Boys basketball state quarterfinal recap

Max Weesner and Alex Kim


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  • Xavier Johnson, senior, dribbles the ball down the court in the state quarterfinal game.

  • Erik Davis, senior, defends the ball and looks for a pass in the state quarterfinal game.

  • Vinnie Shahid, senior, dribbles the ball down the court in the state quarterfinal game.

  • The boys basketball team huddles up before the state quarterfinal game.

  • Anthony Davis, junior, plays defense in the state quarterfinal game.

  • Ishmael El Amin, senior, dribbles the ball down the court in the state quarterfinal game.

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The Hopkins Royals dominated the North St. Paul Polars from the outset in the AAAA State Tournament quarterfinal. Despite losing Amir Coffey, senior, to injury for a few minutes, the Royals entered the locker room at the half with a 32-11 lead. Xavier Johnson, senior, outscored the Polars by himself in the first half with 13 points.

“Basically, they were getting too far up so what we do is run back doors,” Johnson said. “So I made the cuts, and my teammates got me the ball.”

The Royals’ defense was at its best in the first half, forcing 16 turnovers and recording three blocks. Hopkins allowed a mere 22.7% field goal percentage in the first half.

The second half wasn’t much different, as the Polars shot 29.4% for the game. Hopkins turned 23 Polar turnovers into 29 points and won with a final score of 74-42.

Johnson finished the game with 20 points on 8-13 shooting from the field. Vinnie Shahid, senior, added 11 points. Simon Wright, junior, had seven rebounds and 10 points of his own.

Despite his hard fall, Coffey returned to the game and will be ready to play tomorrow.

“I landed on my tailbone,” Coffey said. “I just went back in to have [the trainer] make sure I was good and stretch me out a little bit.”

After defeating the North St. Paul Polars, the Royals will turn their sights to the semifinal game on Thursday night. Hopkins will be matched up against the third seed Apple Valley. The Royals will have a chance to qualify for the state championship game for the second time in three years.

Before the Royals knew the outcome of the Apple Valley and Blaine game, they already knew who they wanted to see Thursday night.

“Hopefully we get Apple Valley,” Johnson said. “We played them once already so we kind of know what they are going to do, but we are ready for them again to show them that the first time wasn’t an accident.”

The last time the Royals made it to the state championship game was in 2014, when the Royals lost to Lakeville North and Xavier commit JP Macura by a score of 84-82.

With the Eagles’ defeat of Blaine, tomorrow night is set up for a highly anticipated rematch between Hopkins and Apple Valley. The Eagles have no shortage of big names, with players such as Gary Trent, Jr., Tre Jones, and Brock Bertram leading the team to a 28-1 regular season record.

The Eagles’ lone loss on the season came to Hopkins at the Breakdown Classic tournament in early December. Coffey and Shahid led the Royals with 22 and 16 points, respectively. The rematch will feature two of the five Mr. Basketball finalists: Coffey and Bertram.

Despite the magnitude of the game, Coffey isn’t going to let it affect his preparation.

“It’s the same mindset for every game we play,” Coffey said. “We will go over the scouting report tomorrow and go over all their plays and try to focus up.”

Royals head coach Kenny Novak has one major key to winning tomorrow: rebounding.

“We have to rebound,” Novak said. “We have to check them out and not give them second chances. I would say rebounding is probably the most important thing we can do for tomorrow.”

The state semifinal game will take place at the Target Center tomorrow at 8 pm. The other matchup in the AAAA bracket is at 6 pm between top-seeded Osseo and fifth-seeded Lakeville North.