Every year, there are those who say that Hopkins is a shoo-in for the Class AAAA title. I was never one of those. Neither is Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff, by the way. Back in 2011-2012-2013 it was of course a…
Every year, there are those who say that Hopkins is a shoo-in for the Class AAAA title. I was never one of those. Neither is Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff, by the way. Back in 2011-2012-2013 it was of course a lot harder to make the case, though Cos always made it, every year, that even Hopkins has to practice hard and play hard and work hard and play smart in order to win it all.
Now, after Minnetonka in 2016 and Elk River in 2017 pulled off their big upsets of Hopkins in the state final, it’s easier to make the case. Hopkins is going to have to practice hard and play hard and work hard and play smart in order to win. And, if Hopkins fails to optimize its obvious gifts, there will be teams waiting in the wings to repeat what Minnetonka and Elk River have done.
But, bottom line: If you want to win a Class AAAA title, you still have to go through Hopkins to get there. So, yes, Hopkins is #1. But the next 6 teams all have the potential to be the next Minnetonka or Elk River, though it’s also true that they have a pretty limited margin of error.
1. Hopkins 31-1 last year, favored in Section 6AAAA again this year
2. Minnetonka 16-14, favored in Section 2AAAA
4. Wayzata 22-7
The bad news, if you’re one of those folks hoping for an upset again this year, is that Hopkins is deeper than they’ve been in awhile with Angie Hammond, Dlayla Chakolis and Kira Mosley up front, Paige Bueckers at the 1, and Raena Suggs, Kahla Adams, Jaide Pressley and Amaya Battle at the wings. About all an opponent can do is make things as hard as possible for Bueckers and keep Suggs off the baseline. Oh, yes, and keep Chakolis off the backboard, and defend the 3, and protect the ball and hope for the best. Good luck with all of that.
By the way, Hopkins has won at least a dozen straight Lake Conference titles. The Lake will be tougher than ever this year with, as you can see, 3 of the top 4 teams in the state. Tonka will try to match its seniors from 2 years ago with a similarly experienced team. Point guard Megan Walker leads the way, while power forward Kayla Mershon, center Zoe Hardwick, and 3-point shooting specialist Katey Brattland also provide scoring. All 4 are seniors.
Meanwhile, Wayzata, who led Hopkins by 12 at halftime in their section final last year, will come after the Royals with a younger team. Juniors Kallie Theisen and Mimi Schrader lead the way, while freshman Jenna Johnson, and sophomores Jasmine Smiley, Annika Stewart and Lydia Hay are also expected to play key roles. Unlike Tonka, Wayzata has to play Hopkins in both the conference and the section. Or, you can look at it like this. Hopkins is the only team that might have to beat #2 and #4 in order to win it all. So, while Hopkins is our favorite, it will be a dogfight for them to get across the finish line.
3. Lakeville North 28-4, favored in Section 1AAAA
5. Eastview 25-7, favored in Section 3AAAA
Who says the Lake is the best conference? What about the South Suburban? Well, both conferences get a little soft toward the bottom, but Lakeville South already has a 21-point win over Eden Prairie…. But, hey, we’re ranking the teams here and the truth is that Grant likes Lakeville North in the South Sub, while I like Eastview. Both are going to be tough outs, and there is virtually no chance that anybody other that the Panthers or the Lightning is going to win this conference this year.
North has one of the state’s top sophomores in guard Lauren Jensen, plus experienced bigs in Taylor Brown and Ke James. Eastview also has experience inside in Megan Walseth, plus Macy Guebert, Emma Carpenter, and Cassidy and Courtney Carson on the wings. I like Eastview. Grant likes North.
6. St. Michael-Albertville 22-5 favored in Section 8AAAA
10. Moorhead 22-7
13. Maple Grove 13-15
Section 8AAA looks set to return to the normal order of things, which is to say St. Michael on top, but it will be as tough and as closely contested as always. Moorhead has perhaps Minnesota’s top senior in guard Sam Haiby. Maple Grove has size and freshman point guard sensation Abby Schulte. St. Michael? Well, they’ve just got more weapons than anybody else—approximately Moorhead and Maple Grove combined. The guards, Kenzie Kramer and Jadyn Hanson, are both young and they’re both smaller. And, oh yeah, they’ll be one of Minnesota’s top guard pairings. Riley Carlson, Kendal Cox and more are there to support them.
