HARD WORK PAYS THIRD QUARTER DIVIDENDS
By Pat Rupp
After a 3-10 start that featured a glaring inability to win close games, Farmington’s stock rose dramatically during the third quarter of the 2014-15 regular season.
Heading into Friday night’s home match-up with No. 2 ranked Apple Valley, coach Shane Wyandt’s team had won four of its last six games, cobbled together a four-game winning streak and played state-ranked Shakopee to the final horn in a two-point loss.
The four wins–over Rosemount, Eastview, Owatonna and Burnsville–came by a combined total of 15 points, turning around an early season trend where the Tigers dropped five nip-and-tuck contests by a margin of just 12 points.
“I think we have improved on both sides of the ball and we have done a much better job of rebounding compared to the first handful games of the season,” Wyandt said. “We also have a number of guys who are filling specific roles and filling them well.
“Jackson Halstrom has emerged as our perimeter stopper and Sam Wilson has stepped in as a very solid energy guy who is playing good defense, rebounding, and giving us some much needed offense.
“The rest of the rotation sometimes varies from night to night as far as what we need and who steps up…We are also still looking for more consistency from a number of guys, especially on the offensive side. We need to shoot better and need more guys to score to take some of the load off (Wyatt) Ferm and (Zach) Speikers.”
During the six-game run, senior Ferm set a single-game school record with 44 points, including seven three-pointers in a victory over Eastview. The turnaround also featured the complete return to the floor of senior Zach Speikers who is playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
“Zach has certainly given us a lift on the offensive end but I think it goes beyond that,” Wyandt said. “He has been an emotional lift for the entire team and a great example of toughness for all the kids in our program to see.
“What he’s doing without the use of his ACL and still being productive is amazing to me. He certainly is not the same player we’ve seen the last couple of years but he’s learning every game how he needs to adapt and what his limitations are. That is not easy for a player to do but he’s figuring it out.”
Ferm (20 points per game) and Speikers (12 per game) carried the lion’s share of the offensive load during the six game stretch but Wyandt said his ultra-deep rotation has also produced some positive results.
“Most teams play seven to nine guys on a regular basis,” he said. “We’ve gone with ten or 12 almost every night so a lot of players are getting their chances.
“Lately we have been finding a little more consistency with a set rotation but we are not afraid to go to others on a given night. Our current rotation has been more athletic and more productive, especially on the defensive end….Overall though I’d still call us a work in progress.
With six games remaining on the schedule, all against tough South Suburban Conference competition, Wyandt summed up his team’s goal the rest of the way in a single word.
“Consistency,” he said. “I know that’s easy to say but we have been playing well in spots as individuals and as a team. The thing we have not had is all of our players putting it together on a given night.
“If we can develop more consistent play as a group and as individuals I would say we will have come around nicely as a team. We are always talking improvement. We want to be playing our basketball come section tournament time.”