Tom's Tips: A look at the week's top prep events
Montevideo deals with a 'gauntlet' of tough games this week
The Montevideo girls basketball team is in the midst of a rugged schedule that has seen the Thunder Hawks play a pair of strong Class AAA schools, a couple of tough West Central Conference opponents and then a couple of state-ranked opponents.
It's seven difficult games in 17 days, including three this week.
It starts with a conference game Tuesday at Minnewaska, then follows with a game at state-ranked New London-Spicer on Thursday before the Thunder Hawks return home Friday for BOLD, another state-ranked opponent.
"We do have a tough schedule right now," Montevideo head coach Anthony Jackson said. "Minnewaska is not having the year they've planned on. New London is obviously a game that gets everyone's attention. And then there is BOLD.
"Obviously, it's a gauntlet week."
Minnewaska is 5-11 but playing good teams tough. The Lakers have lost four games by seven or less points, including a 52-47 decision Dec. 6 at Montevideo.
Then comes NLS, ranked second in the state in Class AA. On Friday, it's BOLD, ranked eighth in the state in Class A. Jackson figures the Thunder Hawks will know a lot more about themselves. They're 13-2 and ranked 11th in Class AA. That comes after beating New Ulm 60-56 on Tuesday and West Central Area after West Central Area 70-62 on Friday.
New Ulm was in the top 20 in Class AAA before the most recent state poll. The Eagles have a 12-6 record. The Thunder Hawks' losses are to Pequot Lakes, 51-46 at the Breakdown Granite City Classic in St. Cloud and 57-55 to Marshall on Jan. 16. Marshall is another strong Class AAA team that currently has a 12-5 record. Pequot Lakes is 11-1 and ranked eighth in Class AA.
Jackson is concerned about the back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, and the three games in four days including Tuesday's at Glenwood.
"We'll have to make our way through it," Jackson said. "We're honestly not the deepest team, so three games is tricky. The Pequot Lakes came back-to-back (with a win 62-59 win over Crosby-Ironton), so that'll be one of our conversations this week."
Here's a look at some other events of note in the area this week:
* MONDAY — The Willmar boys hockey team is host to the Fergus Falls Otters at 6:30 p.m. at the Willmar Civic Center. This is a sort of a home-and-home series, with the teams scheduled to play Tuesday at Fergus Falls. The teams seem evenly matched. Willmar went into the weekend with a 5-10 record and average 3.0 goals per game. The Otters are 8-7 and average 3.1. A Willmar player to watch is Cullen Gregory. He's big and strong and can find the net.
* TUESDAY — The Marshall girls basketball team plays Willmar at 7:15 p.m. at the Big Red Gym. Willmar is 4-13, but coming off a quality loss, 69-67 Saturday at New Ulm. The Tigers are on a four-game winning streak and beat Willmar 53-49 last season.
* THURSDAY — The Brainerd/Little Falls girls hockey team comes to town to take on Willmar at 7:15 p.m. at the Willmar Civic Center. Brainerd/LF is 5-2-2 in the Central Lakes Conerence and 11-8-3 overall. Willmar is 5-4 in conference play and 11-8-1 overall. A win over the Flyin' Warriors would be a big one for the Cardinals, who are ranked 18th in the state in Class A. Brainerd/LF is a AA program and one of the top teams in the CLC.
* FRIDAY — Alexandria plays the Willmar boys basketball team at 7:15 p.m. at the Big Red Gym. Alex is 6-1 in the conference, 10-2 overall and ranked sixth in the state in Class AAA. Willmar is trying to get it together four straight losses, three of which were close: 54-50 to Sauk Rapids, 54-50 to Sartell and 56-47 at Fergus Falls. The Cardinals first play Monday at Hutchinson, then play Tuesday at Brainerd before returning home to face Becker on Thursday before they even get to Alex. That's a hectic, tough week.