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Revisiting the Excitement, Controversy of the Class 4A Semifinals

Updated: 03/14/2014 7:06 PM
Created: 03/14/2014 11:27 AM KSTP.com
By: Nick Tabbert

A pair of exciting buzzer beaters Thursday propelled Hopkins and Lakeville North into the Boys' State Basketball Tournament Class 4A championship game on Saturday night.

Each team had a similar, but very different, way of advancing though. Hopkins prevailed over Shakopee 49-46 in quadruple overtime thanks to Amir Coffey's roughly 60-foot shot as time expired. Lakeville North outlasted Cretin-Derham Hall 55-52 thanks to a J.P. Macura fadeaway 3-pointer from NBA range as time expired.

Northstar Hoops Report writer Ryan James and Mr. Basketball's Ken Lien were in the middle of it all for both games. They shared their thoughts on how each game played out and what to expect in Saturday's championship game.

"I saw the close games coming," James said. "The crazy finishes? No."

In the first semifinal, Shakopee and Hopkins were tied at 41 with 2:49 remaining. Instead of playing out the remainder of the game, Royals head coach Ken Novak Jr. instructed his team to hold the ball at the top of the key for nearly two minutes as time ran down on the game clock. Shakopee was in a zone defense but chose not to pressure Hopkins guard Kamali Chambers. After a timeout with 19 seconds left, Hopkins got the ball to Amir Coffey with the game on the line, but the shot didn't fall, sending the game to overtime.

Hopkins won the tip in the first overtime and again chose to hold the ball near halfcourt as time ran off the clock. Shakopee again chose not to force the Royals to move the ball. After nearly four minutes of standing around, Hopkins again took its shot at a game-winning basket and again missed the shot, sending the game to double overtime.

Shakopee finally gained possession of the ball in the third overtime, and held a three-point lead with less than a minute to play. John Warren bailed Hopkins out though by burying a wide-open three in the corner with 42 seconds left.

That pushed the game to a fourth overtime, in which the only attempted shot would be the game-winning 60 foot heave by Coffey.

It seemed everyone at Target Center not supporting Hopkins showed displeasure in how the Royals managed the game in the final moments of regulation and the extra sessions. James, however, said Shakopee should shoulder the blame for its decision to not apply pressure.

"Shakopee made the choice to not come out," he said. "It's their fault that they never got a shot to win the game because they didn't come out and play defense. Hopkins guaranteed themselves a chance to win the game at the end every overtime. Shakopee decided not to."

Lien said he would have used the same strategy if he was coaching Hopkins, even if that meant taking a little heat from the fans and media.

"If a team's going to sit back in a zone and let you take the last shot, the game's tied, why not do it," he said. "Now, will people might think it's not very exciting? Probably not, but you know what, basketball is a chess match."

There currently is no shot clock in Minnesota high school basketball, but after Hopkins' repeated strategy to hold the ball for minutes at a time, the Minnesota State High School League may need to consider the costs of adding a shot clock system.

The problem, James said, is such a system might cost between $2,000 and $3,000 for each school in the state.

"I don't see 400 schools paying for shot clocks," he said. "That's a lot of money for schools that in the athletic programs that aren't funded the greatest the way it is."

As a coach at Minnetonka, James said he scouts a lot of games each year, but Thursday's semifinal was the first game all season he saw such a stall tactic used in a game.

"It just doesn't happen enough for it to really be a factor," he said.

"I'm not opposed to a shot clock," Lien said, "but I've talked to a lot of people and they say 'ah we don't need a shot clock.' How many instances are there during the year where we have that situation? Either way I'm fine with it."

In the second game, Lakeville North and Cretin-Derham Hall were tied at 52 with 28 seconds to play. Everyone in the gym knew J. P. Macura was going to take the final shot. He dribbled right across the top of the key, stepped back, and launched a three over Sam Neumann from beyond the NBA three-point line as time expired.

James said he was seated toward the opposite end of the court but knew when he saw the arch the bucket was going to count.

"I remember screaming 'It's going in!' and then the person next to me going 'Oh my god you're right!" he said. "It was a pretty fun moment."

Macura finished with 31 points to lead all scorers.

"J.P.'s a beast man," James said. "His approach, the way he attacks, his mentality, it's one-of-a-kind."

The tip between Hopkins and Lakeville North is scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday night at Target Center.


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