HHS boys basketball prepare to take on Trojans in rival section championship face-off

Oliver Litvack, Sports Editor

After capping off a strong regular season with a win against Edina to move their record to 17-8, the Hopkins boys basketball team kicked off the section tournament ready to prove something. They beat Minneapolis South 92-43, led by star guards Jaden Moore, freshman, and Anthony Smith III, sophomore.

The boys had a huge chip on their shoulder coming into their first round game, as Minneapolis South was the team that came to Hopkins last year and eliminated them from the section tournament and crushed hopes of a run in the state tournament. Hopkins remembered the feeling of last season’s 68-53 defeat and used it as motivation for Tuesday night’s beatdown of the Tigers.

“It felt good to win against South after they cut our season short last year,” said Vincent Hillesheim, senior. “We learned that anybody can beat anybody at this point of the year.”

Following a statement victory against Minneapolis South, the Royals advanced to the semifinals against Minneapolis Washburn. Although six-seed Washburn entered the game with a 12-14 record as heavy underdogs to third-seeded Cooper, they were able to pull off the upset. The boys knew going into the game they could not take Washburn lightly, and this mentality led them to a 20-point blowout over the Millers.

Hopkins finished as the seventh ranked AAAA team in the state, right near the top with state championship contenders including Park Center, Lakeville North and Wayzata. Although the boys can compete with anyone in the state and have a chance to make a run in the state tournament, they must first focus on making it out of their section.

Wayzata, who currently sits at 21-4, is the number one seed in the 6AAAA section, while Hopkins is seeded at number two. Hopkins will have to travel back to Wayzata on Tuesday night to take on the Trojans in the section championship. Unfortunately, Wayzata has been the Royals’ kryptonite this season, beating them in blowout fashion in both matchups.

“We really have been playing solid together, but Wayzata is a team that doesn’t make many mistakes,” Hillesheim said. “We have been working on forcing the defense to play longer because there is no shot clock, so we want to take our time and play the mind game a little bit.”

Basketball fans around the country know that the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, better known as simply “March Madness” begins in the middle of March, which means plenty of upsets, Cinderella stories, and heartbreak. The Royals will attempt to pull off one of the first major upsets of the March Madness season against the Trojans on Tuesday night.