Top-seeded Champlin Park has been the consensus No. 1 team all of 2015. The Rebels took over the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press state rankings on Dec. 30, 2014, after defeating previous top team Apple Valley 79-74 in the Granite City Holiday Classic in St. Cloud. The Rebels (29-0) also have victories over Hopkins, Cretin-Derham Hall, Roseville, Maple Grove, Armstrong and Rice Lake (Wis.), so they’re well-tested in tough games. With a deep and talented lineup led by 2015 Metro Player of the Year J.T. Gibson, Champlin Park has a chance to become the first Class 4A unbeaten since Hopkins in 2009.
Apple Valley was a consensus pick to repeat as state champions in 2014, Tyus Jones’ final season, until the Eagles were upset in the section finals by Cretin-Derham Hall. Apple Valley (27-2) got revenge by routing Cretin-Derham Hall 74-50 in a section final Thursday, thanks to a stellar performance from Tre Jones, Tyus’ freshman brother. The Eagles have one of the tournament’s best inside-outside combos with sophomore guard Gary Trent Jr. (21.5 points per game) and 7-foot junior center Brock Bertram (13.6 points, 9.8 rebounds.)
A bizarre game
There is an outside chance that No. 3-seeded Hopkins and No. 5 Shakopee could play for the state championship. In 2014, they squared off in the semifinals. Shakopee, unable to match Hopkins’ athleticism, kept the game close with a stingy zone defense. Hopkins countered in the last minutes of regulation and most of four overtimes by simply holding the ball, trying to force Shakopee out of its zone. The Sabers didn’t budge. The game ended on a 60-foot heave by Hopkins’ Amir Coffey as the fourth overtime expired, giving the Royals a 49-46 victory.