State tournament provides preview of what’s to come for Lakeville North

Without leading scorer Connor Flack, the Panthers underclassman rose to the challenge and put Lakeville North in the final four

Nick Kelly, Editor-In-Chief

After a season in which Lakeville North won the 2014 Class AAAA state boys’ basketball championship, the Panthers experienced a mass exodus the following season.

Mr. Basketball Finalist J.P. Macura left the Panthers for Xavier University after scoring over 40 points in the state final while sparking the team with big-plays throughout the season. Also graduating with Macura were key contributors in Bronson Bruneau and Alex Reiland and reserves such as Nick Oblak.

Yet even with this class of seniors leaving to go along with an up-and-down regular season in 2014-2015, the Panthers found their way back to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive year where they’ll finish in the top four.

With the worst regular season finish in the past four years, the Panthers surprised many with a top four finish and Lakeville North head coach John Oxton is more than pleased with his squad.

“The season started with 64 teams and there are only four teams left,” Oxton noted. “There are only four teams who get to play on the last day of the season and that’s quite an honor.”

Perhaps even more pleasing for Oxton is Lakeville North’s ability to find a way to win despite missing their leading scorer, senior forward Connor Flack, for the state tournament due to inflamed vertebrae in his lower back.

Without Flack and only two other seniors who played significant minutes in 2014-2015, the Panthers display at the 2015 state tournament may be a preview of what’s to come.

Juniors Carter Brooks and Drew Stewart led the offensive attack for Lakeville North in Flack’s absence, scoring a combined 52 points through two games. Plus, with a sophomore team that only lost one game this season and a freshman team that lost less than five games in 2014-2015, Oxton can’t help but be optimistic of where his team is headed next year and beyond.

“You could tell a lot of the kids who were playing pretty well [in the state tournament] were underclassman,” Oxton said. “I think we have a very bright future.”