EIGHT GAMES FROM THE HOPKINS BREAKDOWN TIP OFF CLASSIC
Last year was an asterisk season. No multiple team/mega events transpired, including the epic battle of top 10 teams (usually) at the Breakdown at Hopkins. It was a welcome return to normalcy this year. Eight is enough and that is the number of contests that I charted on Saturday. As a result of all this viewing (combined with the dozen at St. Thomas Academy) I am well on the way to seeing all the topflight teams in the state. Using last week’s top 10 polls I have seen nine in AAAA, seven in AAA, six in AA and two in A. Even in the prior pandemic era this would be a great start to the year. In the past I would attempt to see the top 100 teams in the state (according to the QRF formula). I would also try to check off all the AAAA teams. I do not know if I will get to those marks this year, but with the first two weeks under the belt I have a decent shot.
Some general observations from Saturday’s great 8: The top conference, bar none, is the Lake. They probably should rename it to the “GREAT” Lake because almost every night there is a worthwhile opponent. Three of the Lake teams topped 100 pp100 in the games yesterday. For the day the conference was 3-1. The best pp100 belonged to Minnetonka with 111.8 followed closely by Eden Prairie at 108.6 and Hopkins at 106.1. All five Minnetonka starters were north of 100 —like Stillwater was on Wednesday. (Only one Pony was able to duplicate that feat on Saturday). Tonka’s starters were 128, Hopkins 114, EP 113. Hopkins had all five starters scored double digits.
I know there are always transfers galore searching for greener pastures. But, if the stated goal is to play at the “next level,” then the option that best prepares a player for those rigors would be a Lake conference team. Any other move is avoiding real competition. You will be tested—-always. Fall asleep for one or two possessions and your team will be tagged with an L. This even includes other public schools—including AAAA levels. Now if you want the best test tubes, or the best orchestra, or the best debaters, or the best blazers, then other options are available. But you won’t be tested every game either. And maybe that is OK for some. Being a big fish in a small pond has some advantages. Just don’t claim you want to play at the highest level.
There was a plethora of strong performances on Saturday with 12 additions to the 31 Club (a sweet 16 for the week). Two made the 41 Club with Ronnie Porter of Como Park notching a best 47 for the day. Back when I first started reporting and charting these contests, I set the bar at 100 pp100 and a floor % of .500. Using those filters the 31 Club plus the 100 pp100 bar had eight members. Throw in the floor % and the number drops to seven. Of those seven here are the top five for the day:
Amber Scalia of Stillwater with a 42 in the 31 Club, her second straight 41 Club performance of the week. Scalia, who is head to St. Thomas next season, for the week was 10/15 from the 3 point arc. Scalia nailed big 3s when needed against STMA on Saturday. This is why she gets the nod for TRENCH PLAYER of the week. Consistent and efficient. She also joined the 1000 point club on Saturday. There has been, and continues to be, many offensive weapons at Stillwater. Scalia had deferred to others in the past. Now this her time to step up and she is.
Name, points, 31 Club, pp100, floor %
Amber Scalia, Stillwater 31, 42, 163.2, .632
Tessa Johnson, St. Michael-Albertville 29, 40, 126.1, .522
Kiani Lockett, Minnetonka, 20, 36, 153.8, .692
Addi Mack, Minnehaha 26, 35, 144.4, .611
Maya Nnaji, Hopkins 17, 34, 154.5, .727
I would like to also point out the 31 Club relies A LOT on scoring. Value added is a subset of the 31 Club. That is the 31 Club score minus points. Some players don’t get the recognition by toiling in the less glamorous categories. One such player is Aniya Rueben of Minnehaha who only scored 2 points. But her value added was a stratospheric 22 for a grand total of 24 in the 31 Club. She had a double-double of 12 d stops, and 10 distributions.
Using the same criteria on the five players above you see Nnaji at 17, one better than Lockett.
GAME 1: ST. PAUL COMO PARK 73, DE LA SALLE 64
The Islanders have moved into section 3 so this had the earmarks of a March section final preview. The St. Paul version of black and gold prevailed thanks to the one-two punch of Ronnie Porter and Kaylnn Ashberry. They combined for 50 of the 73 points. Together they were 7/14 at 3s. In this game DLS’s Sydney Runsewe hit a 3 from the right corner to put her at 1000 points for her career.
GAME 2: MINNEHAHA 74, ALBANY 32
This was the mismatch of the day with the Redhawks suffocating the Huskies. This may have been an interesting match up if Paige Meyer had been involved with Albany. The pressure forced a turnover every 8.13 touches. MA cashed in with 26 steals leading to a 13 of 20 mark in transition baskets. MA scored enough to win with 4 minutes remaining in the first half.
