It’s no secret the 2014-2015 Lakeville North boys’ basketball team isn’t the same team that won the Class 4A state championship in 2014.
JP Macura, the team’s leading scorer and a Mr. Basketball Finalist, is now off at Xavier playing for the Musketeers a year after leading Lakeville North to a state championship. Not to mention, one of the team’s integral championship players, Bronson Bruneau, is now off at Duke, long-snapping. And without Alex Reiland who often found success from the three-point line, John Oxton’s squad saw a changing of the guard, due to graduating players.
In the 2014-2015 regular season, the team finished with a record of 15-11, Lakeville North’s lowest record since 2010-2011. Yet, while this season’s team isn’t what it was last year, don’t be surprised to see the Panthers back at the Target Center in 2015.
The top seeded team in Lakeville North’s section, Rochester John-Marshall, may have a record of 21-5, but the Rockets’ schedule only included one team from the South Suburban Conference (Farmington) and no teams from the Lake Conference. Plus, John-Marshall only faced one top-10 opponent, East Ridge, who the Rockets lost to. Lakeville North received the third seed in the section.
Not only does Lakeville North enter a tournament field with no clear cut favorite to take the trophy, but the Panthers also have one key element any team needs in order to make a deep playoff run.
While their record doesn’t necessarily reflect it, the Panthers have competed toe-to-toe with some of the top teams in the state. Just last week, they took No. 2 Apple Valley and its star-studded lineup of Tre Jones, brother of Tyus Jones, Gary Trent-Jr, and Brock Bertram, to a nail-biter of a game with the Eagles escaping 56-54.
Yes, Lakeville North lost, but after Apple Valley steamrolled the Panthers 75-54 in early January, the Panthers showed the strides they made in just the past month. But these growing pains should be expected. Without Macura, Bruneau and Reiland, the Panthers needed to regain chemistry and have others rise to the challenge. And players such as Carter Brooks have down just that.
Down three in the final seconds of the game, the Lakeville North Panthers needed a bit of late-game magic against SSC rivals Prior Lake last Friday.
And they got just that from Brooks.
While words can try to explain what occurred in the final seconds of regulation in Lakeville North’s final regular season game, this cell-phone video does the game’s final seconds better justice.
Brooks provided the team with the momentum it needed to finish off the Lakers in overtime that night, but he also gave the team the momentum it needed heading into sections.
While not the dominant force they’ve been in the past, Lakeville North still won’t look to get too far ahead of itself as it looks to win the section for the fourth consecutive year.
“We are playing our best basketball of the year and look forward to defending our section title,” Oxton said. “Our mindset this year is the same as always – take them one at a time.”
Despite the up and down season the Panthers experienced in 2014-2015, don’t underestimate their recent success.
Momentum is a dangerous thing.