VIKINGS FALL IN SEMIS
One week ago, the Hayfield boys basketball team was on cloud nine. The Vikings were coming off an emotional high after getting a last-second win over Blooming Prairie thanks to a buzzer-beating jump shot from Patrick Towey. That 50-48 victory would advance Hayfield to the Section 1A Semifinal, where they would come up with another tall task in top-seeded Spring Grove.
In what was a back-and-forth affair, the Vikings would eventually find themselves on the other end of the coin as Ethan Matzke would hit a jumper at the buzzer to
send the Lions to the section championship and end Hayfield’s season.
The first half of the battle with the Lions saw stretches where both teams would seize the momentum. As part of their emphasis, the Vikings would play sturdy defense and hold Spring Grove without an offensive rebound in the first half. With neither team able to make a run, the Lions would make a late rally to build a 26-20 lead going into the locker room.
“They hit six threes in the first half, but we were holding them to one shot,” Hayfield head coach Chris Pack said. “Once we settled in on offense, we got good shots and took care of the ball, which we stressed coming into the game.”
The Vikings would come out in the second half with on a surge. Keeping up their steady defensive effort, which held the Lions to 33 percent shooting on the night, Hayfield would take charge and be energized by a put-back dunk by Mason Tapp, who had 21 points and four rebounds on the night, midway through the
In front of a raucous crowd in the Mayo Civic Auditorium, the game would come down to the wire after the two teams were tied at 43. With 11 seconds to go, the Vikings had the opportunity to hold for the final shot, but a trap by the Lions would send the ball out of bounds to give themselves one final opportunity.
Spring Grove would go to their leader Alex Folz, but his long three was off the mark. After the Lions got the rebound, the ball would eventually find its way to Matzke, who’s final shot went through the net as the final horn sounded to give the Lions the win and send Hayfield packing.
“That’s March Madness for you,” Pack said.. “The ultimate high after the BP game and the ultimate low after last nights, that’s what happens when you make it deep into the playoffs. The wins are always sweeter and the losses hurt that much more, especially when they are close games decided in the last seconds. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though and that’s what makes sports so enjoyable for everyone involved with them.”
As the season comes to an end, the Vikings have plenty of reasons to hold their head up. After winning just five games last year, Hayfield flipped the script and went 24-5. Their 13-1 record in the Gopher Conference also gave them a share of the title in their inaugural season, which was something that stood out to Pack after the game had ended.
“Just the turnaround we had with the same guys we had last year,” Pack said. “The improvements all of our guys made was so evident and they were a great group to work with."