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Boys basketball: Irish upset Eagan in section

There wasn't much doubt in Rosemount junior Evan Mitchell's mind, but he admits to being a bit hesitant.

The 6-foot guard for the Irish boys basketball team felt his 12-foot jumper was headed for the bottom of the net and Rosemount was headed for the semifinals of the Class 4A, Section 3 tournament.

However, Mitchell didn't want to start celebrating prematurely.

"I knew it was in, but I was just hoping at the same time," Mitchell said after hitting a floating jump shot in the lane with 4.6 seconds remaining to give the Irish a 60-59 victory against Eagan in the first round of the section tournament on Tuesday.

The Irish will face No. 3 seed Apple Valley in the semifinals Saturday at Skoglund Arena in St. Paul.

Tuesday's game-winner didn't unfold as Rosemount planned, but Mitchell made the most of the opportunity.

Trailing 59-58, Irish coach Bryan Schnettler called a timeout with 7.7 seconds left and drew up three options. Andrew Nelson went to the corner, Matt Nelson went into the post and Mitchell was supposed to flash out to the top of the three-point line.

But the inbounds pass was tipped and Mitchell reacted. He jumped for the ball, drove to the lane and elevated. After Mitchell connected, Alex Timmers intercepted the Wildcats' inbounds pass and Rosemount advanced.

"The pass was tipped there. I just tried to grab it and score as fast as I can," Mitchell said.

Mitchell finished with nine points.

"He can score, there's no question," Schnettler said. "He hit some big shots, some big floaters down the stretch."

Matt Nelson led the Irish with 16 points. Andrew Nelson added 15 points.

Perhaps the biggest key for the Irish was improved ball security, especially in the second half. Rosemount had 12 turnovers.

"I'm guessing a majority of them were in the first half," Schnettler said. "We told them, 'Last time we played them we had 24 turnovers. If we keep it at 14 or under, we're going to win.' We kept it to 12. We still have some things we can improve on, but hey, this time of year you take what you can get."

Eagan was the No. 2 seed in the section tournament, with the Irish taking the No. 7 seed. Tuesday's night's matchup might not have been a typical two versus seven matchup though.

Rosemount lost twice to the Wildcats during the regular season, but each was by two points. The Irish lost at Eagan two weeks ago on a buzzer-beating shot.

Schnettler feels his team has been different since the last loss.

"We're a good team and I really feel since we lost here two weeks ago, we're really improved," Schnettler said. "Our guys have been focused. Most important, we've dialed in and have been competing. It paid off (Tuesday)."

All season long, Schnettler believed his team had the ability to play with the best teams in the conference and section. Tuesday night's results further proved his theory.

"I've told our guys, and this sounds ridiculous, but we're the best 6-20 team in the history of the state," Schnettler said. "We've lost eight games by two or less. We're not bad. We just haven't been good enough to win. We believed. We kept fighting and we finally came out on the right end."

Rosemount is certainly aware of the challenge presented by its next opponent.

The Irish lost 66-64 against Apple Valley in the regular-season finale last week. Jeff Ruhl led Rosemount with 15 points. Matt Nelson had 14 and Andrew Nelson scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds.

Apple Valley has won 11 of its last 12 games after beating Burnsville 72-49 in the first round on Tuesday.

"Valley's playing really well," Schnettler said. "They're good. They've got two Division I kids on their team. So, they're a tough matchup."

Top seed Eastview will play No. 4 seed Lakeville South in the other semifinal on Saturday. Game times are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Irish will likely play in the 8 p.m. game.

"There's nobody that we can't play with; nobody we can't beat," Schnettler said. "It's just sometimes you come out on the right end and sometimes you don't.

"We deserved (Tuesday's win). If anybody deserved it, we deserved it."