There may be plenty to debate in our final 3A and 4A rankings of the 2017-18 season but one thing is indisputable: Robbinsdale Cooper and Eastview have earned the right to be called number one. Cooper finished the year at…
There may be plenty to debate in our final 3A and 4A rankings of the 2017-18 season but one thing is indisputable: Robbinsdale Cooper and Eastview have earned the right to be called number one. Cooper finished the year at 30-2 and the Hawks captured the state title on their very first trip to the show. Nice work by coach Kiara Buford and her feisty crew, who did whatever was necessary to get the job done. Eastview was a perfect 32-0 on the year, and who can fault coach Molly Kasper's strategic planning and the Lightning's near-flawless execution from November through March.
I suppose there really shouldn't be much debate over #2, either. Hopkins came up short in the final for the third year in a row, but at 28-4 there's no arguing that the Royals were second-best. You could debate Northfield's spot at #2, but section play and state tournament performance counts for a whole lot. Northfield won all but the big one, thus moving up from 4th to 2nd.
A tale of two Lakes in 4A
Like we said, section play and the state tournament really matter. Perform well above your previous track record and there's going to be a big jump in your year-end ranking; underperform and you just might fall off the cliff. Without a doubt, the most improved team when it counted was previously unranked Prior Lake. After knocking off ranked squads Eden Prairie and Minnetonka to make it to the tournament, the Lakers earned a spot on the list. We gave them #20. Likewise Forest Lake. They were in and out of the poll all season but the Rangers won when it counted, advancing past a solid Anoka team to the final eight in the state. That earned the Rangers a jump from #25 to #15.
The biggest shuffle in 4A occurred in the bottom half of the top 10 where section results, tournament play and head-to-head history were the deciding factors. That moved Lakeville North up from 8th to 4th, Maple Grove from 7th to 5th, and Roseville from 10th to 7th. The one team that didn't go anywhere, despite a swoon down the stretch, was Wayzata. Yes, they did get beat by Minneapolis South in a stunning upset but it was just their third loss of the season. We cut the Trojans some slack, and they'll be back with a vengeance next winter. South's upset earned the Tigers some love as the Hill sisters went from 20th to 11th in the final rankings.
When it was all said and done, Centennial has to be considered one of the season's biggest disappointments. With all of that talent headed to D1, much was expected of the Cougars but they were eliminated in the section 5AAAA semifinals by Park Center, an unfortunate end for senior studs Claire Orth and Sydney Stapleton. As a result, Centennial dropped from #5 to #10 on our final list.
Grand Rapids, Mankato West climb the 3A ladder
Grand Rapids played some great ball in the home stretch, and there is no question that the excellence of Ms. Basketball finalist Heaven Hamling was the Thunderhawks' X Factor. Grand Rapids didn't go all the way but they did earn the year-end #3 ranking with their play, moving up five spots in the process. Likewise Alexandria, which had a nice finish and jumped all the way up to #5. Also rising into the top 10 was Mankato West. We didn't give West a lot of love all season – the Scarlets' schedule was always the issue – but their section win over Waseca was convincing.
The most notable fall was that of Mahtomedi, which had a tremendous year. Losing Annika Sougstad to an ACL injury in the first five minutes of the section final was a killer. It was an unfortunate ending to a great high school career for both Sougstad and her teammate Emma Grothaus. What probably makes it sting a little more is the fact that the section champions from DeLaSalle did not exactly light it up at the tournament. Regardless, Mahtomedi finishes the year at #7, one spot behind the Islanders.
Besides losing to Mankato West, Waseca was involved in two other notable section games. Their semifinal defeat of Hutchinson was impressive and it cost the Tigers their place in the top 10. In the opening round, the Bluejays hosted Marshall in what promised to be competitive affair. Instead, it turned out to be a 17-4 debacle thanks to Marshall's regrettable stall ball tactics. The loss also cost Marshall several spots in the rankings as they finish the year at #22 while the Bluejays hung on to the final place in the top 10.