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Minnetonka holds off Hopkins' frantic comeback to win 4A title

A tidy Minnetonka victory seemed to be shaping up Saturday until it pivoted to a stress-inducing exercise in uncertainty.

Hopkins, which trailed by wide margins for much of the Class 4A championship game, staged a frantic comeback in the final 5 minutes, 45 seconds, but Minnetonka survived for a 64-56 victory over its Lake Conference rival at Williams Arena.

"You play a team like Hopkins, no lead feels safe," Minnetonka coach Brian Cosgriff said. "Because they're a really good team and they're capable of making runs. And we knew they were going to turn the pressure up."

After a back-and-forth tussle that lasted most of the first half, Minnetonka took control thanks to its active defense and attack-minded offense.

The Skippers led 39-30 at halftime and maintained a lead that swelled to 14 points in the second half with just less than six minutes to play.

Then Hopkins turned up the heat, coinciding with the absence of Minnetonka superstar guard Aaliyah Crump, who was on the bench with foul trouble.

Hopkins went on a 12-0 run, cutting Minnetonka's lead to 56-54 with 2:38 to play.

Hopkins coach Tara Starks wasn't pleased about her team's sluggish start but said the rally was what she expected all along.

"I thought our kids battled through," Starks said. "They didn't come out with the fire that I wanted them to. We needed to fight a little bit harder. But there's not such a thing as quitting in us."

Hopkins got close but could not get over the hump. Crump completed a three-point play to bump Minnetonka's lead to five with 2:14 to go. She fouled out seconds later, and things got frenetic for Minnetonka. The outcome was in doubt until senior role player Cece Nesseth came through with five points in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory.

Nesseth had a crucial put-back and a free throw to give Minnetonka a 62-56 lead and give Minnetonka fans a chance to exhale. She added two free throws with two seconds left for the final margin.

Crump, an All-Metro first-team selection who is ranked by ESPN as the No. 6 junior in the nation, led Minnetonka in scoring with 23 points. Tori McKinney, who has signed with the Gophers, scored 18. Liv McGill, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year who is headed to Florida for college, led Hopkins with 18 points.