Moments of success and moments of struggle mean Prior Lake must fight for respect.
The once-ranked Lakers have eight victories this season, but still are overcoming miscues that dropped them out of Class 4A's top 10 and put them in a tight spot in Tuesday night's 55-52 victory at Bloomington Kennedy.
A comfortable halftime lead and obvious size advantage didn't hold against the Eagles. Dejon Davis' 13 points and Jumah'ri Turner's 10 rallied Kennedy to a last-minute 52-51 lead, but it wouldn't last. The Eagles missed an open layup, the first half of one-and-one free throws and turned the ball over all within the final 40 seconds to give Prior Lake the opening it needed for the victory.
"We pulled out a gritty win," Prior Lake guard Noah Scanlon said after making a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to take the lead. "We've pulled out close games before, so that helped us hold our poise."
Though the Lakers didn't play a strong second half, they believe the late-game poise they demonstrated has been consistent enough to boost them back into the top 10.
"We're working hard to get back in there [to the top 10]," Shanks said after scoring a team-high 12 points. "We know what we need to do."
A well-rounded offense that was sharp from the outside and efficiently fed 7-footer Carson Shanks down low in the first half provided a 13-0 run to close the second quarter with a nine-point lead.
Their defense had also begun to frustrate Kennedy. The Eagles held the ball for the final minute, attempting to slow Prior Lake's late surge, but instead they turned it over and gave Lakers coach Alex Focke just enough time to set up a quick play to end the half with two more Lakers points.
Kennedy still is trying to figure out how to win. Under first-year coach Reggie Perkins, the Eagles have struggled to finish games in the first half of the season. Their past four losses have been by margins of four, seven, one and three points.
"I know we're really close," Turner said after the frustrating home loss. "We just need more effort, more hungriness. We're always playing catch-up."