Hopkins had Zeke Nnaji. Wayzata didn't. And that made all the difference.
The 6-foot-10 Nnaji scored 39 points and Hopkins made 26 of 29 free throws in the second half, rallying from a six-point halftime deficit Friday to beat Lake Conference and Section 6 rival Wayzata 90-80.
Wayzata's constant motion and relentless ball movement had Hopkins on its heels in the first half. The Royals gave up numerous drives and open looks, leading to a 43-37 halftime lead for the Trojans (14-5).
"They're a frustrating team to play," Nnaji said of Wayzata. "They're all good players, and they were doing a great job of driving and kicking it out."
A halftime talk from Hopkins coach Ken Novak Jr. addressed the issue.
"We just had to be more intense on defense," said junior guard Kerwin Walton. "We didn't have enough energy in the first half."
If it hadn't been for Nnaji and Walton, who combined for 31 of the Royals' first-half points, the deficit might have gotten too big for Hopkins to surmount. Walton had a stretch of nine straight points to keep the Royals close, but the game hinged on Nnaji.
He not only scored in different ways, but his presence in the lane and activity around the basketball forced Wayzata to foul. The Trojans were in foul trouble the entire second half, allowing Hopkins (17-2) to spend much of the time at the free throw line. They made the most of it, hitting 26 of 29.
Nnaji, who has signed with Arizona, said the Royals committed to defense in the second half.
"We were giving up way too many drives," he said. "We had to crack down on that. Once we got the intensity going, things started to go our way."