PARK HILLS – Reliable defense brought the top-seeded Farmington girls basketball team its first MAAA Tournament championship since the 2009-10 season on Saturday evening.
The Knights forced 21 turnovers against North County, and overcame a drastic rebounding margin for a 41-35 win that epitomized a low-scoring regular season across the conference.
Farmington (18-2) knocked off a second consecutive state-ranked opponent after edging West County in the semifinal round, and held both to 35 points or less.
Junior forward Jade Roth provided four field goals in the third quarter, and capped a strong week with a game-high 17 points along with four blocks in the victory.
The Large-School division regular season concluded in a three-way tie that also included Central. But the Knights outlasted the entire 12-team field to collect their third title trophy this season.
Kamryn Winch was a standout force in the paint for North County (16-5) with another lofty double-double comprised of 16 points and 20 rebounds.
The Lady Raiders offered a much tougher challenge in the rematch of a 28-point blistering last month, but could only induce nine turnovers from the patient Knights.
Hanna Politte guided a short interior lob on the run as Winch scored to bring North County, which still had three fouls to give late in the fourth quarter, to within 37-35.
Farmington countered with superb execution on a designed inbounds play. Connecting passes from Roth and Skylar Sweeney set up Angelia Davis for a crucial layup with a minute remaining.
The Lady Raiders squandered their next possession on a pass out of bounds, and Sweeney applied two insurance free throws while finishing with seven points.
Davis compiled nine points, six rebounds and four assists, and displayed her athleticism by dribbling end to end for a transition layup and 18-14 halftime edge.
Both clubs focused on attacking primarily through their leading scorers out of the break, as Roth and Winch each produced eight points during the third quarter.
Winch created her own offense with three putbacks, while Roth punctuated the stanza with a driving layup and pull-up jumper that staked Farmington to a 30-24 lead.
North County coach Joe Arnold called three timeouts within a span of 90 seconds to correct defensive mistakes, including one that surrendered a streaking layup to Sweeney.
Knights guard Anna McKinney generated four steals, including a stellar play at midcourt to maintain a dribble from her knees. She helped limit dynamic guard Paris Larkin to three points.
Senior forward Emma Gaugel scored eight points for the Lady Raiders in a physical contest that saw multiple players draw admonition from officials for contact away from the ball.
North County capped the first quarter leading 9-8 after senior Kate Jones salvaged a hurried possession by nailing a 3-pointer as time expired.
Lauren Politte added a corner triple for a 14-10 cushion, but a second 3-pointer by freshman Maddie Mills helped the Knights answer with an 8-0 run over the next 5 ½ minutes.
Fourth-ranked Farmington is soon likely to receive the No. 1 seed for a nine-team Class 5 district that also includes North County.