They rushed the floor in the end, and you knew they would.
But to be clear, regardless of how the Park Center student body reacted in the aftermath of their boys basketball team’s upset of No. 1 Apple Valley Dec. 8, don’t think the Pirates didn’t expect this.
To them, this was no upset. This was verification.
“We’ve got a good team here at Park Center,” said senior guard Quinton Hooker. “This was just our chance to prove it.”
It wasn’t going to be easy, not with the top-ranked Eagles and junior guard Tyus Jones in the way.
An overflow crowd filled the West Gym at Minnetonka High School for the showdown between Hooker and Jones, and neither disappointed in a thriller that went Park Center’s way by a 72-70 count in the end.
But for those hoping for the Hooker/Jones match-up to be the deciding factor, Park Center had a response.
“This wasn’t just about those two guys,” said Park Center head coach Broderick Powell. “Don’t get me wrong, they are great players, and both played like it. But we have some other guys around Quinton that can do some things, and this was their chance to show it.”
Devin Buckley did his part by scoring a dozen points, including four monster buckets down the stretch that helped the Pirates rally from 11 down with 13 minutes to play.
Isaiah McKay and Isaac Mathews contributed as well, scoring 10 points each.
“It was a team win for sure,” said Hooker. “Everybody stepped up.”
Hooker would finish with a game-high 26 points. Jones ended up with 20 for Apple Valley.
But much of Jones’ damage came in the first half, when Apple Valley pulled ahead for a 43-35 advantage at the break.
Park Center immediately cut the lead down to two points early in the second half, but he Eagles stretched it back out to 11 a short while later.
The Pirates would finally pull even on a basket from Buckley with 3:35 left, and they would go up for good the next time down the court.
Defense was the difference for the Pirates, who held Apple Valley to just seven points over the final eight-plus minutes.
“We wanted to try and contain their penetration, and not let them penetrate and kick,” said Powell. “They still got some open shots, but we did a decent job down the stretch.”