Anoka led by as many as 12 points in the second half but couldn’t put away Eden Prairie (13-6) until the end of a 58-55 non-conference win, Thursday night in Anoka.
The Tornadoes used size advantage to neutralize Eden Prairie’s speed, especially on defense in its 2-3 zone that frustrated the Eagles at times.
“We’re so big, it’s really tough and it was something new,” Anoka coach Scott Antl said about the defense to send Eden Prairie to its fourth consecutive loss.
Anoka opened a busy and very difficult week of games with a 65-49 loss at Maple Grove, Feb. 11. The Tornadoes had little time off with a Valentine’s Day game against Champlin Park before hosting Northwest Suburban Conference leader Centennial Feb. 18.
Anoka senior Claire Lundberg had 21 points making 9-10 free throws and Kyrah Fredenburg added 11 points in her return after a week off from a shoulder injury to help the Tornadoes improve to 11-4.
“It was good to get her into game-shape again,” Antl said after losing Fredenburg against Park Center. “With her out we struggled. She’s really the main leader of this offense.”
Eden Prairie’s Jayla Mayes-Jackson had a game-high 23 points including 9-for-9 in free throws in the second half after scoring 12 points in the first half.
Mayes-Jackson made both free throws to tie the game at 20 just before halftime.
“They know what it takes from an intensity level, keep that high defense and we can compete with any team,” Antl said.
Out of the break, Anoka continued to push the tempo with outlet passes as much as possible.
Six seconds into the second half Lundberg caught the long-pass in the lane and laid the ball off the glass for a 22-20 lead.
A running jump-shot from Lundberg followed by a lay-up by Fredenburg sparked a 10-1 run to start the half and induce an Eagles time out with 12:24 left.
Lundberg sank a three-pointer in front of the Anoka bench out of the time out to grow the lead to 33-21.
“Coach gave us a little pep talk at the half and that got us going,” Lundberg said about the offensive spark to start the second half.
Eden Prairie went on its own run, 14-5 over five minutes to trail 38-35 with 6:37 left.
“On the road against a really good team, we gave ourselves a chance to tie the game and that’s what you want,” Carr said. “Anoka’s a good team. They’ve got good length and size and are a tough team.”
Eden Prairie was without junior Emma Boehm, the second leading scorer, third in rebounds, second in assists, leader in blocks and steals and is averaging about four steals a game.
He added giving 30-plus points from the foul line is tough to compete with when they lost 12-of-19 games by six points or less.
“From that regard, we are battle tested because these moments are going to help us down the road and that’s part of the game,” Carr said, referring to Hopkins losing consecutive games two months ago and then won 12 in a row. “Those are part of what builds character.”
Part of that scoring surge from the Eagles came from the hot-hand of junior guard Anna Lindgren. She made three, three-pointers from near the same spot in the corner of the floor in front of the Eagles bench.
From that point on Anoka couldn’t push the lead thanks to an ultra aggressive Eagles press defense that forced Anoka into poor decisions. Mayes-Jackson scored from three-feet out with 19.4 seconds left to make it 57-55.
In the following in-bounds, Lundberg was fouled and made both free throws for the final score, 58-55.
Mayes-Jackson was trapped in a double-team in the final seconds and somehow passed the ball off to Lindgren who’s three pointer clanked off the iron to preserve the win for Anoka.
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