Tyus Jones celebrated Apple Valley's championship at the end of the game. (Kyndell Harkness/Star Tribune)
Tyus Jones didn’t need to do it on his own.
No. 1-ranked Apple Valley displayed every piece in its arsenal in a 74-57 victory over Park Center to win the Class 4A boys’ basketball state championship Saturday night at Target Center.
While the standout junior guard warmed up to score a game-high 28 points and grab 11 rebounds, the rest of the Eagles built a double-digit lead that held up for most of the game.
After Jones left the floor to a roar in the final seconds, he quickly buried his head in coach Zach Goring’s shoulder. All the pressure and expectations he had carried all season were released at that tear-filled moment.
“Everything just went out,” Jones said about the embrace. “It was an amazing feeling to finally win it. ... It’s kind of a storybook ending.”
The blowout more than made up for the only loss Apple Valley (30-1) had at the start of the season at the hands of Park Center (27-4). This was the Eagles’ first appearance in the title game.
Dennis Austin controlled the inside for Apple Valley with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Dustin Fronk added 14 points. Jones was 18-for-18 on free throws.
Park Center was never really a threat in the finale. After displaying two of the most athletic performances of the tournament to also reach its first title game, the Pirates didn’t display enough when they needed it most.
Apple Valley controlled the game with its defense and discipline. Harry Sonie’s defense frustrated Pirates’ standout guard Quinton Hooker, who still managed 18 points and nine rebounds, while Jones ran the Eagles’ offense, as he’s done all year.
“[Hooker] makes their team go. If you slow him down, you have the upper hand right away,” Sonie said.
A physical first half meant less offense from two of the state’s higher-scoring teams. The Pirates finished the half shooting 27.3 percent.
The Eagles weren’t much better, shooting 35.3 percent.
Jones and Hooker each had a slow start. Hooker didn’t score until seven minutes into the game, Jones didn’t until 12:23 had passed. The game went on without them, though, as the rest of Apple Valley’s lineup built a double-digit lead.
“They attacked us when we weren’t looking,” Hooker said. “I think everyone could tell, they wanted it more.”
Devin Buckley scored 15 points and Treyton Daniels 10 for Park Center.
The Eagles’ 6-10 freshman, Brock Bertram, grew up throughout the tournament and put it all together in the championship. He scored eight points and had nine rebounds and five blocks, while limiting Park Center’s athletic forwards Joshua Matthews and Daniels to nine rebounds total.
“It was exciting to play my best game in the biggest game I’ve played in,” Bertram said. “I felt like I belong right where I am.”
1. Tyus Jones, Apple Valley
The best players deliver on the biggest stages and that's what Jones did tonight. It took him awhile to get going as he didn't score until 13 minutes into the game. Even while he wasn't scoring he was giving Park Center's defense fits, and showed off his great vision and passing. He was deadly from the free throw line, finishing 18-18 from the line. He finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists.
2. Quinton Hooker, Park Center
Hooker was Park Center's leading scorer and emotional leader on the court. The senior left it all on the floor and managed to keep the game close for the Pirates. He finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds and played a great game defensively.
3. Dennis Austin, Apple Valley
Austin was a force inside and Park Center never really had an answer for him. He's not very tall for a post player but he's very strong and he knows how to throw his weight around. He finished the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double.
John Kelsey, MN Basketball Hub