The Prior Lake boys basketball team saw its South Suburban Conference title hopes fade Feb. 22.
Fifth-ranked Lakeville North earned a 77-63 home win over the No. 2 Lakers, snapping Prior Lake's nine-game winning streak.
Prior Lake (21-2 overall, 14-1 in the SSC) also lost 77-68 at home to Lakeville North back on Jan. 22. That loss ended the Lakers' 12-game win streak.
Senior Dawson Garcia played that first game against Lakeville North, but missed the second contest. In fact, Garcia, the team's leading scorer at 27.5 points per game, has missed 10 straight games with a stress fracture.
There was speculation Garcia would return against Lakeville North, but he was on the bench. It was probably a wise move by Prior Lake not to rush Garcia back.
Would you rather win a conference title or a section crown? Prior Lake has not made the state field since winning back-to-back Class AA state titles in 1977-78.
The Lakers look to be the No. 1 seed in Section 2AAAA. There are three other ranked teams in the field — No. 6 Shakopee (19-5), No. 7 Edina (15-8) and No. 10 Chaska (19-5), along with defending champion Eden Prairie (15-9), a team that's been ranked all season before falling out of the latest Class 4A poll.
Other teams in the field: Minnetonka (12-12), Chanhassen (15-9) and Bloomington Jefferson (10-13).
Prior Lake will close out the regular season with two SSC games — versus Apple Valley Feb. 26 and at Rosemount March 1. Both start at 7 p.m. Seeds for Section 2AAAA come out March 2.
Meanwhile, in the loss to Lakeville North, Prior Lake was down 40-32 at the break and made some runs at the Panthers in the second half, but could never overtake them.
Senor Robert Jones led the Lakers with 19 points, while senior Sam Nissen scored 16. Senior Colin O'Connor added nine points, while senior Jackyse Jacox and junior Tyree Ihenacho both scored seven and senior Jake Veldman had five.
Lakeville North's final two SSC games are at Lakeville South and home to Farmington. If the Panthers were two slip in one of those games, the Lakers could still share the SSC crown.
Two Prior Lake wins and two Lakeville North losses and the title goes to the Lakers.