The Pequot Lakes Patriots girls' basketball team will get a chance to regain its prominence in Minnesota.
That's when the Class 2A's seventh-ranked Patriots (7-0) host the third-ranked Albany Huskies (10-0) 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Huskies are coming off a championship week where they defeated the Little Falls Flyers 66-44 in the first round of the Stearns County holiday tournament.
Albany then beat Sauk Rapids 73-43 before knocking off Eden Valley-Watkins 53-46.
Last season, the Huskies missed the state tournament by eight points, losing to Foley in the Section 6 final 63-55. Led by senior guard Darby Noreen and sophomore guard Joanne Noreen, Albany has a well-balanced attack.
In the three-game tournament, Darby Noreen led Albany with 44 points followed by younger sister Joanne with 40. Kari Wolford scored 35 points, including a 17-point, 10-rebound performance against Sauk Rapids. Shannon McNeil finished with 28 points in the tournament, including a 17-point, 6-rebound championship game.
Pequot is also rolling. In its first season in the Mid-State Conference, the Patriots are 3-0 with wins over Staples-Motley, Wadena-Deer Creek and Pine River-Backus. The fast start, and the tradition of Pequot girls' basketball, has fans thinking an upset Friday.
"They have an all-around game," Pequot sophomore guard Flecia Foster said of Albany. "Their guards can shoot from anywhere and they have some good posts so Teresa (Parker) will be matched up pretty good.
"This is a real big game for us. (Head coach Bill) Larson is putting a lot of confidence in us. We will stay with them but we will have to slow it down because they're a fast team. We have to be mentally prepared for this game."
The Patriots are led by 6-foot-1 sophomore Parker and Foster. The two are first and third in the area in scoring. Parker is averaging 25.3 points with Foster at 16.7.
Rounding out the Patriots' starting five are 5-11 senior forward Ashley Meschke, 5-11 forward Brittany Engen and 6-2 junior center Kristy Meyers.
"We're all working a lot better together now," said Foster. "Since Julie (Redebaugh) left we all decided that we needed to work together because she was such a big part of our team."
The Patriots are hoping for a win, which would catapult them into the rest of the conference schedule. After Albany, Pequot plays Crosby-Ironton, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids and C-I again.
"If we get this game -- this will be the toughest game of the year," Foster said. "We'll all have a lot of confidence. I don't think Crosby or Detroit Lakes is the caliber Albany is."
One drawback for the Patriots might be the fact they haven't played since Dec. 17 when they defeated Pillager.
"Over Christmas break we've had a lot of practice," said Foster. "It shouldn't slow us down too much."
Could this be a first?
In his 18 seasons at Crosby-Ironton, Dave Galovich has not won at Staples-Motley. The Rangers travel to S-M for a Mid-State Conference clash 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Rangers (5-2) are hot, winners of their last five, including victories over Aitkin and Brooklyn Center. The Cardinals have dropped three in a row and at 2-6 are off to their worst start in Lynn Peterson's 24-year tenure at S-M.
C-I is led by junior forward Tyler Scull and his 15.6 ppg. Jon Jasman is scoring at a 12.9 clip followed by Tony Zontelli's 12.6 average. Junior forward Parker Robinson has come on lately and is averaging 8.3 ppg.
The Cardinals are led by Josh Smith 11.9, Nick Doll 11.6 and Aaron Kelley 11.1. Junior point guard Chad Brever is back after missing action, giving the Cardinals more depth.
Peterson has a record of 38-9 over the Rangers with the last loss coming in the 1997-98 season at Crosby.
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