The Week Ahead: Spartans hunting for Big Nine basketball title
Three weeks ago, Rochester Mayo was hovering around .500 and had lost four times in a stretch of six games.
Since a 30-28 overtime loss to Faribault on Jan. 26, the Spartans have been a different team.
Mayo has won seven consecutive games and is solidly part of a four-team logjam atop the Big Nine Conference. And with just two weeks to go in the regular season, Mayo has a chance to go out and earn a conference title.
The Spartans have gone from 8-6 after the loss to Faribault to 15-6 overall and 14-3 in the Big Nine. They are bunched with Northfield (15-3), Winona (14-3) and Owatonna (14-4) in the chase for the conference crown.
If it hopes to win the Big Nine, Mayo will have to make hay on the road.
The Spartans play four of their final five regular-season games away from home. That stretch begins Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Owatonna. The Huskies beat the Spartans 62-52 back on Jan. 5, at Mayo.
Mayo played that game, though, without standout guard Olivia Korngable. During Mayo’s seven-game winning streak, Korngable has added to the Spartans’ offensive balance. She is averaging 10.7 points per game during the streak, adding even more scoring depth along with senior forward Grace Riley, junior guard Hallie Olson, senior guard Siennah Stamness and sophomore Foney Marcellino.
The Spartans have been equally impressive defensively during their winning streak, limiting opponents to 34.7 points per game, including allowing just 31 in a 13-point win against Northfield last week.
Following its trip to Owatonna on Tuesday, Mayo closes its regular season with games at Red Wing on Thursday, at Rochester Century on Friday, at Austin Feb. 21 and home against Red Wing on Feb. 24.
WHAT TO WATCH
• Section 1 dual tournaments, Thursday and Saturday: Three teams will earn trips on Saturday to the state tournament in St. Paul, which is set for March 2-4 at the Xcel Energy Center. Owatonna (No. 6, Class AAA); Kasson-Mantorville (No. 1, AA); and Zumbrota-Mazeppa (No. 3, A) are the highest ranked teams from Section 1 in their respective classes. Title duals are Saturday afternoon at Mayo Civic Center.
• Section 1 meets: The top high school gymnasts in southeastern Minnesota compete for spots in next week’s state meet at University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. The Section 1AA meet is set for Friday in Owatonna, while the Section 1A meet is scheduled for Saturday at Pine Island.
• Section 1A championship game, Thursday: The top two seeds in the section have rolled into the final, outscoring their four postseason opponents 28-1. Top seed Red Wing has defeated No. 2 Northfield twice this season, both times by just one goal. The game features two talented scorers, Red Wing’s Taylor Heise (54 goals, 80 points) and Northfield’s Brynn Puppe (24 goals, 40 points). Game time is 5 p.m. at Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.
• Northfield at Red Wing, Thursday: Northfield has clinched at least a tie for the Big Nine Conference championship. Red Wing still has a chance to earn second place, if it wins its final two regular-season conference games, Thursday against Northfield and Saturday against Faribault.
• Hayfield at Kenyon-Wanamingo, Tuesday: Two of the top teams in southeastern Minnesota meet at Kenyon at 7:15 p.m. Hayfield is atop the Hiawatha Valley League Blue Division at 12-2 (19-4 overall), while K-W is third in the Blue at 9-5 (15-8 overall). Hayfield edged K-W 54-49 on Dec. 28 in the teams’ previous meeting this season.
• Lourdes at Lake City, Tuesday: Two of the top three teams in the HVL Gold Division match up in Lake City. Lake City (11-2, 16-4) defeated Lourdes (9-3, 14-5) in a tight battle, 59-56, in their first meeting this season, on Jan. 6 at Lourdes. Lake City has lost two of its past three games, on the heels of winning eight out of nine. Lourdes is 6-2 in its past eight games.