With each shot he made — and JP Macura made a lot of them en route to a 43-point game — the crowd of 11,344 at the Target Center Saturday night grew louder.
By the time the Lakeville North senior made his final shot, a three-pointer with 50 seconds remaining that pulled the Panthers within two points of Hopkins, the din was a full-fledged roar.
Still, basketball is not a one-man sport, and it was Macura’s teammates, Drew Stewart and Connor Flack, who made the two biggest plays of the game as Lakeville North rallied to beat Hopkins 84-82 for the Class 4A championship, the first boys’ basketball title in school history.
Stewart was fouled while making a three-pointer that pulled Lakeville North to within a point, 82-81, with 22 seconds left. Stewart missed the free throw, but Flack, who had a subpar game from the floor, outleaped everyone and tipped the rebound to himself. He pogoed back up and banked in an 8-footer, giving Lakeville North its first lead since midway through the first half, 83-82, with 18 ticks left.
A free throw by Stewart was sandwiched by two failed Hopkins possessions, including a missed three-pointer at the buzzer by Jacob Wright, and Lakeville North, which lost to Osseo on a buzzer-beater in the 2012 final, was the champion.
Target Center erupted, somewhat shocking considering most fans were still catching their breath after the stunning ending.
“I felt all the energy [at Target Center],” said Macura, whose epic offensive show likely earned him a place in history as author of one of the tournament’s greatest championship game performances. “It was incredible.”
Lakeville North coach John Oxton paused during a postgame interview, thinking of the right way to sum up his team’s improbable comeback.
“This team made history,” he said. “JP was unbelievable, as usual. And other guys stepped up when we needed them. Drew and Connor. And [center] Bronson Bruneau. He played an unbelievable game, scored his career high. We are so lucky to get this opportunity and no one can ever take this from them. This is very special.”
For Hopkins, the loss was the first in a championship game since Ken Novak Jr. took over as head coach in 1994.
Guard Kamali Chambers, who led the Royals with 24 points in the championship game, felt the sting of the shocking loss.
“But Coach Novak taught me that when you lose, you remember a lot. And I can remember a lot of lost possessions during the game that could have changed the outcome,” Chambers said. “But my hat is off to Lakeville North. They played a great game.”