Tigers Dowse Blaze 65-61
by Pat Rupp
Farmington (6-4) evened its South Suburban Conference record at 2-2 with a 65-61 triumph over Burnsville Friday night in Burnsville.
The victory gave the Tigers their third two-game win streak of the season. Farmington has been in a win two, lose two pattern since sweeping Rochester Century and Rochester Mayo to open the season.
Next came a two-game losing skid, followed by a sweep in the Hastings Holiday Tournament, an 0-2 start to the conference season and then a two-game victory run in the South Suburban over Eagan and Burnsville.
“Not sure what to think about that,” Tiger coach Tharen Johnson said. “I hope we can break that cycle next Tuesday against a very good Lakeville North team.”
At Burnsville a sluggish first half saw both teams struggle trying to find their shooting touch. The Blaze forged an early 16-13 lead before a Sam Wilson (6 points) and Kole Hinrichsen (5 points)-led 13-4 run gave the visitors their biggest edge at 26-18 with three and a half minutes to go in the half.
But Burnsville put together a finishing 8-0 spurt of its own and at the break things were fittingly tied at 26-26.
“We had a chance to pull away but missed a couple of easy shots and then didn’t grab the first rebound at the other end,” Johnson said. “We let them back in it.”
Wilson scored the first bucket of the second half to give the Tigers a lead they would never surrender but it never seemed easy. Farmington led 38-35 with 11:46 to play before going on a 19-11 run to build an 11-point cushion.
Hinrichsen, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, drained a key three-pointer and two free throws and Caden Freetly and Miles Mendes each contributed a couple of baskets in the surge.
A switch from their customary man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone also played a major role in the run.
“We knew their No. 33 (Matt Baisch) was their only consistent shooter” Johnson said, “so we went some zone because I thought it would be effective in forcing some of their other players to hit outside shots .”
A couple of free throws by Jameson Shrum and a hoop by Freetly gave Farmington its biggest lead of the night at 62-50 before the Blaze closed out the game with a late 11-2 run that included a trio of three-pointers.
“When they went to full court pressure we handled it, and we hit our free throws down the stretch (11 of 14 in the second half),” Johnson said. “Up to now that hasn’t been one of our strengths.”
“But we still have to do a better job of closing out games. That’s the advantage of having a lot of seniors who have been through it at this level before. We are still learning how to finish but tonight we did what we had to do to close it out.”
Wilson finished with a team-high 16 points and added four steals and three assists. Hinrichsen had 15 and Freetly 13. Miles Mendes contributed seven off the bench. Baisch led the Blaze with a game-high 20.
The Tigers held a 38-33 edge in rebounds with Freetly gathering in nine, Mendes eight and Brock Mogensen seven.
The Tigers have a big task in front of them next week with a pair of home games against the two best teams in the South Suburban, Tuesday versus No. 3 Lakeville North and Friday against No. 5 Apple Valley.