State Boys Basketball: Champions Get Crowned

Photo Credit: Sam Ekstrom

Second seed Hopkins used an 18-2 run in the second half to help defeat Lakeville North 55-40 in the third meeting between the two teams in the past six years to win the Class AAAA title game at the Target Center.

Hopkins won both the boys’ and girls’ basketball title this year as the girls defeated Stillwater last Saturday in the Class AAAA title game.

Hopkins won their eighth title since 2002 (’02, ’05, ’06, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’16 and ’18). Lakeville North had advanced to the Class AAAA championship game for the fourth time in eight years and was hoping to win the big-school title in both football and basketball this school year.

Hopkins led 24-17 at the half as both teams struggled from the field. Hopkins was just 6 of 21 (28.6 percent), while Lakeville was only 7 of 23 (30.4 percent). Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Zeke Nnaji had 12 points, making all six free throws. Kerwin Walton added seven points as he made two shots from beyond the arc. Dane Zimmer grabbed 12 halftime boards.

Jack Rusch scored eight in the first half, while stat-stuffer Tyler Wahl had five points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in the first 18 minutes.

The Panthers scored the first nine points of the second half, highlighted by Tyler Wahl’s dunk off a Tommy Jensen alley-oop after a Hopkins turnover. However, the Royals rallied back with a 14-0 run of their own to go up 38-26, including two three-pointers from Kerwin Walton as the Panthers went scoreless for 6:24.

Nnaji finished with a second straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Kerwin Walton added 17 points on 5 of 11 shooting, including four from beyond the arc and Dane Zimmer grabbed 21 rebounds for the Royals. Andy Stafford added 10 points in the win.

Lakeville North was led by Wisconsin signee Tyler Wahl with 19 points, 17 rebounds, five steals and four assists. Jack Rusch added 10 points. Outside shooter Tommy Jensen, who led the Panthers in scoring the first two games, scored just two points, making just 1 of 10 shots from the field.

Lakeville North shot just 17 of 60 (28.3 percent) from the field and was just 3 of 27 (11.1%) from three-point range, including 1 of 14 in the second half. They were outrebounded 47-31. Lakeville North (27-5) saw their 15 game-winning streak snapped.

Hopkins head coach Ken Novak said that offense was tough to come by due to the way that the game was played.

“I thought that it was a very, very physical game,” said Novak. “I thought it was a physical game, a lot of jamming. Defensively, we have always stated and talked about it. In order to win, you have got to defend. I thought that even though we weren’t scoring on offense, defensively, we were giving it our all.

“In the very beginning of the first half, we were giving some back screens up and we shut that down. We shut down the threes and I thought we rebounded well. In order to win a championship, you have to win two games ugly. You have to gut it out. I think these guys gutted it out. When they tied it up, we could have folded. It looked like it was going against us. We gutted it out.”

Novak felt that Kerwin Walton’s outside shooting and offense was key during the 14-0 run.

“Kerwin is always like that,” Novak said. “He is instant offense. He’s a guy that comes out and shoots it. We’ve got to do better at getting him more shots, but I’ll tell you what, he can shoot the ball and I thought he defended extremely well. He was on one of their best shooters all night and he stuck with him. He’s a special kid. All these guys are special kids. Pressure doesn’t bother him. Kerwin goes out and shoots. Part of it is how hard he works. People don’t realize how hard he works. He is as hard of worker as you will see.”

Lakeville North defeated Hopkins 84-82 in the 2014 title game and the Royals got revenge in 2016 with a 64-55 win and another win Saturday to go up 2-1 in this recent rivalry.

DeLaSalle Gets Redemption

Top seed DeLaSalle won its seventh Class AAA title in eight years with a 63-56 victory over second seed Waseca.

The Islanders were upset by Columbia Heights 71-69 in the semifinals last year. However, DeLaSalle used that as motivation through the regular season and playoffs.

The Islanders led at the half 25-21 as neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first 18 minutes. DeLaSalle made 9 of 24 shots (37.5 percent), while Waseca was 10 of 25 (40 percent). Star guard Tyrell Terry missed all five shots in the first half and was held to just four halftime points.

