1. Building a rivalry
Top-seeded Eastview and No. 2-seeded Hopkins have developed perhaps the best rivalry in large-school girls’ basketball. The two teams have played each other every year since 2010 with the exception of 2013. Hopkins has won 10 of the 14 meetings, but Eastview won 66-56 in December. It’s become the type of rivalry that can generate interest in girls’ basketball. “I don’t know that it’s a rivalry, but there is mutual respect,” Eastview coach Molly Kasper said. “It’s good for girls’ basketball and something people can get excited about. It’s fun whenever we play them.”
2. Panthers peaking
Perhaps early season expectations were a little high for Lakeville North, whose lineup is peppered with sophomores. The athletic Panthers (24-5) battled through a brutal early-season schedule — losses to Wayzata, Centennial and Eastview in their first six games — but have won 21 of 23 since. Four players average double figures in scoring, led by Lauren Jensen’s 17.6 per game and the defense forces opponents into more than 18 turnovers per game. The Panthers are playing their best at the right time.
3. Small player, big impact
Prior Lake junior guard Mc-Kenna Hofschild might have to stretch to reach her listed height of 5-3, but she looms much larger on the court. Hofschild, set a career single-game high of 41 points in the Section 4 quarterfinals, then broke it with 42 points against Minnetonka in the final, lifting the Lakers to the state tournament for the first time since 2003. She is approaching 2,000 career points. Her style is frenetic, fearless and a whole lot of fun to watch. In its state tournament opener, Prior Lake plays Eastview, to whom the Lakers have lost twice, both times by more than 20 points.
4. Suburban East showcase
Three of the eight teams in the field call the Suburban East Conference home: No. 3-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall, unseeded Roseville and Forest Lake. Cretin-Derham Hall won the league title, finishing one game ahead of runner-up Roseville. Ironically, the two teams square off for a third time this season in the quarterfinals. Forest Lake, which drew Hopkins in the first round, tied for fourth in league play.