This is a game that has been circled on our calendar since the schedules came out last fall. It is a game Brian Cosgriff has been worrying about since March. It is Hopkins at Wayzata on Friday night, and it…
This is a game that has been circled on our calendar since the schedules came out last fall. It is a game Brian Cosgriff has been worrying about since March. It is Hopkins at Wayzata on Friday night, and it is the Northstar Girls Hoops Game of the Week. This is such an intriguing matchup, one that pits the speed, athleticism and pedigree of the Royals against the length and height of Wayzata. Last March, the two teams met in the section final and Wayzata had Hopkins down by 17 at the half. The Royals, of course, stormed back to get the win and earn another trip to the state tournament. Cosgriff and his Hopkins coaching staff spend as much time and energy scouting and preparing for upcoming opponents as anyone. They have no doubt been following Wayzata around for weeks, watching film, and tossing around every imaginable scenario. Here's what they know about the Trojans:
- Wayzata is tall and long. The Trojans are led by 6'2″ post Kallie Theisen, the premiere player in Minnesota's junior class. Although she may not look it, Theisen is strong. She's also shrewd, and can score the basketball in many ways. Kallie is a major college prospect and a matchup nightmare.
- Every great team has a great point guard, and Mimi Schrader is a great point guard. Also a top-10 player in the 2019 class, she is quick and intelligent and exudes a kind of confidence that all great floor generals possess. You always get the impression watching Mimi that she has it all under control. She usually does.
- Jasmine Smiley occupies the two-guard spot. She moved into the starting lineup this summer after the graduation of Sydney Franks (Northern State), who was always a thorn in Hopkins' side. Smiley is quick and athletic and can shoot lights out when she gets rolling. She is the #15 player in the Class of 2020.
- Wayzata is better than they were a year ago thanks to the addition of North Dakota transfer Annika Stewart and freshman forward Jenna Johnson. Stewart isn't flashy, but at 6'2″ with a big body, she can be a force inside. The sophomore is also a great shooter, which has given Wayzata more offensive options. Johnson has been nothing short of terrific. The 6'1″ forward is a versatile, athletic presence – a top 5 player in the Class of 2021 – who has put up big numbers.
Of course, Mike Schumacher's coaching staff has also been diligently preparing for this encounter. Here's what they know about Hopkins:
- Hopkins is fast. The Royals use that speed to score a lot of transition baskets. They are also quick, which forces a ton of steals that enable those transition baskets. It is a harsh reality that the Trojans cannot run with the Royals. If the game opens up, Hopkins will own the show.
- Hopkins is savvy. They have state-championship pedigree and know how to perform on the big stage. That's new to Wayzata, which won just three games in a season not that long ago. When Wayzata won a fall-league scrimmage against Hopkins, the Trojans celebrated a little too much. Hopkins just shrugged: 'Whatever. See you in January.'
- Hopkins is talented. Dlayla Chakolis (2019 top 15) is a power forward in a guard's body. She can rebound, she can score, and she can get to the rim. Senior center Angie Hammond is long and tall (6'2″) and she can rebound. Her evening will be spent in Theisen's kitchen.
- Senior guard Raena Suggs can flat out shoot the basketball, and routinely scores from prodigious distance. Sophomore guard Kayhla Adams has quick feet, defends hard, and is often left open as opponents focus on Hopkins' most potent weapon: Paige Bueckers.
- What can we say about Paige that you don't already know? She is the best player in the state – any class, any team. She is one of the best players in the country – any class, any team. She played a huge role for Team USA U-16s last summer. Bueckers can do it all. Does anyone distribute the basketball better? Nope. Every team attempts to stop the 5'11″ sophomore. Few succeed.
- The wild card in all of this is bench strength. On most nights, sophomore guard Alivia Arnebeck gets into the game early for Wayzata. Forward Ella Schrader, a much-improved 6' junior, spells Wayzata's forward trio. Sophomore guard Lydia Hay usually gets time, as well. Hopkins, on the other hand brings in three D1-level talents. On any other team, sophomore guard Jaide Pressley would start. On this team, she is the 6th player. She's fast and skilled. She can defend and distribute. She can score. Senior forward Kira Mosley has been really good for Hopkins. The Eden Prairie transfer is a versatile player who provides about 15 quality minutes a night. And then there is guard Amaya Battle, the best 8th grader – perhaps the best 8th player – in Minnesota.
So that's it. That's the rundown. The outcome will be determined around 8:30 p.m. on Friday night, and we're betting on Hopkins. Why? It comes down to one factor. To paraphrase what UCONN coach Geno Auriemma said in 2004 about his all-everything point guard Diana Taurasi, something he may eventually say about the 2020 point guard from Minnesota who he is recruiting hard: “We're going to win this game because we have Paige Bueckers and you don't.”
Prediction: Hopkins by 6.
Other games to watch this week
- Holy Family at Waconia
- Willmar at Brainerd
- Park Center at Totino-Grace
Saturday features an excellent 8-game event at Hayfield
- Martin County West vs Pine Island
- Byron vs St. Peter
- Kasson-Mantorville vs Norwood-Young America
- Lester Prairie vs Mayer Lutheran
- Sleepy Eye vs NHREG
- Goodhue vs Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
- Waseca vs Hutchinson
- Mountain Iron-Buhl vs Hayfield