Terry warmed up in the second half, scoring three early layups as he went for 15 second-half points.

“My game is always the same,” said Terry. “Just keep doing what I’m doing. Sometimes you miss shots, but you just have to keep playing through it. I got to the rim a little more and hit some layups and that jump sparked the second half.”

Waseca scored eight straight points to cut the lead to 48-44 with 4:45 left. However, senior Jamison Battle hit a three-pointer and then signaled to the vocal Waseca fans to quiet down. The Bluejays never got within six points the remainder of the game.

“I remember at the timeout and the crowd got loud,” said Battle. “We had a specific play, but it broke down. I told coach that I’d ring the bell. That’s what he always says in practice, ring the bell. At that point, I just knew from the shots Thursday and Wednesday that I could hit it and I was confident and at that point, when I hit it, I knew that we were close to getting it down.”

DeLaSalle was led by Battle, who scored a game-high 26 points. He scored 28 points in their semifinal win Thursday over Princeton. Terry, the Stanford signee, had his second straight double-double with 19 points and 10 assists. Junior center Jalen Travis added 10 points in the win.

Battle and Terry combined for all 19 free throw attempts for the Islanders, making 14. The two hit 8 of 10 from the stripe in the final 1:35 of the game as the Bluejays were forced to foul. Waseca was just 3 of 3 from the charity stripe in a game that saw just 15 fouls called.

Waseca, the second seed, finished their season at 30-2. The Bluejays were hoping to win their second state title in school history and first since 1918.

Senior Malik Willingham led the Bluejays with 21 points and eight assists. Andrew Morgan, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center, chipped in with 19 points and seven rebounds as he made 9 of 15 shots from the field. He had made 20 of his 22 field goal attempts in the first two wins. Sophomore guard Ryan Dufault was held to just four points, after scoring 30 in their semifinal win.

Minnehaha Academy Gets The Three-Peat

Minnehaha Academy won their third straight Class AA title game with a 69-52 win over Minneapolis North. The Redhawks (29-2) are moving up to Class AAA next season.

The Redhawks jumped out to a 14-4 lead at 12:44 left in the first half. The Polars scored five straight to cut the lead to 14-9, but Minnehaha countered with 10 consecutive points and led by double figures the rest of the contest. Junior standout Jalen Suggs had 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Freshman Prince Aligbe also added 20 points and seven rebounds and sophomore center Chet Holmgren had a triple-double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.

Second seed Minneapolis North, who won the 2016 and 2017 Class A titles before moving up to Class AA, was led by senior guard Nasir El-Amin with 17 points. No other Polars player reached double figures as the team made just 19 of 55 shots (34.5 percent) from the field. Minnehaha Academy led the entire game.

Henning Wins First Title After 53-Year Tournament Absence

Fourth-seed Henning made their first boy’s basketball state tournament appearance since 1966 a memorable one as they defeated third seed North Woods 67-42 at the Target Center Saturday. The Hornets advanced to the state tournament in 1965 and 1966, but made the most of this trip to the Twin Cities as they defeated Spring Grove 67-34 Friday in the semifinals and Christ’s Household of Faith 63-56 in the quarterfinals.

The Hornets continued their strong shooting throughout the tournament as they made 26 of 47 shots from the field (55.3 percent). They limited North Woods to just 15 of 49 (30.6 percent) shooting from the field and 4 of 22 (18.2 percent) from beyond the arc. North Woods never led in the contest.

North Woods was making their third straight Class A title game appearance. However, they’ve lost in the championship game all three times.

Henning (31-1) were led by senior Sam Fisher with 22 points and seven rebounds. He was 7 of 11 from the field and made 8 of 10 free throws. Junior Parker Fraki added 13 points and Blake Wallevand had 12.

Junior forward Trevor Morrison led the Grizzlies (29-3) with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Cade Goggleye, who hit the game-winning three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in Friday’s semifinals, made just 2 of 13 shots from the field as he was held to just five points.

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