It was eerie how different it felt. The mostly empty gym. The lack of college recruiters. And no Paige BueckersPaigeBueckers5'11" | CGHopkins | 2020StateMN. Hopkins vs Wayzata circa 2021 just wasn’t the same. Yet even though it was a blowout, even though it lacked the usual drama, even though the result was a 50-point win completely devoid of suspense, it was still the highlight of The Week That Was #2. Welcome to our second seven-day recap of the 2021 high school basketball season where we tell you what we watched, who we liked, what stood out and what to expect in the week to come.
FYI, most of the awards we hand out on a weekly basis are given to players who performed in games that we watched, either in person or online. Sometimes other performances are so obviously exceptional – like Gianna KneepkensGiannaKneepkens5'11" | CGDuluth Marshall | 2021State#86NationMN’ recent 51-point game, for example – that we bend the ‘rules’ just a little. Here goes.
What we watched
- Monday – Mountain-Iron Buhl defeated Cass Lake-Bena 74-64 (online)
- Tuesday – Hopkins 102 at Wayzata 52
- Wednesday – Centennial 73 at Andover 37
- Thursday – St. Croix Lutheran beat DeLaSalle 76-55
- Friday – Elk River 69
It was eerie how different it felt. The mostly empty gym. The lack of college recruiters. And no Paige BueckersPaigeBueckers5'11" | CGHopkins | 2020StateMN
. Hopkins vs Wayzata circa 2021 just wasn’t the same. Yet even though it was a blowout, even though it lacked the usual drama, even though the result was a 50-point win completely devoid of suspense, it was still the highlight of The Week That Was #2. Welcome to our second seven-day recap of the 2021 high school basketball season where we tell you what we watched, who we liked, what stood out and what to expect in the week to come.
FYI, most of the awards we hand out on a weekly basis are given to players who performed in games that we watched, either in person or online. Sometimes other performances are so obviously exceptional – like Gianna KneepkensGiannaKneepkens5'11" | CGDuluth Marshall | 2021State#86NationMN
’ recent 51-point game, for example – that we bend the ‘rules’ just a little. Here goes.
What we watched
Monday – Mountain-Iron Buhl defeated Cass Lake-Bena 74-64 (online)
Tuesday – Hopkins 102 at Wayzata 52
Wednesday – Centennial 73 at Andover 37
Thursday – St. Croix Lutheran beat DeLaSalle 76-55
Friday – Elk River 69 at Rogers 53, Maple Grove 63 at Champlin Park 56 (online)
Saturday – Rochester Mayo 65 at Northfield 55
Team of the Week: Hopkins
Hopkins graduated the best player in the country in Bueckers, who is one of (if not the) best players in Minnesota high school basketball history. Their legendary coach – the one and only Brian Cosgriff – departed for retirement. Those would seem to be obstacles to overcome. Not for the Royals, who might be a better basketball team today than they were a year ago. How is that even possible?
Well the lucky few who were able to be in the gym Tuesday night at Wayzata – thank you to Athletic Director Jaime Sherwood for allowing yours truly to be among them – can certainly vouch for this assertion. It took the Royals approximately three minutes to assert their dominance. After Wayzata sophomore Brynn SendenBrynnSenden5'5" | PGWayzata | 2023StateMN
scored to get the Trojans on the board 1:20 into the game, Hopkins’ big dogs (and there are a lot of them!) went to work.
A Maya NnajiMayaNnaji6'4" | PFHopkins | 2022State#7NationMN
transition layup, then a Nunu AgaraNunuAgara6'1" | PFHopkins | 2023State#32NationMN
bucket, a pair of Taylor WoodsonTaylorWoodson6'0" | PFHopkins | 2023State#28NationMN
free throws, an Alayna ContrerasAlaynaContreras5'6" | CGHopkins | 2022StateMN
three-pointer, an Amaya BattleAmayaBattle5'10" | PGHopkins | 2022State#29NationMN
drive, a Nnaji Eurostep – that’s pretty much the sequence that got the Royals rolling and by the time just six minutes had elapsed Hopkins was ahead by a score of 21-8. After that they became even more dominant.
Hopkins’ ball movement was a thing of beauty. Their pressure defense was suffocating as usual. Their shooting was outstanding. They played together. They played hard. They did everything you could ask of a high school basketball team. And then they did some more. It may be early in new coach Tara Starks’ tenure at Hopkins but she has got this team firing on all cylinders as they say in the Motor City.
After 10 minutes of play the Royals were up by 26. By halftime the margin was 38. And the second half offered more of the same as the lead grew and grew and grew until the final result was in: Hopkins 102 Wayzata 52. Wow. Just wow.
