Eagles Escape Tiger Gym on a Buzzer-Beater
by Pat Rupp
Buoyed by a raucous home crowd the Tigers led No. 5-rated Apple Valley for all but a couple of minutes before falling 76-75 in overtime on Tre Jones’ buzzer-beater from the left wing.
“The guys absolutely played their hearts out tonight,” first-year varsity coach Tharen Johnson said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the effort.
“I can’t thank the community and students enough for the great support and atmosphere at tonight’s game. I just wish we could have sent them home with a win.”
After trading a couple of early baskets with the talented Eagles, the Tigers set the tone for the night with a near-perfect 13-0 run that featured three-pointers by Brock Mogensen, Adam Weed and Kole Hinrichsen.
“I told the guys in the timeout not to get too high or too low when they when they make a run,” Johnson said. “Just play focused and compete at a high level for the whole game.”
The Farmington players got the message, fighting off a couple of Valley rallies to take a 35-23 lead to the halftime break.
Sam Wilson and Caden Freetly led the first half charge with 13 and 10 points respectively but Johnson got contributions from every player in his rotation.
Jones, an all-state guard and brother of Minnesota Timberwolf Tyus Jones, scored only three points in the first half but came alive in the second as the Eagles clawed their way back into the game.
But time after time, the home team responded, thanks in the large part to the play of Wilson, to hold the lead until the 10:20 mark when Valley forged its biggest spread of the night at 49-46.
Wilson’s cold-blooded three tied the count at 49 before the Eagles crept back to a two-point lead at 53-51.
With 7:30 remaining Hinrichsen, Wilson and Weed canned consecutive treys to give the Tigers a seven-point edge at 60-53 with 4:40 left in regulation.
With 3:30 left, the lead was still five at 64-59 on two Wilson free throws when the game turned on a dime. Valley used its quickness and some careless Farmington ball handling to score the final five points of regulation and force overtime.
“That was the definitely the difference in the game,” Johnson said. “We had the lead and had to take care of the ball in that situation. We threw too many quick passes and passes without fakes that were tipped.”
Wilson scored the first five points of overtime but the relentless Eagles fought back and led 75-74 with 40 seconds remaining, again taking advantage of critical Tiger turnovers.
Hinrichsen brought the home crowd to its feet with a go-ahead jumper with 15 seconds to play to set up the final drama.
The Farmington defense did its job on the final possession but the confident Jones, who scored 24 of his team-high 27 points in the second half, rose above three defenders and buried the game-winner.
The outcome spoiled a virtuoso performance by Wilson who tallied a game-high 31 points and further demonstrated his status as one of the best players in the South Suburban Conference.
“Sam was huge,” Johnson said. “I know Jones hit the game-winner but I thought Sam was the best player in the game tonight. He hit big shot after big shot.”
Wilson got plenty of help from his supporting cast with Freetly (12 points), Hinrichsen (12) and Weed (11) also finishing in double figures.
Freetly’s nine rebounds led the Tigers to a 37-33 advantage on the glass. The big figure on the stat sheet turned out to be the 23 points the Eagles scored off 19 Farmington turnovers.
Apple Valley also helped its cause at the foul line, making 19 of 26 while the Tigers were a perfect eight-for-eight. The Eagles outscored Farmington in the paint by a decisive 38-24.
“The hope is that all of us, especially our younger players, learn from this experience so next time it’s us celebrating at the end,” Johnson said.
Farmington (6-6) will have little time to dwell on the gut-wrenching loss as Saturday they head to St. Anthony for a matinee date with its old Tri-Metro Conference rival.