7. Centennial 22-7 favored in Section 5AAAA
9. Champlin Park 21-7
11. Park Center 26-6
The Northwest Suburban and Section 5AAAA will be hotly contested, too, with these 3 plus Maple Grove going at it in the conference. Centennial should prevail in 5AAAA with center Sara Stapleton, forward Syd Stapleton and guards Claire Orth and Taylor McAulay leading he way. Champlin, with center Makayla Johnson and power forward Gabby Mocchi, has the size to challenge Centennial, and guards Erica Hicks and Amanda Powell are right there with Centennial’s pair.
Park Center lost a great senior class and comes back younger and smaller and a bit of a question mark. Oh, they’ll be good. But, how good?
8. Cretin-Derham Hall 17-10 favored in Section 4AAAA
12. White Bear Lake 20-11
Cretin has the talent to go a long way, just not the demonstrated history of doing it. Forwards Frannie Hottinger and Autam Mendez, and guards Elizabeth Edinger, Chantel Anderson-Manning and Justyna Butler lead the way. White Bear, meanwhile, is a little younger, a little less experienced, and a lot more proven with 6 section titles in 8 years.
14. Anoka 16-13 favored in Section 7AAA
15. Andover 21-11
16. Forest Lake 15-13
18. St. Francis 18-9
If you wanted to infer from this that Section 7AAA is wide open, well, infer away. Anoka has wing Noelle Josephson, Forest Lake has big Abigail Groeneweg, and St. Francis ha power forward Sidney Zgutowicz. Andover? They’ve got the best depth but no proven go-to player as of yet.
17. Farmington 13-15
Farmington has been down so long, it looks like up. But now guards Molly Mogenson and Morgan Ebel, both sophomores, and Sidney Blandin, a senior, bring plenty of speed and firepower, both inside and out, to the Tigers. And, it looks like freshmen Sophie Hart, a 6-4 post, and wing Paige Kindseth are ready for prime-time. Again, there’s not much in the way of a winning tradition, so let’s see how they do. But there’s a lot of upside here.
19. Mpls. South 23-6
25. St. Louis Park 11-16
South is trying to get back to the glory days of Tayler Hill with her sisters Morgan, a senior wing, and Jade, a freshman point guard. Tayler had a lot more help. Meanwhile, St. Louis Park is just trying to get back to respectability, which seems like a lock with 5-10 Shayla Miller and Lindsey Olson and 5-11 Kendal Coley available.
20. Roseville 21-7
Roseville is rebuilding, which means they’ll settle for 2nd or 3rd in the Sub East. Junior guards Kaylee Nelson and Jada Hood and sophomore Jayda Johnston lead the way, while 6-3 freshman post Tamia Ugass suggests a pretty high upside—soon, if not in 2018.
21. Apple Valley 21-7
22. Park 13-14
23. Hastings 15-13
AV starts over after losing Lyndsey Robson, Sarah Teske, Erin Baxter and more. There are plenty of building blocks, it’s just a question of how they and new coach Brian Doughty’s game plan fit together. Post Mykel Parham is a defensive menace, while 6-1 Brynne Rolland is her equal, but on the offense. But, who will get her the ball?
Park has pretty much everybody back but, of course, they fell short of .500. Still, they’ve also got one of the best coaches in the business back as well. You can count on the Wolfpack to win a few games they shouldn’t.
This might be a little optimistic for a team that lost 6-0 wing Haylee Yeager, but Hastings still has 2 of Minnesota’s best players in 5-11 forward Krystal Carlson and 6-0 sophomore wing Mallory Brake.
24. Edina 19-10
This might be optimistic for a team that lost Annika Jank, but point guard Olivia Coughlin returns along with junior wing Macy Nilsen.