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Hopkins rose to basketball prominence in the past decade, going to the state tournament seven times and winning five Class 4A champions. So when the Royals miss the tournament as they did last season, it is unusual for coaches and players.
No. 1 seed Hopkins struggled early in the quarterfinals against Tartan, a slow start coach Ken Novak Jr. attributed to the Titans’ defense as well as jitters.
“As much as these kids have played a lot of basketball, it’s nerve-racking a little bit,” Novak Jr. said.
Seniors Jacob Wright and Kamali Chambers played at state in 2012, but Chambers said: “It feels like a long time since we’ve been here. We’re trying to live in the moment, take every possession and win every game.”
DAVID LA VAQUE
Feeding off tradition
DeLaSalle coach Dave Thorson hears the talk and understands that, with a team so loaded in talent, there will be plenty of people saying the Islanders are the best team in the state, regardless of class.
But that’s not the comparison that concerns Thorson and his team.
“Our focus is on the DeLaSalle tradition,” Thorson said. “It’s about the big picture. We feed off the school’s tradition. I got three texts today from alumni. There might not be a more supportive program in the state.”
Where credit is due
After Orono defeated Marshall 77-72 in what was an extremely well-played quarterfinal game, coach Barry Wohler gave credit to their Wright County Conference brethren for preparing the Spartans prepare.
Four Wright County Conference teams — Orono and Holy Family in Class 3A, Annandale and New London-Spicer in 2A — qualified for the state tournament.
“Every night it’s a battle,” Wohler said. “It’s a physical league. They just get after it. Playing in the conference gets you ready.”
Fairmont senior guard Mitch Pfingsten was wearing a red mask in the Cardinals’ quarterfinal matchup with St. Peter in Class 2A. It was to protect a broken nose.
The school’s all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 career points suffered the injury in a 76-44 victory over St. James in the Section 3 semifinals.