JP Macura did the heavy lifting. Lakeville North teammates Drew Stewart and Connor Flack made it all worthwhile.
After Macura had put the Panthers on his back for most of the evening, scoring 43 points in a bravura performance, Stewart’s three-pointer and Flack’s rebound and put-back in the lane in the final 30 seconds lifted Lakeville North to a stunning 84-82 victory over Hopkins in a marvelously entertaining Class 4A championship game.
It was the first boys’ basketball championship for Lakeville North and also the first time Hopkins lost a championship game under coach Ken Novak Jr. The Royals had been 6-0 in the finals.
The game, as well as the hearts of most of crowd of more than 11,000, were won over by Macura’s effort. He scored in every way possible: long three-pointers, slashing drives, crowd-frenzying dunks and body-twisting layups en route to his 43 points.
“There are times when I look at JP and I cannot believe the things he does,” said Lakeville North coach John Oxton. “We see the things he does every day. We are so incredibly lucky to have a player like him.”
For much of the game, it seemed that Macura was the show but Hopkins would take home the dough. Every time Macura scored, Hopkins had an answer.
Royals guard Kamali Chambers, held scoreless in the semifinals, came up big with 24 points, including going 4-for-4 on three-pointers. Senior Noble Fahnbulleh came off the bench to score 16 points and grab nine rebounds.
“Hopkins is a great team,” Oxton said. “We really struggled trying to get a stop against them.”
Trailing 82-78 with 36 seconds to go, Lakeville North had the ball right where it wanted it: in Macura’s hands. But the Hopkins defense forced him to give up the ball, and he found Stewart, who is also the quarterback on the football team, open in the corner.
Stewart drained the three-pointer and was fouled in the process. “You know you always have to be ready when JP has the ball,” Stewart said. “I got the pass and instinct took over.”
He missed the free throw, but Flack grabbed the rebound in the lane and banked in a put-back, giving Lakeville North its first lead, 83-82, since midway through the first half. “I just grabbed it and threw it back up there,” Flack said. “I’m so happy it went in.”
After Hopkins turned the ball over, Flack hit one of two free throws to bump the lead to two points. Hopkins’ last-second shot by Jacob Wright was long and, for Lakeville North, the party was on.
Macura made sure his teammates got credit before he took any. “First off, I can’t say enough about my teammates. They do all the tough things, like take charges and play hard defense, and this was because of them,” he said.
But he knew he had put on a performance for the history books and took a few moments to acknowledge that.
“This is so fulfilling,” said the 6-5 Xavier University recruit. “I remember coming to the state tournament when I was 5, 6 years old with my dad and dreaming of this.”