After St. Michael-Albertville’s 66-53 victory over Centennial, Knights coach Kent Hamre stood answering questions outside the Target Center locker rooms, standing straight and tall and beaming the whole time.

With good reason. The Knights had been winless in three previous state tournament appearances as a Class 4A team. Finally getting that opening-game victory Tuesday removed the proverbial monkey from their backs.

“More like 1,000 monkeys,” Hamre said. “All we’ve heard about is not winning at the 4A level. It is nice to silence the naysayers.”

No. 3-seeded St. Michael-Albertville (26-3) has a reputation for putting up points in bunches. The team looked jittery early, falling behind 18-12 before rallying late to take a 27-22 halftime lead.

What didn’t suffer was the Knights’ defense.

Led by point guard Kitri Zezza, they pressured the ball at every opportunity, forcing 22 Centennial turnovers. Even when the Cougars made a run, the St. Michael-Albertville defense stemmed the tide, scoring 32 of their points off turnovers.

“We knew in the second half we had to come out and increase the turnovers,” said Zezza, who had 15 points, four steals and would have had far more than the two assists she was credited had the Knights converted more shots.

“We work hard on defense. We know that will always be there.”

Guard Sydney Tracy led St. Michael-Albertville with 18 points. Senior guard Jaycie Gerding paced Centennial (21-9) with 15 points.

JIM PAULSEN

Eastview 62, Andover 28: When we last saw the Lightning’s Rachel Ranke at the state tournament a year ago, she donned a different jersey number for limited minutes in the Class 4A championship.

Ranke, a 6-foot sophomore guard, reintroduced herself in a big way Tuesday. She led the defending champion Lightning with 23 points in a rout of Andover. She hit four three-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds.

“I knew if we wanted to win, we had to have everyone contributing,” Ranke said.

Ranke, sporting her preferred No. 12 jersey, accounted for 12 of her team’s 29 points at halftime. Coach Melissa Guebert said Ranke blossomed into a player accountable in all areas.

“She’s matured probably more mentally than anything,” Guebert said. “To be honest, a lot of the skills you saw from her today she’s always had.”

Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Madison Guebert added 13 points. Michigan-bound Samantha Trammel grabbed 11 rebounds. No. 2-seed Eastview (29-1) dominated inside, outscoring Andover 26-6 in points in the paint.

The Lightning raced to a 29-8 halftime lead. It shot 61 percent from the field during the first 20 minutes, compared with 13 percent for Andover (19-11).

“It started with our defense and our offense came from that,” Ranke said.

DAVID LA VAQUE

Shakopee 62, White Bear Lake 56: Senior forward Haley Zerr noticed her stomach turning before the game, nerves owing to Shakopee's first state tournament trip since 1997.

The sick feeling persisted as teammate Taylor Koenen, the Sabers’ all-time leading scorer, limped off the court five seconds into the Class 4A quarterfinal game against White Bear Lake on Tuesday.

“She’s a big player on the team, so that was a shocker for us,” Zerr said.

Koenen wasn’t gone long. She put a brace on her tender ankle, returned to the game and dominated. She led all scorers with 26 points in a 62-56 Shakopee victory at Target Center.

No. 5 seed Shakopee (22-8) knocked off No. 4 seed White Bear Lake (22-8), which had won 11 of its past 12 games. The Sabers did their most damage inside, outscoring the Bears 18-9 on second-chance points.

“The difference in the game was their offensive rebounding,” White Bear Lake coach Jeremy Post said. “They are big, strong, physical, tall and athletic.”

Koenen, a 6-2 junior guard who verbally committed to North Carolina, embodies all of those attributes. She scored from various spots on the floor and played solid defense on White Bear Lake leading scorer Alison Hinck.

“Once you get thinking about the game, the pain kind of goes away,” Koenen said. “You have more to worry about here than an ankle.”

Hopkins smothers Roch. Mayo

Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff said he felt “nervous as heck” about drawing Rochester Mayo in the state tournament quarterfinals.

“It was probably the toughest first-round game we could get,” he said. “I knew they would be prepared.”

Few teams can adequately prepare for top-ranked Hopkins, which rolled to a lopsided 62-35 victory. The Spartans finished with three times as many turnovers (39) as they did field goals made (13).

The Royals (28-1) stormed to a 45-20 halftime lead and never let the Spartans (23-6) breathe. The Spartans didn’t score a second-half point until almost six minutes after halftime.

“We stepped on their throats like we’re supposed to,” Hopkins junior guard Ashley Bates said.

Bates posted team bests in points (10) and steals (four) in the first 20 minutes.

“Ashley has flown under the radar,” Cosgriff said. “She’s always been real productive. She finishes real well. She flies around defensively and rebounds the heck out of the ball for her size.”

Rochester Mayo, which entered the state tournament with 19 victories in the past 20 games, held opponents to 39.4 points per game. But a quicker, tougher Hopkins team, Spartans coach Rich Decker said, “plays at a different caliber than 99 percent of the teams in the state.”

JIM PAULSEN