The basket had seemed to elude her all night, but Minnetonka's Courtney Fredrickson has never been one to back down. So when the senior forward found the ball in her hands in the corner, her team leading by two points and desperately trying to hold off a Hopkins charge, she let it fly.
It caught nothing but net. Fredrickson threw her fist in the air as her shot bumped Minnetonka's precarious lead back to five points. This victory, Fredrickson seemed to believe, was going to happen.
It did, as the Skippers held off Lake Conference rival and defending champion Hopkins to win the Class 4A title 61-52. Minnetonka won its first state championship in just its second state tournament appearance.
"I'll was so nervous all game, but I always knew my teammates had my back," said Fredrickson, who scored 13 points and added 10 rebounds, one of three Skippers to finish with a double-double. "Even when things aren't going my way, my teammates were still telling me to shoot."
While both teams expected a rough and rugged game, no one expected the game to be dominated by whistles the way this one was. The two teams were called for a combined 51 fouls.
"How many free throws were there?" asked Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff. Told that Minnetonka took 38 free throws and his team 27, he said, "That's too many for a high school game. There was no flow."
Cosgriff was careful, however, not to blame the officials for Hopkins' loss. Instead, he pointed to Minnetonka's 64-33 advantage on the boards.
"We got outrebounded, and we didn't make free throws," he said. "In a nutshell."
As it had throughout the tournament, Minnetonka leaned on its defense to go on a game-defining first-half run. Trailing 15-10, the Skippers outscored the Royals 20-4 over a five-minute stretch and took a 34-26 halftime lead. If it hadn't been for Hopkins' Ashley Bates, the deficit could have been worse. While star forward Nia Hollie was struggling with her shooting, Bates racked up 19 points before halftime, making six of 11 shots from the floor and, nearly as important, drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw-line.
But the rest of the Royals were having no success in the paint, and that's where Minnetonka made its stand. Center Lizzie Odegard was relentless, snatching 23 rebounds and scoring 17 points, all while fighting off Hopkins' interior players.
"I'm amazed at how she can create space for someone who is just 6 feet tall," Minnetonka coach Leah Dasovich said. "She plays like she's 6-5."
Hopkins rallied at the start of the second half, briefly tying the score 36-36, but the Royals never took the lead. Minnetonka wore down the Hopkins defense and the fouls began to add up. With a litle more than six minutes left, Bates fouled out, taking with her 28 points and a nearly unstoppable ability to score when needed.
"I think she's the most underrated player in the state," Fredrickson said.
The Minnetonka players agreed that they expected the game to be a grind, and they were ready to weather everything thrown at them.
"We've been in just about every basketball situation there is," Odegard said. "It was important that we just stayed calm, and that's what we did."