All of the aforementioned stars were outstanding. Nnaji finished the game with 25 points. Contreras had 16, Woodson 13, Battle 12 and Agara 10. And then there was the first player off the bench, Park Center transfer Liv McGillLivMcGill5'7" | CGHopkins | 2024StateMN
, who is rated as the #2 prospect in the Prep Girls Hoops class of 2024. She scored 18 and was simply excellent in pretty much every phase of the game.
Sometimes numbers don’t tell the story. In this case they most certainly do. Hopkins shot 70% from the field and 46% from three-point range. The Royals recorded 26 points in transition, 28 off turnovers and 64 in the paint. Hopkins outrebounded Wayzata 35-23, had 17 assists and 9 steals. On a night when Wayzata’s Mara BraunMaraBraun5'11" | CGWayzata | 2022State#21NationMN
was ice-cold and Jenna JohnsonJennaJohnson6'2" | PFWayzata | 2021State#52NationMN
was still feeling her way back into form after missing the last year with a torn ACL, all while trying to implement a new offense, there was very little Wayzata could do.
Add it all up and the result is obvious: Hopkins is our Team of the Week. In the absence of Bueckers the rest of the Royals are not waiting for their former superstar to do something spectacular. Instead they are all doing their share, working together as a unit, and executing all of the things the hardest-working program in Minnesota can do. It's really something to see.
Player of the Week – Amaya BattleAmayaBattle5'10" | PGHopkins | 2022State#29NationMN
As the above narrative illustrates, we could give this award to pretty much anyone in Hopkins’ top six. They were all excellent. We’ve selected Battle, though, because she is now the one now driving the big blue bus. Yes Nnaji was dominant inside, and her game appears to have improved over the past few months when we barely saw her play. But, following Bueckers’ departure for UConn, this is now Amaya’s team. She sets the tone, and the big guard couldn’t have set it any better on Tuesday.
Other Week 2 standouts
Alyssa StamerAlyssaStamer5'7" | CGHutchinson | 2022StateMN
– The junior guard from Hutchinson lit it up on Tuesday with a 43-point performance in a come-from-behind win over St. Peter. Stamer had 17 field goals and was 7-for-7 at the free-throw line to lead Hutch back from a 6-point deficit at halftime. Alyssa followed that up with a 25-point performance against Rockford on Saturday.
Gianna KneepkensGiannaKneepkens5'11" | CGDuluth Marshall | 2021State#86NationMN
– The senior guard from Duluth Marshall recorded 48 points, 15 rebounds, 7 steals and 4 assists in an 80-64 win over Cloquet. Through four games Kneepkens is averaging 41 points per game while shooting around 50%. Gianna is about to top a remarkable 3,000 career points.
Tori OehrleinToriOehrlein5'8" | CGCrosby-Ironton | 2026MN
– We expected big things from the Crosby-Ironton 7th grader, but not quite this big. This week Tori had 30 points and 5 rebounds in a 63-45 win over Aitkin. She followed that up with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists as the Rangers knocked off Staples-Motley. Tori is averaging 25 ppg just three games into her high school career.
Among those who had outstanding single-game performances were Mallory HeyerMalloryHeyer6'2" | PFChaska | 2022State#36NationMN
of Chaska, Haylie StrumHaylieStrum5'6" | CGStewartville | 2023StateMN
of Stewartville, Mikayla AumerMikaylaAumer5'8" | CGCambridge-Isanti | 2022StateMN
of Cambridge-Isanti, Jade HillJadeHill5'8" | PGMpls. South | 2021StateMN
of Minneapolis South, Sophie LahtiSophieLahti6'1" | SFPine City | 2023StateMN
of Pine City and Aalayah WilsonAalayahWilson5'8" | CGOsseo | 2023StateMN
Defensive Player of the Week – Hannah HansonHannahHanson5'9" | CGRochester Mayo | 2023StateMN
, Rochester Mayo
Hannah is an athletic freak. I’m not sure there is any other way to describe the Rochester Mayo sophomore. The multi-sport athlete was a little late coming to the basketball party but what a splash she has made over the past two years. On Saturday at Northfield, Hanson put all of that sprinting, sliding, leaping ability to good use in a win over the Raiders. Her pressure in the front court and on the perimeter set the tone for the game. She is just so incredibly quick, which leads to tips and turnovers and transition baskets. She also scored 15 points in the win. The 5’9 combo guard is currently ranked #39 in the class of 2023 and rising.
