Girls’ basketball story lines

1. Youth movement: Graduation sapped significant talent from the high school ranks this year. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good senior players around the metro — St. Michael-Albertville’s Rae Johnson and Edina’s Annika Jank are two worth a mention — but the real excitement is centered on younger players. Hopkins freshman Paige Bueckers has been getting attention since sixth grade, when she caught Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve’s eye. Holy Angels 6-2 sophomore post Destinee Oberg has had college coaches on her heels for two years. St. Michael-Albertville lucked out with the addition of freshman Mackenzie Kramer, who wowed observers with her ballhandling skills while playing for Becker in the Class 3A state tournament last year. Just to name a few.

 

2. Hopkins or Eastview? Every year since 2011, either Hopkins or Eastview has made an appearance in the Class 4A championship game, including the 2015 final in which the Royals defeated the Lightning 68-60. So it’s no surprise that the Class 4A state rankings (or preseason metro rankings, whichever you prefer) has those two teams atop the poll again. Both teams are loaded once again, although Eastview suffered a significant loss when Mariah Alipate injured her knee. A possible state championship preview is set for Dec. 29, when the two teams meet in the St. Olaf Holiday Tournament.

 

3. Plenty of challengers: OK, so it’s premature to talk about a Hopkins/Eastview final. St. Michael-Albertville hopes to rid itself of a lingering bad feeling after getting upset by White Bear Lake in the 4A quarterfinals last year, and has the talent to do it. Any team with an inside presence like Edina’s (6-3 Jank, 6-5 Bailey Helgren) has to be respected. Park Center, back-to-back 3A champ in 2014 and 2015, got a taste of 4A tournament play last year and has the guard play to return. Look out for Centennial, bolstered by the return of coach Jill Becken, who took five years away but has returned and brought her up-tempo style with her.

Jim Paulsen