March 16, 2019 10:53 PM
Top-ranked Hopkins put an exclamation point on an undefeated season of dominance with a 74-45 victory over No. 2 Stillwater in the Class AAAA championship game on Saturday, March 16 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
The Royals (32-0) used a stunning, dizzying and exhilarating run in the second half that turned a tight championship battle into a convincing, dominant victory.
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The championship is the seventh for the Royals (32-0) since 2004. It also put an end to consecutive losses in the championship game the past three seasons. Hopkins turned a five-point deficit in the early minutes of the second half into a distant memory in the wake of a 28-7 run that created a 55-40 advantage. Junior guard Kayla Adams completed the power surge by hitting three consecutive three-pointers.
The Royals’ offensive blitz didn’t stop there. The lead ballooned to 30 points in the final minutes when the Royals finally released the pressure-cooker defense and high-octane open-court offensive wizardry.
Maya Nnaji, a 6-foot-3 freshman, led all Hopkins scorers with 18 points, and also pulled down 10 rebounds. Junior guard Paige Bueckers, the No. 1 recruit in the nation in the Class of 2020, had 13 points, seven assists and five steals. She wowed the crowd with creative playmaking that included behind-the-back passes and no-looks dishes through defenders. Senior guard Dlayla Chakolis also scored 13 points. Adams finished with 12 points, all on made three-pointers.
Stillwater (28-3), making its first state tournament since 1988, stirred thoughts of an upset with inspired play in the first half and in the early moments of the second. University of Minnesota recruit Sara Scalia, a senior guard, scored 24 points. Sophomore guard Alexis Pratt chipped in 16 points.
The Ponies used an 11-7 surge in the final three minutes of the first half to turn what had been a 20-18 deficit into a 29-27 lead at the break. After Scalia made two free throws to give the Ponies a 29-24 lead with 1:47 left, Hopkins answered with the final three points of the half.
Updated: March 16, 2019 10:53 PM
Created: March 16, 2019 10:49 PM
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