FARMINGTON — The Fieldcrest High School basketball team had lost its momentum midway through the fourth quarter of its Farmington Class 2A Sectional semifinal on Thursday, but then found some magic to upset No. 8 state-ranked Taylor Ridge Rockridge, 56-52.
“It’s just an emotional win tonight,” said Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler, whose team improved to 25-5 ahead of Friday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against No. 7 Monmouth-Roseville (25-4), a squad the Knights beat to win their first sectional title in school history a year ago. “It’s an awesome win for us.
“We had some resolve tonight. We had a lot of heart tonight. We wouldn’t go away.”
The Knights, making their 10th sectional appearance, had to be awesome to overcome the 25 points, eight rebounds and five blocks of 6-foot-7 Wisconsin recruit Ethan Happ. Fieldcrest displayed star power of its own as Kyle Crowley scored 20 points, Brady Sanders 14 and Cole Klendworth 10.
“We did a great job early (stopping Happ),” said Winkler, who used 6-2 freshman Drew Barth to guard Happ for long stretches. “We switched Cole to him. I think that bothered him a little bit. Cole did a nice job on him.”
The Rockets, trailing 41-31 entering the final period, did a nice job forcing a 41-all tie with 5:45 left. It was 43-43 when Crowley put Fieldcrest ahead to stay with a 3-pointer at the 4:35 mark.
“There were a couple guys on Brady and I was open,” Crowley said. “They kicked it to me. It was a big shot. I’m glad I hit it.”
“He was on fire,” said Winkler, who watched Crowley sink three 3-pointers in a 71-second span of the first quarter to put the Knights on top, 11-2. “We tried to get him the ball a couple more times. We just couldn’t find him.”
Crowley finished with four 3-pointers while going 8 for 8 from the field. His layup with 1:02 left made it 53-48.
“I was just very confident and aggressive,” he said. “My teammates got me the ball in position to score. I just shot it and they were falling tonight.”
Happ went 10 of 14 from the field 5 of 7 at the line. He scored 12 points on putbacks as the Rockets managed a 22-19 advantage on the boards.
“We wanted to double him a lot,” Winkler said. “We wanted to deny him. We wanted to make it tough on him.”
Fieldcrest was tough at the free throw line, making 8 of 11 the final 3:52 to keep Rockridge on the ropes. Sanders, who was 5 of 7 at the line, had the ball in his hands a lot down the stretch, which Winkler found comforting.
“I haven’t seen anybody better than him,” Winkler said. “We’ve played a lot of teams and nobody is better than Brady Sanders that I’ve seen in 2A or 1A.”
Sanders was impressed with the Rockets, who trailed 15-6 and 22-18 after each of the first two quarters.
“It’s tough going down low because they just block shots all over,” he said. “They are just a great defensive team.”
Fieldcrest, which got the best of a 12-10 difference in turnovers, had one turnover while winning the third quarter, 19-13.
“We made some key free throws down the stretch,” Winkler said. “We took care of the basketball down the stretch.”
Rockridge, which has never won a sectional, ended the season 23-5 after being outshot from the field, .543 to .380. A Barth free throw with 10.6 seconds left ended the scoring and made Happ’s missed 3-pointer in the final seconds inconsequential.
“We didn’t want the season to be over so we’ll come back tomorrow night and see if we can get it done,” Winkler said. “We like our chances. Monmouth-Roseville is a great team. We’ve got to get a game plan together tonight. There will be a lack of sleep, but that’s OK.
“I can’t believe a year has gone by since we played them. It’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to play just as tough tomorrow night.”
Friday’s winner advances to Tuesday’s 8 p.m. DeKalb Super-sectional.