Robbinsdale Cooper junior Jalen Justice, right, passes around Chaska defender Parker Bjorklund. Justice scored 18 points to help Cooper to a 69-53 victory. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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Robbinsdale Cooper (18-6, 12-2) was looking for more than just a share of the Metro West Conference title when it hosted Chaska (19-7, 10-4) on Friday night. Cooper was looking for more than the outright title as well. It was looking for respect.
Chaska has won at least a share of the Metro West for three-straight years, while Cooper hasn’t won the conference since 2013.
That all changed Friday when Cooper defeated Chaska 69-53, securing the outright title and ending Chaska’s recent run of dominance.
“We finally got respect now,” senior Trokon Massey said. “Cooper hasn’t really won this since 2013, and since this is my senior year I was trying to go all out, so it’s a big accomplishment for me and my team. I brought it back home to Cooper.”
The Hawks were able to dethrone Chaska due to an impressive team effort on the defensive end. Cooper coach Broderick Powell said their high-pressure defense was the “only reason” they were able to win the game.
“Our identity is a pressure defensive team, and they did a good job of standing their position,” he said.
Cooper had 11 total steals in the game, which often turned into transition buckets on the other end. It took all five guys on the floor to pressure Chaska, but the outstanding defensive play of Massey stood out because of his work against Cole Nicholson.
Powell described Nicholson and his 22.2 points per game average as a “handful.” But Massey held him to 10 points, and only two in the second half.
“Our whole game plan was to stop (Nicholson), and as soon as we stopped him we took the team out of the game,” Massey said.
Nicholson’s frontcourt partner, Parker Bjorklund, reaped the benefits of all the attention Nicholson received. Bjorklund scored a game-high 24 points and added 15 rebounds.
Cooper’s offense was well-rounded, with four different players scoring 12 or more. Jalen Justice led the way with 18 points, right around his season average of 17.6.
By winning its first title in five years, Cooper made some recent history. The conference title also made school history: it was the first time both the boys’ and the girls’ teams won a conference championship in the same season.
Powell is proud of what his team accomplished, and combined with the girls’ success, it was hard for him to hide his passion.
“I love Cooper High School. I love the people in Cooper High School, and this is for all our students and all our staff, everybody that’s been behind us, that’s been coming to the games, been cheering these guys on making sure they do the things they’re supposed to do and I’m excited,” he said. “I’m excited for Cooper.”
The conference-clinching win was Cooper’s 10th in a row, and the Hawks look to be playing their best basketball at the best possible time. Powell said, “we have our work cut out for us” when describing the upcoming section tournament, where they could face No.4-3A Orono or No.1-3A DeLaSalle. Massey threw less caution toward the upcoming challenge.
“I feel like we’ll take it home,” he said.
Trokon Massey, right, sailed past Chaska defender Zach Lea on the way to two of his 12 points. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Robbinsdale Cooper (18-6, 12-2) won its first conference title since 2013 on Friday when it defeated Chaska 69-53.
With the Metro West Conference title on the line, a Chaska (19-7, 10-4) win would have meant a sharing its fourth-straight title with Cooper. But Friday was a night for the changing of the guard.
Cooper’s high-pressure defense was key, hounding Chaska all game by producing 11 steals. Cooper’s biggest defensive feat was holding Cole Nicholson to 10 points -- some 12 points below his season scoring average.
Senior Trokon Massey had the responsibility of guarding Nicholson, and he did it almost flawlessly. He outscored Nicholson 12-10, and he added two steals and a block to cap off his impressive performance.
Cooper had four different starters with 12 points or more. Jalen Justice led the way for the Hawks with 18 points.
While Cooper was able to slow down Nicholson, it struggled with Parker Bjorklund, who used his size advantage to grab 15 rebounds. He led all scorers with 24 points, a handful of which came off offensive rebounds.
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Cooper's Onte Burns, center, battled Chaska's Parker Bjorklund, left, and Marcus Peters for a first-half rebound. Bjorklund scored a game-high 24 points to lead Chaska. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine