There are a lot of reasons why people enjoy March basketball more than any other event on the sports calendar, and one of the big reasons- unpredictability- was on full display in last week’s Class 4A playoffs. Of the five sections that have their championship matchup set, only one will have the section’s top two seeds playing for the crown.
Section 2AAAA saw multiple upsets in the first round, with #6 seed Bloomington Jefferson upending #3 Shakopee, the Missota Conference co-champions. Seventh seed Lakeville South also pulled off a big upset, knocking off #2 Prior Lake in a matchup of South Suburban Conference schools. The two squared off on Saturday in the section semifinals with Bloomington Jefferson coming away with a 65-61 win, a win that put them through to Friday’s championship game. They’ll have a formidable task in the final, as the 10-16 Jaguars will take on 20-8 Eden Prairie, the #1 seed in the section.
While a 6-seed in the section final is rare, a 7-seed in the final is even less common. That’s the story in Section 3AAAA, however, as the Rosemount Irish went from that 7-seed to the doorstep of the state tournament. Their tournament began with a 67-62 victory over 2-seed East Ridge, then continued with an 82-75 victory over 6-seed Henry Sibley (Sibley upset 3-seed Eagan 65-61 in the first round). For the Irish to make state, however, they’ll need to take down the #1 team in the state, the 27-1 Apple Valley Eagles. They saw each other twice in South Suburban play with Valley winning both games; in fact, the Eagles haven’t lost for over three months. Regardless of who wins this game, the South Suburban has a chance to be very well represented at the state tournament- four of their member schools are playing for three different section crowns this week.
In Section 4AAAA, the fourth-seeded Stillwater Ponies ran their winning streak to nine by defeating the top-seeded Roseville Raiders by 13 in the semifinals. It was their second time this season they defeated the Raiders, co-champs of the Suburban East. For the Ponies to make state, they’ll need to defeat the other co-champion of the conference, the Woodbury Royals. Woodbury, the last team to defeat Stillwater, fought off a tough challenge from 6-seed Mahtomedi, defeating the Zephyrs 91-85 to earn their berth in the title game. The two teams split their conference matchups this season with Stillwater winning by 17 in Woodbury before Woodbury went to Stillwater and came away with a one-point win.
Section 6AAAA’s been dominated by Hopkins in recent years, but with the Royals coming into the tournament with the #3 seed, perhaps there were signs someone else could emerge. Like a true champion, however, Hopkins is standing strong again the best knockout efforts their opposition can throw at them and now find themselves one game away from another trip to state. Their tournament began with a hard-fought 63-58 victory over Lake Conference rival Wayzata, then continued with an epic double-overtime victory over Minnetonka. They’ll see a third straight Lake Conference team in the finals- top seed Edina, whose fantastic sports year continued with the Class AA hockey championship this past weekend. The Hornets won the Lake Conference football championships this fall and then added the basketball title this winter.
The Class 4A section finals schedule:
1AAAA- (1) Lakeville North vs. (2) Rochester John Marshall, 8pm Friday @ Rochester Civic Center
2AAAA- (1) Eden Prairie vs. (6) Bloomington Jefferson, 7pm Friday @ Chaska
3AAAA- (1) Apple Valley vs. (7) Rosemount, 7pm Friday @ Burnsville
4AAAA- (2) Woodbury vs. (4) Stillwater, 7pm Wednesday @ East Ridge
5AAAA- Park Center/Robbinsdale Cooper vs. Osseo/Centennial, 7pm Friday @ Rogers
6AAAA- (1) Edina vs. (3) Hopkins, 7pm Tuesday @ Osseo
7AAAA- St. Francis/Andover vs. Duluth East/Forest Lake, 7pm Friday @ North Branch
8AAAA- Brainerd/Buffalo vs. Elk River/Moorhead, 7pm Thursday @ TBA