The #4 (AAA) Lakeville North Panthers went into their first conference game Tuesday night with an undefeated record, and despite a back-and-forth struggle with cross-town rival Lakeville South, the Panthers walked out of their home gym with a victory and an improved 9-0 record.
The first half was all North, as sophomore Trey Heid opened the game with back-to-back three pointers and the Panthers cruised out to a 30-17 lead at half time. South ran an uncharacteristically slow offense, committing few turnovers and even fewer fouls, but the lack of tempo kept the Cougars from getting into any sort of consistent flow. On several occasions South failed to capitalize on North’s mistakes, and despite a few opportunities for the Cougars to work the ball inside offensively, the Panthers repeatedly adjusted their defensive game plan and held just four Cougars to points in the first half. To North’s credit, quick ball movement and sharp shooting allowed seven different Panthers to score before halftime, and the Panthers controlled the tempo of their offense, even in transition.
The first few minutes of the second half would appear to start the same way, with offensive struggles for South and a few quick, early baskets for North – but before long the Cougars upped the tempo of their offense and switched to a more full court defensive pressure, forcing North to work harder for every point. South also did a better job of passing the ball and sharing the offense in the second half; four additional Cougars who had been quiet in the first half scored early baskets in the second, including senior Ty Powell, with seven, and senior Nick Bachinski, with six.
North’s fast-paced offense, plus a decision to increase their full-court pressure forced South into foul trouble late in the game, but the Panthers weren’t able to take advantage of several two-shot trips to the charity stripe. The Cougars eventually chipped away at North’s lead and took a one-point lead with just a few minutes remaining, but in the end North was able to capitalize on more opportunities and pull away with the 53-52 win.
Cougar senior Nick Sanborn led all scorers with 13 points. For the Panthers, seniors Trey Heid and Ryan Saarela each finished with 11. On Friday, the 9-0 Panthers will travel to Bloomington Kennedy, while the 5-4 Cougars will look for their first conference win when they host Apple Valley.