If losing can be enjoyed, JP Macura experienced a hint of that Tuesday night at Apple Valley High School.
The Lakeville North junior guard begrudgingly took pleasure in watching Apple Valley's Tyus Jones guide the Eagles' 95-78 runaway. Jones shut down Macura's hot offensive night and at the other end finished with 25 points and five assists to push Class 4A's No. 1-ranked Eagles (22-1) past the No. 9-ranked Panthers (18-5).
"Against others, that's great to watch," Macura chuckled. "I don't like it against us, but it's really fun to see."
Macura earned the "fun to see" honor for most of the game. He scored 39 points, 25 in the first half, and added 12 rebounds for a double-double.
No defense was effective against the 6-4 shooting guard until Jones decided to guard Macura himself.
The switch, midway through the second half, changed the game.
"I wanted to challenge JP," Jones said after surpassing 2,000 points in the victory. "That was our main focus going down the stretch. ... Then we turned it into offense."
Macura didn't score from the field in the final 7:41. His last bucket, an alley-oop lay-in, pulled Lakeville North within six, 70-64. Apple Valley closed the game with a 25-14 run.
Jones' first half was quiet -- six points -- but Dustin Fronk (18 points), Brock Bertram (19) and Dennis Austin (20) provided plenty of offense. The Eagles' size advantage provided extra opportunities off missed shots and easy post-up layups.
The Panthers had no one to box out Bertram. Apple Valley's 6-10 freshman center enjoyed easy offensive rebounds and the put-backs that came with them. Bertram collected 11 rebounds to continue to average a double-double. He fouled out with 2:36 remaining, but the Eagles already had a comfortable double-digit lead.
"They're not the biggest team, so I had to capitalize on the opportunity," Bertram said. "We controlled the boards, and we were more physical than they were."
Lakeville North appeared to tire out in the final five minutes. Rotating just six guys eventually caught up with the Panthers as they struggled to make shots down the stretch.
"We were a little tired toward the end," Macura said. "It was a close game for a while."
Macura probably wished he had scored fewer points. Anytime he has had big numbers the Panthers either have lost or narrowly won, he said.
He blamed himself for not getting his team more involved.