Eastview boys earn shot at title, but a tough road is ahead
Lightning one of three teams to qualify for boys hoops tourney with 28-1 records
by Mike Shaughnessy
Wearing a wide grin on his way to the Eastview team room, Darin Haugh stopped to embrace his coach, Mark Gerber.
“We’re almost there,” Haugh said. “We’re almost there.”
That statement says a lot about the attitude the Lightning took into the boys basketball season. For some teams, getting to the state tournament is the objective, and they’ll accept whatever happens once they get there.
Eastview’s players have made no secret of their goal, and it wasn’t just reaching the state tournament.
“Ever since last season ended, we’ve had our sights set on the state championship,” senior guard Chris Narum said. “We’re hoping we’ll be on the court Saturday night.”
The Lightning got to the state tournament by beating crosstown rival Apple Valley 57-53 in the Class 4A, Section 3 final Friday night before a packed house at Burnsville High School.
As difficult as it was to beat fifth-ranked Apple Valley three times in one season, No. 3-ranked Eastview might face an even tougher route to the state championship that Narum said the team wants.
Despite being 28-1, Eastview received the third seed in the state Class 4A tournament. The top two seeds, Hopkins and Lakeville North, also are 28-1.
Eastview will play Eden Prairie (22-7), the 2011 state runner-up, in the Class 4A quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Target Center. The winner will play second-seeded Lakeville North (28-1) or Moorhead (18-9) in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday. The championship game is 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24.
It’s a tough draw for the Lightning, but “that’s what you have to expect in the state tournament,” Gerber said.
In the Section 3 final, Eastview trailed Apple Valley early, took the lead by halftime, built a bigger lead in the second half then had to hold on at the end.
The Lightning led by as many as 12 points in the second half before Apple Valley staged a furious rally.
Apple Valley junior forward Chris Laymon, who had just entered the game after two Eagles starters fouled out, hit a three-pointer with 12.5 seconds remaining to cut Eastview’s lead to 55-53. The Lightning then was called for a five-second violation, giving Apple Valley a chance to inbound the ball under Eastview’s basket.
Eagles star guard Tyus Jones twisted his way into the lane, but his shot rolled off the rim and was rebounded by Eastview’s Joey King, who then was fouled and made two free throws to seal the victory.
Eastview took control on the boards in the second half as the Lightning’s lead grew. Eastview outrebounded Apple Valley 40-28, and 6-foot-9 junior Ben Oberfeld brought down 16.
“I saw Joey and Ben getting rebounds at key times,” Haugh said. “I saw Chris (Narum) dive on the floor for one, too.”
Apple Valley (23-6) had plenty of opportunities to win, coach Zach Goring said.
“We didn’t shoot,” Goring said. “If you shoot 34 percent like we did, it’s tough to win a game like this. We had a lot of open shots, but some nights you shoot well and some nights you don’t.”
Eastview won two high-scoring games against Apple Valley in the regular season, getting 91 points in its first victory and 84 in the second. But in the section final, it was clear shortly after tip-off the Lightning had no intention of playing another game like that.
“We played the first two games at their pace,” Narum said. “This game, we wanted to keep it at our pace, a little slower. When we play at our pace, we feel we have a big advantage with our big guys, Joey (King) and Ben (Oberfeld).”
King had 20 points and eight rebounds. Oberfeld scored 11 points to go with his 16 rebounds. The Lightning found senior guard Jordan Bolger open on several cuts to the basket in the second half, and he finished with 14 points.
Jones had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds, leading Apple Valley in all three categories. Harry Sonie added nine points for the Eagles, all on three-point field goals.
While the Eastview players may view this week as state championship or bust, Gerber’s view is somewhat different.
“That’s a reward you’re talking about,” he said. “The things we talk about in our program are what we have to do to be a better team. Working hard in the weight room. Being consistent about what we do. Playing together in the off-season and building a team.
“I’m extremely proud of these kids. The public doesn’t see our players teaching sixth-graders about drug education. We have kids who are in the National Honor Society and taking AP (advanced placement) classes. They’re not just good basketball players, they’re leaders in our school.”
Mike Shaughnessy is Dakota County sports editor for Sun Newspapers.