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Run to March: Identifying favorites in 4A girls high school basketball

There's a huge showdown between undefeated Wayzata and Hopkins on Friday night.

In this week's edition of the Bring Me The News Run to March high school sports series, we take a look at some of the top teams in girls' high school basketball. 

Which teams are considered favorites in all four classes, and will any of them push for an undefeated season?

The conversation starts with Hopkins, who enters play Friday with an unblemished 18-0 record. The Royals are led by five-star recruit Paige Bueckers, who ESPN Recruiting Nation ranks as the best player in the country in the Class of 2020. 

Bueckers averages 25.3 points per game, according to MNBasketballHub, along with more than five rebonds, six assists and nearly five steals per game. Hopkins is loaded, with two ninth-graders and an eighth-grader also contributing big-time production this season. 

Push will come to shove Friday night as No. 1 Hopkins takes on Lake Conference rival, undefeated No. 2 Wayzata (18-0). The winner of this big-time showdown should be considered the top dog in the state. 

What's more is that the winner of the game could wind up being the top seed in the Section 6 playoffs. Sadly, one of these two is guaranteed to miss the state tournament because they might have to play each other to get there. 

Let's break things down section-by-section. 

Section 1

No. 4 Farmington (17-1) is leading the section race thanks to a 14-point win over Lakeville North (11-6) earlier this season. The Tigers and North could easily square off in the section finals later this season, but Rochester John Marshall could also be a team to reckon with come playoff time. 

John Marshall is 14-2 and is led by senior guard Jessie Ruden and freshman center Lily Meister. 

Section 2

Eden Prairie (14-3), Chaska (15-3) and Shakopee (13-5) are in a race for the top three spots in the section. Eden Prairie defeated Chaska 76-71 earlier this season while Chaska beat Shakopee by three. Shakopee and Eden Prairie don't play during the regular season. 

Eden Prairie recently beat fourth-ranked Farmington to add to its impressive list of wins, and its only losses are to Lakeville South, Wayzata and Hopkins. 

Eden Prairie is led by junior forward Nneka Obiazor, who is ninth in Class 4A in scoring with an average of 19.8 points per game. Chaska's top scorer is a freshman, Mallory Heyer, who burst onto the scene with 35 points in the season opener against Edina. 

Section 3

Defending 4A state champion Eastview (13-4) has plenty of competition with Apple Valley (13-5) in the section, while Rosemount (9-9) and Burnsville (8-7) have potential to pull a big upset. 

Apple Valley's five losses are by a combined 21 points, and those include losses to top-10 teams Eden Prairie, Farmington and St. Michael-Albertville, not to mention a two-point loss to Eastview on Jan. 4. 

Section 4

Stillwater (15-2) is 6-0 in the section and appears destined for a trip to the state tournament. The Ponies are led by Sarah Scalia, a senior guard who averages 23.8 points per game and is one of the state's most dangerous 3-point shooters. 

They also have a dominant center in 6-foot-3 junior Liza Karlan, who averages more than 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, and sophomore guard Alexis Pratt, who pours in more than 16 points per game. 

Their only losses are to undefeated powers, Hopkins and Wayzata. 

Section 5

This might be the toughest section to get out of with three big-time teams in Park Center (15-2), Roseville (16-3) and Centennial (13-4). 

The common denominator for the trio is Centennial, which lost by three points to Roseville and 14 points against Park Center. Park Center and Roseville do not meet in the regular season. 

Park Center boasts the leading scorer in Class 4A with sophomore forward Adalia McKenzie, who averages 27.5 points per game 

Park Center is ranked sixth in the latest top-10 poll and Roseville is ninth. 

Section 6

See the top of the story for all that talk about Hopkins and Wayzata, but another team that deserves some recognition is Robbinsdale Armstrong (15-5). 

The Falcons are tested having gone against a bunch of tough teams, including Maple Grove, Park Center, Eden Prairie and Elk River. They lost those four games but proved capable of hanging with them. 

Section 7

Forest Lake (15-4) is the team to beat. Just look at the Rangers' four losses: third-ranked Stillwater twice, 3A power HIll-Murray and a top-10 Roseville team. None of them were blowouts, so the Rangers can definitely hang with the top teams 4A has to offer. 

They also blew out the team right behind them in the section, Cambridge-Isanti, by 33 points. 

Section 8

Good luck picking the winner in this loaded section. There are three high-caliber teams with St. Michael-Albertville (14-3), Maple Grove (14-4) and Elk River (13-4).

STMA is ranked fifth in the state and is probably the best suited team to matchup with any squad Minnesota has to offer them. Their losses are to Hopkins (by 10 points), Wayzata (by 5 points) and defending champion Eastview (by 8 points). 

The Knights beat Maple Grove by six points in the season opener but don't meet Elk River until Feb. 9. 

Maple Grove, meanwhile, has the top scoring defense in 4A (39.3 PPG) and is capable of shutting any team down. 

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