Buzzer beaters and stars in the snow

Its an opening Friday monster clash of #1AAA St. Paul Johnson visiting #5AAAA Lakeville South.  A 2 hour trip for Johnson to the very snowy south metro we start the JV game at 6:57 PM.  A quality crowd in the building despite the snow.  Augsburg and UW-River Falls (think Bruce Pearl) in scouting.  MN Pump N Run and 43 Hoops in the building to cheer on their guys (Richter, Scott, Tyler on 1 side, Marcus Marshall on the other).  And we have Hopkins scouting and spending quality time with Tyus Jones who was in attendance.  Standard food fare, but since its the weekend, that means Pepsi is on The Czar's menu with a strictly average hot dog.  The student section all dressed up for "Happy New Season" (think Happy New Year) as its the season and home opener for Lakeville South.  Quality New Year's gear included.  The students even put a basketball on a string and lowered it as the clock ticked down to tip off of the varsity game.  Best student section demonstration I've seen since the quality Benilde-St. Margaret's student sections of a couple years ago.  So that means today's song is

Song of the Day
Auld Lang Syne (traditional, new year's eve theme)

Game Time
Fun strategy in this one right way.  Johnson with their standard man defense but its Estan Tyler guarding Alex Richter.  South on the other end decided to go with a 3-2 zone with guys like Jon Christensen and Richter playing the top of it.  Richter with a pair of early buckets including the 1st of the game inside against Tyler (a very under used strategy in this one).  10-6 South at 13:47.  Out of a Johnson timeout, they respond with a 9-0 run in 2:30 finished off by a Tyler 3.  15-10 Johnson at 11:17 and Tyler with 7 quick points.  South closes to 20-18 before Tyler scores 3 straight buckets for Johnson.  28-21 Johnson for their biggest lead of the night.  Timeout Lakeville South with 4:38 left in the half.  Out of the timeout, Tyler picks up a cheap 2nd foul.  South doesn't go at him on the next possession which was disappointing.  But Johnson brings in Roosevelt Scott and doesn't switch him onto Richter.  Richter gets Tyler inside on the next possession for Tyler's 3rd foul.  He has to sit the last 2:40 of the half.  Johnson runs out the last minute to lead 32-27 at the half.  Richter and Tyler with 14 points each.  No other player with more than 1 field goal.

South jumps right back in the game in the 2nd half.  Richter on the offensive glass, an assist to Christensen for a layup and a post deuce put the Cougars on top 35-34 at the 13:40 mark.  Richter fouled playing the high post vs an out of bounds 2-3 zone.  The 2 freebies at 8:41 put South up 43-40.  South now starting to pack in that 3-2 zone which was long overdue as they were beaten off the dribble lunging out at non-shooters.  That allowed Johnson to break down the interior of the zone to generate offense.  After 2 more Richter free throws, Marcus Marshall for 3 to tie the game at 45 with 6:40 to go.  49 all at 4:17 when Johnson takes time.  Riley West with a tip at the 4 minute mark and Richter with a steal for 2 at 3:10.  53-49 South with the momentum.    Johnson won't fold.  Roosevelt Scott comes right back to the rim for a 3 point play at 3:04.  Then a referee sequence.  Marshall drops a shoulder and gets the charge call (flop), then Anthony Lee on the possession flops and gets the block call (probably should have been a charge).  But South can't make the free throws.  Lakeville South takes time at 2:36 up 54-52.

Out of the timeout, South goes Box and 1 on Tyler.  Nobody else for Johnson with more than 2 field goals at this point.  Scott makes the Cougars pay as he goes to the basket for a layup with 90 seconds left to tie the game at 54.  Richter on the post results in 1 free throw and Scott again comes up huge with a left wing 3 with 56 seconds left.  57-55 Johnson leads and South turns it over on the possession with 45.7 left.  Out of their own timeout, South chooses not to foul or trap.  Very strange.  Johnson takes care of it for 20 seconds and takes time with 24.7 left.  Tyler easily gets the inbounds and is promptly fouled.  He makes the 1st and misses the 2nd but Chris Smith-Bond is there to grab the offensive board.  He's fouled for 1 of 2 freebies with 22.1 left.  59-55 Johnson.  Richter to the rim for 2 with 13.1 left and South takes their final timeout.  Out of the timeout, Johnson goes diamond set with 1 guy deep, 2 guys at the sideline at center court.  Tyler was one of them and Roosevelt Scott up at the foul line.  Scott flashes to the ball, catches and is immediately fouled.  Seems strange to not have your point guard in that spot but Tyler was 1-4 FTs and Scott was 3-3 FTs.  Scott misses both and Smith-Bond gets called for a very light touch foul on the rebound with 11.7 left.  Christensen steps up and he misses both.  But Richter was in the lane early (no call) and he flies through to put back the miss and he's fouled by Scott (his 5th), holy cow and the crowd erupts. Richter drains the free throw and South leads 60-59 with 10.8 left.

Johnson decides to go without using their last timeout.  Remember South didn't have a timeout to use to set their defense.  Tyler drives the lane but Richter swats it away.  Ball goes out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left and now Johnson calls their final timeout.  Out of the timeout, South switches a screen for Tyler so he doesn't touch it.  Quashingm Smith catches on the back block, his layup goes off the front of the rim and Tyler tips it in.  Nobody in the building could hear the very quiet buzzer so despite what seemed like a long 2.5 seconds, the basket counts and Johnson stuns the building with a 61-60 win storming the court.  South absolutely stunned as they left.

Post Game

For Lakeville South, no answers for Alex Richter as he finishes with 33 points on 11-17 shooting and I had him for 7 boards.  Riley West 1 field goal and 10-15 FTs for 12 points.  Loved South's strategy to slow the game down as the pace was in their favor for most of the game.  I'm surprised teams don't really pack it in more against Johnson (or most city teams for that matter).  They didn't do nearly enough to get Alex Richter touches in the paint area against Estan Tyler or any post touches for Spencer Pankonin.  The schedule doesn't get any easier with trips to Hill-Murray and Minnetonka next week and then Hopkins comes to town on the 14th.

For Johnson, Estan Tyler with 14 of his 19 in the second half including the game winning tip at the horn.  Roosevelt Scott with half of his 16 points in the last 3:04 to come up large despite the 2 missed freebies at the end.  Nobody else with more than 6 points on either side.  While Johnson did force some turnovers, they never didn't get into that defensive rhythm that snowballs and puts teams away.  Easy to say this now since they won, but great coaching move by coach Simmons to hold that final timeout so that he could get his team set on the final inbounds play.  Very surprised South decided to play man on that though since you usually zone baseline out of bounds.  Also surprising since South played zone almost all game.  Hard to make a critical switch in man defense after playing zone.

What else would you want from a game?  Quality students? Check.  Stars on hand and showing up big?  Check with Scott, Tyler and Richter all having outstanding nights.  Quality play?  Check.  Buzzer Beater?  Checkmate!  Its one of the proverbial games where you say you hate to see a team lose.  Both teams made huge plays late and also had chances they'd say they missed out on, especially missed free throws (21-30 for South  and 10-24 for Johnson).  The trip was miserable (2 hours 45 minutes round trip for 3 hours in the gym and 4 hours there) but it was worth every minute.  It'll be very hard to pick any game over this if you're talking games of the year.

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