In his postgame analysis of Elk River's 52-44 victory over White Bear Lake, Bears coach Jeremy Post offered a unique opinion on why the Elks were able to close out his scrappy bunch down the stretch.
"It wears you out playing here," Post said of playing on Target Center's NBA-sized floor. "We substitute a lot and we're not used to playing tired. [Elk River] is used to it."
Fair point. The Elks (30-0) rarely go deep into their bench, their senior-dominated starting five getting most of the playing time. They played only seven players Tuesday, with neither of the subs reaching double digits in minutes played.
"It's been that way for us all year," Elks coach Jeremy Digiovanni said. "We only go six, seven deep. Our kids are used to playing 35, 36 minutes a game. I think we focus better when we're a little tired."
White Bear Lake (20-10) has had past success in the quarterfinals, including an upset of St. Michael-Albertville in 2016. For more than a half, the Bears looked poised to do it again. But the Elks, with senior forward Sidney Wentland playing with a purpose, stepped forward midway through the second half and built a lead that ballooned to 10 points.
"I was mad," said Wentland, who sat out much of the first half with two fouls. "I wanted to get back out there and prove myself."
Wentland finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
"Sidney is a big piece to our team," said Gabi Haack, who led Elk River with 14 points. "She does everything big. She rebounds big, she plays defense big. She's just a huge key to our game."
Lakeville North 49, Andover 32: The Panthers pride themselves on defense. The Huskies found that out.
No. 3-ranked Lakeville North limited Andover to one basket in the first six minutes on its way to an easy win. It was the 22nd consecutive victory for the Panthers (28-2).
"We had more intensity at practice this week, and it carried over today," Lakeville North senior guard Temi Carda said. "We had a lot of energy and adrenaline at the start."
Another Panthers trademark was evident during that opening stretch — a balanced offense. They had five players score while building a 13-2 lead, with Carda scoring four of her game-high 19 points.
"Our slogan all year has been too many weapons," Lakeville North coach Shelly Clemons said.
The Panthers forced 10 turnovers in the first half while stretching their lead to 30-15.
Andover closed within 32-25 early in the second half before the Panthers again pulled away. The Huskies only made 28 percent of their shots.
"I was disappointed we came out flat in the second half," Clemons said. "From this point on, we're not going to have big leads like that."
Senior guard Jolene Daninger had 12 points for the Huskies (20-10), but she went 3-for-21 from the field.
"She's a great player, so we focused on shutting her down," Carda said. "A lot of their offense goes through her, and I think that's why they struggled."
Hopkins 76, Minnetonka 57: As if anyone needed more confirmation that the Royals have the deepest lineup in the state, consider this: Senior point guard D.D. Winston, a three-year starter, was absent from the Hopkins lineup Tuesday, felled by a high fever.
And still the Royals routed Minnetonka in a quarterfinal rematch of the 2016 championship game. Hopkins freshman guard Paige Bueckers lived up to her reputation and then some, taking over at point guard and finishing with 31 points, five rebounds and five assists.
"It's not that big of a deal because I play point guard in the summer," Beuckers said. "But it is a little tiring on that big [Target Center] floor. That floor is a beast."
Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff said he didn't sleep well before the game. Part of it was Winston's illness.
"Anytime you get into that 102, 103 fever range, it's scary," he said and he also had concern about beating an avowed rival a third time this season.
"Throw out all the records," Cosgriff said. "This was Tonka-Hopkins. In girls' basketball, that might as well be Duke-North Carolina."
Hopkins (30-0) raced to a 15-4 lead with Bueckers leading the charge. The Royals grew to 60-32 early in the second half before Minnetonka (17-11) responded. Megan Walker scored 14 of her 16 points after halftime, but the Skippers never got closer than 18 points.
"Tough draw, but somebody had to try to move that big rock first," Minnetonka coach Leah Dasovich said.