For those who keep up with basketball during the month of March, they know there are plenty of ups and downs.
Whether it’s the ups and downs of the NCAA tournament, the NBA season or high school basketball season, emotions run high when the calendar turns to March.
If you want an example of that, look no further than Eden Prairie basketball. This past week, the boys’ team dominated its way to this week’s section final. Meanwhile, the girls’ saw their season end in epic and heartbreaking fashion.
Girls suffer heartbreaking defeat
Entering the Section 2AAAA tournament, the field was as skilled as it’s ever been. The top three seeds—Chaska, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka—were all ranked in the top four of the final Class 4A rankings of the regular season. Shakopee, the fourth seed was also ranked in the top 10.
With all of this talent in one eight-team section, it was set to be a competitive section and turned out to be just that.
Despite being the highest ranked team in the section, EP ended up with the No. 2 seed and took down Edina with ease in the quarterfinals with a 66-39 victory.
On March 5, the Eagles’ real section challenge began with No. 3 seed Minnetonka. EP came out early and built a double-digit lead but saw that lead diminish and even saw the Skippers roar ahead. That momentum for Minnetonka was quelled by consecutive Eagle baskets to end the first half tying things up at 28.
“In a game like that, possessions are at a premium,” said EP coach Ellen Weise. “We were finding it hard to stop them. We had to equal things out.”
In the second half, the Eagles built a lead and held on as they took down the rival Skippers 59-50. EP won all three of the teams’ meetings this season.
As the Eagles were celebrating on the floor after defeating Minnetonka, news began to circulate that top-seeded Chaska was taken down by Shakopee. That meant the Sabers were heading to EP for the section final on March 11.
Though Shakopee was a No. 4 seed, Weise said it was not surprising to see the Sabers take down the Hawks, which won the Class 4A state title a season ago and had the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in Mallory Heyer.
“They went through the conference they did and won 20-some in a row,” Weise said. “I don’t think you could count them out against anybody.”
Weise said she knew her team was in for a battle against Shakopee and that certainly was the case. In front of a packed house, the two teams battled in a low-scoring affair. Trailing 47-45 with seconds remaining, the Eagles scored to tie things up at 47.
Then, Shakopee had one last shot in regulation with just three seconds remaining. After receiving the inbound pass, Kate Cordes heaved a shot from half-court and drained it. The shot sent the Saber crowd into a frenzy and ended EP’s state dreams in a heartbreaking fashion seen all over the internet.
The Eagles’ heartbreaking loss meant the end of the road for some of the best players to suit up in an EP uniform. Both Myra Moorjani and Nia Holloway wrapped up their seasons as two of the program’s most dynamic players. Moorjani will play basketball at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season while Holloway is headed to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and was named to the Star Tribune’s All-Metro team this week.
“They are phenomenal senior leaders,” Weise said. “Nobody talks as much positive on and off the court like Myra Moorjani. They both feel very comfortable leading their teammates.”
Boys take care of Lakers
With a regular season record of 16-10, the EP boys’ basketball team certainly saw some ups and downs during the 2021-22 season. But it appears that the Eagles are on the upswing as they enter Friday’s 7 p.m. Section 2AAAA final against top-seeded Shakopee.
With the regular season winding down, EP picked up a key 94-56 win against Minnetonka in the finale. That not only gave the Eagles a second win of the season against the Skippers, it helped EP lock up the No. 2 seed in the section tournament.
The Eagles took down Waconia in the section quarterfinals at home with a 71-39 win. EP was set to face Minnetonka for a third time in the section semifinals, but the Skippers were upset by Prior Lake in the quarterfinals.
In the section semifinal, the Eagles made sure the Lakers’ upset run was just one game as EP won 77-48. That sets up this week’s section final on the road at Shakopee High School.
This marks the second time these two teams have met this season. The Sabers won the first meeting, 83-64.
Tickets have been presold and some may still be available. For those who can’t make it to Shakopee, the game will be streamed.