Cooper runs the table in North Suburban
The girls laid down the law, so naturally, the boys adhered last week.
Basketball imitated life in many ways last week at Robbinsdale Cooper, including the obvious rule that when the ladies talk, the guys job is to just shut up and listen.
“The girls put the pressure on us,” said Cooper boys head coach Steve Burton. “They won the conference and went undefeated, then told us to do the same. We had to listen.”
The Cooper boys took care of the first request Feb. 26, clinching their first North Suburban Conference championship since the 2009-10 team went back-to-back in league play with a 77-71 victory at St. Louis Park.
Three days later, they completed the to-do list with a 80-77 victory at home over Spring Lake Park.
The two victories gave the Hawks a 16-0 conference record, matching the perfect season the girls finished off a week prior.
“It means a lot,” said junior Rashad Vaughn. “This has been our goal from the beginning. With all the sweat and tears through practices and games, we finally did it. It seems like it has been a long time, but we got it done.”
The clincher on Tuesday was arguably the bigger of the two wins.
St. Louis Park entered the game with just one North Suburban loss on its resume – a one-point (72-71) defeat at Cooper back on Feb. 1 – and featured a battle-tested roster consisting of all seniors.
But from the opening tip, Cooper took control.
The Hawks built a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes. It would be 27-18 with 7:08 left in the first half, but after a brief Park run cut made it a 41-35 game at the break, Cooper regained control right away in the second half, pushing their advantage to 12.
“In the second half, we knew we had to come out stronger than they did because they were going to be coming at us,” said Vaughn. “We just stuck with what we do.”
That would be score.
Vaughn did his part, finishing with 15 point in the first half on his way to a 24-point outing. But it was guard Billy Kellogg who proved to be the catalyst.
Kellogg finished with 23 points, including nine huge points down the stretch to allow Cooper to fend off any late thoughts of a St. Louis Park rally.
“When Billy is playing like that, and leading us out there as a true point guard, I don’t know if anyone can beat us,” said Vaughn.
Considering who Cooper could play in the coming days, those words might carry some weight.
Despite running the table in the North Suburban, and compiling a 21-5 regular season record, Cooper will still begin the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament on the road.
The Hawks were awarded the No. 5 seed in the eight-team field, and that means a March 7 road trip to face No. 4 seed Maple Grove.
The Crimson beat Cooper 68-63 back on Dec. 28.
Park Center, Osseo, and Champlin Park received the top three seeds in the tournament. No. 6 Centennial, No. 7 Irondale and No. 8 Coon Rapids were also in the field.
“It is an unbelievable section,” said Burton. “You can’t worry about who you are playing. You have to worry about yourself. The biggest thing is we have to take care of our business. If we take care of our business, we’ll be okay.”
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