Eden Prairie sophomore Drake Dobbs (11) raises above Chaska senior Matt Eliason (5) for a knock-down three-pointer early in the second half as Eden Prairie wins 74-62. Photo by Travis Ellison, SportsEngine
In last year’s Class 4A, Section 2 championship game, Chaska, the one-seed, defeated three-seed Eden Prairie to move onto the state tournament. The Hawks, the favorite in the matchup, had narrowly won, 41-39.
Wednesday night, the two teams met at Eden Prairie High School, where the Eagles entered with the top ranking in Class 4A, and the Hawks number eight. The Eagles, the favorite this time, walked away with a 74-62 victory.
This win came after the Eagles’ first loss of the season, an 86-80 overtime loss to No. 3-4A Lakeville North, a game in which the Eagles let slip away.
“I felt that we did not execute very well down the stretch in that game,” Eden Prairie coach David Flom said about the loss. “I thought we executed really well down the stretch tonight.”
With about eight minutes left in the game, the Eagles (6-1) held a 11-point lead, and it looked like they were on their way to a comfortable win. Then the Hawks went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to two with 5:03 left in the game. The Eagles went on to score on nine of their final 11 possessions of the game, which closed out Chaska and secured the win.
The Hawks (7-2) have come back from 15-point deficits in wins against Lakeville North and Edina this season, so Flom and his team knew that they couldn’t get comfortable with a double-digit lead.
The Eagles were led to victory by the strength of their sophomores, three of which played as freshman in last year’s section final. Drake Dobbs, Austin Andrews and Connor Christensen were three points away from a berth in the state tournament last season. Tonight, against the same opponent, they combined to score 59 points.
“They play with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence,” Flom said of his sophomores, including John Henry, who started and scored six points.
While talking about the success of his sophomore players, Flom was quick to compliment his two seniors who play regularly, Kyler Kluge and DJ Johnson, for how much they’ve helped the sophomores grow.
“They’ve been outstanding,” Flom said about the two seniors. “Their leadership is critical, and it makes the jobs of our sophomores easier.”
Kluge scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out six assists, while Johnson had two assists and played stellar on-ball defense in the win.
Cole Nicholson scored five points in the section final last year as a sophomore. He doubled that in Chaska’s loss to Champlin Park in the state tournament. Now in his junior year, leading the Hawks, he scored 25 points in Wednesday night’s loss. He added five rebounds and two assists to cap off a great performance, although it won’t mean much coming in a loss.
Both teams will be back at Eden Prairie High School on Friday to finish out the Eden Prairie Holiday Tournament. The Hawks will play Shakopee, while the Eagles will face Lake Conference foe Edina, who beat Shakopee 74-66 earlier in the night.
Chaska senior Matt Eliason (5) fights with Eagles senior Kyler Kluge (2) for a lose ball late in the second half as Chaska loses 74-62. Photo by Travis Ellison, SportsEngine
After losing its first game of the season last week, an 86-80 overtime loss against Lakeville North, Eden Prairie (6-1) bounced back with a 74-62 win over Chaska (7-2) at home in its holiday tournament on Wednesday.
The win got the Eagles, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News, back on the right track, while the loss ends the No. 8-4A Hawks’ seven-game win streak.
This game featured a matchup of two premiere bigs in the state, who coincidentally share the same number (33). The battle between Austin Andrews and Cole Nicholson provided a great showcase of skill, with Andrews coming away with the victory. Andrews led the Eagles with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Nicholson led the Hawks with 25 points, adding five rebounds and two assists.
Eden Prairie’s starting lineup scored all 74 of its points, but that doesn’t mean that the bench had no impact. Senior guard DJ Johnson played significant minutes in the game, constantly getting in the face of his defensive assignment, creating chaos and turnovers. He added two assists on the offensive end.
The Eagles will now play their first Lake Conference game of the season on Friday, when they host Edina in the continuation of the Eden Prairie Holiday Tournament. Edina won its tournament game today as well, defeating Shakopee 74-66.
Eden Prairie coach Dave Flom cheers on his team as the clock slowly runs out in their 74-62 win over Chaska. Photo by Travis Ellison, SportsEngine
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