section meet is this Friday at St. Francis. State #1 ranked Big Lake is the heavy favorite to win the team competition. Esget and her teammates will also be looking to capture individual berths to state.
Cambridge-Isanti completed their regular season a week ago, giving them plenty of time to polish up their routines for a possible return to team state after a two-year hiatus. The Jackets currently hold the best season average of all Section 7AA teams, but the margin is small enough one or two miscues by any team could make the difference between finishing first and finishing as low as third or fourth. The Section 7AA meet is also on Friday, at Elk River.
The Jackets put together a couple more wins to try and solidify their section standing for the postseason, which begins with play-in games this Saturday. Last week, C-I came away with a key 4-2 win over Chisago Lakes, plus added a 3-2 win over Becker Big Lake. Currently, the Jackets are predicted to receive the #3 seed in Section 5A. However, they also have two more regular season games to be played, as does several other section teams. So, wins or losses by any of those teams could shake up the final rankings. No matter what, C-I will at least host a section quarterfinal game next Tuesday.
Northern Edge’s struggles continued as they were soundly defeated three times last week. The team fell to Princeton 6-3, Chisago Lakes 11-3, and Anoka 8-2. The team’s 2-20-1 record has them firmly at the bottom of Section 7AA, meaning they will travel someplace for a play-in game on Saturday.
C-I is currently on a seven-game winning streak, having beaten Minneapolis Southwest 69-45, Big Lake 66-21, Coon Rapids 54-19, and Big Lake again 64-25. The Jackets still have three games remaining in their regular season, where they are currently in a battle for a top-four section ranking with four other teams, all of whom have a QRF ranking within nine of each other.
North Branch is currently in the midst of a 10-game skid after losing to Big Lake 32-31 and Sauk Rapids 55-47 last week. They too have three games remaining in the regular season, although it will be difficult for the Vikings to rise any higher than their current #5 seed in the six-team Section 7AAA.
Boys basketball teams have the longest wait before their postseason begins, with most teams still having at least four games left to play.
North Branch is peeking at the right time, winning six of their last seven games, including a 61-44 win over Big Lake and a 72-53 win over section foe Grand Rapids. NB is currently entrenched in the second seed in Section 7AAA, however a stumble or two could knock them down a couple pegs.
Like C-I’s girls team, the Bluejacket boys are embroiled in a tight, four-team race for the top four seeds in Section 7AAAA. C-I didn’t do themselves any favors by dropping a high-scoring game to St. Francis last week by a score of 92-85.
The only sport to completely finish their season is the Northern Tier Stars, who lost to state #1-ranked Andover 14-1 in the Section 7AA quarterfinals.
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