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St. Michael-Albertville springs from the gate and walks away with 4A title

Heading into Saturday, St. Michael-Albertville coach Kent Hamre, in his 18e season, had once beaten Lake Conference rival Hopkins.

The Knights doubled that total on Saturday, building a big first-half lead and withstanding a strong comeback attempt from Hopkins after halftime to claim a 71-70 victory in the women’s basketball championship game. Class 4A at Target Center.

Tessa Johnson, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, had 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Knights, including four players who scored in double figures.

Defending champion Hopkins, who trailed by as much as 21 points in the first half, came within one, 71-70, on Kelly Boyle’s third three-pointer in the second half with 1.2 second to play, but that was the end of the Royals’ rallying.

If Hamre had worked out his optimal game plan, it would have looked a lot like Saturday’s first half.

After Hopkins took a 2-0 lead on a pair of free throws from Taylor Woodson, the Knights defense closed the way and did not allow Hopkins to work the ball inside. At the same time, the Knights controlled the pace on offense, remained patient and worked the ball to junior guard/forward JaKahla Craft.

Hopkins couldn’t play the fast-paced game he prefers, and St. Michael-Albertville took the lead. Craft scored 12 points in a 27-6 opener. Hopkins didn’t shoot from the ground until less than eight minutes from the end of the half. St. Michael-Albertville, refusing to step up their attack, held a big advantage for the rest of the half and took a 42-25 lead at the break.

The first-half numbers told a story of St. Michael-Albertville dominance. The Knights went 14 for 23 from the floor (60.9 percent), made four of seven three-pointers and outshot Hopkins 21-14. Even St. Michael-Albertville’s 10 turnovers in the first half didn’t hurt much. Hopkins was unable to turn those errors into meaningful runs and committed seven turnovers himself.

Taylor Woodson was the only Hopkins player who could do a lot on offense in the first half. The 6-foot senior guard/forward had 11 points and four rebounds.

St. Michael-Albertville finished 29-3, Hopkins 28-3.

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