Big Second Half Carries Eagan by Tigers
by Pat Rupp
Despite a first half that featured poor shooting and a rash of turnovers the Tigers still hit the halftime break with a solid 25-16 lead at Eagan Friday night.
The second 18 minutes didn’t go nearly as well, however, as the host Wildcats used hot shooting from behind the three-point arc and some clutch baskets inside to rally for a 63-59 South Suburban Conference win.
“It’s beginning to sound like a broken record,” Tiger coach Tharen Johnson said of his team’s third consecutive defeat.
“Too many turnovers and not being able to execute well enough offensively. Our defense was good for the first half but we should have had a bigger lead.”
The Tigers went almost four minutes before scoring their first point and with 10 minutes to play in the opening half they were looking up at a 14-5 deficit.
That changed in a hurry when Farmington put together a 20-2 finish to the half to take its nine-point lead to intermission.
“We couldn’t capitalize when we had open looks,” Johnson said of the missed opportunities. “We also didn’t get enough good shots. Our spacing was bad and guys weren’t making good reads with the ball.”
Caden Freetly scored inside and Kole Hinrichsen swished a three-pointer on Farmington’s first two possessions of the second half to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the night at 30-18. From there it was a long night.
“The second half was more of the same offensive struggles,” Johnson said. “They hit some three’s and got some points off turnovers and we were not collectively tough enough to respond.
“I love all the guys we have on our team but I’m disappointed right now in the way they are responding to adversity.”
The Wildcats took their first lead at 39-37 and extended it 54-46 with just under four minutes to play. Senior Sam Wilson did his part to bring the Tigers back, scoring his team’s next 10 points to make it a one-point game at 57-56 with 33 seconds remaining.
Eagan drained a pair of free throws to stretch it back to three and then Wilson missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up two more charity tosses by the winners.
Miles Mendes hit an off-balance three-pointer to cut it back to two but Eagan made two more from the stripe in the final second to account for its final margin of victory.
Wilson finished with a team-high 21 points for Farmington (8-12). Mendes added a dozen to go with a team-best 10 rebounds for a statistical double-double. Freetly pulled down nine boards as the Tigers won the battle of the glass 35-33.
Eagan out shot Farmington 46.2 to 39.7 percent in the contest and outscored their guests by three baskets from long (7-4) range and another three points (11-8) at the foul line line. The Wildcats also outscored their guests in the paint (36-28) and turned 14 Farmington turnovers into 16 crucial points.
Two more South Suburban match-ups highlight next week’s schedule with Burnsville invading Tiger Gym Tuesday night and the Tigers traveling to Lakeville North on Friday.