Defense Carries Tigers Past St. Anthony
by Pat Rupp
Farmington improved its early season record to 3-1 with a grind-it-out 57-39 non-conference win over St. Anthony Saturday afternoon at Tiger Gym.
Defense was the key for coach Tharen Johnson’s squad, holding the Huskies, who had averaged 63 points in their first two games, to just 16 first half points.
“I thought we played a lot better defensively today,” Johnson said. “We continue to get better at cutting down on our number of fouls because guys are starting to stay positioned better.”
St. Anthony held an early lead but it didn’t last long. Miles Mendes’ three-point play tied the game at 11-11 and the winners closed the first half on a 12-5 run for a 23-16 halftime advantage.
The lead at intermission could have been even bigger had the home team converted more shots in the paint and cashed in on their free throw opportunities. The Tigers made just eight of 26 shots over the first 18 minutes and converted only of five of 10 chances from the foul line.
“I don’t think we executed very well in the first half,” Johnson said. “We got caught up playing at their pace and were shooting too quickly. Caden (Freetly) was doing a nice job of attacking and getting to the foul line though.
“We did do a great job of getting offensive rebounds. Brock (Mogensen) and Miles (Mendes) were very active inside.”
Farmington opened the second half on a 10-5 run, sparked by four inside points apiece from Freetly and Mogensen, and held a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
All in all, 14 players saw action for the Tigers with eight of them denting the scoring column. Freetly led the way with 17 points with Zach Hedquist adding 13. Mendes had nine points and Mogensen finished with eight.
The Tigers dominated the glass, finishing with a 46-24 advantage. Mendes pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds. Jamer Shrum had eight and Freetly seven.
In the end, however, it was the Farmington defense that carried the day. The Tigers’ sticky man-to-man approach forced the Huskies into many long possessions and eventually poor shot selection.
“Jamer Shrum and Adam Weed did a nice job of defending their two top scorers,” Johnson said. “Mickey Jah (16 points) and Tait Nelson (13 points) ended up getting to double figures but they had to take a lot of shots to get there.”
With the big second half cushion, Johnson was able to get some floor time for the Tiger reserves and he liked what he saw.
“Collin Hansen took a big charge on defense and Gabe Bassett scored his first varsity points, knocking down a three-pointer,” he said.
The Tigers will have a week to prepare for their next game, a road contest against Bloomington Jefferson Friday night, Dec 15, in Bloomington. The Jaguars are 1-1 in the early going, defeating Duluth East 57-31 and losing to Shakopee 80-54.