It’s become Apple Valley’s M.O. over the past half-dozen years, three of which have ended in state championships.
Have a superstar as a foundation. Play gutty, hard-nosed defense. Count on a different player to step forward in any given game.
It’s not always pretty, but it certainly is effective.
Thursday at Target Center was no exception. The Eagles advanced to the Class 4A championship game for the fourth time in six seasons with a 58-45 victory over Lakeville North.
Tre Jones, the Duke-bound superstar, led the Eagles with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The defense held Lakeville North, normally a good shooting bunch, to just five field goals after halftime and forced the Panthers into a dismal 1-for-17 from the three-point line.
And senior Zach Korba, who didn’t score in the quarterfinals, made five of six field goal attempts and had 12 points. Luke Martens added 11 points, including three three-pointers, for the Eagles.
“That’s been the neat thing about this group,” Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said. “We certainly have Tre at the top, and Luke is a pretty consistent second-best player. And then there is a whole bunch of them that we just piece together. Whoever is playing well that night, we’re going to roll with.”
Lakeville North coach John Oxton said he knew his team didn’t shoot well, but the numbers were even worse than he originally thought. After a tight first half that saw Apple Valley take a 29-27 lead, the Panthers dug a hole for themselves by missing their first 13 shots in the second half.
“One for 17? Yikes.” Oxton said. “I knew it was bad. I didn’t think it was quite that bad.”
Goring acknowledged that his team is rarely going to earn any style points, but the results are what matters.
“We have to grind out games,” he said. “That kind of who we are. Ten seniors, all best friends. They share the ball, they don’t care who scores. They just want to win.”