Edina senior Graham Woodward strolled to the free-throw line following a Hopkins timeout with 18 seconds left and the game tied. The Royals’ fans were boisterously chanting: “Pressure! Pressure! Pressure!”
“I was confident coming out of the timeout,” Woodward said. “We were in a position to win the game. I just had to tune out the fans, and knock [the shots]down.”
Woodward calmly made the front end of the one-and-one. He did likewise on the second.
His two free throws capped a 25-point performance, and gave the Hornets an intense 55-53 victory over Hopkins (22-7) in the Class 4A, Section 6 boys’ basketball championship on Tuesday night at Osseo High School. It marked the third time Edina (22-7) had beaten the Royals this season.
“That’s one of the hardest things to do, beat a team three times in a year,” Woodward said. His steal with two seconds left on a Hopkins out-of-bounds play sealed the victory. “We hadn’t beaten them in 19 years. We had to get the monkey off our back.”
Woodward was on a mission from the outset. His goal: Lead the Hornets back to the state tournament for the first time since 1991. He achieved that feat.
A year earlier, Woodward and his teammates departed the Osseo gymnasium in disappointment after the finals. His squad had dropped a 69-55 decision to the Royals.
“Leaving the gym that night was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my basketball career,” Woodward said. “We let them off the hook last year.”
Woodward made sure it didn’t happen again. The Penn State recruit started taking matters into his own hands in the final five minutes. He scored five consecutive points with Edina trailing by two points following a technical foul on the Hornets’ bench.
“When the ball is in Graham’s hands good things are going to happen,” Hornets coach Pat Dorsey said. “You can see it in his eyes.”
Seniors center Reggie Lynch and forward Mark Handberg added 15 and 10 points, respectively, for the Hornets. Junior Stephon Sharp came off the bench to lead the Royals with 19 points.
“I’m so proud of all my teammates,” Woodward said. “We have all worked really hard to get where we are.”
And where they’re at will be the state tournament.