The calm on Tyus Jones' face didn't match the state of Saturday's Timberwolves Shootout marquee matchup midway through the second half. Apple Valley trailed Cooper by 11 points with 9 minutes, 19 seconds left, and the nation's best junior simply shrugged it off.
Jones flipped a switch and carried his team through a 31-9 run for its own 11-point lead and past Rashad Vaughn and the Hawks for an 80-70 victory at Target Center.
For most of the game it appeared as if Vaughn, regarded as the nation's eighth-best junior recruit, would win arguably the best individual-to-individual matchup in Minnesota high school basketball history. The forward from Cooper easily won the points battle with 35, but his fury faded just as Jones kicked his into gear.
"When we went down, there was a little sense of urgency," Jones said. "Time to catch up."
All Cooper could do was sit back and watch. A once-ecstatic Vaughn became just another frustrated victim of Apple Valley and Jones.
"I've been playing with Tyus since third grade, and he always controls the game," Vaughn said. "In order to win, you have to be disciplined. It was a big matchup."
Benefiting from the guard's 18 points, eight assists and two steals (both against Vaughn) in front of an announced crowd (5,122) much too big to fit in most high school gymnasiums were the Eagles' Dustin Fronk, Dennis Austin and Harry Sonie. Austin had a team-high 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds, while Fronk added 21 points and Sonie 12.
Apple Valley shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half, outdoing Cooper's 61.5 in the first half. The Hawks' numbers drastically declined to 38.9 percent after the break, with most of the misses coming in the final 10 minutes.
Eagles coach Zach Goring credited the drop-off to physically wearing the Hawks down and doubling up on Vaughn. He also called on his "closer" to pull off the win, even though Jones was playing in only his second game after nursing a bad back that is still only "75-80 percent healthy."
"There was a lot of big hype on this game. It was a different atmosphere for sure," Fronk said. "But you could just see Tyus flip a switch on the energy."
Jones said he spent most of the morning thinking about the built-up matchup, and it didn't disappoint. What he enjoyed most other than the win and his teammates' performance were Vaughn's deep three-pointers.
"He hit some shots that not many guys at any level can hit," Jones said. "It definitely lived up [to the hype]."