Nobody has come as close to beating Hopkins this year as Lake Conference rival Minnetonka, which lost 63-62 back on Jan. 26 in the Royals' home gym. The Skippers, ranked No. 6 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News from Feb. 10, had a 13-point lead over No. 1-4A Hopkins at halftime, but saw the advantage evaporate in the face of the Royals' pressure defense in the second half.
Minnetonka's Desiree Ware (13.5 points per game) led all scorers in that late-January matchup with 17 points, while Hopkins (8-0) received a balanced attack with 14 points apiece from Amaya Battle (14.4 ppg) and Taylor Woodson (16 ppg), while Maya Nnaji (20 ppg) added 13 points.
Both teams, while traditionally among the best in the state, entered this year with some question marks.
Hopkins had to replace retired coach Brian Cosgriff, who stepped away with a 569-67 record and seven state titles, and point guard Paige Bueckers, the top college recruit in the nation who is now starring at Connecticut.
Without Bueckers, what had been the team's supporting cast has shined despite its youth. Juniors Nnaji, Battle and Alayna Contreras are the veterans, but they have plenty of help from elite sophomores Woodson and Nunu Agara (11 ppg) and freshman Liv McGill (13.5 ppg), a transfer from Park Center.
Minnetonka's surge this year was not unexpected, either, to those in the know. The Skippers (8-2) returned all 15 of their letter winners from last year and also welcomed in DeLaSalle transfer Ki'ani Lockett (14.6 ppg) to run the point.