Nodding to her team's great depth — a great blessing but occasional playing-time challenge — Cooper coach Kiara Buford lamented, "I wish we had seven people on the floor at one time."
Opponents often feel that's the case.
Nine players got minutes and each contributed at least two points as the top-seeded Hawks defeated Willmar 65-54 in the Class 3A semifinals Thursday at Target Center. State tournament newcomer Cooper (28-2) remains perfect in 2018 and advances to the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Another telling stat: Six Cooper players got credited with at least one steal as the Hawks defense overwhelmed fifth-seeded Willmar (26-3). Among the Cardinals' 20 turnovers were 13 Cooper steals.
"Their defensive intensity was big in the second half," Willmar coach Dustin Carlson said. "They came out and got after it."
Cooper sprinted out of halftime, using four steals to help grow a two-point advantage to a commanding 49-38 lead. Senior guard Ty'Neecia Longs accounted for 10 of her team's 15 points during the surge.
"We had a talk in the locker room and said we need to pick it up," Longs said. "We had to box out, get up on defense and pressure the ball."
For Willmar, which overcame a 15-point halftime deficit to upset No. 4 seed DeLaSalle in overtime in the quarterfinals, Cooper's depth and pace were insurmountable. The Hawks outscored Willmar 22-7 off the bench.
"There's got to be a limited amount of gas in the tank and they used all of it," Carlson said. "They just tired us out."
Carlson sported a shaved head, courtesy of his players. Reach the state tournament and win a quarterfinal game, Carlson promised them, and you can bust out the clippers.
Senior guard Cayle Hovland did most of the cutting Wednesday night and scoring Thursday afternoon. She scored a game-high 22 points.