Rockets Shoot Down Tiger Upset Bid
By Pat Rupp
Sixth-seeded Farmington gave No. 3 seed Rochester John Marshall (24-3) a battle before the Big Nine Conference champions pulled away late in a 61-50 win in a Section 1AAAA quarterfinal game played Wednesday night in Rochester.
The Tigers knew going in that any hopes of an upset would hinge on at least containing the Rockets’ 6-9 sophomore and Division I recruit Matthew Hurt and for a half the Tigers did exactly that.
“We went in to the game feeling confident that we could play with them,” Farmington coach Tharen Johnson said. “We felt the quality of teams in our conference fully prepared us to compete.”
Despite hitting just seven of 28 shots in the first half Farmington led most of the way, twice by as many as six points, before JM hit a pair of late three-pointers to eke out a 21-19 lead at intermission.
Sam Wilson led the first half scoring for Farmington with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers despite being hounded by the taller Hurt most of the time. Hurt also scored eight points over the first 18 minutes.
“JM doesn’t have a lot of consistent outside shooters so we played a 1-3-1 zone that we tilted to wherever Hurt was playing” Johnson said. “I thought our guys executed the defensive plan very well. We held JM 20 points under their scoring average and it was their second lowest scoring output of the season.”
Hurt drained a three-pointer to start the second half but Wilson scored nine of his team’s first 11 points after the break to give the underdogs a brief 30-28 lead.
The Rockets responded with an 8-2 run of their own to open up six-point bulge and to add to the sudden downturn of events, Wilson went down with leg cramps with a little over eight minutes to play in regulation and his team down by five.
Wilson would return late in the game but by then the deficit had hit double digits. John Marshall held its biggest lead of the night at 59-43.
“I think the cramping stemmed from Sam still trying to recover from his ankle injury less than two weeks ago,” Johnson said.
“Once Sam went out, Hurt started getting more looks inside against the zone. Not only is Sam big for our offense but he is also probably our best defender.”
Hurt sparked the Rockets in the second half, scoring 22 of his game-high 30 points. Wilson closed out his stellar Farmington career with a team-high 18 points. Classmate Kole Hinrichsen added 14 and Caden Freetly chimed in with 11. Twelve of Hinrichsen’s 14 points came on a quartet of three-pointers.
Wilson’s point total gave him 525 for the season, a school record that broke the previous standard (500) set by Josh Thompson in 1998-99. Wilson’s career total stands at 990, just 10 away from the coveted 1000 mark.
Hinrichsen led the Farmington rebounding effort with eight boards against the much taller Rockets who held a 37-32 edge on the glass. Freetly finished with seven rebounds.
Cold shooting again plagued the Tigers who made just 19 of 59 attempts from the floor for a tepid 32.2 percent. Three-point shooting help them stay in the game as they finished with 10 baskets from behind the arc.
Hurt’s presence was a factor on the inside as JM outscored its guests 34-16 in the paint. The Rockets also capitalized on 14 Tiger turnovers, turning them into 13 points.
With the win, John Marshall advanced to Saturday night’s semifinals against second-seeded New Prague. Farmington closed the books on its 2016-17 season with an 8-19 record.
“I was very proud of the way this team re-grouped after our string of injuries and illness a few weeks ago,” Johnson said. “They really competed hard these last three games.
“I thought our young guys really started playing more composed basketball, and our seniors definitely stepped up to lead.”