Vikings are ready for state tournamentPublished 8:19pm Monday, March 18, 2013
HAYFIELD — The last time the Hayfield boys basketball team went to the state tournament, Brady Kramer was in first grade and he had a blue spiked mohawk as he watched his cousin play for the Vikings.
This time around, Kramer is a senior forward in his third year as a varsity starter, along with fellow senior center Brady Stevens and junior guard Cole Kruger.
“We’re the best of the buds and this is the best way we can possibly finish it,” Kramer said.
Kramer and Kruger are both career 1,000 point scorers and Stevens is the team’s defensive anchor. Hayfield head coach Chris Pack said the trio gives his team a huge boost in experience and skill.
“It’s rare to get three year starters and it’s even more rare to get three of them together,” he said. “They’re a big part of our success. They’ve been in so many games and so many situations and they don’t get fazed when teams make a run against us.”
Pack was the head coach of the team that went to state in 2001, but it was his first year at the helm. He’s seen this group grow over the last four seasons, from when they couldn’t get past the first round, to when they couldn’t get past the subsection title game for two years in a row.
“I was spoiled the first year and I felt bad because there were so many great coaches that never make it to state,” Pack said. “I was able to do it in one year with a great group of players.”
The Vikings (22-7 overall) are riding high on confidence as they prepare for their matchup with Esko (26-4 overall) in the Class ‘AA’ quarterfinals at Williams Arena Wednesday at 8 p.m. Hayfield beat No. 3 ranked Maple River 57-55 and topped No. 4 ranked St. Peter 56-51 to get to state.
“We have quite a bit of confidence after those two big wins. We know we can play with anybody,” Stevens said. “It won’t be easy and we’ll have to play tough just like the last two games. We’re not gonna win a huge scoring battle. We’ve got to get stops.”
Kruger said the Vikings are hoping to get to the Target Center for the first time. The team had planned to play regular season games there before, but they were bumped for other events.
“We got kicked out by a ballet, by Elmo and the WWE,” Kruger said. “We’re not just happy to get there. We’re going up there to win state. Next year we could have one bad game and be out any time. We might as well take advantage of it now.”
The Eskomos feature a lineup of tall players, but they like to stick to the perimeter and hoist 3-pointers.
Pack said Esko is athletic, but he thinks Hayfield is prepared for what it will be up against.
“We’ve played pretty much every type of team we can play,” Pack said. “Southland was guard orientated, Maple River was a good combination of both and St. Peter had a big kid that they were centered around. We’ve seen it all and hopefully we can adjust to whatever they do.”
Pack was surprised to see his team earn the No. 3 seed, which was the same seed it had in the Section 2AA South playoffs. In that tournament, the Vikings knocked off the No. 2 seed and two top-seeded teams to get to state.
“Hopefully that’s an omen. I was hoping for four or five and I thought three was a long shot,” Pack said. “We’ve got to keep playing hard on defense. We’ve held some pretty high scoring teams down in the forties and fifties.”
If Hayfield wins on Wednesday, it will play the winner of No. 2 Litchfield (24-6 overall) and Redwood Valley (24-5 overall) at Target Center Friday at 8 p.m.
tourney at a glance
QRF Ranking: No. 11
Points per game: 53.0
Points against per game: 40.4
How they got to state: Byron 58, Dover-Eyota 20; Byron 51, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 47; Byron 43, Rochester Lourdes 40; Bryon 57, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 54, OT
QRF Ranking: No. 9
Points per game: 59.7
Points against per game: 52.0
How they got to state: Hayfield 70, Medford 57; Hayfield 54, Southland 48; Hayfield 57, Maple River 55; Hayfield 57, St. Peter 51
Redwood Valley Cardinals
QRF Ranking: No. 15
Points per game: 65.7
Points against per game: 50.9
How they got to state: Redwood Valley 77, Yellow Medicine East 29; Redwood Valley 63, BOLD 46; Redwood Valley 57, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 50; Redwood Valley 72, Fairmont 53
Minnehaha Academy Redhawks
QRF Ranking: No. 1
Points per game: 67.3
Points against per game: 58.9
How they got to state: Minnehaha Academy 60, St. Paul Academy 50; Minnehaha Academy 84, Brooklyn Center 63; Minnehaha Academy 83, Breck 62
QRF Ranking: No. 10
Points per game: 67.8
Points against per game: 58.1
How they got to state: Annandale 73, Milaca 43; Annandale 75, Maple Lake 40; Annandale 84, St. Cloud Cathedral 74; Annandale 60, Mayer Lutheran 38
QRF Ranking: No. 2
Points per game: 61.8
Points against per game: 48.6
How they got to state: Litchfield 64, Paynesville Area 36; Litchfield 52, Eden Valley-Watkins 21; Litchfield 69, New London Spicer 51; Litchfield 73, Melrose 59
QRF Ranking: No. 12
Points per game: 71.7
Points against per game: 49.5
How they got to state: Esko 72, Aitkin 48; Esko 80, Braham 70; Esko 51, Virginia 47; Esko 64, Mora 63
QRF Ranking: No. 14
Points per game: 65.2
Points against per game: 48.4
How they got to state: Perham 61, Frazee 27; Perham 57, Pelican Rapids 53; Perham 67, Hawley 55; Perham 50, Crosby-Inronton 42
Wednesday’s first round games: No. 1 Minnehaha Academy vs. Perham at Target Center, 6 p.m.; No. 4 Bryon vs. No. 5 Annandale at Target Center, 8 p.m.; No. 2 Litchfield vs. Redwood Valley at Williams Arena, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Hayfield vs. Esko at Williams Arena, 8 p.m.