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Apple Valley's Gary Trent Jr. makes away with the ball after a collision with DeLaSalle's Mike Pucci in the closing minutes of the first half. (Matthew Hintz, Special to the Star Tribune)
A summer of bantering was resolved on Saturday night in front of an estimated 4,000 fans at Hopkins’ Lindbergh Center.
Apple Valley convincingly defeated DeLaSalle 73-63 in the Breakdown Tip Off Classic’s showdown of No. 1s and defending Class 4A and 3A state champions, respectively, to claim bragging rights as Minnesota’s best boys’ basketball team.
The Eagles’ star point guard Tyus Jones settled any argument with 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Freshman Gary Trent Jr. scored 18 points in his first varsity start, and big man Brock Bertram collected 11 rebounds and eight points.
“I played with four guys on [DeLaSalle] in the summer,” Jones said, “so there was definitely a lot of talk this summer of ‘We got the best team’ or ‘We got the best team,’ but you can never tell until you play each other., Those guys are like family to me, so that’s what makes it that much more intense.”
Jones’ summer teammates and DeLaSalle family of Jarvis Johnson, Sacar Anim and James Lawson combined for 30 points on Saturday night, but the fourth member was stuck on the bench and his absence under the basket was obvious.
Five-star power forward Reid Travis has been sidelined since September with a stress fracture in his left foot. All Travis could do was hand out basketballs during pregame warmups, while Apple Valley’s five-star point guard Jones took over the game when necessary.
DeLaSalle put together a pair of runs in the second half behind back-to-back three-pointers by Johnson and more consistent contributions from Geno Crandall and Anim. The Islanders pulled within five, 56-51 with 7:13 left but wouldn’t get any closer.
With the help of Dennis Austin, Robert Tobroxen and Trent Jr., Jones closed out the victory.
The first half was choppybecause of a combined 18 fouls. DeLaSalle collected 11 fouls and Apple Valley seven, leading to 25 free throws and a stop-and-go tempo. Jones was 9 of 11 from the free-throw line.
The Islanders, known for their speed and defense, struggled to build any rhythm in the slow-paced first half and trailed 36-28 at the break.
Apple Valley extended its lead to double-digits in the opening minutes of the second half. An 8-1 run put the Eagles up by 16 points, 45-29, a cushion they were able to hold for most of the final 20 minutes.
“It was fun even though we lost,” Johnson said. “Our intensity [was lacking] and we got down early. … It shows we need to learn how to play better without [Travis] in case he gets in foul trouble or something.”
Jones’ guidance helped the young Apple Valley lineup look much more experienced. The Eagles consistently played five underclassmen throughout the night, including an eighth-grader and a freshman, Trent Jr.
Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said his star guard creates calmness and provided his usual performance as a closer.