By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Saturday, Lakeville North and Hopkins meet in a rematch of a state championship game two years ago that was a thriller. There are about 1,300 wins between the two coaches.

Lakeville North head man John Oxton has been coaching 30 years, and he says the key is consistency. This season, he saw a landmark 500th career victory.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “It means I’m really old and I’ve been around a long time, but it’s a credit to a lot of really good players and really good coaches.”

His basketball philosophy is simple: define roles and make sure they are understood.

“We’ve got to be tough, and we’ve got to get loose balls and we’ve got to win that battle,” he said. “We’ve got to be willing to take charges and we’ve got to trust our teammates.”

He says he’s learned to savor state tournaments in his 30 years as head coach.

“It’s super exciting for our program,” he said. “This is four out of the last five years that we’ve been in the semis. We’ve got a championship and we’ve got a 2nd place finish, and we’ve got a 4th place finish.”

But to win is something Oxton says takes trust, from everyone.

“We talk about that all the time — defensively you’ve got to trust and offensively you’ve got to trust, too,” he said. “You’ve got the ball and you can make one more pass, you’ve got to trust that your teammate is ready and he’s going to make it. And our kids have bought into that. Winning breeds winning, and I just feel super excited to be a part of it.”

The Lakeville North-Hopkins matchup in the 4A championship is Saturday at 8 p.m. at Target Center.

Mike Max