CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
8 p.m., Williams Arena
Hopkins (No. 1 seed, 28-2) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (No. 2, 28-3)
Why Hopkins will win: This is the time of year the defending champion Royals shine. They will be playing in the championship game for the seventh time in eight tournament finals since 2015 (the tournament was canceled after one day of play in 2020 because of COVID restrictions) and have won two of the past three Class 4A titles. The up-tempo, ball-pressuring Royals have defeated Lake Conference rival St. Michaal-Albertville three times in the past year, in the 2022 final and twice during the regular season. Hopkins relies on forcing opponents to play faster than normal, creating mistakes and turnovers. Hopkins is at its best in transition, getting quick baskets and open three-pointers off changes in possession.
Why St. Michael-Albertville will win: The Knights are very familiar with Hopkins, so there will be no surprises once they tip off. And they boast the Metro Player of the Year, senior Tessa Johnson, whose vast array of skills allow her to take over any game. Johnson was at her best in the semifinals, controlling the offense and scoring 29 of the Knights' 55 points against Eden Prairie. But Johnson is far from the only standout. Junior JaKahla Craft can get hot from three-point range and distract defenses from Johnson. Their supporting cast is tall and experienced, led by 6-footers Piper Carlson and Kylie Diaz and sparkplugs Cail Jahnke, Abi Hoselton and Ava Haus.
One thing to know: St. Michael-Albertville coach Kent Hamre, who earned his 400th career victory this season, has only beaten Hopkins once, 76-48 in 2015. Since then Hopkins has won 12 straight games between the teams.