PARK HILLS – Farmington restricted a usual potent perimeter attack from North County, and battled inside to gradually build a lead during their third meeting of the season on Friday.
The Knights conquered the fight down low, and earned a trip to the MAAA Tournament title game with a 63-48 victory. They will face No. 1 seed Central for the crown on Saturday.
Tycen Gray remained active near the basket throughout the semifinal contest, and paced all players with 25 points and 14 rebounds while adding four steals for Farmington (14-8).
Brendon Hardy added 20 points in the win while being matched defensively against the North County leading scorer.
Hayden Sprenkel led the Raiders with 13 points and seven rebounds, but was held to just one 3-pointer after draining 10 of them in the quarterfinal round. Hunter Johnson knocked down three long-range shots to tally nine points for North County (15-5).
The Raiders focused their interior defense against Cole Laurence early, but Gray provided a boost near the basket to help generate a lead. Gray finished 4-of-4 from the line in the first quarter, while North County went just 1-of-4.
Farmington made 12-of-16 free throws overall, and the Raiders ended 5-of-11.
Each team was held scoreless through two minutes of the second period due to intense defense. Sprenkel snapped the drought by grabbing a defensive rebound, and running the length of the floor to shrink the Raiders' deficit to 17-13.
Laurence recorded two blocks nearing halftime, and finished with seven points. The Knights led 30-18 at the break after Bryce Sancegraw drained a set of foul shots with eight seconds left.
Farmington continued to frequently slash into the lane for high-percentage shots to keep a comfortable edge during the third quarter. Hardy stretched the lead with a 3-pointer while drawing a foul, followed by another perimeter shot from Gray for a 44-26 advantage with three minutes to play.
Johnson opened the fourth period with his third 3-pointer. North County often fired away from long range, but yielded unfavorable results.
Hardy ran out following the North County perimeter shots to earn a jump in transition and add to the lead. He widened the advantage to 57-37 on a turn-around jumper with four minutes to play.
Sancegraw finished with nine points for the Knights.
Isiah Poirrier notched nine points and five rebounds for North County, which battles battle Ste. Genevieve for third place on Saturday.