Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff grabbed Paige Bueckers and wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug.
"I love you," he said, laughing into her ear.
Cosgriff's joy was easily understood. Bueckers wrote another chapter in a career shaping up as one of the best in state history, scoring 43 points Friday to surpass 2,000 for her career in helping Hopkins to a 69-66 victory over Wayzata.
"When the bright lights are on, I try to show out and lead the team," said Bueckers, a 6-foot junior guard.
The game was hyped as the biggest girls' basketball game of the season and it lived up to the billing. More than 4,000 fans crammed Hopkins' Lindbergh Center to see the No. 1, 4A Royals host the No. 2, 4A Trojans, both undefeated.
Hopkins (19-0) had cruised through the season to date, but Wayzata was far from intimidated. The Trojans (18-1) ran out to a 16-4 lead, with freshman guard Mara Braun scoring 11 quick points. It was the type of deficit the Royals hadn't faced all season.
"We knew there was going to be a punch at the beginning of the game," Bueckers said. "We wanted to throw it, but they threw it instead."
The Royals chipped away at the Trojans' lead, eventually taking a 33-32 lead when Bueckers hit a jumper as time ran out in the first half.
Neither team gained an edge after halftime, the lead changing hands 11 times. Every time the Royals needed a basket, they called on Bueckers, who responded with the best scoring game of her career.
Of all the shots she hit, none was bigger than the three-pointer she made with Hopkins clinging to a one-point lead with a little more than a minute left in the game. It gave her team a four-point lead at 65-61, and the Royals never trailed after that.
"She's a tremendous player," Wayzata coach Mike Schumacher said. "She was unconscious."
Cosgriff, a notorious worrier, allowed himself to relax in the aftermath.
"About three-quarters of the way through, [Schumacher] winked at me and I winked at him," he said. "It was like, 'This is a great game.' Now, I can say it was fun."
As for Bueckers, her effort left her satisfied but drained. "I'm just ready to go home, shower, get something to eat and go to bed," she said. "I'm super tired, but I'm happy."