Centennial had heard about it, saw it on tape, prepared for it in practice. But actually experiencing Hopkins' pressure defense was something the Cougars simply weren't ready for.
Hopkins forced 29 turnovers and got 28 points from the always-amazing Paige Bueckers to rout Centennial 75-51 in the Class 4A semifinals Thursday at Williams Arena.
"It definitely feels like they have seven people on the floor," Centennial guard Taylor McAulay said. "They know how to get in the passing lanes, get ball pressure. We knew it was coming."
"It was definitely a new experience," Cougars center Sara Stapleton added.
Chalk up the Cougars as the latest victims of Hopkins' defensive tornado.
Centennial got the game's first basket before top-seeded Hopkins turned up the heat. Eight minutes of game time later, Hopkins led 19-5 and never let the advantage get below double-digits.
"We want to dictate tempo," Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff said. "That's been our goal all year long."
While the Hopkins defense was doing its thing, Bueckers was doing hers on the offensive end. She scored 11 of the Royals' points in their opening salvo on an array of layups, lean-ins and long-range shots. She even added a no-look assist to teammate Taylor Woodson.
"It's something I think about all the time," Bueckers said. "I'm an upperclassman on this team now. I don't have time to sit back and watch how the game is going to play. I've got to go right from the jump."
After trailing 38-23 at halftime, Centennial (26-5) tried to rally by looking inside to 6-3 senior Stapleton. She had 12 of her team-high 16 points in the second half, but it barely made an impact on the game.
Hopkins (31-0) advances to Saturday's championship game for the fifth consecutive season. The Royals won the Class 4A championship in 2015 but have lost in the finals in each of the past three years.