Tigers look to build on win over Holy Family
by Pat Rupp
The Tigers shook off a 0-6 start to the 2014-15 season with an impressive 64-59 overtime win over Holy Family in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic played last Saturday morning in Minnetonka.
Senior sharpshooter Wyatt Ferm paced the non-conference victory with a season-high 31-point effort.
“People should know that it’s a real honor being invited to that event as they try to pick 16 teams who they feel are among the top programs in the state and that create good match-ups,” Farmington coach Shane Wyandt said.
“College coaches and media from around the country attended. Holy Family was a state power last year and are led by 6’11” post player Justin Dahl who has signed his national letter of intent with Northern Iowa.
“It was a very hard fought game and our kids outlasted them by making some big plays in overtime. Wyatt (Ferm) continues to improve as our team leader and a number of guys played well off the bench as we went 10-deep once again.”
Depth will continue to tell much of the Tiger tale as injuries, illness and other personnel issues have caused Wyandt to mix and match players in the early going.
On the injury front, the biggest hit has come from the loss of all-conference guard and senior team leader Zach Speikers who re-injured his reconstructed ACL just prior to the start of pre-season practice. Speikers led last year’s team in scoring with a 15.7 points per game average.
“I would not be honest if I told you the loss of Zach hasn’t had a huge impact,” Wyandt said. “I think we have a number of good role players, but unfortunately we don’t have a lot of guys that have the experience or confidence to take the lead, especially scoring and leadership.
“That’s not a knock on any of our kids, rather just the reality of graduating a large group of seniors who dominated most of the line-up and playing time the last couple years.”
Speikers has recently been cleared for non-contact drills and depending on how workouts go, could see action after the first of the year.
Speikers’ absence along with some other regular contributors played a role in a pair of gut-wrenching two-point losses to Rochester Mayo and Rochester John Marshall to open the season.
The Tigers then struggled in a 25-point loss to Edina before bouncing back in a four-point loss at old Missota Conference rival Northfield. The locals played competitively again in losses to hot-shooting Hastings and Burnsville in their first-ever South Suburban Conference game.
“I think with the exception of two games, we’ve been extremely competitive and had chances to win games,” Wyandt said. “We are playing very deep, ten or eleven, each game trying to see who steps up.
“We’ve had different guys do that at different times but we are looking for consistency. These are good kids that just need to be a little tougher and believe in their preparation. Confidence has been an issue at times when it shouldn’t be. Slowly, I think we are having some guys figure it out and play better.”
Ferm has been the most consistent player so far, averaging 21.4 points a contest despite being the focus of the opposition’s defense. Junior post player Alex Hart has also averaged in double digits, scoring 12.2 points per night.
Senior forward Matt Anderson has averaged seven points a game with floor leader Lucas Berg and sixth man Alex Zitzmann averaging 5.9 and 5.0 respectively.
As for what it will take to build on Saturday’s win over Holy Family, Wyandt said that could be summed up in a word, “consistency.”
“We need to execute in pressure situations and have more kids be willing to make plays, especially on the offensive end,” he said. “We have too many guys who are bystanders right now and that generally ends up in making costly mistakes due to hesitancy.”
Wyandt cautions that the schedule doesn’t get in easier the rest of the way as 17 of the 19 remaining regular season games will be against South Suburban Conference competition.
“The Missota Conference was strong but the South Suburban is just extremely deep in talent,” he said “It is very possibly the deepest conference in the state… Along with the strength of the teams on our non-conference schedule this year this may be the most difficult schedule we’ve ever played.
“With an inexperienced lineup we’re suffering some growing pains. But as long as our kids keep working and learning, I really believe we can be a dangerous team in the playoffs and I think our section opponents think the same. We just need to keep working and improving…”