With fewer than two minutes to play in a tie game in the Class 4A semifinals, both Lakeville North and Wayzata tried to milk the clock to take the final shot of regulation.
The Panthers faltered in their attempt, throwing the ball away with 1 minute, 7 seconds to play. The Trojans would make no such mistake.
Wayzata successfully drained the clock down to approximately 10 ticks remaining before star guard Hayden Tibbits made his move. Tibbits knifed into the middle of the paint and drilled a mid-range jumper with 1.1 seconds to play to secure Wayzata’s 79-77 victory and send the Trojans back to the state title game for the third time in as many seasons.
The Trojans will meet Park Center in the Class 4A championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday at Target Center in a rematch of last year’s title bout won by the Pirates.
“You don’t win at this level in March … without veteran guards,” Wayzata coach Bryan Schnettler said. “You have to have veteran guards. In high school, you’ve got to have junior, senior guards. Shoot, he’s done this two years in a row now. And he makes big-time plays, and we see it all the time.”
Lakeville North led by four with four minutes to play but couldn’t quite shut the door. The game was lost, though, over the first 21 minutes. Wayzata led 57-37 with 15 minutes to play as it diced up the Panthers’ defense. Wayzata went 6 for 10 from deep in the first half.
No one could contain Tibbits, who finished with 24 points. His dominance created space for the likes of Jackson McAndrew, who tallied 28 points and eight rebounds.
“That was frustrating, holy buckets,” Lakeville North coach John Oxton said. “We struggled in ways early that we haven’t seen for quite a while. We’ve been playing really, really well, and it really, really was a struggle. You’ve got to give Wayzata a lot of credit. … They executed exactly what they wanted to do to a T and we didn’t do that.”
Oxton felt that all related back to a tentativeness the Panthers seemed to play with to open the contest. Finally, a switch flipped for Lakeville North midway through the second half.
“The momentum changed and we just started chipping away and battling and actually pressed a little bit and got some steals and made some shots,” Oxton said. “It’s just one thing that kind of snowballed. And for us, to me, it was more so like get aggressive, you’re a good team, we need to play like that versus just on your heels.”
Leading the charge were Hudson Vaith, who finished with 24 points, and Wisconsin commit Nolan Winter. The 6-foot-11 center stepped out and drained three triples during the comeback. He finished with 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
“He saw a desperate situation, and what do good players do? They step up and made big plays,” Oxton said. “He saw that opportunity and took it and hit some big shots for us, for sure.”
But, in the end, Wayzata was able to answer the call.
“I think you’ve got to have some mental toughness and know that you’ve got to have some trust in the guy next to you and trust the coaches and know that everyone knows what they’re doing,” Tibbits said. “We know that we’ve been here before, so we just have to relax, take one play at a time, and I think that’s kind of really all you can do when that big of a swing happens.”
“I think our guys just refused to lose,” Schnettler said, “and we were going to find a way to get it done.”