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During Apple Valley’s run of five consecutive South Suburban Conference championships, there haven’t been many times when the Eagles have been the hunters instead of being the hunted.
Tuesday’s game against Lakeville North was a chance for Apple Valley to put a target on someone else’s back.
After the Eagles lost at home to Lakeville North on Jan. 9, Apple Valley evened up the season series, defeating the Panthers 63-50 on Tuesday. The Lakeville North loss means these two Minnesota basketball juggernauts are knotted up at the top of the South Suburban.
When these two teams met at Apple Valley a little more than a month ago, the Eagles, who are ranked No. 5 in Class 4A by the Minnesota Basketball News, had plenty of chances to pull off the win. Apple Valley went into halftime ahead by three and had a 13-point lead with nine minutes left in regulation.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the No. 3-4A Panthers rallied back thanks to some timely three-point plays to pick up the 73-67 win. The win vaulted Lakeville North into first place in the conference and put Apple Valley in an unfamiliar situation.
“This was probably the first time in five years we weren’t in first place in the conference, said Eagles coach Zach Goring. “This was one we circled on the schedule.”
As Tuesday’s game got going the story looked familiar. After Apple Valley (17-4, 12-1) fell behind 14-10, the Eagles finished the half on a 21-4 run. Apple Valley started getting timely contributions from its shooters, including senior guards Zach Korba and Tre Jones, to give itself a 31-18 lead at the half.
Korba knocked down a pair of three-pointers during his team’s run. Jones provided the majority of the scoring as he led the way with 25 points, including 13 in the first half. His opening-half performance was capped off by a layup he made while being fouled to extend the Eagles’ run to 17-2. The layup even had Goring emphatically pumping his fist.
“Hitting shots really adds up to us being explosive offensively,” Korba said. “It makes us hard to stop.”
But when the second half got underway, the Panthers started roaring back. Lakeville North outscored Apple Valley 14-6 to open the half. Goring was able to rally the troops, however, thanks to some well-timed timeouts.
“The huddle was a good chance for us to regroup,” Korba said. “We knew we had (the Panthers) on the ropes. We used a lot of energy to make sure the same thing wasn’t going to happen again.”
The Eagles once again found themselves going on an extended run. Apple Valley quickly extended its lead back to double digits with a 15-2 run. That run was also capped off by Jones, who had a fast-break dunk, which sent Eagles fans into a frenzy.
But aside from Jones’ theatrics, Apple Valley’s team effort made the difference. Korba knocked down another shot from beyond the arc. The Eagles’ post players, meanwhile, worked to control Lakeville North.
Panthers junior forward Tyler Wahl had a game-high 26 points. But no other Lakeville North player got into double figures. Three players, including Wahl, got at least 10 points in the first meeting.
“We just were more sound and solid defensively,” Goring said. “Tre (Jones) got loose and our shooters were making shots. That was added with our bigs rotating well and making plays on defense.”
With the win, Apple Valley moves into a tie with the Panthers (18-3, 12-1) for first place in the conference. Both teams have five games remaining. If each team wins out, it will be a split conference championship and the sixth consecutive for Apple Valley.
Though both teams have state tournament aspirations, having that team accomplishment is something that is strongly desired.
“We knew we had to win this one if we were going to win another conference title,” Korba said. “This was a big game for us. We didn’t care who scored. We just wanted to win.”
A pair of big runs were key as Apple Valley took down Lakeville North 63-50 on Tuesday at Lakeville North High School. With the win, the Eagles avenged a Jan. 9 loss to the Panthers.
Apple Valley, which is ranked No. 5 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News, headed into the half ahead 31-18 thanks in part to a 17-2 run that extended the Eagles’ lead into double digits. Senior guard Tre Jones had the Eagles going with 13 points in the first half.
In the second half, Lakeville North cut the lead to as few as five, but Apple Valley responded and took every punch the No.3-4A Panthers threw at them. Jones tallied 12 more in the second half, including a pair of dunks, as he finished with a team-high 25 points.
The Eagles’ offensive effort was assisted by senior guard Zach Korba. He knocked down three three-pointers in the win and finished with 10 points. He was the only other player in double figures for Apple Valley (17-4, 12-1).
Lakeville North (18-3, 12-1) struggled to match its normal offensive firepower. Panthers junior guard Tyler Wahl had a game-best 26 points to lead his team. He was the only Panther in double figures Tuesday.
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