Ken Novak Jr.'s goal for his team this season is to continue to grow up. This weekend's boys' basketball Twin Cities Orthopedics Holiday Classic allowed Hopkins to take big steps in that direction.
A combined 94-point margin in three blowouts not only secured the Royals their third consecutive championship in the annual event, but it gave most of the team an opportunity to play and learn. The final moments of Saturday night's 98-65 victory over Chanhassen in the tournament finale exemplified Hopkins' growth. With the starters off the court but on their feet cheering from the sideline, younger reserves inched toward 100 points.
"This was a big break-through tournament for us," Hopkins junior point guard Kamali Chambers said. "It gave us a lot of confidence moving forward."
The confidence was spewing off the Royals in the second half as they continued to add to a 17-point halftime lead. Among Chambers' four assists was a one-armed bounce pass on the move from several feet above the three-point line.
The guard was also impressive from the field along with the rest of his teammates. Hopkins started its biggest offensive night of the season with a three-pointer and ended it with one. All three of Chambers' field goals were three-pointers, but he was late to the long-ball party. Five of the Royals' first six scores were threes, and they finished with 10 in the first half.
The hottest of them all was tournament most valuable player Jacob Wright. After Nick Johnson opened the game with the first of Hopkins' 15 three-pointers, Wright followed up with one of his own and the next seven points.
"My teammates really started finding me for open shots and they started falling," Wright said after finishing with a game-high 22 points. "We weren't making those shots at the beginning of the year."
The group found an offensive rhythm over the weekend that led to a combined 258 points and their eighth win of the season. Though Novak said his team needs to improve defensively if it wants to be really good, he was somewhat pleased to see the team continue to move in the right direction.
A 6-2 Chanhassen team believes the Royals are more than improving. The Storm had won five in a row before being embarrassed.
Joey Witthus led the Storm with 16 points. Hopkins had 12 players at least score one point and Jamal Davis scored 10 points and got six rebounds and four assists coming off the bench.
St. Paul Johnson 95, Duluth East 75: Quashingm Smith-Pugh (28 points) and Jalen Mobley (20 points) combined for half of the Governors' offense as they ran away for a 20-point consolation victory with a late second-half surge.
The Greyhounds' Shaq Coleman also scored 28 points.
Henry Sibley 75, Andover 66: The Warriors overcame a halftime deficit and scored 51 points in the second half for the win. Adam Huessner scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half to lead Henry Sibley. Nick Goldberg scored 13 and Julius Johnson 12.
Kyle Kettler led Andover with 17.