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Boys basketball: Lakeville North again denies John Marshall

March 16, 2019

Matthew Hurt finishes his boys basketball career at John Marshall with plenty of accolades: All-State, McDonald’s All-American, possibly the state’s next Mr. Basketball and a big-school record of 3,819 career points.

But one team honor has escaped the 6-foot-9 forward, a trip to the state tournament. Hurt’s final chance to play at state berth was foiled on Thursday, and once again by Lakeville North. The top-seeded Panthers toppled No. 2 John Marshall 84-50 in the section finals as Lakeville North earned a state trip for the eighth straight season.

“I thought we battled,” Hurt said. “That’s all I can ask of my team. We just came up on the ugly side today. Give credit to them, great coach, great players. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to them.”

It marked the seventh straight season that the Rockets fell to Lakeville North in the Section 1AAAAA title game. Hurt was on the last six of those section runner-up teams.

“I’m really proud of my seniors,” JM coach Jim Daly said. “Those guys competed hard all year and we started 1-4. Their leadership, they kept us connected. ... And obviously Matthew is the arguably the greatest basketball player in Minnesota history.”

But as good as Hurt is, he couldn’t keep the Rockets in the game against the deep and talented Lakeville North team, one that features four seniors who will go on to play college basketball and two more that will play Division I college football.

“They’re just dang good,” Daly said. “They were a lot better tonight.”

Lakeville North started the game strong and just kept coming at the Rockets in waves. The Panthers never trailed in the contest. Point guard Tommy Jensen, who will play at Division III St. John’s, had trio of 3-pointers in the first nine minutes as North surged to a 20-9 lead. Jensen finished with 11 points in the first half and 18 in the game.

Lefty Jack Rusch is North’s sixth man, but is is also the team’s No. 2 scorer. Against the Rockets, the 6-5 forward bound for Division II Minnesota-Moorhead, had 12 points in the first half as the Panthers led 44-28 at the break. Rusch finished with a team-high 23 points. Rusch, like Jensen, had three 3-pointers and the Panthers were 10-for-25 from beyond the arc in the contest.

“I thought we played hard,” Daly said. “They just made shots and we had some breakdowns defensively on some threes. But good teams will do that to you.”

North rolled even though their top scorer, Tyler Wahl, had a modest 10 points. The 6-7 guard bound for Wisconsin, and a teammates of Hurt’s in AAU ball, did have eight rebounds and several good inside passes.

“It’s huge because any time somebody’s struggling we just put in somebody else and they pick up the slack,” North coach John Oxton said of his team’s depth. “Very rarely is a time that they all struggle. We just mix and match, and our kids are very resilient and they’re very team orientated. They just want to win.”

North also put the defensive clamps on JM. The Rockets had 21 turnovers while North had just six.

“I thought their defense was very good,” Daly said. “We struggled against their pressure. It was just a combination of things really.”

“That was the plan going into the game,” Oxton said. “Maybe we knew that some other guys would struggle with that a little bit. And that’s something that we try to do to a lot of people so it wasn’t totally different, but we were able to execute it pretty well.”

The Panthers also used their depth to try to combat Hurt, who entered averaging 37 points a game. He finished with 30 points, 16 in the first half, and added 10 rebounds.

“The goal was just to try and wear him out,” Oxton said. “Matthew’s just an unbelievable player. He’s maybe one of the best high school scorers who has ever been in the state of Minnesota. He’s just an unbelievable talent and you just try to slow him down and too his credit he still puts up numbers, for sure.”

JM trailed by 16 at the half and then started slow in the second half. Hurt scored JM’s first nine points as the others struggled to find their offensive form as North quickly built an insurmountable lead.

“You’ve got the saying ‘Third time’s the charm’ and this was the seventh time,” JM senior Simon Werven said. “But you just have to keep trying your best. I think that’s what we did tonight. Credit to them. They are a very talented team and have a lot of great players and coaches.”

Lakeville North (25-4) advances to the state quarterfinals next week with a 13-game winning streak.

“I think they have a great shot of winning it all,” Daly said.

During their past seven state trips, Oxton has guided the Panthers to one state title and a pair of runner-up finishes.

JM, which had its 14-game winning streak snapped, closes the year at 22-7.

Hurt ended up playing 144 career games with the Rockets and averaged 26.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest.

“It means a lot, (the last) four or five years was a great experience,” Hurt said. “And I thought I was pretty successful.”

“It was fun, it was something special,” Werven said of playing with Hurt. “It’s not every day that you get to play with a guy as talented as that. And not only talented as that, but unselfish and one of the best teammates you can have. It’s just unique.”

Hurt will find out if he is the winner of the state’s Mr. Basketball on March 26 and he will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 27 in Atlanta.

“He could have gone to any prep school in the country,” said Richard Hurt, Matthew’s father and an assistant coach at JM. “I think it’s a testament to the kind of kid that he is that he wanted to finish his time here.”

Lakeville North 84, JM 50

No. 2 JOHN MARSHALL (50)

Matthew Hurt 30 P, 10 R; Jacob Daing 3 P, 5 R, 1 3-PT; Nick Schorr 3 P, 1 3-PT; Cole Dyer 5 P, 1 3-PT; Simon Werven 2 P, 3 R; Lincoln Meister 7 P, 4 R.

No. 1 LAKEVILLE NORTH (84)

Tommy Jensen 18 P, 3 3-PT; Tyler Wahl 10 P, 8 R; Tate Staloch 6 P, 4 R, 2 3-PT; Eli Mostaert 6 P, 5 R; Jack Rusch 23 P, 3 3-PT; Carter Patterson 8 P, 2 3-PT; Will Mostaert 4 P; Dawson Gode 4 P; Noah Fruechtte 2 P; Ben Schweizers 3 P.

Halftime: LN 44, JM 28.

Free throws: JM 13-17, LN 6-7. Field goals: JM 17-39, LN 34-66.

Three-point goals: JM 3-10, LN 10-25. Rebounds: JM 28, LN 29. Turnovers: JM 21, LN 6.