The state's two best juniors — Apple Valley point guard Tre Jones and Cretin-Derham Hall center Daniel Oturu — didn't waste any time displaying what makes them so special. Jones has another gear with his quickness while Oturu's length and quick jumping ability put him at another level in the paint.
It would be a matter of who would have enough at the end to prevail in the fast-paced, crowd-pleasing matchup. That would go to Jones, who ignited a 32-13 second-half run, rallying No. 3-ranked Apple Valley from a 12-point deficit for a 76-67 victory.
"When adversity hit us we were able to answer the call," said Jones, who finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds. "The goal for me and my teammates is to win a state championship. I'm not going to let fatigue stand in the way of that."
Oturu had a double-double in the first half alone — 10 points and 12 rebounds — when the Raiders built a 36-29 lead. He scored eight points as the Raiders closed the half on a 19-7 run.
It continued early in the second half, with Sy Chatman burying a three-pointer and Oturu scoring on a putback to make it 41-29. Oturu finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Ryan Larson led the Raiders (21-9) with 21 points.
"Oturu is such a beast, and they were playing much harder than us," said Apple Valley coach Zach Goring, whose team defeated Cretin-Derham Hall 71-59 during the regular season. "We got after our kids at halftime to play more aggressive."
Jones and his supporting cast found that extra gear. He scored 13 points during the run that vaulted the Eagles (28-2) into a 61-54 lead.
"Both teams were wearing down a little bit, with the intensity and bigger court," Goring said. "We tried to keep everybody fresh, except our point guard."