Lakeville junior Tyler Wahl makes the acrobatic layup in the first half of Tuesday's game against Apple Valley. Wahl finished with 20 points in the Panthers' 73-67 victory over the Eagles in Apple Valley. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
Lakeville North coach John Oxton has coached his share of talented teams since he came to the program in 1990. The Panthers won a state title in 2014 and have claimed six consecutive state tournament berths, nine total under the direction of Oxton, who’s amounted over 500 career wins.
But in recent years, Oxton and the Panthers’ pursuit of a South Suburban Conference title has been a case of keeping up with the Joneses.
Apple Valley has dominated the league behind the play of former star Tyus Jones, now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and younger brother Tre Jones, a Duke commit. The Eagles have won the past five league crowns, compiled a 91-1 conference record and owned an 11-game winning streak over Lakeville North.
Tuesday night, the Panthers showed they are intent on owning a their own piece of the South Suburban block.
The Panthers overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 10 minutes of the game to end their adversary’s five-year winning streak with a 73-67 victory over the Eagles at Apple Valley High School.
Tyler Wahl's 20-point, 11-rebound and seven-assist outing led Lakeville North (9-2, 3-0), ranked No. 3 in Minnesota Basketball News' Class 4A rankings, while teammate Tyler Leweko finished with 17 points -- 11 of which came in the final stretch of the game.
“We really struggled with matchups inside with the two big kids,” Apple Valley coach Zach Goring said of the 6-foot-6 Leweko and 6-8 Wahl.
Lakeville North trailed 22 minutes before regaining the lead with five minutes left on the clock. Panthers senior guard Owen Blascziek knocked down an open three-pointer from the top of the arc, putting his team ahead 57-56.
Jones then fouled Tommy Jensen on the wing, and the junior made three free throws to cap a 14-2 Panthers' run -- one in which Wahl scored seven points and assisted on two Leweko jump shots.
“With everybody collapsing on [Wahl], it gave me the opportunity to get in the right spot and he gave me the opportunity [to score],“ Leweko said.
Trailing 66-61 in the final two minutes, No. 5-4A Apple Valley shot frantically before Lakeville North put the exclamation point on the night. Following a second-chance three-pointer from the Eagles' Zach Korba that rolled off the front rim, Collin Denk gathered the ball and pushed it ahead to Wahl, whose two-handed dunk ignited the Panthers' student section and allowed Lakeville North to confidently start rolling up the doormat.
“Everyone stepped up in really clutch moments,” Wahl said. “Owen hitting that three, Tyler making those free throws. It was just all-around great.”
The game was close early, and it remained that way despite an injury to Tre Jones.
Midway through the first half, Jones landed on his head while driving to the basket and missed the final eight minutes while being evaluated in the locker room.
Lakeville North cut the Eagles lead to two at the half as Apple Valley leaned on their outside shooting in Jones’ absence.
Apple Valley knocked down 8 of 16 shots from three-point range in the first half, and senior guard Ely Hendrickson remained hot in the second half, sinking a trio of three-pointers in the opening five minutes to set a new career-high of 21 points.
The Panthers countered the Eagles' effectiveness from long range with poised free-throw shooting. Lakeville North converted 15 of 16 at the line and made five of six in the game's final minute, when Apple Valley (7-4, 2-1) resorted to fouling.
Jones scored 17 of his team’s final 21 points to finish with a game-high 22 points.
After earning wins over No. 12-4A Woodbury, No. 10-4A Wayzata, No. 4-4A Eden Prairie and the defending Class 4A champion Eagles, Lakeville North has shown it mettle, Oxton said. However, he added that now is not the time for the Panthers to get comfortable. There is still a month of basketball remaining to be played in deciding the league title.
While Oxton will be on keeping his team's attention on the coming weeks, Wahl and his teammates can look back and know their performances helped the Panthers rule the neighborhood on Tuesday night.
"It will be super different," Oxton said regarding not having to face a Jones next year. "I have to admit — its not going to break my heart — but it's been an honor to play against them and obviously there’s still lots of basketball left to play for sure."
Lakeville North forward Eli Mostaert pulls down a rebound against Apple Valley Tuesday night. The visiting Panthers defeated the Eagles 73-67. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
Junior Tyler Wahl posted 20 points,11 rebounds and seven assists to lead Lakeville North to a 73-67 victory over Apple Valley Tuesday night at Apple Valley High School.
Ranked No. 3 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News, the Panthers (9-3, 3-0) overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to win, snapping an 11-game losing streak to No. 5-4A Apple Valley that dates back to 2012.
Duke commit Tre Jones tallied a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Eagles (7-4, 2-1) teammate Ely Hendrickson, a senior guard, hit seven 3-pointers for 21.
Tyler Lewko poured in 17 points for Lakeville North.
Apple Valley senior Tre Jones works around Lakeville North's Tommy Jensen Tuesday night in Apple Valley. Despite Jones' 22 points, the Eagles were defeated by the Panthers 73-67. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
The MN Basketball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.