Girls State Basketball: Minnetonka holds off Hopkins to claim Class 4A championship

Girls State Basketball: Class 4A Championship – Minnetonka vs. Hopkins

Minnetonka was rolling along in its Class AAAA Girls Basketball matchup with Lake Conference rival, Hopkins, on Saturday, March 16 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. The No. 2-seeded Royals had a 14-point lead with just more than seven minutes remaining. Top players shined on both ends of the floor.

Then semi-disaster hit: A dry spell.

The multi-faceted Skippers went scoreless for a five-minute span, in part, because of a spirited sense of urgency from top-seeded Hopkins. That two touchdown lead was whittled to two points with a titanic-like momentum swing. It didn’t help Minnetonka matters, either, that leading scorer junior Aaliyah Crump, was assessed with a fifth foul with 1:47 left.

But Skippers managed to right their ship in the midst of turbulent waters en route to posting a 64-56 drama-filled victory over Hopkins for their first big-school championship since 2016. Senior forward Celia Nesseth emerged as the last-second hero by scoring Minnetonka’s final five points that turned a fragile lead into a heart-relaxing eight-point victory.

With the shot clock about to sound, she made a putback with 16 seconds left and made the awarded free throw, which pushed the Skippers lead to 62-56. Fourteen seconds later, she calmly made two more free throws to seal the first victory for a No. 2 seed on Championship Saturday. In the three other championship games, the No. 1 seeds all emerged victorious.

The Class AAAA championship was eighth overall for Minnetonka head coach Brian Cosgriff. His other seven? They were as the head coach at Hopkins. In fact, the last time Minnetonka won a Class AAAA crown, Cosgriff was on the losing side with Hopkins. Cosgriff has a 38-6 record in state tournament games.

Crump, who has emerged as a superstar this season, finished with 23 points. Senior guard Tori McKinney, a University of Minnesota recruit, added 18 points, eight rebounds and had two steals.

Senior guard Liv McGill, a University of Florida recruit, willed the Royals (27-4) with 18 points on penetrating drives and crafty playmaking. Ninth-grade forward Erma Walker added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Minnetonka built a 39-30 advantage at the break behind 14 points from Crump and 12 from McKinney. The Skippers ended the half on a 12-7 run that stretched a four-point to nine.

This is the second time this season the Skippers (29-2) have beaten the Royals. They split two games during the Lake Conference season.

Third place:

St. Michael-Albertville 72, Maple Grove 54: St. Michael-Albertville, the big-school champion in 2023, rebounded from a loss to Minnetonka in the semifinals with a victory over Maple Grove at the Gangelhoff Center on the Concordia (St. Paul) campus. Senior guard Ja’Kahla Craft ended her prep career with 19 points. She has signed to play at Seton Hall University next season. Sophomore guard Cail Jahnke also had 19 points for the Knights (25-8). Senior forward Claire Stern had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Crimson (26-6).