Once again the Hopkins Royals took part in the Sweet Sixteen event at St. Benedict's and played in the championship game. The opponent this year was the Tartan Titans who battled the Royals to a close game but in the fourth quarter the advantages of D.J. Peterson and Joe Coleman were too much to stop. One thing is for certain is that a rivalry here has been born.
There was a little bit of testosterone taking the court for the championship game and it wasn't just because it was another team motivated to beat the Royals. Back in the fall when these teams took part in the Minnetonka Fall League there was an incident that led to a Tartan player being permanently scarred and it built the family a lot of medical bills. Of course the player had not forgot and the result was just another reason that this game was hard fought with a lot of words exchanged. Each team had a technical or two, there was a ton of trash talking, and overall things were very physical.
The game was quite tight for three quarters and the Titans were able to stay around because of their trademark physical defense and the ball movement, screens, and hard cuts on offense. Troy Klingsporn was able to get to the basket on Peterson to produce points in the halfcourt set several times and he scored on the break. Klingsporn also did a strong job of running the point for the Titans and he defended Peterson to the best of his ability making the 6-foot-4 Hopkins score over his length.
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Junior-to-be Drew Preiner also had a very good game for the Titans. Preiner scored from the outside and inside creating for himself and cutting hard to the cup for scores. Drew also had the luxury of defending Marvin Singleton who is about an inch bigger and 35 pounds of muscle stronger. While Marvin had some scores early Drew did a sound job of forcing Marvin to go through him and because he's such a smart position defender Preiner made sure that all of Singleton's attempts were from six or seven feet instead two feet. This brought the field goal percentage down and it was possible because Tartan was willing to give the Hopkins junior the jumper. Luke Preiner was another standout for the Titans. He played tough defense including a block of Joe Coleman, Luke scored within the offense, and he and his brother brought a lot of toughness to the floor.
The Royals pulled away down the stretch as Peterson used the combination of his length, crafty handling skills, and shooting touch to get close to the rim and then touch the ball over helping defenders. The most important stretch for Peterson was at the end of the first quarter. Hopkins finished on a 10-0 run and D.J. scored seven of those points and had the creative assist to Cameron Selmer who drained a big three. Peterson also knocked down three triples while playing almost the entire 36 minutes.
Coleman also did some impressive things and all his scores on Sunday were at the basket save one jumper in the semi-finals. I don't recall if they gave Joe a three on the shot or not on that jumper because he stepped so far forward on the attempt. I would say that Joe's release did look much more textbook than I had seen during the winter. Coleman also produced points in highlight reel fashion. There was an alley-oop, a couple transition jams, and then a score off an in-bounds pass. Joe posted up to get a short pass, faked to the in-bounder stepping on the floor, and then spun over the defense for an impressive stuff.
Down the stretch Hopkins pulled away to win the game as Coleman and Peterson produced buckets while the Titans missed several long jumpers. The final score was 73-61 but it was a much closer contest than the final score would show. These teams meet again on December 12th in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic and don't be surprised if they bump heads again in a fall league.
Mark Hoge of Crosby-Ironton's scoring ability was much better than I had expected. In my mind this is a kid who is going to be one of class AA's leading scorers next year and Mark should warrant real scholarship attention because he put points on Hopkins in every way possible. Hoge sunk three-pointers and he did so creating his own shot off the bounce or coming off of screens. He also has very good lift on his jumper, solid technique, and there is range as well as he scored two triples against Hopkins from five feet behind the line. Hoge also attacked to the bucket and produced with contested lay-ins and pull-up jumpers. Expect this kid to skyrocket up the rankings the next time Minnesota Preps produces them.
For Kevin Noreen it was a tale of two halves against Stillwater. Amongst his scores in the first half were a spin move bucket where he extended to use his length and touch over Duxbury and then a touch shot from 15 feet off the glass that was put up in a flash but softly kissed the window. However, a close game in the second half got away from MTS as Kevin had one of those shooting stretches that everybody goes through where you just can't get a roll.
Stillwater pushed a close game to a 15-point advantage in the second half as every kid on the floor for the Ponies made a shot or two including Paul Franklin who did the most damage. Stillwater is a team with several weapons and they are a tough defend because you can't give any one player on the floor more attention than the other or they will bury you. Plus this is a deep group that has some size and they play unselfishly.
Cole Stefan sat out the Sunday games as a precautionary measure. He hurt his knee this summer and has been playing with a brace and with his team out of the running to win the Sweet 16 championship Cole felt the better option was to rest the knee.
Stefan recently added an offer from Auburn and is likely to receive an offer from USC. The Trojan coaches have said that if Cole takes a visit to their school he will receive an offer and Cole is expected to unofficially check out the campus in the next couple weeks. Also interested is Georgia and don't' forget about schools like Nevada, Tulsa, Northern Iowa, and San Diego.
Ryan Duxbury is visiting Um-Crookston this week. Also hot on his trail are St. Cloud State and Carelton College. A 31 ACT score combined with a scoring touch in a 6-foot-8 body really draws out the options.
Without Darren Glover, Isaiah Zierden, and Evan Battle on Sunday the Tartan game was a struggle for Benilde-St. Margaret's. They made it to the semi-finals but the lack of three talented players put a ton of sophomores on the floor. That was a huge difference against a Tartan defense that just breaks you down.
Sophomore Casey Schilling blocked a three point shot at the buzzer allowing Ellsworth to beat Plainview/Elgin-Millville by three points.
Staples-Motley pulled a game out against Maranatha Christian Academy by a single point. Down the stretch a time-out was called and the Cards executed a perfect play for a huge score and Jordan Riewer made all four of his free throws attempts in the final 40 seconds. This was huge because Darian Pittman made a three pointer at the buzzer.
Hopkins 84 Crosby-Ironton 72
Tartan 65 Benilde-St. Margaret's 43
Hopkins 73 Tartan 61
Benilde-St. Margaret's 78 Crosby-Ironton 71
New London-Spicer 70 Minnetonka 60
Ellsworth 70 Plainview/Elgin-Millville 67
New London-Spicer 76 Ellsworth 67
Minnetonka 74 Plainview/Elgin-Millville 67
Minnesota Transitions 51 Maranatha Christian Academy 33
Stillwater 65 Staples-Motley 60
Stillwater 62 Minnesota Transitions 41
Staples-Motley 59 Maranatha Christian Academy 58
Rocori 60 Little Falls 53
Sebeka 69 Cloquet 50
Rocori 70 Sebeka 59
Cloquet 52 Little Falls 48
1. Hopkins 4-0
2. Tartan 3-1
3. Benilde-St. Margaret's 3-1
4. New London-Spicer 3-1
5. Stillwater 3-1
6. Crosby-Ironton 2-2
7. Ellsworth 2-2
8. Minnetonka 2-2
9. Minnesota Transitions 2-2
10. Staples-Motley 2-2
11. Rocori 2-2
12. Plainview/Elgin-Millville 1-3
13. Maranatha Christian Academy 1-3
14. Sebeka 1-3
15. Cloquet 1-3
16. Little Falls 0-4