Tigers Sink Skippers with Balance
by Pat Rupp
On paper, Thursday night’s home contest with Minnetonka looked like a tall order for the home team. The visiting Skippers featured a front line that averaged 6’7. Farmington’s tallest player was 6-5.
In the end, however, size didn’t matter so much as the smaller Tigers eked out an exciting 63-61 win that wasn’t decided until the final horn sounded.
“We knew they had the superior size,” Farmington coach Tharen Johnson said, “but we have some guys who have spent a lot of time in the weight room and can hold their ground. We did a nice job on the boards tonight.”
For the second straight game the winners had a rough time finding the basket in the early going, making just 10 of 33 shots in the first half. Still, a 10-0 run midway through the opening stanza, held up for a slim 25-22 halftime lead. A full-court press fueled the run the produced the spurt.
“We thought their point guard was a pretty good ball handler,” Johnson said, “but that some of their other guys would be a little shaky against pressure. Our press gave them a different look and we got some points off turnovers.”
Turnovers in the open court proved a thorn in the side all night for the visitors. The Skippers finished with 17 miscues that turned into 20 Farmington points.
The second half was a see-saw battle that saw the Tigers hold onto the lead until the final six minutes when Minnetonka’s leading scorer, Cameron Steele, converted three straight free throws to give his team a 47-46 edge. The Skippers’ size seemed to be taking its toll as Farmington’s “big” men, Miles Mendes and Caden Freetly, each had four fouls.
Minnetonka then twice led by three points, the last at 53-50, as Mendes fouled out to make Farmington’s size disadvantage even more profound.
A basket by Freetly and a huge three-pointer by Jarrett Hunt gave the lead back to the Tigers. Freetly’s free throw and a reverse lay-up Jacob Bormann off a Freetly pass gave the home team a 58-53 lead with 2:23 to play.
The game was far from over, however. First, Steele canned a three-pointer to cut the lead to a basket before Bormann countered with a free throw and a basket to stretch it back to five at 61-56.
Jamer Shrum made two clutch free throws with 47 seconds left in regulation to make it a seven-point game but the Skippers still had life. A lay-up and yet another trey by Steele, who would finish with a game-high 26 points, left the score at 63-61 with 7.5 seconds remaining.
Brock Mogensen went to the free throw line but missed both to give Minnetonka one last shot. Steele’s desperation toss from just inside half court rattled off the rim as time expired.
Farmington won the game with offensive balance. Zach Hedquist, Bormann and Freetly led the way with 13, 12 and 10 points respectively. Hunt had eight, Mendes seven, Adam Weed six and Shrum 5.
The Skippers finished with a 32-28 edge on the boards but the Tigers held their own with four players—Shrum, Mendes, Freetly and Mogensen—each pulling down five.
Farmington tallied 26 points in the paint to help their cause. That proved invaluable as Minnetonka outshot the Tigers by a dozen points (20-8) at the foul line.
“I thought everybody who played contributed for us tonight,” Johnson said. “We learned that if we play like we can, we can be competitive in our conference. There are a couple of teams in the conference that will bring both size and the strength so we will have to be ready to play every night.”
Farmington (2-1) entertains St. Anthony Saturday afternoon and then is off until next Friday night when it travels to Bloomington Jefferson for another non-conference game.