Coach Ken Novak Jr. speaks to Vinnie Shahid, senior, during the semifinal state game against Apple Valley. (Ruby Krietzman)
Coach Ken Novak Jr. speaks to Vinnie Shahid, senior, during the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

Ruby Krietzman

Boys basketball state semifinal recap

Mar 11, 2016

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  • Erik Davis, University of St. Thomas, Basketball- First year on Varsity: Junior year, 2015. Favorite memory: Helping his team to the State championship and going 31-1 in his senior season, 2016.

  • Vinnie Shahid, senior, dribbles the ball down the court in the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

  • The HHS fan section cheers for the boys basketball team at the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

  • Ishmael El-Amin, senior, shoots a free throw in the semifinal state game against the Apple Valley Eagles.

  • Amir Coffey, senior, protects the ball from Gary Trent, Jr. in the semifinal state game.

  • Xavier Johnson, senior, dribbles the down down the court in the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

  • Coach Ken Novak Jr. reacts to a call in the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

  • The players on the bench cheer on their teammates during the semifinal state game against Apple Valley.

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With two minutes left in the State Tournament semifinal matchup between the Hopkins Royals and the Apple Valley Eagles, Gary Trent, Jr., Tre Jones, Amir Coffey, and Xavier Johnson, seniors, checked out of the game. In the most highly anticipated game of the year, this isn’t what anyone expected. The Royals earned a trip to the state championship game by blowing out the Eagles by a score of 84-59.

“We know in the past few years, Apple Valley has lost to Park Center and Champlin Park [in the regular season] and come back to beat them [at State],” Shahid said. “We didn’t want to be the same team to let them come back and beat us.”

Hopkins took the lead from the outset and never gave it up.

The Royals jumped out to a ten point advantage early, only to see that margin narrow as they went into the half ahead by one point. As head coach Ken Novak, Jr. had feared, the Royals were getting beat on the boards, as they were out-rebounded by seven in the first half.

Despite their struggles to grab rebounds, the Royals were helped along by stifling defense and another offensive outburst by Johnson. He finished the game by leading all scorers with 24 points on 10-19 shooting.

Coffey and Shahid added 16 points each on a combined 10-15 from the field.

Apple Valley star Gary Trent, Jr. was frustrated by the Hopkins defense all night, as he shot 9-28 from the field, missing all of his three point attempts.

“It’s very frustrating whenever the shots you usually make aren’t falling,” Trent said. “You need to find different ways in your game to contribute when nothing’s going by getting involved on defense and staying energetic.”

Trent wasn’t the only Eagle who couldn’t get much going against the Royals’ defense; Apple Valley shot 36.5% from the field, 17.6% from behind the arc, and 57.9% from the free throw line.

After defeating the Eagles, the Royals will play Lakeville North in their final game of the season for a third straight year. The last time the two teams played, the Panthers knocked Hopkins out of the playoffs by beating them in a State Tournament quarterfinal matchup. In the 2014 State Championship, Hopkins lost to the Panthers by a score of 84-82.

This time, the Royals hope it ends differently.

“We’re seniors so this is our last chance to win a state title,” Coffey said.

Beating the Panthers is no small feat, as they beat the top-seeded Osseo Orioles in the semifinals and the 22-4 Maple Grove Crimson in the quarterfinals. Lakeville North features 6’10” junior Nathan Reuvers, who holds scholarship offers from the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Gophers.

“Lakeville North is really good, it’ll be interesting,” Novak said. “I think it’s going to be a tough game, much tougher than [Apple Valley.] They have a kid that has been offered by Wisconsin, and a lot of the players on their team are returners from last year when they beat us.”

Reuvers is averaging 17.0 PPG and 11.5 RPG in the tournament. The Panthers are holding their opponents to a 34.3% shooting percentage from the field during State.

The Hopkins Royals and Lakeville North Panthers will face off for a State Championship on Saturday night at 8 pm at the Target Center.

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