Love them or not, if it’s Hopkins and it’s the boys’ basketball state tournament, you can almost guarantee there’s going to be a reason to say “Wow.”
The Royals, their high-powered offense coughing and sputtering, played keep-away from Shakopee for most of four overtimes, only to leave the mouths of everyone at Target Center agape when sophomore Amir Coffey nailed a past-half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the fourth overtime to give the Royals a 49-46 victory.
“That rivals the Blake Hoffarber shot, I’ll say that,” said Hopkins coach Ken Novak Jr., referring to the legendary shot that Hoffarber hit while sitting on the floor in overtime in the 2006 Class 4A championship game, sending Hopkins to a second overtime in a game it eventually won.
Coffey’s amazing shot was an unexpected ending to a game that was the definition of weird.
The No. 1-seeded Royals, considerable favorites going in, spent the night running into Shakopee’s tough zone defense. A team accustomed to scoring nearly 90 points per game barely made it to 40. So when Hopkins got the ball back with three minutes left in regulation tied 41-41, fans had a right to expect something exciting.
What they got instead was a stare-down worthy of a John Wayne flick.
Hopkins guard Kamali Chambers held the ball near half-court, daring Shakopee to come out of it zone. The Sabers didn’t bite. Hopkins stared. Shakopee stared back. For nearly three minutes, nothing moved except the clock.
Hopkins finally attempted a shot in the final seconds, but it failed, sending the game to overtime.
Which brought more of the same. No points were scored. A second overtime. Still no points and very little movement. Fans got restless while the players got rested. But, said Novak, the strategy was sound.
“What’s the difference if we rundown 50 seconds or three minutes and 50 seconds?” he asked. “They weren’t coming out of that zone. You always want the last shot. If you can run the clock down and get the last shot, that’s what you do.”
Shakopee coach Bruce Kugath said the rules, not Hopkins, were to blame for the lack of action.
“I’ve said for 10 years that we need a shot clock,” he said. “But we weren’t coming out of that zone. We hadn’t played one minute of man-to-man. Why would we do it then?”
There was some action in the fourth overtime. Hopkins turned the ball over in the final seconds, giving Shakopee a chance for a final shot, but Hopkins’ John Warren intercepted a pass, giving the Royals the ball and two seconds to make a miracle happen.
Enter Coffey, miracle worker.
Before hitting his game-winner, the All-Metro sophomore forward had made only one field goal. In fact, he said he didn’t think his shot had a chance when he let it go.
“I thought it was too far to the right,” he said. “But it went in. That was a great feeling.”
And a terrific ending to a very unusual game.