Hopkins' Nia Coffey grabs a rebound Saturday. /Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Say what you will about Hopkins and Eden Prairie. Fair or not, both successful programs have their share of detractors.
What is fair is that Saturday’s matchup between the teams was the Class 4A championship game most girls basketball fans wanted to see.
The two Lake Conference rivals had played three times during the regular season. Hopkins won twice, once in a tournament at Hopkins in December and again at home in late February. Eden Prairie’s victory also came at home.
What better way to determine who’s better than a state title game on a neutral court?
Neither team was considered a favorite. Eden Prairie was the most complete team in Class 4A, its starting lineup an amalgam of talented players with clearly defined roles. Hopkins was the deepest and most athletic, a group that looks to run and gun and press.
After a first half in which neither team gained an advantage — indeed, it was tied 22-22 — Hopkins turned on the jets in the second half, running past Eden Prairie to a 67-45 victory at Target Center. It was Hopkins’ third state championship. The Royals won the Class 4A titles in 2004 and again in 2006.
The Royals gained an advantage early, taking a four-point lead on back-to-back three-pointers by Julia Wiemer and Sydney Coffey. Eden Prairie closed to within two points on a putback by Aubrey Davis, but that was as close as the Eagles would get the rest of the game. Hopkins followed with a 15-4 run sparked by a ball-hawking pressure defense and three-pointers by Wiemer and the Coffey sisters, Sydney and Nia.
Forced out of their usual half-court set, Eden Prairie played right in to Hopkins’ hands for the remainder of the game. Hopkins (30-2) pulled away with free throws and easy layups.
Sydney Coffey scored 15 of her team-high 18 points after halftime. Nia Coffey was the only other Hopkins player in double figures, finishing with 12 points.
Junior center Jackie Johnson led Eden Prairie (24-3) with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but was held down in the second half, managing just four points and five boards.