The Farmington Tigers and Rosemount Irish boys' basketball teams met for the second time this season Friday night, Feb. 8, in Farmington and the result was a season sweep for the Tigers. Farmington went up big to start the game but Rosemount made a comeback to end the first half to only be down 10. However, in the second half the Tigers extended their lead which resulted in a blowout 74-45 win over Rosemount. The Irish fall to 4-15 overall after notching a win against Lakeville South on Feb. 1 to end a 10-game losing streak. The Tigers have won six of their last seven and are 10-9 and 7-4 in the South Suburban Conference, which is good for fourth place and a game and half behind Shakopee.
Second time around
The first meeting between the two teams was a month ago on Jan. 4 in Rosemount where Farmington edged out the Irish 58-54. However, the Tigers are playing much better right now than they were early on in the season, which head coach Tharen Johnson said is due mostly to the team adjusting and settling into their roles.
"We're moving the ball better offensively and getting more guys involved," he said. "Early on we were kind of leaning on some of the returning guys from last year and we were still trying to figure it out with the injury to Adam Weed. Some other guys who hadn't played varsity before had to learn the speed of the game and that kind of stuff."
Farmington opened the game on a 7-0 run before Rosemount got on the board with a free throw. The Irish struggled offensively early on until Jacob Siwek and sophomore Sean Sullivan got going midway through the half. After being down by almost 20, Rosemount was able to cut the Tigers' lead to 31-21 at halftime. Senior Miles Mendes continued his solid play at the rim for Farmington with 11 first-half points and junior Carter Huschka provided a spark off the bench for them with two 3-pointers 10 points in the half. Siwek and Sullivan both had six points for Rosemount.
Six minutes into the second half the Tigers opened up a 50-33 lead despite committing quite a few fouls in the first half and to open the second. However, the second half saw increased pace and more frenetic play, which benefited Farmington more than Rosemount as the Irish offense just could not keep pace with the Tigers.
Rosemount head coach Lance Walsten said the lack of a go-to scorer for the Irish has been a part of Rosemount's struggles so far this season.
"Right now our struggle probably is that we don't have that one go-to scorer. Most of the teams in the conference have that one kind of elite athlete and we're more of a by-committee team right now," he said. "We have some young guys who are playing and they're getting valuable experience and they're learning what the South Suburban Conference is all about and what you have to do in order to compete and win."
Farmington expanded their lead to over 20 and not long after Tiger senior Dylan Freetly threw down a one-handed dunk in transition, both teams put in their reserves with about six minutes remaining. The final was 74-45 and 11 of 16 total players scored for the Tigers, while the Irish also had 11 players score.
Mendes led Farmington with 17 points, followed by Huschka with 15. Senior Graham Hertaus scored nine while senior Jameson Shrum and sophomore Isaac Ask each added seven points each. Siwek led the Irish with 11 points, junior Mason McDonald scored seven, Sullivan added six points and senior Andrew Reuter contributed five points just days after signing to play football at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Walsten said after the game that the goal for the second half of the season is to improve upon the first half and that this season has been a step up from last year, despite the lack of wins.
"Just comparing to last year, our goal coming in was to be more competitive throughout. Other than tonight we've been pretty competitive in most of our games," he said. "We got a big win against Lakeville South, had a competitive game against Eastview the other night at their place. Guys kind of figuring out their role for the team a little bit. We didn't have a whole ton of experience coming back and we knew that going in."
"We're starting the second half of the conference schedule and our goal is to be better in the second game than we were in the first game," Walsten said. "I think in two of the first three so far we were, tonight we weren't, but we're making strides and we can see the things that we know we need to get better at. Sometimes it's taking a step back, slowing down a little bit in order to see some of those challenges that are still in front of us."
One thing that has stood out lately for the Tigers has been their depth and how quickly Johnson is willing to go to and utilize that depth, often going eight-or-nine players deep minutes into the first half.
"We've had some other guys start playing well recently, freshman Kyle Hrncir has started playing a little bit more, he's earned the minutes, he's played well and played well on the JV and shown it in practice so he's gotten a little bit more playing time," Johnson said. "Carter Huschka has gotten a lot better for us off the bench and he's been a spark, especially tonight."
Rosemount has seven games left in their regular season. They are in the midst of a four-game road trip and will go to Eagan on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and then Prior Lake on Thursday, Feb. 14. They then host Lakeville North on Friday, Feb. 15. Despite their struggles this season, Walsten praised his team's attitude.
"The thing I like about these guys is that they're still fighting, they're still competing even though we haven't won as many games as we'd like to," he said.
Farmington also has seven games left before the playoffs and Johnson said he likes their chances.
"We're playing well right now," he said. "Tough week for us next week, we do have three home games, but we've got Lakeville North coming up, they're pretty good, and a pretty good Eastview team on Saturday too."
Johnson also said that with how his team is playing, if they can cut down on the turnovers they could do some damage in the playoffs. The Tigers host Lakeville South on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and then Lakeville North on Thursday, Feb. 14. Eastview then comes to town on Saturday, Feb. 16.