GAME 3: STILLWATER 70, ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE 66
The Ponies hung on to top the Knights in the closest game of the day. The iron five for Stillwater came out of the gates still on fire from Wednesday’s contest scoring the first 10 points of the game. Fouls became in issue for Stillwater with STMA taking 23 attempts to only 13 for Stillwater. Every time the Knights would cut the deficit late like on an old fashioned 3 point play by Tessa Johnson, or a 3 from the arc by Emma Miller, Amber Scalia would respond on the next possession with a 3 of her own. She led all scorers with 31 points and also celebrated getting to 1000 career points. STMA had the lead cut to 69-66 with 10 ticks left, but Lexi Karlen converted a free throw for the insurance point.
GAME 4: APPLETON EAST 73, BECKER 61
The #2 large school team in Wisconsin traveled west to stop the #1 Minnesota AAA team. This was the only game of the day that saw the team trailing at half rally for the second half win. Pressure at half court provided AE with the first 14 points of the second half and the Bulldogs were forced to play catch up the last 14 minutes.
GAME 5: EDEN PRAIRIE 63, LAKEVILLE NORTH 45
Another game where pressure provided the impetus for the eventual victory. The Eagles were clinging to a 30-29 lead at the break. LN scored their first possession to lead for the last time. Led by Gopher signee Nia Holloway, the EP press then went into overdrive scoring four straight times on a 9-0 run. By the time the Panthers took a time out with 13:26 left EP led 46-33—-a 16-4 start to the half. Holloway had 18 points to lead all teams. This was the only game where no player reached the 31 Club—close, but not the right mark.
GAME 6: MINNETONKA 76, MAPLE GROVE 64
The theme seems to be starts. The Skippers raced out of the gate scoring their first four possessions to build an 8-0 lead. That whirlwind continued until six minutes left in the half Minnetonka was in command at 35-15. Each starter for Minnetonka topped 100 pp100. Those starters also had a unit best 128 pp100 for the day. Four of their starters connected behind the arc with a 7/15 mark. But the Crimson would not go quietly. From that point on they “won” 49-41. The Crimson bench is deep. They beat Minnetonka 32-9 and tied their own starters with 32 points.
GAME 7: PROVIDENCE 56, BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S 48
This was the lowest pp100 for a winning team all day with a 76.7 pp100 as the #1 team in AA held off a Catholic rival from AAA. This game also featured two highly touted underclass players. Both reached the 31 Club level. Neither reached the threshold of 100 pp100. The Red Knights did have the advantage at the start scoring on their first three possessions for a 6-0 lead. The Lions quickly called time out and the emphasis was on getting in the way of Olivia Olson, who already had four of her team high 17 points. Fouls limited the time of Kendall McGee of BSM and the Count sisters for Providence. McGee eventually fouled out. The Lions had better balance from the floor with four players hitting double figures led by Maddyn Greenway with 18 points.
GAME 8: HOPKINS 70, CHASKA 45
Pain is a strong motivator. In the marquee match up of the day the Royals left little doubt on who is the team to beat in AAAA this year with a convincing triumph over the team that halted their run last April in the state semis. Each Hopkins starter double digits. Again the start was essential as the hosts scored on five of their first six possessions to grab an 11-2 lead. A Chaska time out did little to stop the bleeding. Hopkins went on another 13-2 run (24-4) which led to the second Hawk time out at 7:40 remaining in the first half. Most of the rest of the game Hopkins would blend a few starters with a few reserves. Down the stretch Chaska found its rhythm staying even with the juggernaut Royal squad actually winning the last 12 minutes 21-20.
SEEDING THE STATE
There are three teams listed here that lost on Saturday at the Breakdown. That is how strong the field was this year for the event. Also, section 2AAAA will prove to be the most vicious section in the state. Three were three teams charted Saturday from that section, two had pp100s over 100, one is the defending state champ. Simply brutal.
There are some schools that are listed (in the AAAA division) that have yet to win a game. But when you face top 10 level teams (outside your section) you may not have a W. But it will definitely toughen you up for the battles to come.
Rank: School (Section)
- Hopkins (6)
- Minnetonka (2)
- Stillwater (3)
- Michael-Albertville (8)
- Maple Grove (5)
- Lakeville North (1)
- Rosemount (3)
- Blaine (7)
- Becker (5)
- Austin (1)
- Holy Angels (6)
- Totino-Grace (4)
- Paul Como Park (3)
- Peter (2)
- Grand Rapids (7)
- Alexandria (8)
- Providence (5)
- Minnehaha (4)
- Goodhue (1)
- Hawley (8)
- New London-Spicer (3)
- Pequot Lakes (7)
- NRHEG (2)
- Sauk Centre (6)
- Mountain Iron-Buhl (7)
- Minneota (3)
- Cass Lake-Bena (8)
- Mayer Lutheran (2)
- Hancock (6)
- Hayfield (1)
- BBE (5)
- West Lutheran (4)