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Dominating second half propels Hopkins past East Ridge

March 21, 2019 10:34 PM

Hopkins opened the 2018-19 season with a nine-point loss to East Ridge. But in the second-to-last game of the season for both teams, Hopkins avenged the loss and put itself in position to add to its rich, tradition-filled basketball success.

Senior center Zeke Nnaji scored 21 points, had 10 rebounds and three assists to power the Royals (26-4) to a 71-47 victory over the Raptors in the Class AAAA semifinals of the boys basketball tournament on Thursday, March 21 at Target Center. 

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A championship berth is nothing new to Hopkins. The Royals, who last won a Class AAAA crown in 2016, have captured seven total big-school crowns since 2002. Prior, Hopkins was the 1952 and 1953 state champion in a single-class format. The No. 2-seeded Royals will face No. 5 Lakeville North (27-4) in the Class AAAA championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m., at Target Center. In the third game of the season for the Royals on Dec. 8, they recorded a 78-72 victory over Lakeville North.

Hopkins, which held a two-point advantage at the break, used a 7-0 run to open the second half to gain separation en route to a 45-23 surge in the final 18 minutes of play. Junior guard Kerwin Walton had 17 points on 7of-8 shooting from the field and senior forward Andy Stafford added 13 points. The Royals led by as many as 26 points in the second half. 

Senior forward Courtney Brown, Jr., was the only East Ridge (28-3) to score in double figures. He finished with 13 points and four rebounds. 

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