MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When the clock hit zero in the Class 4A title game Saturday night, the emotion that spilled out onto the court said it all.
Apple Valley beat Park Center 74-57, avenging an early season loss to the Pirates and win a state championship in the process. In the closing seconds as coach Zach Goring took his starters out, his star point guard Tyus Jones hugged his coach in an emotional embrace. What was a goal back in November finally became a reality. All the hard work throughout the course of the season paid off with a state title.
And with what the Eagles have coming back, a second straight state championship is very much in the cards. Apple Valley loses two starters but brings back a 6-10 center who already has Division I offers and will be a sophomore, a tough all-around player in Dennis Austin and the top point guard in the country in Jones.
Jones led all scorers with 28 points, including a perfect 18-of-18 at the free-throw line, and five assists. Austin added 15 points and Dustin Fronk had 14 points.
As someone who took in the Class 4A title game on television, it was a joy to watch. The Target Center was a near sellout for the game, which had a fantastic atmosphere. When you watch Jones play, what you notice is that he tries to stay under the radar on the court. That’s almost impossible to do for his skill level, but then when he chooses so he takes over the game.
The state tournament in general featured Jones and Reid Travis from DeLaSalle, who make up two of the three high school recruits in the 2014 class. The scary thing is they both have a year of high school left, but could play at the Division I level right now and probably start.
Class AAA: DeLaSalle 50, Austin 33
Reid Travis scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as DeLaSalle beat Austin 50-33 Saturday night to claim its second straight Class 3A title. Luke Scott added 10 points in the victory. The Islanders press and pressure defense created all sorts of problems for the Packers as they shot 36 percent from the field. Austin also committed 15 turnovers in the contest.
The Islanders finished the season 30-1, with their only loss coming to a team from Kansas in the Timberwolves Shootout. It was DeLaSalle’s seventh state title in 18 appearances.
Class AA: Minnehaha Academy 56, Litchfield 54
In their fourth state tournament appearance, Minnehaha Academy won its first state tournament with a 56-54 win over Litchfield at Target Center Saturday. Marcellous Hazzard led Minnehaha Academy with 14 points, while John Pryor added 12 and Kaharri Carter scored 11. It was a close game that went down to the final possession but Litchfield couldn’t get a shot off to try and send the game to overtime.
Class A: Southwest Minnesota Christian 81, Maranatha Christian Academy 73
Senior Dominic Nibbelink scored a game-high 29 points to lead Southwest Minnesota Christian to an 81-73 win over Maranatha Christian Academy in the Class A title game. It’s the fifth state championship for the Eagles, who won four straight from 1999 to 2002.
With Travis, Jones and Rashad Vaughn all being seniors next year, I do not envy the committee that chooses the Mr. Basketball award. That goes to the top senior player in Minnesota every year. It might just be best to let all three of them share it. A class featuring three players with as much skill as these three have may never come around in Minnesota again.
The basketball tournament wraps up a crazy tournament season, and now we gear up for the spring prep season. That’s assuming the snow ever melts.