In the grand scheme of things, Thursday evening’s basketball results were not the stuff of giant headlines. For the Hopkins Royals girls squad, a 74-36 victory at Champlin Park was only one step on a tall ladder that they hope will take them to another state championship.
The Royals, who are top-ranked in Class 4A, improved to 3-0. Their next challenge is a Saturday matchup with third-ranked Elk River in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins.
But there is this: The result of a boys game between a small school in southeastern Minnesota and a team from Wisconsin on Thursday resulted in a small-type headline for the Hopkins girls. Rushford-Peterson lost to Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau, Wis., on Thursday. Rushford-Peterson, the defending 1A boys state champs, had won 30 games in a row before that loss, and that streak was the longest in the state among boys and girls basketball teams.
So guess what? The Hopkins girls now hold the longest streak at 29 victories in a row.
“You just jinxed me,” Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff (pictured) said when I informed him of those facts after Thursday’s game.
The Royals haven’t lost in nearly a year, falling to Eastview in overtime at the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic on Dec. 6, 2014. Hopkins defeated Eastview twice later last season, including in the Class 4A state championship game.
This season, like most in the last decade or more, is one in which Hopkins is the team to beat in Class 4A. The Royals have won four of the last five big-school state championships and have a record of 297-39 since the start of the 2004-05 season.
Despite that pedigree, Cosgriff said his team employs no rear-view mirrors.
“Everything we’ve done to this point is over,” he said. “The only thing we can focus on is about getting better the next day. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s over. The next play, that’s kind of what we preach.
“Our goal is to get one percent better every day. We feel like if we go out and work hard every day in practice, it becomes habit-forming. We try to apply what we learn in practice every day and see what happens in the games.”
The Royals’ on-court leader is senior guard Nia Hollie, who has signed to play collegiately at Michigan State. Two other seniors also will play Division I college basketball; Ashley Bates at Hampton and Evelyn Knox at Wayne State. Hollie led the team with 12 points at Champlin Park, Bates had 11 and high-ceilinged sophomore Angie Hammond had 10.
As strong as the Royals are, they are playing without two talented former members of the team. Elizabeth Bulver, who has signed with North Dakota State, moved to Kansas for her senior year and 6-3 junior Jasmyn Martin stopped playing basketball to focus on volleyball. She plans to play volleyball at the University of Minnesota.
Nevertheless, the Hopkins basketball team is mighty strong. The starters Thursday were seniors Hollie, Bates and K’Aezha Wubben, junior Dee Dee Winston and Hammond. The bench is deep, with a mix of seniors and younger players.
“They’re really a fun group to coach,” Cosgriff said. “We have a nice mix of veterans and youth, I’m having a good time coaching them and they’re great kids.”
The basketball season is lengthy. Practice began on Nov. 16 and the state tournament will start March 15.
“We want to get better for February and March,” Cosgriff said. “We talk about the grey bin. The grey bin is the bin we roll in at the end of the year, where we put everything in there and put it away for the summer. We want to avoid that for as long as we can.”
BY THE NUMBERS
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