Blaine/Hopkins State Playoff Preview

Blaine faces #1 seed Hopkins in the first game of the Class AAAA boy's basketball state tournament. This year's field of Class 4A teams is one of the strongest in recent memory with every team having at least one potential Division I player. Hopkins is the prohibitive favorite, but undefeated St. Cloud Tech, Henry Sibley and Osseo are also top seeds. The following is a Blaine/Hopkins preview.

The Bengals started the season 4-10 and entered the playoffs ar just 12-14 before defeating Coon Rapdis and Andover, two teams they had split with during the regular season and knocking off #1 seed Forest Lake in the Section 7 finals. Despite the so-so record, the Bengals do have some top-flight talent. Dylan Rodriguez, who will play for UMD next year, averaged 19.5 points per game and scored in double figures in every game but two. He had 42 points versus Anoka, 34 against Champlain Park, 32 versus Coon Rapids and 31 against Robbinsdale Armstrong. Rodriguez has shined in the postseason, averaging 25 points in his first three playoff games. Billy Giddings, who signed with Division II Southwest Minnesota State, is averaging 16.1 points per game. He has scored in double figures in every game but one and has a season-best 34 points versus Park Center. Jesse Briggity is the only other Bengal averaging more than six points per game. He is averaging 9.7 points per game and has averaged 13 points in the playoffs.

Hopkins, the top seed, is a nationally ranked squad who has won their games by an average of 25 points per game. The undefeated Royals have four Division I signees and have five other players who could reach that level. They are returning to the state tournament after a two-year absence. They finished 27-2 last season, losing to eventual state champions and crosstown rival Minnetonka in the section finals and were upset by the Skippers in the second round in 2007. Hopkins has shown great balance with nine players, averaging six or more points per game and has four double figure scorers. The Royals are led by Minnesota signee Royce White, who is leading the team with 15.9 points per game. Trent Lockett, who is headed to Arizona State, is averaging 13.5 points per game; Raymond Cowels, who is signed to Santa Clara, is adding 13.1 points and Mike Broghammer, who inked with Notre Dame, is contributing 10.9 points per contest. Point guard Marcus Williams, who is getting looks for both football and basketball, is averaging 6.8 points per game. He is an excellent distributor and terrific defender. The Royals have a strong bench with several players who could start for most schools. Their bench has gotten plenty of playing time as the Royals have been so dominant. Marvin Singleton, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, is one of the top players in the Class of 2011. He is averaging 8.8 points per game. Senior outside threat Moses Sundufu (7.7 points per game), junior D. J. Peterson (6.2) has offers from North Dakota State, Baylor and Wisconsin Green Bay and sophomore Joe Coleman (6.2).

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