Heading in to Saturday’s championship game, the Hopkins Royals’ only loss on the season had come at the hands of the Eden Prairie Eagles. On February 2nd at Eden Prairie, the Eagles took it to the top-ranked team in the state. If anybody had a chance to stop the Royals’ third straight title, it was Eden Prairie.
With this story line, Hopkins knew they were in for a fight. Just seconds into the game, Joe Coleman picked up his first foul of the contest. This would have been inconsequential if not for his second foul on a charge, just three minutes later at 14:29 in the first. While Coleman stayed in the game, he was used sparingly throughout the first half to keep him out of foul trouble.
The Eagles took advantage of Coleman’s absence by keeping within striking distance all half before actually taking the lead with just over six minutes to play. Hopkins regained the lead and extended it to seven points before relinquishing a bucket, heading into the break at a score of 32-28.
Coleman only played 10 minutes in the first half but ended the period with seven points on two for three shooting and three for four shooting from the line. Despite the low number of minutes, Coleman was still an exciting player to watch. With over five minutes left he electrified the crowd with a monster slam, elevating over the Eagle defenders.
The second half is when Hopkins really began to get in their own rhythm rather than playing at Eden Prairie’s pace. The Royals quickly burst out onto a 14-2 run to lead by a score of 46-30 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game.
The Eagles battled back, bringing the game within six points at 5:33 and at 2:53 but were never able to get any closer. Hopkins made their free throws down the stretch and played smart with the ball, taking the State Championship by a score 64-52. Royals fans and players looked ecstatic while holding up three fingers, signifying their reign as the top team in the state for a third year in a row.
Coleman played a very impressive second half when not hindered by foul trouble. Much of the game he ran the offense and didn’t try to do too much as other star players might do. When he got an opportunity he would take the ball to the hoop to either draw the fall or get the bucket at the rim.
Coleman also played well with his back to the basket, posting up and getting his shot off by elevating over his opponents. Although he did not rely on his jumper much, he didn’t need to because of his success attacking the basket.
On the night he shot eight for 10 from the floor and six for 10 from the line to end with a game high 22 points to go with eight rebounds.