Vikings clamp down on Athletics, will face Southland in title tilt

Published 10:47 pm Monday, March 22, 2021

ROCHESTER — Hayfield senior Ethan Slaathaug has scored a lot of points this season and Monday night was no different for the play-maker.

But it was his team’s defense that had Slaathaug excited after the Vikings locked down a fast paced Lyle-Pacelli team for much of the night in a 57-47 win in the Section 1A semifinals at Rochester John Marshall.

No. 3 seeded Hayfield (17-4 overall) jumped out to a 21-5 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game as they controlled the pace from the start. Slaathaug put up 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the win and went on a personal 5-0 spurt after L-P’s Buay Koak hit a three to bring the No. 2 Athletics (18-3 overall) within 23-10 with 4:30 left in the half.

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The Athletics had won their previous 11 games, but they struggled from the field throughout the first half.

“At first I was a little surprised,” Slaathaug said. “I really thought they might come out with a little more firepower, but they weren’t doing anything wrong. It’s just that our defense was so good and this game was much different than any other game. We really put the clamps on them and everybody worked their tails off on defense.”

Hayfield’s defensive dominance started at the top as Kobe Foster harassed L-P point guard Cole Walter for much of the night. Walter usually gets the Athletics running, but Foster helped hold him to five points.

“I had a lot of help on defense. It’s a tough matchup for me to go against someone with his speed. I knew I had defense behind me to help me, and they’re trusting me to make a play on him,” Foster said. “We’re playing for each other and we trust our teammates out there. We’re hungry. We fell short last year to Blooming and we’re not overthinking it this year.”

The Athletics came out with improved energy in the second half as Zach Bollingberg hit a three to bring them within 34-18 with 15:30 left and Walter scored to make it 34-20 with 13:35 left.

Hayfield put the game away with a 7-0 run that made it 40-22. The lead was as big as 23 before L-P made a late push.

“It all started with Kobe Foster. He was outstanding on Walter,” Hayfield head coach Chris Pack said. “That was incredible defense and we know how quick Cole is. We made sure that Cole couldn’t turn the corner and other guys were there to help out on him.”

Hayfield played much of the first half without Easton Frichter, one of the team’s top defenders and rebounders, but the Vikings didn’t miss a beat as Karver Heydt came in and did the dirty work.

“Karver really stepped up. He’s not going to stuff the stat sheet, but his defense in the post on Jed Nelson was big,” Pack said. “Those were huge minutes and he made Jed work for everything he got.”

Isaac Matti had 12 points and five assists for Hayfield and Sam Nelsen had 10 points and five rebounds for L-P.

Hayfield will play No. 1 Southland for the Section 1A title and a trip to state at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Rochester Mayo. The Rebels beat Hayfield 71-69 in Hayfield on March 11.

Slaathaug has now played in three Section 1A semifinal games in his career and he is now ready to play in his second Section 1A title game.

“We’re just another step closer to the goal and that’s state and then winning state,” Slaathaug said.

Hayfield 32  25  —  57

Lyle-Pacelli 11  36  —  47

Hayfield scoring: Ethan Slaathaug, 28; Isaac Matti, 12; Ethan Pack, 8; Kobe Foster, 5; Easton Fritcher, 4; free throws: 67 percent (10-for-15); rebounds: 33 (Slaathaug, 7); turnovers: 13

LP scoring: Buay Koak, 13; Sam Nelsen, 10; Zach Bollingberg, 8; Jed Nelson, 6; Cole Walter, 5; Jake Truckenmiller, 2; free throws: 50 percent (5-for-10); rebounds: 19 (Nelsen, 5); turnovers: 13