Vikings come up short in section championship
After losing both of their regular season games against Blooming Prairie (BP), the Hayfield boys’ basketball team was hoping the third time was the charm, but the Awesome Blossoms made sure that didn’t happen by controlling the second half and winning 59-51 on Thursday, March 12.
The Vikings got off to an early 9-4 lead thanks to six points by Luke Dudycha.
Hayfield’s strong start didn’t shock Head Coach Chris Pack.
“We were confident going into the game and it didn’t surprise we got off to a good start,” he said.
BP stormed back with the help of 10 points by Gabe Hagen and held a 20-15 lead with about eight minutes left in the first half.
“Gabe Hagen was able to score in the paint more than we thought he would. He is such a big strong kid. If you double him, he is an excellent passer,” he said.
A couple of Hagen’s passes went to Kaden Thomas who hit a pair of three-pointers.
After another Awesome Blossom basket, the Vikings trailed by seven points, but responded with a 10-1 run to take a 25-23 lead.
“We told the team it would be a game of runs and that we needed to answer theirs and we did a good job of doing that,” said Pack.
With about five minutes left in the half, BP had enough time to answer with an 8-3 run.
“We missed some free throws and an open lay-up that really hurt us in the last couple minutes,” he said.
Hayfield trailed 28-31 at halftime.
During the break, he said the Vikings needed to, “Defend better and not give up so many easy baskets,” in the second half.
However, Pack said a couple things went wrong in the second half: Hayfield’s defense didn’t play better and the Awesome Blossoms’ offense played well.
“You have to get give BP credit for being so efficient on offense,” he said.
The Awesome Blossoms held a nine-point lead with 10 minutes left, but the Vikings trimmed their deficit to four points just a minute and a half later.
He mentioned that BP’s defense prevented Hayfield from getting any closer.
“They contested our shots and didn’t give us easy ones. They really made us work for the shots we got,” he said.
Even though the Vikings’ starters had to work hard throughout the game, Pack said they didn’t get too tired to pull off the comeback.
“They are used to playing big minutes and this game wasn’t played at a fast pace,” he said.
Even though Hayfield ended up losing by eight points, he was happy with how the Vikings competed throughout the game.
“There are always things that could have been differently, but I thought we played okay. BP just played better,” he said.
Being the last game of their high school career, Pack said his seniors had a large impact on the boys’ basketball program.
“It has been huge - four of them played big minutes as sophomores when we went 5-23 and they turned things around to enjoy back-to-back 24-win seasons,” he said.
Hayfield stats: Ethan Slaathaug - 21 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal, Luke Dudycha - 11 points and 15 rebounds, Easton Fritcher - 9 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 steal, Patrick Towey III -6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist, and Isaac Matti -4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal.