Any time you play a team like Apple Valley, the No. 2 ranked boys basketball team in Class 4A staring perhaps the top junior in the country, you find yourself quality measuring stick.
While the Lakeville North boys basketball team lost to the Eagles 79-75 in overtime on Tuesday night at home, there were some bright silver linings..
“The biggest thing is Apple Valley is a great team and we could have beat them,” head coach John Oxton said.
The Panthers had the ball at the end of regulation, but a lay up was blocked giving Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones a few more minutes to put the game away.
Still, it was refreshing considering the Panthers didn’t have many players returning from last year’s team that finished second in the state.
“We’re kind of starting over, but they’re starting to figure it out,” Oxton said. “We’re right there.”
The loss dropped the team’s record to 10-3, but “these kids are doing what they can to keep the standards high,” Oxton said.
“They’re one of the best teams in the state and if we can play with them, then it’s a confidence builder,” said junior JP Macura, who lead North with 31 points.
With the gym nearly at full capacity, the Panthers put fans on their feet by taking an early 28-18 with 13 points coming from Macura, but the Eagles had an answer going up by double digits early in the second half thanks to their height advantage.
“We were making shots like crazy, but they went inside and we just couldn’t stop them,” Oxton said.
The Panthers cut that lead back to 65-63 with 2:37 remaining. Grant Erickson’s steal and assist to Kyrell Newell tied the game up with a 1:20 left, which sent the game to overtime.
“I was very proud of their effort,” Oxton said. “It was frustrating at times, but I felt we adjusted. We stopped them from going to the post as much and got back into the game.”
From there, Apple Valley’s star player Jones took over. Hobbled with an ankle injury, Jones scored nine of his 22 points in overtime.
“It’s tough to keep the ball out of Tyus’ hand, and because he makes everything,” Oxton said. “I guess that’s why he’s rated No. 1 in the country.”
Erickson, who had 13 points, and Zach Creighton, who had 12, hit three-points shots in the final minute to keep in interesting at 78-75, but Jones made a free throw to make it a two-possession game ending any chance at a comeback.
The Panthers will welcome Rosemount (5-8) to town for a 7 p.m. tip off on Friday night.