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Minnetonka defenders applied the defensive pressure to Hopkins' Mikaala Shackelford.
It wasn’t that Nia Coffey was having a bad first half. Hopkins’ dynamic guard had scored eight points and the 28-1 Royals led Minnetonka by nine at halftime of the Class 4A, Section 6 championship game Wednesday.
But something was missing. The Skippers were hanging around and the No. 1-ranked Royals’ trademark defensive fury had not delivered its usual demoralizing results.
Time for a superstar to take over.
Coffey did just that. She turned the second half into her showcase, leading the two-time defending state champions to the state tournament for the third year in a row with a 65-35 rout of their Lake Conference rivals.
“I struggled a little bit in the first half,” said Coffey, who finished with a game-high 15 points. “I knew I had to go out and play my game in the second half.”
Coffey, headed to Northwestern, wowed the crowd with plays at both ends of the court in the opening minutes of the second half. Leading 30-21, Hopkins went on a 19-2 run behind Coffey. She had three points, three assists, two steals, two blocked shots and a crowd-pleasing alley-oop layup.
“We wanted her to dunk on that [alley-oop],” said guard Taylor Anderson, who had 14 points and six steals. “That’s why I tried to throw it a little bit higher.”
Hopkins’ coach Brian Cosgriff said Coffey’s first-half was simply a matter of wanting it too much: “She was so pumped up before this one.”
“We just couldn’t score in the second half,” Minnetonka coach Leah Dasovich said. “Only 14 points after halftime? Their defense had a lot to do with that.”
“Taylor stepped up for us,” Cosgriff said. “She’s unheralded, but she always gives us solid minutes and she’s very smart. She never comes off the floor.”