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Hopkins' Jazz Martin (10) scores during the first half of the Royals' victory over Minnetonka. Photo by Katherine Matthews
With success comes high expectations, and that usually means added pressure on a team such as second-ranked Hopkins (15-2), especially a team as young as the Royals.
Hopkins, showing no signs of nervousness, played loose and fast against No. 4 Minnetonka (13-3) on Tuesday night, downing the Skippers 74-45 for its 10th straight win.
After three straight state championships the past three years, Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff knows how to keep the pressure from getting to his young team.
"We talk about it every day in practice: one possession at a time," Cosgriff said. "It's nice to win those titles and everything, but they're done. We enjoyed those experiences, and now it's time to go on to the next possession."
Sophomore Nia Hollie made the most of her possessions, dropping a season-high 26 points on a Minnetonka team that couldn't find answers for Hopkins' size and strength on either end of the court.
The 6-foot guard was quick to thank her teammates for her success.
"I was really proud of my girls … everybody was there with a lot of energy tonight," Hollie said.
Hopkins jumped out to a 29-8 lead halfway through the first half with most of its baskets coming on uncontested layups, but Minnetonka used a 16-11 run to pull withing 37-24 at the half.
That stretch was the most fight the Skippers could muster, as they were unable to contain the Hopkins duo of Hollie and junior TT Starks, who had 15 and 10 points, respectively, at halftime.
"They are super athletic, and we couldn't keep up with their athleticism," Minnetonka coach Leah Dasovich said. "They beat us in the open court and transition offense, and that was it, really. The first eight minutes of the game, there was no coming back from that."
Minnetonka's Courtney Fredrickson posted 20 points in the loss, but no other Skippers player had more than seven points.
Meanwhile, the Royals finished with three players in double-figures, with Hollie (26) Starks (15) and 6-3 freshman Jazz Martin chipping in 10 points. Senior forward Molly O'Toole came close to cracking double-digits, but finished with nine points.
It's still early, but Hopkins looks primed for another championship run if it can stay healthy. Even then, the quality and depth of the Royals' bench may be too much for other teams to overcome.
But Hollie knows it's a "one step at a time" approach.
"Everybody looks at us with a target on our backs, and we're just really trying to get better every day," Hollie said. "We have to stay together as a team and keeps things together mentally."