Beating Wayzata twice during the regular season was a nice bonus for the Hopkins High girls basketball team, but the game the Royals need to win is the Section 6 championship game against the Trojans Thursday, March 7, at Hopkins Lindbergh Center.
There was never any doubt that this would be the matchup for the section finals. Hopkins (28-0) is ranked first in the state and Wayzata (26-2) is ranked second. In the previous meetings, the Royals topped Wayzata 69-66 and 70-49. It is not known at this time if the third meeting will resemble either of the other ones, but one thing is certain: both teams are hitting on all cylinders.
Hopkins drilled St. Louis Park 81-51 in the first semifinal March 2 at Lindbergh Center, and Wayzata followed with an equally impressive 67-42 victory over Armstrong.
Neither head coach felt his team played a perfect game in Saturday’s wins.
“We weren’t ready to play today,” Hopkins head coach Brian Cosgriff said. “If we play like this against Wayzata, we’re in trouble. We have to mature. We were arguing with officials and some of our defense wasn’t that good.”
On the other hand, Hopkins’ offense was just fine. All-State junior guard Paige Bueckers scored 32 points, and she wasn’t the only one scoring for the Royals. Senior guard Dlayla Chakolis scored 16 points and had double-digit rebounds, while ninth-grade center Maya Nnaji added 15 points along with more good board work. Two players kept Park in the game – Raegan Alexander with 15 points and Kendall Coley with 14.
Wayzata head coach Mike Schumacher said, “This one wasn’t pretty. But this time of year, all you’re looking for is to win and move on.”
There were times when Wayzata looked unstoppable and other times when the Trojans stopped themselves by forcing shots.
“When we showed patience and had some ball reversals, we were pretty effective,” Schumacher said.
Kallie Theisen, a 6-foot-2 senior captain and forward, set the tone for Wayzata with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
“The word that describes Kallie is relentless,” Schumacher said. “She and Mimi Schrader are great leaders and very determined.”
Schrader, a fifth-year varsity point guard, handled all the pressure defense Armstrong threw at her. She did a good job setting teammates up and making sure the everyone was involved. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson scored 22 points to lead the Trojans. Other front line players also scored, with Lydia Hay netting eight points and Annika Stewart scoring seven. Ninth-grade guard Mara Braun had five points.
As expected, Armstrong’s two best players, seniors Masengo Mutanda and Carly Krsul scored the majority of the points - all but 11, in fact. Masengo led with 16 points and Krsul had 15 hard-earned points in the post against Johnson, Theisen and Stewart.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on Mutanda and Krsul,” Schumacher said. “They’re both averaging 18 points per game.”
Neither Hopkins nor Wayzata was giving away any hints of new strategy, although Wayzata briefly played zone in the first half against Armstrong.
“It was just a wrinkle to change the pace,” Schumacher said.
Both teams play mostly person-to-person defense, although Hopkins sometimes clamps on a 1-3-1, three-quarter court trap.
Thursday night’s winner will probably be determined by one simple variable – which team wants it more?
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