Sidwell Friends guard Jadyn Donovan blocks a shot by Hopkins guard Amaya Battle in the first half Friday night [Alex Kormann, Star Tribune]
Friday’s cold didn’t go unnoticed by the players for No. 1-ranked Sidwell Friends High School of Washington D.C., which made the trip to Hopkins on Friday to take part in the Girls’ High School Basketball Invitational — an event that brought together four of the top high school teams and players in the nation under one roof.
The Quakers proved that even frigid temps weren’t enough to slow the top team in the country.
As it turned out, it was their hosts who looked cold and sluggish as Sidwell Friends slowly established a halftime lead. They never let the Royals crank up their trademark defensive intensity en route to a 66-57 victory in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.
DeSoto (Texas) beat Grandview (Colo.), which features 6-foot-7 Lauren Betts — a Stanford signee who is the nation’s No. 1 recruit — 67-55 in the second game.
“I knew it would be cold, I expected it to be cold, but it was a little colder than I thought it would be,” said Sidwell Friends guard Kiki Rice, a polished finisher who has committed to UCLA. Rice finished with a game-high 21 points and did a masterful job of keeping Hopkins from generating the turnovers that spark its offense.
“We prepared really well,” Rice said. “We knew they were long and athletic, but we’re super athletic, too. We made a point of finishing in traffic and pushing in transition. We knew if we could get by their first line of pressure, we could get some easy buckets.”
Considering the high-profile nature of the game, Hopkins appeared nervous from the outset, missing easy shots repeatedly.
Royals junior guard Nunu Agara said she thought Hopkins (12-1) had difficulty adjusting to Sidwell’s attention to defensive detail and opined that the Royals spent too much of the game waiting for their usual spark to show up.
“We started slow and we were just waiting for it to come to us,” she said. “We should have brought to them. They showed what they can do.”
Gophers women’s coach Lindsey Whalen was on hand to lend support to Hopkins guard Amaya Battle, a member of the celebrated local class of 2022 who has committed to Minnesota next year.
“We’re very proud of Amaya, of what she’s already accomplished and how she continues to represent her school and our state in such a positive way,” Whalen said. Battle finished with 19 points.
“Our coach thought we should have battled more and we may have had a different outcome,” Battle said. “But for our first time in this position, we did pretty good.”
Whalen expressed her appreciation that the play in Minnesota has risen to such a level that some of the top teams in the country are willing to make the trip to compete against teams at their level.
“I think this is a great day, for girls’ basketball, for women’s basketball,” she said. “To have this kind of a stage with this many talented players on the floor at the same time is huge to have this exposure. You see the amount of talent this state has.”