Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Big Game 1-24-12: Lakeville North boys 68 Apple Valley 54

The Lakeville North boys roared back from a 10 point, first half deficit to pull away from Apple Valley on the Eagles home court 68-54.

Apple Valley's 2-3 zone defense frustrated Lakeville North in the 1st half. Dennis Austin and company were able to keep North out of the paint. And, while Lakeville made 3-of-7 3-pointers, they made only 7-of-17 2-pointers. The Eagles' Tyus Jones slashed to the basket more or less at will and had 13 points at the half.

North led 9-4 at 13:45 but then the Eagles went on a 19-5 run to lead 23-14 at 6:53, then had their biggest lead at 30-20 at 3:15. North stopped the bleeding at that point to stay within 8 at the half at Apple Valley 32 Lakeville North 24. Apple Valley shot 47 percent, Lakeville 41 in the 1st half.

Whatever happened in the 1st half, the opposite happened in the 2nd. Now it was Lakeville shooting 54 percent to the Eagles 35. The Panthers, who had gotten just 1 offensive rebound in the 1st half, got 4 in the 2nd and scored on 3 of them. And after being more or less shut out of the paint by the Eagles Dennis Austin, James Horton, Mitch Hechsel and Jones in the 1st half, Tyler Flack and Ryan Saarela lived in the paint in the 2nd half, scoring 24 of their 34 points (between them) on the night.

The turning point was Austin's 3rd foul at 17:17 of the 2nd half. Apple Valley still held their half-time margin of 32-24 when Austin sat down. And his replacement, Matt Christianson, went down with an ankle injury a minute later. Suddenly the Panthers were finding passing lanes into the low post against the 2-3. Flack hit a pair of FT, and scored on an alley-oop from Grant Erickson. Then Trey Heid hit a 3 on another Erickson feed. Flack scored again, then snared an offensive board and fed Tyler David for 2. Finally, Zach Creighton hit a pair of 3s.

After all of that, Lakeville still trailed 50-45 but it had shot 7-of-11 since Austin's departure. Apple Valley had started the 2nd half making just 1-of-its-1st-6-shots, but then made 6-of-their-next-7.

But, now, the Panthers continued their onslaught, scoring on 11-of-their-final-14 possessions, while the Eagles went cold, scoring on just 2 possessions the rest of the way. Saarela scored on a high-low pass from Robert Tobroxen, then on an in-bounds feed from Chris Laymon for North's 1st lead since 9-6. Then, Saarela scored still another 6 points, and Flack 4 plus an assist, and suddenly it was 65-54 at 2:29, and the Eagles never scored again.

It was an exhibition of incredible poise by the Panthers, coming from behind before a hostile crowd and against a world-class opponent in Tyus Jones.

Flack impressed mightily with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Saarela added 16 and Creighton 12, both off the bench. The inside passing game of Flack, Saarela and Brett Rassmussen was exceptionally effective in the 2nd half, while Trey Heid and others made Jones work for his 22 points on defense.

Jones led all scorers with 22, and added 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal, a block and just 1 turnover. North slowed him down mostly with aggressive man-to-man coverage, but frequently switching out fresh players to guard him as the game went on.

Player of the Day

Tyler Flack 

Coach of the Day

John Oxton, Lakeville North

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