The Royals aren’t a senior-dominated team, but they’re getting plenty from one of their senior leaders.
Hopkins’ Anthony Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard for the second-ranked team in Class 4A continues to score and create offense for the Royals. Friday, in a road matchup against fourth-ranked Eden Prairie, Davis continued to produce, as Hopkins overcame an early deficit and second-half comeback to knock off the Eagles (12-2, 2-1).
Hopkins (16-1, 3-0) was without leading scorer Zeke Nnaji, who suffered an ankle sprain last week against Wayzata.
Davis scored 21 points, better than his season average, and was dangerous all game for a Royals team that didn’t find its rhythm until late in the first half.
Eden Prairie was just the latest in a schedule already full of challenges for Hopkins. But since losing to top-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall to open the season, the Royals have won 16 straight and are starting to hit their stride.
“I feel like we’ve been really tested,” Davis said. “Especially on the first game, where we played against Cretin-Derham Hall. We felt like we weren’t in shape. Right now in practice, we’re working really hard on defense and getting in shape, lifting every day after practice. I feel like we’re competing and getting aggressive.”
Davis brings plenty of experience to the team, and won a state title with the Royals as a sophomore. He’s also played with and learned from more than a few talented players during his career.
“Last year, I was picking up leadership off Ishmael El-Amin and Simon Wright, on how they create and get everybody better on the floor, especially Ish,” Davis said. “I follow that this year now; now it’s my year, it’s my senior year, so I’ve gotta step it up more. Be aggressive and kick the ball out, get my teammates open.”
His coach, Ken Novak, Jr., had plenty of praise for Davis as well.
“He’s been around a lot,” Novak said. “He’s great defensively, got in a little foul trouble today so we couldn’t keep him on their best player. He’s solid. He goes to the basket, he passes, he defends.”
Scoring has always come easy to Davis, but with an eye to the future, he’s been focusing on creating opportunities for others as well. Novak said the coaches have told him they want to see good assist numbers from the senior this year — Davis is a natural point guard, and will likely play that position at the next level somewhere.
Davis said he’s got mid-major interest from schools like Denver, South Dakota, North Dakota, and recently, Northern Iowa. He’s got Division II offers as well.
For now, the goal is to get better, and ideally peak in March. Novak said Cretin-Derham Hall is deserving of its No. 1 ranking, and that Apple Valley might be the second-best team when it’s fully healthy. The Royals look to improve and be in that mix come postseason time.
“We’d like to think we’re one of those extra teams that can come in and do something,” Novak said.
“Our goal is pretty much try to win state, and [I want to] see if I can get Mr. Basketball this year,” Davis said.
Both Hopkins and Eden Prairie entered Friday’s matchup battle-tested. And while the game featured some highs and lows for both teams, it was the Royals that made the runs when it mattered.
Hopkins, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, faced another top-10 Lake Conference rival on the road, beating No. 4-4A Eden Prairie 84-77, with big runs in each half to put away a pesky Eagles squad. Anthony Davis had 21 points to lead the Royals, who saw five players score in double figures, even with junior Zeke Nnaji out.
Hopkins (16-1, 3-0) had a 46-34 lead at halftime, thanks in part to a 10-0 run late in the first. Eden Prairie (12-2, 2-1) came out shooting well in the second however, and Drake Dobbs tied the game 55-55 on a three-pointer with 10 minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
With less than nine minutes remaining and the score 63-61, Hopkins rattled off a 9-0 run to extend its lead and hold on.
Nnaji, the Royals’ leading scorer, was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Dane Zimmer had 12 points and nine rebounds in his place, and Blaise Beauchamp scored 18 points, while Kerwin Walton added 16 and Joe Hedstrom finished with 11.
Austin Andrews’ 20 points led Eden Prairie. Connor Christensen added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Dobbs had 18 points and Kyler Kluge added 12.
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