Defense Leads Tigers Past Irish 62-44
by Pat Rupp
A suffocating defense and some red-hot shooting in the second half carried the Tigers to a 62-44 South Suburban Conference win over Rosemount Friday night at Tiger Gym.
The victory snapped a four-game losing skid for Farmington (7-8) and upped its conference record to 3-5 with one game remaining in the opening round of league play.
Anyone looking for an offensive shootout Friday night went to the halftime break disappointed. The Tigers blanketed the Irish, especially on the perimeter, keeping the visitors from getting into their offense.
“They play a short rotation and also had a starter out so we wanted to keep the pressure on,” Tiger coach Tharen Johnson said. “We did a great job of keeping them off balance and in long possessions…I think we had them a little gassed at the end of the half.”
At the other end of the floor the Irish stuck with a zone defense and although the Tigers shot the ball well (8 for 15) they shot themselves in the foot with seven turnovers.
The result was a halftime score of 19-15 in favor of the home team but the Tigers had a big problem as leading scorer Sam Wilson picked up his third foul in the final minute before the break.
Wilson’s foul problems got worse 24 seconds into the second half when he picked up his fourth and had to join Johnson on the Farmington bench.
That’s about the time Kole Hinrichsen, the only other senior on the roster, stepped up his game. The 5-11 guard started posting up inside and the move paid immediate dividends. When Hinrichsen wasn’t burning the Irish from inside, he was lighting then up from outside with a couple of key three-pointers.
Hinrichsen scored 12 of his team-high 17 points early in the second half as the winners stretched their lead to 38-25 with 12:00 minutes to play. Farmington looked like a different team offensively, converting 11 of its first 14 shot attempts.
“With Sam out because of the fouls our next option was Kole,” Johnson said. “We didn’t necessarily design things to go inside; he just did a good job of getting in position to score.”
Wilson retuned with a couple of quick baskets to extend the margin to 17 before the Irish put together a late mini-run to slice the lead to 11. Miles Mendes all but slammed the door on that with a rim-rattling dunk off a turnover to make it 52- 42 with 2:37 left in regulation.
The Tigers put things away by making eight of 11 free throws and Wilson’s turn-around jumper in the lane over the final two minutes.
Other than Hinrichsen, Wilson was the only Tiger to crack double figures with 12 points but the supporting cast more than picked up the slack. Caden Freetly chipped in with eight and Jameson Shrum, Miles Mendes and Brock Mogensen had six apiece.
The Tigers finished with a 31-17 advantage on the glass and again it was a team effort. Freetly grabbed six and Wilson, Hinrichsen and Mogensen added five each. Shrum led in assists with a season-high six.
Farmington shot a robust 58 percent from the floor and an unheard of 80 percent (20 of 25) on its two-point attempts.
“I liked our toughness,” Johnson said. “We really got back to the defensive basics the last two days in practice and all the guys responded… The previous four games we were giving up an average of 88 points per game. We can’t win that way.”
Next Tuesday the Tigers wrap up the first round of conference play with a home game against Lakeville South. The Cougars are coming off an upset win over Prior Lake Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Tiger Gym.