BONNE TERRE – The North County boys basketball team clearly learned a lesson after squandering a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead to Farmington two weeks ago.
Nothing was left to chance this time by the Raiders, who answered a final push by the rival Knights on Friday night to secure a 65-51 conference win before a capacity crowd.
The result was especially satisfying for eight North County seniors and fourth-year head coach Jimmy Palmer after Farmington had won the previous 14 battles in a row.
Hayden Sprenkel totaled 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and exhaled deeply while dribbling away the final seconds. He was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter.
The Knights most recently rallied for a 51-50 triumph at the Central Christmas Tournament. That game was mostly remembered for an injury substitution that preceded a decisive free throw with 2.3 seconds remaining. Postgame rumors regarding the validity of that finish fueled an already simmering rivalry.
North County (12-3, 2-0) gained its revenge after dominating the first seven minutes of the rematch and maintaining enough energy and distance to prevent any cause for further controversy.
Hunter Johnson sank a 3-pointer, and ensuing second-chance field goals by Sprenkel and Karson Kekec restored a 40-25 advantage with 1:37 left in the third quarter
Farmington (8-6, 1-1) mounted a stern response as Jackson Schrum drove the baseline for a basket with contact. Brendon Hardy followed with a deep 3-pointer to help shrink the margin to 40-33.
But the Raiders refused to fold, and used pure hustle to seal the outcome. Johnson, who connected on three triples in the game, chased down and saved a long offensive rebound in the corner.
North County created two more shots during that possession, and Sprenkel buried a triple for a 53-38 margin moments after finding Tyler Johnston for a running bank shot.
Isiah Poirrier netted nine of his 10 points before the break, and Johnson added nine to the win. The team could square off again in MAAA and district tournament action.
Brendon Hardy had 16 points, and Tycen Gray compiled 11 points with 14 rebounds to pace Farmington, but neither player was allowed to create an extended scoring run.
The Knights successfully passed the ball into the post during the early going, but missed their first nine shots from the field, including a number of contested tries from close range.
Hardy followed own miss to finally snap the drought, but two baskets from Sprenkel and a Poirrier 3-pointer had already established a 10-0 North County lead.
Cameron Friend provided 11 points off the Farmington bench, and brought the visitors to within 17-10 on a corner triple in the second quarter.
North County retaliated with a perimeter push. Johnson and Sprenkel drained big shots, and Jon Starkey added another off the bench to highlight an 11-0 run.
Sprenkel dropped in a floater to create the largest differential of the contest at 28-10, but North County had its halftime lead trimmed to 30-20.
Hardy scored twice, and Gray converted a wide-open inbounds layup as Farmington closed the stanza with a quick 10-2 run.
Nick Parker made three of his game-high four steals in the first five minutes as a defensive spark for the Raiders.
Student sections from both schools stood for the duration, and players from neighboring schools were in attendance on a cold night after several games around the area were postponed.