It was a trip to the Class 1A State Boys Basketball Tournament that was earned by the Awesome Blossom boys basketball team but it will not be made as the team was knocked out before the tournament even began.
The Blossoms were knocked out of the tournament by the coronavirus. On Friday, all boys and girls state tournament games were cancelled by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) for public health concerns.
The scenario is difficult to follow at times because the seriousness of the outbreak grew by the minute.
Let's get back to the Section 1A championship game on Thursday, March 12. The outcome: Blooming Prairie defeated Hayfield, 59-51, to earn a trip to state in Class 1A action.
The Blossoms played one of their best games of the year, said an ecstatic Coach Nate Piller. "Our boys have worked so hard for this and it will be a great memory for them," he remarked.
"They (Vikings) couldn't stop Gabe tonight," said Piller.
Hagen was able to use his strength to power toward the basket and make some easy two-point shots against Viking defender Luke Dudycha. Hagen scored 17 points in the first half to help his team lead 31-28 at halftime. He scored 23 for the evening to be the top scorer on the floor.
It wasn't all Hagen, however, on this particular night. Some sharp shooting from Kaden Thomas and Drew Kittelson pulled the Blossoms ahead late in the second half. Thomas had 14 points for the night and Kittelson followed with 12. Ethan Slaathaug led Hayfield with 21 points.
The Blossoms' bench of Parker Vaith, Zach Weber, Zach Archer and Isaac Ille helped the Awesome Blossoms keep their lead.
Hayfield took control early, leading 9-6. The Blossoms then pulled ahead at 16-13 at the 11:02 mark. The lead then changed hands several times with Hayfield leading 24-23 with 4:53 remaining in the first half.
The game was tied at 27-all at the 2:16 mark. Hayfield went ahead 28-27 but the Blossoms came back with two points to lead 29-28. The Blossoms went ahead on a two-pointer by Zach Weber and saved a 31-28 halftime lead.
Hagen kept showing his strength underneath the basket and Thomas sank two threes to move the Blossoms ahead to stay. They enjoyed a 37-29 lead and then a 40-21 advantage.
Hagen was also intimidating on defense blocking a couple of Hayfield shots. Kittelson also blocked a shot. With 4:02 left, Isaac Ille fouled out. A two-pointer by Kittelson put the Blossoms on top, 53-45. The Vikings pulled within six at 57-51 but trips to the free throw line by Thomas and Kittelson put the Blossoms ahead to stay.
"We handled everything they threw at us and kept our composure," said Coach Piller. "It was a total team effort.”
Senior Thomas said defense was the difference in this game. Coach Piller agreed with Thomas, saying the BP defense was tough enough to force some turnovers and difficult shots.
The Blossoms offense was also tough with Hagen leading the way. "They doubled me and then I went to work," Hagen said.
"Gabe was just unstoppable at times," said a gleeful Coach Piller.
"It was a great experience for the team and now we just practice and wait for the state to tell us what's next," said Piller.
What's next? The season is over for all boys and girls high school basketball teams because of a decision by the MSHSL in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Blossoms set a record in wins, finishing with a 25-3 record.