Our runner-up is Sage Ganyo of Mountain-Iron-Buhl. Ganyo had 17 points and 6 assists against Cass Lake-Bena but the stat that really stands out is her 10 steals! Yes, 10. Ganyo isn’t quite as quick as Hanson but the 5’3 sophomore is still plenty quick. Like most MIB kids she is also tenacious, intelligent and can shoot the heck out of the basketball.
Freshman of the Week – Liv McGillLivMcGill5'7" | CGHopkins | 2024StateMN
As mentioned above, McGill turned in an outstanding 18-point performance for the Royals in their thumping of Wayzata. The fact that a 9th grader could transfer into the illustrious Hopkins program and make the type of immediate impact that she has made pretty much says all we need to say about Liv. She is highly-skilled, very strong, plays with maximum fire and intensity and is quickly becoming a mature performer who understands what it means to play a role on the best team in the country.
We’ll give our runner-up recognition to Jordan ZubichJordanZubich5'10" | SGMountain Iron-Buhl | 2024StateMN
of Mountain Iron-Buhl. We were suitably impressed with Jordan when we travelled north to MIB last February. Watching Monday’s Ranger win over Cass Lake-Bena it is obvious that Zubich’s game has grown. Jordan was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. She has light feet and long arms. She moves well with and without the basketball. Jordan has plenty of range and a ton of confidence. The future is bright for the 6-footer who is ranked #33 In the Prep Girls Hoops Class of 2024.
Madison MathiowetzMadisonMathiowetz5'10" | CGSleepy Eye St. Mary's | 2022StateMN
of Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s continued her offensive excellence this week to reach 2,000 career points. Since the season started last week Maddie has had 26 points against Wabasso, 36 versus Springfield and 33 against Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop. So far she is shooting 67% from the field and 35% from three. The 5’10 guard, ranked #15 in the 2022 class, has yet to make a college commitment.
Another small-town star reached a career milestone this week as junior Coco DuininckCocoDuininck5'7" | CGCentral MN Christian | 2022StateMN
topped the previous school record of 1,166 points for Central Minnesota Christian, which is located in the town of Prinsburg southwest of Willmar. Coco, who was excellent at the Prep Girls Hoops Top 250 Expo this fall, averaged 18.9 points, 3.9 assists and 5.2 steals per game last season.
A big-school star also broke her school’s career-scoring mark this week. That would be senior Jordyn LamkerJordynLamker6'0" | SFMaple Grove | 2021StateMN
of Maple Grove. She had 16 points in a 66-53 win over Champlin Park on Friday to top 1,333 career points. Lamker, ranked #15 among this year’s seniors, has committed to the University of St. Thomas.
Versatile senior Helen StaleyHelenStaley6'0" | PFRosemount | 2021StateMN
of Rosemount surpassed 1,000 career points this week in a win Thursday at Shakopee. Despite having to manage a series of nagging injuries, the 6-footer has been a standout since 8th grade for the Irish. She’ll play college basketball at Division 1 Oakland University in Michigan. Her team-leading production has helped Rosemount to a record of 3-0 so far with impressive wins over Prior Lake, Lakeville North and Shakopee.
Senior Jodi AndersonJodiAnderson5'11" | CGCentennial | 2021StateMN
of Centennial is another big-school performer who reached the 1,000-point plateau this week. Anderson nailed a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining to seal a win over Blaine on Friday night. The #20-rated prospect in the senior class is averaging 17 ppg. She has committed to the University of North Dakota.
Senior Toryn Richards of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown also reached 1,000 career points this week. The 5’11 forward, who is often overshadowed at W-E-M by acrobatic point guard Brielle BarteltBrielleBartelt5'6" | PGWaterville-E-M | 2021StateMN
, has been a solid performer for the Eagles. She was a Class A All-State honorable mention last season.
Last week we mentioned the 29-point performance for Hermantown senior Elly SchmitzEllySchmitz5'11" | SFHermantown | 2021StateMN
against Cloquet. What we didn’t know until later was the fact that she also passed 1,000 career points in the game. Schmitz has committed to Division 2 Sioux Falls.
If you have a milestone to report, please let us know immediately after the game. You can message me via Twitter (@gmachoops) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will do our best to include the historic moments.
It has been a busy week and I’m a little behind in making requests to athletic directors for admission to this week’s selected games. If everything works out as planned my schedule for the week is as follows:
Monday – Online viewing of Park Center at Maple Grove and Totino-Grace at Osseo.
Tuesday – Big Lake at Becker
Wednesday – Mahtomedi at Minneapolis Southwest
Thursday – Triton at Lake City
Friday – Becker at Cambridge-Isanti or Farmington at Rosemount
Saturday – Mankato West at Rochester John Marshall
Top photo: The Hopkins Royals looked like they owned the place when they walked into Wayzata High School on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Crissha Walton)