With the tournament kicking off with four quarterfinals today, all at Target Center, here are five essential notes no self-respecting girls’ basketball fan should be without.
1 It’s all about depth. All four of the top seeds — Hopkins, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North and Maple Grove — are not only talented but deep. Hopkins has had eight different players lead the team in scoring this season. All five of Eden Prairie’s starters average between eight and 14 points per game. And Maple Grove has seven seniors who heavily contribute.
2 The prep sports world continues to revolve around the Lake Conference. Top-seeded Hopkins and No. 2 seed Eden Prairie will try to continue the run of winter sports excellence for the Lake. So far, the conference has state titles in girls’ Alpine ski racing (Minnetonka), girls’ hockey (Minnetonka), boys’ swimming (Minnetonka) and boys’ hockey (Eden Prairie).
3 Don’t overlook the defending champs. Lakeville North lost two games in December to Hopkins and Eden Prairie, the two teams seeded ahead of it in the tournament. But the Panthers have reeled off 24 victories in a row since then and feature the two-time Metro Player of the Year in guard Rachel Banham. “They seeded us third and the kids aren’t happy,” coach Andy Berkvam said.
4 The maturation of Anoka. By now, most have heard the story of Anoka’s remarkable run to the state tournament, winning four games in the Section 7 playoffs after winning only twice during the regular season. Chalk it up to experience. The Tornadoes spent much of the season adapting to new coach James Fassett and their three top scorers — Amber Bray, Claire Lundberg and Kyrah Fredenburg — are freshmen.
5 Looking for a dark horse? Try White Bear Lake. Making their third state tournament appearance in a row, the Bears have the requisite experience, finishing runner-up to Lakeville North last year. And defense — a must in the postseason — is their calling card, giving up only 42 points per game and holding opponents under 40 points 13 times.