Hayfield’s Matti shines in new role as Vikings down Rebels

Published 9:53 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

ADAMS – Hayfield has a similar lineup as it had last year when it beat the Southland Rebels in the Section 1A title game en route to a state title, but the Vikings had one player playing a much bigger role as Hayfield handled Southland 75-51 in Adams Thursday.

Hayfield junior Isaac Matti has taken over the role of graduate Ethan Slaathaug, who put up 40 against Southland in the Section 1A title game last season. Slaathaug was watching Matti from the stands on Thursday and Matti did his best impersonation of the former Viking as he posted 29 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“E scored a lot of points last year and any time he had the ball, he was going to try and score,” Matti said. “Taking over his spot gives me some big shoes to fill. I’ve watched his game against Southland a couple of times on film to see how he was successful.”

Ethan Pack hit seven threes and scored 23 points, giving the Vikings a big second half boost, but most of Hayfield’s offense started in the hands of Matti, who Hayfield head coach Chris Pack has a lot of faith in.

“He’s handling it well,” Chris Pack said. “He had a tough game down in Rushford, but other than that, he’s doing a great job of being the main ball handler and the main scorer. It’s a lot to put on a player, but he’s capable of doing it and he wants to do it. Everyone else just kind of moved up a spot.”

The Vikings (3-1 overall) took a 31-13 lead when senior Easton Fritcher scored on a put-back with 7:36 left in the first half, but the Rebels (2-1 overall) were able to get back into it when they produced a 10-0 burst that saw Eli Wolff hit a three and finish a drive. The comeback was short as Hayfield went back up 38-23 on a score by Zander Jacobson late in the half.

Matti started the game with four points in less than ten seconds after the game began with a technical foul on Southland for dunking in warm-ups. Matti hit one of two free throws and then knocked down a three to make it 4-0 to start the game.

Fritcher is still playing a big role in the paint for the Vikings as he finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. But this year he has a big helper in sophomore Jacobson, who grabbed nine rebounds and scored six points on Thursday.

“He helps me focus more on shooters and I don’t have to chase after every rebound,” Fritcher said. “He guarded me in practice last year and I think he learned a lot. He’s always turning and boxing and you need to box out and go get the ball if you want offensive rebounds. