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Walker-Hackensack-Ackley draws Southwest Minnesota Christian in Class A state tournament opener

MINNEAPOLIS – The final state high school athletic tournament of the season begins today when the Class 2A, Class 3A and Class 4A boys basketball teams hit the courts at Williams Arena and Target Center.

The Class A teams will start their state tournament on Thursday.

Included in the Class A field is Section 8 representative Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. The Wolves are 27-2 after capping their section tournament run with a dominating 58-38 victory over Northern Freeze.

WHA’s first-ever trip to the state tournament begins 5 p.m. Thursday when it battles Southwest Minnesota Christian of Edgerton. SWMC is 27-1 and seeded third in the state field while the Wolves are unseeded.

Junior Chris Duff is WHA’s offensive leader as he averages 21 points per game. Senior Anthony Fisher adds 17.3 points and a team-high 12.2 rebounds per contest.

Southwest Minnesota Christian is competing in its second consecutive and eighth overall tournament. A year ago the Eagles finished second at state.

If WHA can pull off the upset it will face either Battle Lake (22-5) or No. 2 ranked Upsala (30-0) 2 p.m. Friday at Target Center in the state semifinals.

Battle Lake and Upsala will square off at 3 p.m. Thursday at Williams Arena in the lower bracket’s other quarterfinal.

Thursday’s upper bracket games at Williams Arena see No. 1 seeded Maranatha Christian Academy (29-1) tangling with Mountain Lake (24-5) at 11 a.m. and No. 4 Rushford-Peterson (26-3) facing No. 5 Lakeview Christian (20-1) at 1 p.m.

The Class A championship game will be March 23 at noon at the Target Center. The third place game will be March 23 at 10 a.m. at Concordia-St. Paul.

Class 2A

Perham (23-7) will represent Section 8 in the Class 2A field and the unseeded Yellowjackets drew top-seeded Minnehaha Academy (23-6) in today’s 6 p.m. game at Target Center.

Perham won the state title in 2011 and finished third last winter.

Today’s other upper-bracket opener at Target Center finds No. 5 Annandale (20-9) facing No. 4 Byron (25-4).

In the lower bracket at Williams Arena No. 2 Litchfield (24-5) tangles with unseeded Redwood Valley (24-5) and No. 3 Hayfield (22-7) meets unranked Esko (26-4).

Class 3A

Grand Rapids (20-9) will represent Section 7 at the state tournament for the sixth consecutive season and drew No. 3 Marshall (27-2) in today’s 4 p.m. game at Williams Arena.

Last year the Thunderhawks finished fourth.

Grand Rapids is led by sophomore Alex Illikainen who averages 27 points and 15.2 rebounds. This year he scored his 1,000th point and grabbed his 1,000th rebound.

Marshall is making its ninth appearance at state.

In today’s 2 p.m. game at Williams Arena No. 2 Austin (28-0) faces Blake (22-7). Today’s upper bracket games at Williams Arena see top-seeded DeLaSalle (27-1) meeting Sartell (17-12) at 10 a.m. and No. 4 Delano squaring off against No. 5 St. Paul Johnson (21-7) at noon.

Class 4A

Brainerd (28-1) won the Section 8-4A title last week and returns to the state tournament for the first time since 1991. The bad news, however, is that the unseeded Warriors drew No. 1 Apple Valley (28-1) in today’s 10 a.m. tournament opener at Target Center.

The Warriors ended the regular season ranked seventh in the state poll while Apple Valley was the top team.

Today’s other state quarterfinals at Target Center find No. 5 Eden Prairie (21-8) tangling with No. 4 Woodbury (25-4) at noon, No. 2 Park Center (26-3) battling unseeded Lakeville North (2-6) at 2 p.m. and No. 3 Edina (22-7) facing unseeded Andover (10-19) at 4 p.m.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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