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Class 3A and 4A girls’ basketball: 1 vs. 3 in mirror finals

By David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 03/18/22, 11:45AM CDT


A look at Saturday's big-school title games

6 p.m., Williams Arena
Becker (No. 1 seed, 25-4) vs. 
Totino-Grace (No. 3, 22-8)

Why Becker will win: “We do a face-to-face, full-court man defense, we do a 1-2-2 and we do a half-court man — and we shoot a bunch of 3s,” Austin coach Eric Zoske said after his team’s quarterfinal loss. “So does Becker.” To that winning formula, the Bulldogs add the pride of a defending state champion. “We have girls who are just winners,” Becker coach Dan Baird said. “Their work ethic is amazing and they’re never going to give up.”

Why Totino-Grace will win: Senior guard/forward Hannah Herzig has been a 6-foot terror through two games. She recorded a pair of double-doubles and scored a game-high 29 points in the semifinals. Becker has a lot of great attributes. Height isn’t one of them. If the Eagles can ride Herzig’s abilities both inside and from the perimeter, they can pull the upset.

Key to the game: Totino-Grace rolled to tournament victories by 21 and 14 points, respectively. Becker, meanwhile, has gutted out a pair of close ones. How will Totino-Grace handle a more battle-tested foe? How are the legs of the Bulldogs’ Iron Six after two tough games?

One thing to know: Totino-Grace hasn’t been in the state tournament since 2009. Four Becker players either started or received solid minutes in the championship game last season: Ayla Brown, Adeline Kent, Danielle Nuest and Maren Westin.

8 p.m., Williams Arena
Hopkins (No. 1 seed, 25-1) vs. 
St. Michael-Albertville (No. 3, 23-7)

Why Hopkins will win: The ultra-talented Royals’ have been ranked No. 1 in Class 4A all season, their only loss coming to nationally ranked Sidwell Friends of Washington, D.C. Long and athletic, the Royals have used last season’s unexpected loss in the state semifinals as motivation all season. All five starters can score and their ball-pressure, half-court defense puts stress on opposing guards.

Why St. Michael-Albertville will win: The Knights have lost to their Lake Conference rivals twice this season, but they believe their previous experience will work in their favor. A lot will be expected of 5-2 point guard Emma Miller, who has proven up to the task in two state tournament games so far. Junior guard Tessa Johnson is the best pure scorer on either team and will need to show it.

Key to the game: The right knee of Maya Nnaji. Hopkins’ 6-4 senior post suffered a hyperextended knee in a semifinals victory over White Bear Lake, left the game and did not return. Coach Tara Starks said she expected Nnaji back for the championship game, but even if Nnaji does play, how effective will she be?

The quote: “Everybody says you’re going to need the perfect storm to beat Hopkins, but you know what? I hear the weather is going to be pretty bad on Saturday,” cracked St. Michael-Albertville coach Kent Hamre, his dad-joke bringing about groans and eye rolls from his players.

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