The Royals are pushing for a second consecutive title, while the Hawks reach the pinnacle in its first state tournament in 30 years.
There may have been some doubters about the Cooper boys' basketball team as this season moved along. The Hawks downgraded conferences, leaving the Classic Lake for the North Suburban, and piled up victory after victory en route to the school's first state tournament berth in 31 years.
The Hawks, in their first state tournament since 1975, erased any lingering doubts Thursday night with a 62-59 victory over Elk River in the Class 4A semifinals at Target Center.
"The Cooper Hawks are in the state finals in boys' basketball in the big schools," coach Kurt Pauly said. "Who ever would have thought that?"
The Hawks (24-3) will meet defending champion Hopkins in Saturday's title game. It will be a rematch of the season opener for both teams, which Hopkins won 75-59.
Cooper 62, Elk River 59: Cooper trailed by four at halftime against Elk River but shot 55 percent in the second half. The biggest factor, however, was the Hawks' superiority on the boards.
Cooper outrebounded the Elks 35-18. The Hawks had nearly as many offensive rebounds (14) as Elk River did overall.
"Give them credit, they destroyed us on the boards," Elks coach Randy Klasen said. "That was the biggest factor in the game. We didn't have an answer for their rebounding strength."
Cooper scored 40 points in the paint, with center Dennis Williamson getting 21 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. Williamson also made eight of nine field-goal attempts, all from close range.
"We were only down by four at halftime, but to some of the guys it must have seemed like 14," Pauly said. "We told them we needed to start pounding the ball inside to Dennis, and we did that."
Jermain Davis did much of the pounding, finishing with a game-high six assists to go along with 12 points.
Tyler Macomber led Elk River (27-4) with 24 points, but he went through a long dry spell. Macomber scored his 16th points with 3 minutes, 41 seconds to play in the first half and didn't score again until 3:53 was left in the game. Sam Halverson added 15 points for the Elks.
Cooper led by five with 1:31 to play before Macomber scored twice for the Elks, cutting the deficit to 60-59. The teams traded turnovers and Davis scored on a fast-break layup with 13 seconds to go.
Elk River's Jackson Beaudoin missed a three-point attempt and the rebound resulted in a scramble for the ball. The Hawks got two hands on it, called timeout with less than a second left and secured the victory.
Hopkins 66, St. Paul Johnson 48: The Royals moved one step closer to their second consecutive title by cruising to their 23rd consecutive victory.
The Royals, who are hoping to capture their third title since 2002, were led by 6-foot-10 center Dan Vandervieren's 18 points and 20 rebounds. Steven Duncan had 16 points and Blake Hoffarber 13 for Hopkins (29-2), which hasn't lost since a 63-55 defeat to Cambridge-Isanti on Dec. 28. The Royals' other loss came against Burnsville.
Freddy Coleman and Jeff Clark-Neal each scored 13 points for Johnson (24-5) and Meachie Smith had 10 rebounds and four points.
"We just got killed on the boards," Governors coach Vern Simmons said. "Their center, I didn't have a match for him tonight."
Hopkins scored 32 points off turnovers and held the Governors to only 11 offensive rebounds and four second-chance points.
"I thought defensively we were pretty tough, but it was still a little bit of an out-of-sync game," Hopkins coach Ken Novak Jr. said. "If we play like that, Cooper will beat us pretty good. We're going to have to step it up or we'll be in trouble."