For the third consecutive — and umpteenth — time in girls’ basketball coach Brian Cosgriff’s tenure, Hopkins goes into the regular season as the logical favorite in Class 4A.
The Royals have a bounty of talented players and a coaching staff that takes a back seat to no one. Those factors favor them not only to advance to the state tournament but to win it all. The question becomes: Can they? Hopkins is 60-4 over the past two seasons. Two of those losses, however, occurred in back-to-back championship games. Hopkins lost to Minnetonka in the 2016 final and to Elk River last season.
Here’s a look at some of the girls’ basketball teams worth watching in the west metro this season:
Hopkins (4A): The Royals complement the state’s best player, sophomore Paige Bueckers, with a deep lineup that can get the ball inside (Dlayla Chakolis, Angie Hammond) or break down opponents from the perimeter (Raena Suggs, Amaya Battle). They’ve added to their front line with the addition of Kira Mosley, a 6-2 transfer from Eden Prairie.
Minnetonka (4A): The Skippers lost only one player to graduation from last year’s state tournament team. They have size inside in 6-3 seniors Zoe Harwick and Kayla Mershon, a versatile two-way guard in Megan Walker and a dangerous outside threat in Katey Brattland.
Wayzata (4A): The Trojans have a superstar in junior Kallie Theisen, a 6-1 forward with a well-developed low-post game, and solid floor leader in point guard Mimi Schrader. Much will depend on the continued improvement of sophomore guard Jasmine Smiley and how quickly a tall front line of Elise Weinzierl, Ella Schrader and newcomer Annika Stewart, a 6-3 transfer from Minot (N.D.) Bishop Ryan, can jell.
Holy Angels (3A): In the past two seasons, the Stars have one state title (2016) and a third-place trophy (2017). They have a solid chance to return to the top of Class 3A behind 6-2 forward Destinee Oberg, a powerful force inside whose experience and talent belie that she’s still only a junior.
DeLaSalle (3A): Can the Islanders return to the glory years of 2011 through 2013, when they won three consecutive Class 3A championships? They look poised to try. They’re big and aggressive across the front line with Olivia Travis, Dacoda Speidel and Mary Claire Francois, and a floor general to direct them in Ayanna Gardner.
Others of note: Edina, St. Michael-Albertville, Minneapolis South, Cooper (3A), Benilde-St. Margaret’s (3A), Orono (3A).
Minnehaha Academy (2A): With all five starters returning from last year’s state tournament team, led by sisters Terra and Taytum Rhoades, the Redhawks are among the best Class 2A teams in the state.
Holy Family (2A): The Fire return a talented group of juniors in center Julia Geurs, forward Grace Conroy and guard Leigh Steiner.
Watertown-Mayer (2A): Claire Killian and Kirstin Klitzke are gone, but 6-3 center Monika Czinano, who has committed to Iowa, is a powerful force inside.
Heritage Christian (1A): Junior guard Taylie Scott is a dual threat as a scorer (15.9 ppg) and playmaker (6.1 apg.)
Mayer Lutheran (1A): Many of the Crusaders’ state-champion volleyball players, including Mya Chmielewski and Maddy Hucky, are basketball standouts, too.
Others to watch: Minneapolis North (2A), Southwest Christian (2A), West Lutheran (1A)
• Paige Bueckers, Hopkins, soph., G
• Destinee Oberg, Holy Angels, jr., C
• Kallie Theisen, Wayzata, jr., F
• Megan Walker, Minnetonka, sr., G
• Morgan Hill, Mpls. South, sr., G
• Taylie Scott, Heritage, jr., G
• Monika Czinano, Watertown-Mayer, sr., C
• Taytum Rhoades, Minnehaha Academy, jr., G
• Nevaeh Galloway, Minnehaha Academy, jr., F
• May Chmielewski, Mayer Lutheran, sr., G