The three-time defending State Champion Minneota Vikings are in the championship game again after defeating previously undefeated Hayfield 53-45 in semifinals action today at Williams Arena.

Minneota (28-4) was not seeded by the coaches in the tournament.  I realize this is a different team but their four losses were against state rated teams including 2A Goodhue.

So they came into the tournament with a bit of a chip on their shoulder just like Hayfield.

Hayfield was undefeated and received the #5 seed.  Both teams had scares in their first games with Minneota scoring six big points in the final minute to force their game with top ranked, top seed Mountain Iron-Buhl into overtime before they prevailed by three points.

Hayfield saw a 13 point halftime lead against Cass Lake-Bena slip away about two and a half minutes into the second half before they righted the team to finish with a 10 point victory and move to the raised floor.

The Vikings ship for Hayfield began to crumble when leading scorer Sophomore 5'4 Kristen Watson coming off a 30 point, 15 rebound effort got into foul trouble.  She would finish the game with 9 points, 4 rebounds while playing 27:07.

Hayfield enjoyed the largest lead of the game but it's the final score that counts.  Hayfield had a 12 point lead with 8 minutes to go in the first half thanks in large point to Minneota turning the ball over.

The Vikings of Minneota had 11 first half turnovers and Hayfield scored 12 points off those.

You don't win back to back to back state titles without being able to make in game adjustments and develop a culture of finishing games.

The first thing Minneota did was take better care of the ball finishing with 13 total turnovers.  The next thing was ratchet up their defense a bit to make Hayfield feel a bit more uncomfortable on their dribble drives.

It also resulted in Hayfield turnovers.  After committing only 3 in the first half they finished with 12.  Points off turnovers in the end were 13 for Hayfield, 10 for Minneota.

Points in the paint Minneota led 26 to 14.  Even with 16 offensive rebounds the Vikings of Minneota only scored 8 second chance points to Hayfield's 6.

The Vikings of Hayfield had 6 offensive rebounds.

The rebound disparity was a key reason Minneota is playing Hancock for a state title Saturday.  38 to 24 in favor of the defending state champions.

Minneota also rarely allowed Watson to have any clean looks inside the paint and planted people in the lane so when she would leave her feet to shoot it might end in an offensive foul.  Two of them did.

15:54 to go in the game it was tied 30-30 when Watson picked up her 4th foul and sat on the bench for exactly 5 minutes before coming back.

Hayfield was able to keep it close and even got a 37-36 lead with 9:59 to go in regulation.

Hayfield senior Aine Stasko was also in foul trouble and played just 9 minutes in the first half.  She picked up her fourth foul with 9:25 to go in the second half.

From that point on Minneota senior 5'10 Natalee Rolbiecki was unstoppable.

Minneota would clear a side and let her go to the basket time after time.  She finished with 29 points.  The only Minneota player in double figures.

Hayfield had their chances to regain the lead.  From 7:12 until 3:44 to go the score was Minneota up 44-42.

Hayfield had six possessions during that time frame.  A couple of times they tried to get Watson open on a back cut but Minneota was ready for it and would intercept the pass.

Senior 5'2 McKenna Chick buried a 3 point basket with 1:03 to go giving Hayfield some hope (score 49-45).

That came after Stasko fouled out with 1:38 to go and Watson fouled out with 1:36 to go in the contest.

Total fouls called in the game were 17 against Hayfield, 15 against Minneota.

Free throw shooting ended with Hayfield going 13 of 19 (68.4%) and Minneota 8 of 14 (57.1%).

Chick's three point basket earned the Cashwise Foods and Pharmacy of Owatonna Delivery of the Game award.

Hayfield's (32-1) dream of a unbeaten season ending in a state title is over but they can be one of only two teams in Minnesota Class A basketball to finish the season with a win.

They will play #2 seed Mayer Lutheran for third place at 11:00 a.m. Saturday on the Concordia University St. Paul Campus.  Coverage on KDHL AM 920, 97.9 FM, FREE KDHL app starts 10:45 a.m.

Steps to go to Broadcast Area at Williams Arena University of Minnesota. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Steps to go to Broadcast Area at Williams Arena University of Minnesota. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
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The Crusaders were clobbered by the #3 seed Hancock Owls (29-1) 71-40.

The score at halftime was 36-17 in favor of Hancock.

Owls hoot right?  One letter short of shoot and man did they ever.  12 three point baskets in 18 attempts compared to 1 of 7 from three point range for Mayer Lutheran.

Hancock was 15 of 18 from the free throw line while the Crusaders were 7 of 12.

Mayer Lutheran tallied 27 rebounds, Hancock 25.

The Crusaders have more size but Hayfield has been faced with that virtually all season.

Mayer Lutheran was led in their semifinals loss by junior 5'11 Madeline Guetzkow with 13 points, 7 rebounds.  Senior 6'1 Julia Carns had 11 points, 6 carems.

Hancock was paced by Sophomore 5'9 Kaitlyn Staples 17 points, freshman 5'7 Kaitlyn Rohloff had 17, senior Rylee Hanson finished with 16 points and senior 5'7 Carlee Hanson 10 points, 11 reboounds, 5 assists.

Hancock forced 18 Mayer Lutheran turnovers while committing 14 themselves.

Mayer Lutheran never led in the game which almost got to running time.

At 9:00 a.m. Saturday, March 19, 2022 the Class Consolation Final features Mountain Iron-Buhl going up against Nevis at Concordia St. Paul.

Section 203 Broadcast Area for Radio in The Barn. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Section 203 Broadcast Area for Radio in The Barn. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
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