Eagles knock off Vikings

Published 9:48 pm Monday, March 14, 2011

Hayfield senior Tyler Krekling takes it to the hoop against Maple River's T.J. Nowak during the Vikings' 49-40 loss in the Section 2AA South Division finals in Mankato Monday. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

MANKATO — It’s been awhile since the Vikings have played in Mankato and it showed in the Section 2AA South Division boys basketball title game in the Taylor Center Monday.

The No. 3 seeded Vikings (17-11 overall) had more turnovers (18) than they usually do and they missed all five of their free throws in a 49-40 loss to top-seeded Maple River (23-5 overall) to end their season.

Hayfield guard Bobbie Stephens dribbles past Maslakow of Maple River in Mankato Monday. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

“It’s a lot different than playing in Hayfield,” said Hayfield freshman guard Cole Kruger, who had eight points, eight rebounds and two assists. “The lighting was different, the court was bigger and there were a lot more seats with more people.”

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Hayfield led 24-20 after Kruger came up with a steal and a lay-up early in the second half but Maple River responded with a 8-0 run that was sparked by some Hayfield giveaways.

“They pressured the ball very well and we just didn’t handle it like we have all year,” Hayfield head coach Chris Pack said. “We prepared for that trap and we panicked a little bit. We didn’t take our time like we needed to and we tried to dribble through it. Cole at times played like a freshman, but he’s been really solid for as all year and we’ve got to go with what got us here.”

Kruger scored to make it 30-29 Maple River, but Josiah Breiter converted a steal into a lay-up to push the Eagles lead back up to 32-29. Maple River scored the next six points to go up nine with six and a half minutes left.

Hayfield got as close as 44-40 with 1:19 left but after Maple River’s T.J. Nowak made one of two free throws, Hayfield’s Brady Kramer, who had eight points and nine rebounds, missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Hayfield point guard Cole Kruger dribbles past Maple River's Jaron Denn in the second half of the Eagles' 49-40 win in the Taylor Center in Mankato Monday. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Hayfield also struggled with its offense in the first half. After a solid start, the Vikings hit a seven-minute drought before Bobbie Stephens, who had 12 points on four-of-six shooting behind the arc, drilled a three to make it 18 apiece with 1:43 left in the first half.

“We had too long of a drought in the first half when we had opportunities to take the lead,” Pack said. “We missed some shots we don’t normally miss and we didn’t make a free throw all night. It’s tough to leave points out there.”

Kruger had his chances inside, but he was never able to consistenly find his mark against an aggressive Maple River defense.

“I should’ve put them in, but I couldn’t get the bank to go in,” Kruger said.

Hayfield will graduate just one starter as it hopes to make playing in Mankato an annual tradition. But things won’t necessarily be that easy.

“A lot of people didn’t give us a shot to get to this point (this year) and we played some great games (in the postseason),” Pack said. “It’s something to build on, but there’s no guarantee we’re ever going to get back here unless we work at it. Hopefully it drives them until November.”

Hayfield 18 22 — 40

MR 18 31 — 49

Hayfield scoring: Bobbie Stephens, 12; Cole Kruger, 8; Brady Kramer, 8; Brady Stevens, 6; Tyler Krekling, 4; Tyler Anderson, 2; free throws: 0 percent (0-for-5); rebounds: 30 (Kramer, 9; Kruger, 8); turnovers: 18

Maple River scoring: T.J. Nowak, 13; Jaron Denn, 10; Josiah Breiter, 8; Alex Maskalow, 6; Clark Minks, 4; Tyler Wendt, 4; Cullen Waiser, 2; Ryan Sohre, 2; free throws: 67 percent (8-for-12); rebounds: 32 (Denn, 8; Minks, 8); turnovers: 12