Class 3A girls’ basketball championship
Northfield (27-3) vs. Cooper (28-2), 6 p.m., Target Center
Why Northfield will win: The Raiders’ quartet of 6-footers — Emma Carlson, Annika Hoff, Rachel Kelly and Annalee Olson-Sola — provide a wealth of scoring and rebounding inside. “I’ll put our interior play up against anybody,” Northfield coach Tony Mathison said. Grand Rapids coach Kris Hamling, who shared a floor with both teams this season, said, “They have the height that Cooper does not have.”
Why Cooper will win: The state tournament newcomer Hawks hold the No. 1 seed but retain an underdog mentality. Nine players scored in the semifinals and six had a steal. But they’re not satisfied. “I believe we can always do better,” freshman forward Kierra Wheeler said. “Our best is everybody in double digits. Everybody with a steal, everybody with a rebound.”
Key to the game: Two teams loaded with contributors affords each coach the luxury of mixing and matching playing styles. For coach Kiara Buford of Cooper, that means alternating between a bigger lineup to control the paint and a smaller lineup to increase tempo. Mathison, meanwhile, employs his team’s aggressive “22” defense in spurts to disrupt rhythm.
One thing to know: Northfield watched Cooper’s semifinal victory and saw the Hawks’ active defense create 13 steals. “They’re a pretty scrappy team so we’ve got to make sure that we’re holding on to the ball,” Raiders senior guard Grace Touchette said.
DAVID LA VAQUE