Tyus Jones has had a lot of people watching his basketball career since he broke into the Apple Valley varsity squad as an 8th grader, drawing the attention of the top college coaches in the nation down to fans of the game in the Twin Cities. Until this week, however, Jones hadn’t been able to showcase his talents on the floor at the state tournament; now, he’ll be able to play for a state title as he led his top-ranked Eagles squad to a 62-55 victory over Eden Prairie in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Like in their quarterfinal victory over Brainerd, Jones was at his best in crunch time, scoring 13 of his game-high 23 points in the final ten minutes of the game. Jones also was a thorn in the side of the Eden Prairie offense, racking up six of Apple Valley’s ten steals in the game.
Despite the strong performance from Jones, Eden Prairie kept the outcome of the game in doubt until the final minute of the game. The resilient Eagles, who succeeded in slowing down Apple Valley’s fast-paced transition game except for a quick first-half burst that allowed Valley to take a 30-22 lead at halftime, kept Valley within striking distance until the Eagles put the game away with free throws in the final minute. Twice Eden Prairie got within a single point, but each time Apple Valley had an answer.
With four minutes remaining, Eden Prairie’s Jack Cottrell completed a three-point play to bring the Eagles with a point at 51-50. On the very next possession, however, Apple Valley freshman Brock Bertram hauled in an offensive rebound on a Tyus Jones miss, scoring on the putback to give Valley a three point lead. After Grant Shaeffer split a pair of free throws for Eden Prairie, Apple Valley scored the next four points to push the lead to six and eventually opened up a seven-point lead in the final minute behind two Jones free throws. Robert Tobroxen then picked off an Eden Prairie pass near midcourt with 35 seconds to go, and the white-clad Apple Valley student section started to celebrate as their school earned their first-ever trip to a state championship game.
In addition to Jones’ 23 points, Dennis Austin had 15 points and eight rebounds while Dustin Fronk added 13 points. Brock Bertram led the Eagles in rebounding with 13 boards, although Eden Prairie had a 37-31 advantage on the glass. Eden Prairie was led by Jack Cottrell with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Anthony Anderson had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Grant Shaeffer had 12 points for Eden Prairie, who ended their season with a 22-9 record.
Apple Valley, now 30-1 on the season, will play for the Class 4A championship Saturday night against the winner of Park Center and Edina, with approximate tip time at 8pm from the Target Center in Minneapolis.