The Zimmerman Thunder, fresh from winning the Granite Ridge Conference championship, now set their sights on a return trip to the state tournament, with a tougher task this year after moving up to Class 3A.
The Thunder (22-4) are seeded No. 3 in Section 7AAA and will host neighboring Princeton (14-11), the No. 6 seed, in the opener Friday at 7 p.m.
No. 9 North Branch will play at No. 8 Chisago Lakes on Wednesday in a pigtail game. The winner meets No. 1 Grand Rapids (21-5) on Friday while No. 5 Hibbing (15-11) plays at No. 4 Hermantown (17-9) and No. 7 Cloquet (9-17) plays at No. 2 Duluth Denfeld (19-7), all at high seeds.
Zimmerman has beaten Princeton 70-66 and 79-48 in conference play.
In semifinals Tuesday, March 13, the Zimmerman-Princeton winner faces the Cloquet-Denfeld winner, at the high seed. The finals will be held Thursday, March 15, at Cambridge.
Last year, Zimmerman was a state entrant in Class 2A and lost in the first round to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 61-58. The Thunder’s top two scorers graduated, but nine of 11 players who saw regular action returned.