Preparing for Osseo is one thing. Actually surviving the Orioles' buzz-saw defense? That's something different altogether.
Eden Prairie thought it was ready to take on the undefeated and top-seeded Orioles in the Class 4A quarterfinals Wednesday, but Osseo ran out to a 10-0 lead and never trailed by less than double digits, cruising past Eden Prairie 85-73 and into Thursday's semifinals.
"Teams try to practice and prepare for us, but they can't duplicate the defense as we play it," Osseo coach Tim Theisen said.
Eden Prairie turned the ball over eight times in the first half, which ended with Osseo leading 39-24. That, said Eden Prairie coach David Flom, was just too big a hole to climb out of.
"Their quickness to the ball and then their ability to go get the ball is outstanding," Flom said. "They're tough and they're strong."
Osseo (30-0) prides itself on its depth. The Orioles go nine deep with little drop-off and everyone is expected to score, if needed. Against the Eagles, it was John Bezdicek's turn. The junior guard scored a career-high 21 points, including four three-pointers.
"We have confidence that anyone can make the shot or make the pass," Bezdicek said. "I played well today, but if you told me I would [score 21 points], I would have said you were crazy."
Eden Prairie (16-14), which had lost its last three regular season games, was led by guard Brady Rudrud's 30 points.
Hopkins 72, North St. Paul 42: Not quite four minutes into the game against No. 2 seed Hopkins, North St. Paul's Goodnews Kpegeol attempted a dunk.
Hopkins standout Amir Coffey sensed as much, and literally rose to the occasion: "I knew he'd go up strong so I just tried to jump as high as I could."
A clean block maintained order in the Royals' victory, even as Coffey missed a portion of the game with an injured tailbone. He crashed to the floor attempting a block later in the first half. Coffey, who has signed with Minnesota, said he "definitely" could have played more minutes if needed.
"I'm a little sore," said Coffey, who is also nagged by a turf toe injury. "I put ice on it during the game. I'll have to use a heating pad. But it's my last couple games so I can't sit out."
He cheered the efforts of fellow seniors Xavier Johnson, who led Hopkins (29-1) with 20 points and Vinnie Shahid with 11, plus that of junior Simon Wright (10 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Joe Hedstrom (10 points in nine minutes).
Coffey's block headlined the strong Hopkins defensive effort. North St. Paul (24-6) struggled early, committing 16 turnovers and scoring only 11 points by halftime. Kpegeol finished with 13 points in the first North St. Paul state tournament game since 1999.
"They're just talented," Polars' senior Adreon Wadlington said. "They have a bunch of guys who had been here before and they're tough."
DAVID LA VAQUE
Apple Valley 77, Blaine 57: On paper it looked like a mismatch. Apple Valley, with its roster loaded with Division I-caliber players vs. Blaine with 10 losses. But Apple Valley didn't take the Bengals lightly.
"Hey, they were good enough to make the state tournament," Apple Valley center Brock Bertram said. "We're not going look past anyone."
They didn't, routing the Bengals and setting up a semifinals rematch against Hopkins, the only team to defeat Apple Valley this season. Gary Trent Jr. scored 23 points for Apple Valley and Cameron Kirksey posted a double-double, 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"A good team win for us," Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said. "In the first half, we played such good defense and that set the tone."
That defense led to a series of fast-break baskets en route to a 50-25 halftime lead.
The Eagles built that lead to 32 points, 62-30, early in the second half before Goring sat his starters. All 17 players who dressed for Apple Valley (29-1) played in the game.
Blaine coach Mark Arzdorf knew his team was grossly overmatched, but said the Bengals always believed they could win.
"There's not a lot of room for error against a team like this," Arzdorf said. "But it's important for your team to believe as well. Our kids are competitors."