Eagles win on back-to-back days

AV boys defeat Eastview at home, Cooper at Target Center

Dustin Fronk brings the ball upcourt for Apple Valley during its 61-52 victory over Eastview on Friday night. Fronk led the No. 2-ranked Eagles with 24 points. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Dustin Fronk brings the ball upcourt for Apple Valley during its 61-52 victory over Eastview on Friday night. Fronk led the No. 2-ranked Eagles with 24 points. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

By now Apple Valley is used to having large crowds and college coaches at its boys basketball games. While many come to watch star guard Tyus Jones, the Eagles’ deep, balanced roster often makes an impression.

That was the case last weekend. With Jones returning to the lineup but still recovering from a back injury, the Eagles defeated Eastview 61-52, then came back less than 24 hours later and beat Robbinsdale Cooper 80-70 at the Target Center.

No. 2-ranked Apple Valley is 10-1 after beating Eagan 74-63 on Tuesday night and Burnsville 73-44 on Thursday. The only loss was to No. 1 Park Center on a field goal at the buzzer.

Jones sat out three games because of his back injury and the Eagles defeated Bloomington Kennedy, St. Cloud Tech and defending state Class 4A champion Osseo. He played just six minutes against state power Hopkins in mid-December and Apple Valley still won that game. And he missed Thursday’s home game against Burnsville after spraining his ankle in practice the day before.

Obviously, Apple Valley is more dangerous with Jones than without him, but the team’s play showed coach Zach Goring he doesn’t have to push the timetable on Jones’ recovery.

“We’re very pleased to be where we are, especially with Tyus getting hurt,” Goring said Monday. “Other kids have stepped up and shown that we have a lot of good players.”

Apple Valley made its third consecutive appearance at the Timberwolves Shootout on Saturday and got its second straight victory in the event. The Eagles would seem to be a lock for another invitation next year.

College coaches such as Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg weren’t at Target Center just to see Jones. Cooper guard/forward Rashad Vaughn also is one of the nation’s top prospects in the junior class.

Vaughn scored 35 points, but Goring said Eagles defenders Harry Sonie and James Horton made him work for it, and it might have been a factor in the Eagles’ second-half comeback. Apple Valley trailed 54-43 before outscoring Cooper 37-16 the rest of the way.

“Harry and James are our two most physical defenders,” Goring said. “Harry started on him and did a good job. “James is 5-10 or 5-11 and was a defensive tackle in football, but he has really quick feet.

“I thought they did a nice job on the defensive end. Vaughn had 35 points but took 33 shots. He was 14 for 33.”

Junior forward Dennis Austin led Apple Valley with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard Dustin Fronk had 21 points. Jones played 31 minutes and had 18 points and eight assists.

On Friday night, the Eagles took control early against their crosstown rival, Eastview. Apple Valley led by as many as 21 points in the second half before winning by nine. The victory ended Apple Valley’s six-game losing streak against the Lightning.

“First time we’ve beaten them since I’ve been on varsity,” Fronk said Friday night. “It’s good to get over the hump. But they’re still a good team and we know we’ll see them again.”

Fronk had 24 points, including four three-point baskets, against Eastview. Austin had 16 points and seven rebounds. Jones played about 24 minutes in his return to the lineup, scoring 11 points and getting eight assists.

Apple Valley offset a strong performance by Eastview forward and Bucknell University recruit Ben Oberfeld, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

“We knew it would be physical and we thought they would try to slow down the game,” Fronk said. “I thought we reacted well.”

Jones had 24 points and Fronk had 20 in Tuesday’s victory over Eagan.

The Eagles will return to action at ninth-ranked Lakeville North at 7 p.m. Jan. 15.