Playing big games at Target Center brings out the best in Lakeville North.
That was evident in the Panthers' 65-61 victory over Hopkins in the final Class 4A quarterfinal on Wednesday at Target Center. On paper, it could be considered an upset. Hopkins was the No. 3 seed while Lakeville North’s 11 losses were the most by any team in the field.
But anyone who knew the Panthers’ history wasn’t surprised by the result. They were making their fourth straight state tournament appearance, marked by two championship game appearances during that stretch. And they had been playing their best basketball of the season over the last month.
“We’ve been playing good basketball for about eight games now,” coach John Oxton said. “We’re hoping this is the start of something special.”
The game was a rematch of the 2014 Class 4A final and the result was the same. Hopkins (23-8), living and dying by the three-pointer, trailed 49-37 midway through the second half, rallied to tie the game 58-58 but never was able to finish the comeback.
Lakeville North (19-11) next draws Apple Valley in Thursday's semifinals.
Apple Valley 70, St. Michael-Albertville 57
The big names did what big names do: Gary Trent Jr. scored 20 points, Tre Jones ran the offense smoothly and chipped in eight points, Brock Bertram commanded the lane despite getting into early foul trouble.
But the real story of Apple Valley’s comfortable victory was the play of some of the Eagles’ lesser-known — but not lesser in importance — players.
Junior forward Cameron Kirksey had a terrific outing in his first state tournament appearance, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking four shots. Senior forward Riley Parham also had 10 points and five rebounds and spent much of the game harassing St. Michael-Albertville shooters. Austin Korba played 16 valuable minutes, chalking up five points, while Bertram was out.
“Cameron is such a long, athletic player,” Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said. “When he defends and stays out of foul trouble, he’s a very big part of our team. And I thought Parham gave us great energy on defense.”
The No. 2-seeded Eagles (28-2) seized control early, thanks to consecutive runs of 10-3 and 11-3, taking a 40-20 halftime.
St. Michael-Albertville (24-6) got 21 points from all-time leading scorer Jackson Greenwaldt.
Champlin Park 90, St. Francis 48
The only question surrounding Champlin Park’s first state tournament appearance since 2010 was how well the Rebels would handle opening-game jitters.
After obliterating St. Francis in the opening game of the Class 4A quarterfinals, that question seems foolish. The Rebels, operating at the same high level that they have performed at all season en route a perfect season, took control from the outset, blitzing St. Francis with a 42-11 over the last 10 minutes of the first half to take a 52-23 halftime lead.
“I’m never worried about this team being prepared,” coach Mark Tuchscherer said. “They were prepared at practice last night, knowing it was a 10 a.m. game.”
Jeremy Johnson and McKinley Wright scored 17 points each and Marty Hill added 15 for Champlin Park (30-0).
Blake Moreno scored 17 points for St. Francis (21-9).
Shakopee 64, Roseville 53
Steffon Mitchell made up for a quiet first half in a very loud way, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half to help Shakopee pull away from Roseville 64-53 in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Roseville led 25-22 at halftime but Shakopee, using its size advantage, used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to take the lead for good, 43-34.
Mitchell, a 6-7 junior forward and Star Tribune first team All-Metro selection, stymied any chance of a Roseville comeback by scoring 11 of Shakopee’s 13 points during one second-half stretch.
Mitchell gave credit to his teammates for his improved second half. They told me at halftime that I’m the best player on this team and to just go out and play like it,” he said. “That helped a lot.”
Shakopee (23-7) will face Champlin Park in Thursday’s semifinals.