Thursday's prep boys basketball playoff games
HIBBING (22-6) VS. PRINCETON (25-3)
What: Section 7AAA final
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Duluth East High School
Outlook: Hibbing comes in on a 16-game winning streak. A 17th consecutive victory would secure the program's first trip to the state tournament since 1989. The Bluejackets defeated Princeton 79-76 on Feb. 16, though the Tigers were without senior guard James Flicek (13.9 points per game) that afternoon. Hibbing's season took a turn for the better once the team's health improved and players such as sophomore Parker Maki (12.6 ppg, 7.9 rebounds per game) and freshman point guard Ayden McDonald returned to the lineup. Maki had per-game averages of 12.6 points and 7.9 rebounds entering the playoffs. McDonald, son of Bluejackets coach Joel McDonald, was averaging 15.6 points, 9.7 assists and four steals. Senior Luke Lundell (16.5 ppg) is the top scorer, while sophomore Mayson Brown (14.6 ppg) is another weapon. ... While Hibbing's state-tournament drought is at 30 years, that's nothing compared to Princeton's. The Tigers last appeared in 1932. Princeton is ranked fifth in Class AAA, three spots ahead of the Bluejackets. The Tigers' balanced offense is led by 6-foot-7 senior Jon Stimmler (17.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg) and senior Adam Williams (17.2 ppg). Princeton, the highest-scoring team in Class AAA at about 85 points per contest, is the section's No. 1 seed, while Hibbing is second.
ESKO (20-9) VS. PEQUOT LAKES (23-6)
What: Section 7AA final
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Romano Gym
Outlook: Esko is playing everything like the section's defending champ. Winners of eight straight, the Eskomos have defeated their three playoff opponents by a combined 71 points. They knocked off Pequot Lakes 63-53 on Feb. 5. In Tuesday's semifinal trouncing of Virginia, it was senior Camden Berger (23 points) and junior Trevor Spindler (21) doing most of the damage, though Esko has no shortage of talent, including junior Payton Wefel. "We have at least eight or nine guys that can come in and give us solid minutes," Berger said Tuesday. The point guard hit the 1,000-point milestone for his career vs. the Blue Devils. The top-seeded Eskomos are in their eighth section title game in as many years and seeking their sixth state berth since 2013. Derek Anderson is in his first season as Esko coach. ... Pequot Lakes, a No. 3 seed, is a lot like Esko in that the Patriots are awash in depth. In the semifinals, seniors Tyler Manley and Jordan Schommer totaled 25 and 21 points, respectively, in a 71-56 win over Greenway. Pequot Lakes has won 11 of 12 and is vying for the program's fourth state appearance. The others came in 2004, 2006 and '07.
Quotable: "I think it's big for us to know where we're at against them, but obviously this is a whole new game. We're gonna watch film, we're gonna practice and we'll be ready for them." — Anderson when asked if the Eskomos' earlier win over Pequot Lakes has any bearing on tonight's rematch
NORTHWESTERN (21-5) VS. MARTIN LUTHER (23-3)
What: Wisconsin Division 3 semifinal
When: 1:35 p.m.
Where: Kohl Center, Madison
Outlook: The Tigers are making their fourth state appearance and first since qualifying in 2010, which resulted in a runner-up finish in Division 2. Northwestern won two section playoff games in overtime, including 75-68 over Wisconsin Dells in the Marshfield Sectional final. Sam Risley (16.1 ppg) and Brody Payton (13.1 ppg) lead the team in scoring. Risley is accurate from 3-point range (43.2 percent) and at the foul line (76.3 percent). ... Martin Luther, out of Greendale, Wis., a Milwaukee suburb, is long and athletic. Trequan Carrington (19.3 ppg) and Ace Evans (15.9) are the leaders of an offense that features four players with double-digit scoring averages. The Metro Classic champs spent all but one week at No. 1 this season.
Radio: WNXR-FM 107.3