The Farmington Tigers girls' basketball team will play in their second-straight Section 1AAAA championship game against the Lakeville North Panthers Friday, March 8, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. If the Tigers' play has proven anything the past few weeks, it is that they're more than ready for the challenge.
Two weeks ago, Farmington won its first South Suburban Conference championship outright after winning three-straight games in the final week against Eagan, Shakopee and Lakeville North. Had they won just two of those games, they would have tied for the championship. They finished the regular season with a 22-4 overall record and were 15-3 in the SSC, a game ahead of Eastview. They rode that three-game winning streak and championship into the section playoffs where they are the No. 1 seed and proceeded to blow past No. 8 Rochester Century by 60 points before soundly beat No. 4 Lakeville South by 22. They now face No. 2 Lakeville North for the third time this season having beaten them the first two times by 14 and 20 point respectively.
Should Farmington make it to the state tournament, people will say their run began the final three weeks of the regular season. Despite playing in an extraordinarily difficult conference and having three of their four losses come in that span, head coach Liz Carpentier said there was no panic.
"Every single night you have to bring an energy level, you have to be ready to play. Shooting matters. There are no easy nights in our conference, we preach that and the kids know that, but to be able to come out and play your best every single night is probably an unrealistic expectation," she said. "So when you're not playing your best, if you're just a couple plays short, then yeah we lost by two and by two and then by four. We're not getting blown out, I just think when push came to shove guess what, we have good teams in our conference and every night is going to be like this. Nobody hit the panic button."
The Tigers did the opposite of panic and won their final three games to secure the program's first SSC championship.
"The biggest thing is just to see the hard work of just building a program and getting it to the highest level in the conference. To be able to win a conference championship in our league is pretty special considering the talent and just the great coaches and players that come out of the South Suburban every year," Carpentier said about the accomplishment. "They're (the SSC) always well-represented at the state tournament as well and overall it's probably one of the top two conferences in terms of toughness top-to-bottom in the state. For me as a coach, I love seeing the development of the program as whole. For us to take that step is huge."
Cruising through sections
Farmington encountered little difficult with their first two section games and seem to be peaking at just the right time. Against Rochester Century, the Farmington defense was stingy throughout as they held the Panthers to just nine points in the first half and 10 in the second half. Meanwhile, the Tiger offense was clicking with four players in double figures and 11 different players scoring. They led 49-9 at halftime on their way to a 79-19 victory. Junior point guard and captain Molly Mogensen led all scorers with 17 points, followed by sophomore Paige Kindseth with 16. Both sophomore Peyton Blandin and junior Morgan Ebel added 11 points each and sophomore center Sophie Hart contributed six. Senior Kaitlin Winston, junior Katelyn Mohr and sophomore Maleah Scott all had four points apiece, freshman Grace Schaffer had three, sophomore Rachel Krebs two and senior Myiah Scott one.
In the win over Lakeville South, Farmington took a lead early and never looked back. They led by 15 at halftime and then went on to win 76-54. The Tigers had the top three scorers in the game, led by Kindseth with 20, Mogensen with 18 and Hart had 16. Blandin added seven points, Mohr had six and Winston contributed five. Carpentier said it was a dominating performance by her team.
"Just really proud of them, they stuck to the game plan. We just dominated the boards, which has been our game plan all year long, that's been one of our goals. We ran in transition well and that starts with rebounding, so we were able to get out and run," she said. "We had kids who just played phenomenal on both ends of the court, Sophie Hart, Molly Mogensen, Paige Kindseth all stepped up. We had again everybody contribute, we had that balance and that's one of the things that sets our team apart, we have such good balance when we're playing well. And they're playing with a lot of confidence right now, I mean we've been playing good the last couple weeks, really solid."
The old sports adage is that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season. But Carpentier was ready to point out they have already done it to South and that the last time out against Lakeville North they completely controlled the game.
"These kids are ready. Again, the last time we played North it was just so dominate. We just came out and controlled the pace and did what we wanted to do on both ends of the floor. Defensively our game plan worked and they executed it," she said. "Offensively they (Lakeville North) had no answer for the inside, none. Our kids are pumped, we've proven already with South that we've beaten a team three times and we beat them convincingly. I think it's going to be fun and again, as long as we play our Farmington basketball, as long was we stick to our plan, good things are going to happen and we'll be successful."