Eden Prairie won their second Sweet 16 title with a 65-47 win over sister Lake school (and 2AAAA rival) Minnetonka. EP’s first title came in the Jackie Johnson /Mullaney era in 2010 with a 64-56 win over Hopkins. Speaking of Hopkins, this year ended seven straight (minus the virus year) titles by the Royals. EP dethroned the perennial powerhouse in the semis 58-56 (the score I had). This marked the first time 13 years that Hopkins did not make the title game. The last non-Hopkins champ was Eastview in 2013. The last non-Hopkins title game year came in 2008 with Bloomington Kennedy topping New Prague 47-40. This was the second straight runner up finish for Minnetonka and their third overall (2012, 2021, 2022). This was the fifth straight year of an all Lake final.
The Eagles soared above the Skippers in the final thanks to dead-eye shooting behind the arc again. In the quarters Saturday they stroked a dozen 3s in the win over Providence (5th place finish). EP struggled in the first game behind the arc with only five 3s against Hopkins. In the title game they downed nine at a sizzling 47% clip with contributions from five different players led by a perfect trio from Annika Anderson. EP led by five at half and then by eight heading into the final nine minutes (49-41). Two Anderson 3s to start the final frame put the game basically on ice 55-41. In the three games I charted today EP owned the best pp100 with 106.6. EP was not shabby in the semis with a 98.3 clip. Both teams were strong inside EP hitting for 55.6 in 2s, Tonka at 54%. Behind the arc Minnetonka lacked the arsenal today with only one cashed. That helped explain their 78.7 pp100. EP also did an admirable job in keeping the longer Skippers off the glass with 21 d boards to 10 offensive snags. In case you are wondering Savannah Jones, the projected EP 6-2 center suffered an ACL injury in the last tournament of the summer and is projected to miss the 2022-23 season. Minnetonka was led by the one two punch of Aaliyah Crump (18) and Tori McKinney (16). No one else scored more than four. Anderson led EP with 15, Tori Schlagel had 14 and Vanessa Jordan 10. The bench was also clearly a separator with 22 Eagle points to eight for Minnetonka.
And think of this—-this game might only be a preview of a section semifinal. 2AAAA will still be the most vicious, brutal section there is in any class. Chaska, also in 2AAAA, won the Breakdown AAAA State title last weekend.
EP made it to the finals with drama in the narrow win over Hopkins. First off, the score was wrong. I had 58-56 as the final. With about 1:30 left in the game Hopkins’ Kelly Boyle delivered a 3 to put the Royals up (on the scoreboard) 55-54. EP came down and missed a triple. The Royals got the rebound and then Liv McGill, in attempting to take time off the clock, lost the handle, and the ball and McGill went sliding off toward the Hopkins bench. EP had another chance with 58 seconds left. Their next shot was off, but Kylie Bamblett got the rebound. Another chance was blocked out of bounds for a deadball rebound. One the third attempt Molly Linz found Annika Anderson for a shot on the right baseline and EP was up 56-55. A Royal interior turnover gave EP the ball again. This time with seven ticks left. But unknown to all fans, coaches and players apparently was the continuing ticking of the clock with at about what should have been the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter. Instead, eight more seconds slipped away. In games like this every tick matters. So it should have been 15 seconds left in the game. At any rate Anderson was fouled and converted both for a 59-55 final score. Leading the way for the Eagles was Tori Schlagel with 22 points, with Molly Linz netting 13. Boyle’s 17 led the Royals. She also was hot at 188.9 pp100, the best on the day. What was notable in this contest was the lack of transition by Hopkins. They only had three chances by my calculations. All drives and lay up opportunities were basically half court variety. Hopkins was only 4/10 by that measure. EP converted six. Linz led the 31 Club score with 29. McGill was Hopkins’ top at 27. But McGill’s pp100 only came in at 55.6 thanks to 3/15 shooting. EP was better at the floor 41% to 31%. Hopkins made as many free throws as EP attempted but missed more. They checked in with 61% at the line, EP 78.6%.
I did chart the 9th place finish which Mahtomedi won 63 to 56 over Pequot Lakes. The Zephyrs were the only team of the day to have members in the 31 Club. The one-two punch of Sonja Pothoff and Ella Frazier checked in with 35 and 33 respectively. Frazer had 24 points, Pothoff 22. PL’s Maci Martini just missed out with a 30 score (and 21 points). Part of the reason for Mahtomedi’s success was their scorching numbers from 2s: 65.5% clearly the best of the day. PL was deep below that at 26%. The Patriots made up for the lack of success from 2s with 13 free throws, nine more than Mahtomedi, and nine 3s, good for 42%. Mahtomedi was not too shabby there with seven triples. Mahtomedi also inched over the pp100 line at 103.3.
St. Michael-Albertville delivered a knockout punch to Hopkins in the third place game with a three by Daysia Simmons from an inside out pass to the left wing with 12 seconds left. Hopkins had a shot in the paint in traffic as the buzzer went off.
It should be noted that Nunu Agara and Taylor Woodson, both going to D1 power five conference schools, indeed NCAA tournament ready teams, did not play for Hopkins this weekend.
CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL (1-4)
Minnetonka 67, St. Michael-Albertville 58
Eden Prairie 59, Hopkins 55
St. Michael-Albertville 60, Hopkins 59
Eden Prairie 65, Minnetonka 47
Stewartville 73, Underwood 48
Providence 61, Jordan 49
Jordan 76, Underwood 64
Providence 86, Stewartville 83
Mahtomedi 87, New Ulm 80
Pequot Lakes 58, DeLaSalle 27
New Ulm 77, DeLaSalle 22
Mahtomedi 63, Pequot Lakes 56
Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart 61, Mayer Lutheran 58
Grand Meadow 41, Mayer Lutheran 28
Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart 32, Grand Meadow 22
BLHS (13), Grand Meadow (14) Mayer Lutheran (15) vacant (16)