Boys' Basketball: Farmington rides a four-game winning streak
The Farmington Tigers boys' basketball team is in the midst of a four-game winning streak, the latest of which came Thursday night, Jan. 31, at home with a 64-55 win over the Apple Valley Eagles. The win completed the season-sweep of Apple Valley for the Tigers, while Farmington had not won against them since joining the South Suburban Conference. During their winning streak, the Tigers have defeated the Eagles, Burnsville, Eagan and Eastview. Farmington now sits at .500 with an 8-8 overall record and are 6-3 in the SSC, which puts them all alone in fourth. They travel to Woodbury on Saturday, Feb. 2, and then to Prior Lake on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
After the game, senior Miles Mendes said it's always a good thing to beat Apple Valley.
"After the seasons of them just beating us because they had Trey (Jones), and Gary (Trent) and all those guys, it's fun to show them that we're still the team," he said. "We were close the past two years to beating them, and we knew that we could."
What makes the win for the Tigers even better is the circumstances in which it came. With schools being closed all week due to the extreme temperatures, the team had not practiced since the previous week.
"The biggest thing for us was keeping together as a team," Mendes said about how they dealt with the long layoff. "We had a shootaround this morning and guys got in and got good shots up, and then we got back together and did a little walk through as well. We got out to a 7-0 start and then they scored, but we didn't look back after that."
You would not have known the Tigers had not played in a week by the way they played. Mendes opened the scoring for the game with a two-handed dunk from the baseline and Farmington sprinted out to a 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game. Apple Valley then scored after a timeout to make it 7-2 and that was the closest the game got until the final buzzer. Farmington led 25-10 with just under six minutes left and at halftime were ahead 35-18.
Apple Valley played a 2-3 zone for much of the game, including most of the first half, but it proved little hindrance to the Tigers. While the typical strategy against a 2-3 zone is to shoot the defense out of it, Farmington was able to get to the rim almost at will for much of the game. Many of those drives came from Mendes who had 12 first-half points including two monstrous dunks.
"Our coaches gave us the opportunity to open-up our offense and I just took it to the hoop for some easy buckets," he said about the open driving lanes he took advantage of.
In the second half the Tigers led by as much as 18, but then the Eagles slowly began to chip away at the deficit until they trailed Farmington 54-43 with five minutes left. They implemented full-court pressure against the Tigers' reserves and were able to get Farmington in foul trouble, resulting in several trips to the free-throw line.
Farmington's lead stayed at 11 after they were able to control possession and wind down a couple minutes off the clock, but from there Apple Valley cut the Tigers' lead to eight with under a minute remaining. From there, the Eagles should have played the fouling game and exchanged free-throws for 3-pointers of their own, but they inexplicably continued to try to get to the rim in the final minute, which allowed Farmington to stave off the comeback with free throws. The closest Apple Valley got was seven points but the Tigers won 64-55.
Sophomore Isaac Ask led Farmington with 15 points, proved to be very bouncy and was able to rebound effectively against bigger opponents while scoring from all three levels. Mendes was right behind him with 14 points despite fouling out with nine minutes remaining in the second half. He showed off improved ball-handling as he helped the Tigers break the press several times. Senior Graham Hertaus added 12 points and as a team Farmington had 11 different players score.
Mendes attributed Farmington's recent success to a more concerted team effort.
"We're just playing as a team I think. At the beginning of the season we kind of played a lot of one-on-one ball and now we're just playing as a team and it's working," he said.
Looking ahead, he added that the Tigers need to keep winning as a team as they approach a tough stretch of the schedule. Prior Lake is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A while midway through February they have a stretch of Lakeville South, Lakeville North and Eastview, all of whom will pose a challenge.