After a year’s absence the Sweet 16 (12) Tournament made a return with a familiar refrain: Hopkins claimed their tenth title overall in the series and their seventh (with no 2020) straight with a 62-57 win over Minnetonka. The Royals have made it a habit of being in the finals—-they have been in the title game continuously since 2009. Besides that, the title match up featured the Lake Conference—again. For the fourth straight year a conference rival faced the juggernaut Royals. This time it was Minnetonka who made their second title game appearance. The Royals beat the Skippers 63-51 in 2012. The last two Lake Conference silver medalists (minus 2020 virus) was Wayzata; before that St. Michael-Albertville in 2017. With conference rivals there is no shortage of emotion. That was the case in point today in the contentious final. Of the ten titles Hopkins has won, this was the closest.
Here is the action from Sunday
Hopkins 93, Mankato East 42
Minnetonka 64, Austin 46
Hopkins 62, Minnetonka 57
Austin 74, Mankato East 63
Providence 59, Minnehaha 44
St. Michael-Albertville 77, Lake City 64
Providence 78, St. Michael-Albertville 56
Minnehaha 67, Lake City 58
Cass Lake-Bena 71, West Central 66
Minneota 61, Stephen-Argyle 40
Cass Lake-Bena 61, Minneota 60
GAME 1: MINNETONKA 64, AUSTIN 46
A week ago Saturday at Stillwater Austin ran over the field in the three game Breakdown series. The Packers won three of the four contests at the Sweet 16(12). Minnetonka gave them some of their own medicine. Minnetonka scored on their first five possessions starting with a 3 from Grace Hamdorf from the right side. Austin had seen enough and called time one and a half minutes into the game. The Skippers tacked on another score after that time out for six straight to open the game. Substitutions took some of the wind out of the sails and the Packers righted their ship and started chipping away at the lead. They never strung together a sequence like Minnetonka, but the veterans showed no panic. It seemed to me that Austin had an &1 opportunity at the end of the first quarter that would have tied it up at 16, but apparently the faint table scoreboard horn went off and the foul and score was waved off.
Minnetonka did not do as much subbing in the second quarter and enjoyed a 33-23 lead at half. Tonka’s starters averaged a 112.8 pp100 for the game; their bench checked in at 72.4. Austin’s starters were at 76. Their bench was close to freezing at 36. By the end of the third quarter Minnetonka was up 58-37.
It should be noted it is amazing that no athlete was sent to the hospital in this game. Not because of overly violent behavior, but because the humid conditions apparently made it appropriate to wear skates. Several times from both teams players crashed to the ground with slippage. The St. Ben’s fieldhouse floor is made synthetic material. Court 4 was the worst. I didn’t notice the issue much on court 3 (championship court). Concerned fans tried periodically to mop up what residue was there with paper towels.
|TOP SCORER||Emma Dasovich 12||Hope Dudycha 11|
|TOP 31 CLUB||Emma Dasovich 20||Reana Schmitt 22|
GAME 2 CHAMPIONSHIP: HOPKINS 62, MINNETONKA 57
When teams know each other very well, there is a little extra incentive to send messages. There were many messages being sent with overly enthusiastic responses to action on the court. Some very loudly. Not only with words, but with body language. The opponents did not appreciate those displays. Twice there were technical in this game. Several times I wondered if players would be in concussion protocol. The players were removed from action, but all returned to the intense action. This made for compelling viewing. This game, besides being a championship game, obviously meant something.
Just as in the semis, Minnetonka started on fire. Desiree Ware and then Hamdorf hit 3s on the Skippers first two possessions. The Skippers were up 8-1 when Hopkins was forced to talk about it two minutes into the game. Hopkins quickly got back into the game leading 17-14 at the end of nine minutes. The second quarter saw Hopkins add two more to the lead.
At the start of the third quarter Minnetonka’s Kiani Locket went on a scoring rampage. After an initial pair of Hopkins free throws, Lockett hit two consecutive 3s, was fouled on a third attempt and cashed in all three free throws; scored a lay up and added her fourth 3 for 14 total points and Minnetonka was back in front 41-34. It also burned a Hopkins time out with 5:46 left in the quarter. Just as the first quarter time out put out the flames, so did this break. Hopkins tied it at 42 on Kelly Boyle’s 3, went in front 44-42 on a Liv McGill lay up after Amaya Battle’s theft. Minnetonka nosed back in front on Emma Dasovich’s &1 inside 45-44.
Hopkins opened the fourth quarter with three straight scores (50-45). Minnetonka would narrow the gap a couple of times to three. With two minutes left Tonka trailed 58-55, had the ball and called time. They were not able to convert on their three attempt. Hopkins had the ball and milked the clock. McGill was fouled, made the first but missed the second. Maya Nnaji grabbed the miss. Once again McGill was fouled. Once again make, then miss. Once again Nnaji was there with the board. This time, after some more clock was erased, Nnaji scored inside for a 62-55 lead. Ware ended the scoring on a second chance basket for the final margin. This was the closest final margin of the ten Hopkins titles. Six was the closest prior to today. Previously they beat Bloomington Kennedy 61-55 in 2009 and Eastview 64-58 in 2014. Their biggest margin came in 2018 over Wayzata 84-59. Paige Bueckers was in the house today and on the bench with her former teammates.
Hopkins prevailed in this game in part thanks to their wing spans. That helped to explain a ten turnover differential. Those turnovers (and long rebounds) led to twelve points (6/13); while the Skippers were bageled (0/5) in that department. Extending it out to points off lay ups Hopkins wins that war 20-4. Put another way Hopkins final point total was 32% off lay ups; 67.7% counting restricted area points. Contrast that with the 35% of the points in the restricted area for Minnetonka. Hopkins loves to get to the rim. Getting to the rim also equals getting to the free throw line. The Royals had ten more attempts there than there westside neighbors. Hopkins got to the line every 13 touches, Minnetonka 18.9. Where the Skippers ruled was behind the arc. They connected eight times—translated 24 points or 42% of their total. Hopkins did manage one lonely 3.
|TOP SCORER||Nunu Agara 14||Kiani Lockett 18|
|TOP 31 CLUB||Nunu Agara 31||Emma Dasovich 28|