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St. Michael-Albertville's girls basketball program is one of the state's best. It has thrived under coach Kent Hamre.

He has had one main nemesis: Hopkins. He put that to rest in 2023, and that made him the All-Metro Sports Awards Girls Team Coach of the Year.

For only the second time in his 18 years with the Knights, Hamre knocked off the state's perennial power. St. Michael-Albertville made an opening 27-6 run and defeated the Class 4A defending state champion Royals 71-70 for the program's second state title.

"Other times, with Hopkins, there were a lot of deer-in-the-headlights looks," Hamre said after the victory. "Not this time. It was, 'Let's finish this.' They were on a mission, and mission accomplished."

The Royals closed the deficit to 69-67 with 18 seconds remaining before senior guard Tessa Johnson, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, sealed the victory with two free throws 11 seconds later. A three-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining left Hopkins still a point short.

"We let them back into it, but we didn't quit," Hamre said.

Johnson, committed to South Carolina for college, finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the championship game. The Knights were making their 11th state tournament appearance under Hamre.

Hamre entered the championship game with a 1-23 record against Hopkins, the lone victory coming in December 2015. He has a career record of 404-117 at St. Michael-Albertville.

"Too many times, with Hopkins, you get intimidated," he said. "And yes, the Hopkins intimidation was there, but these girls battled right to the end."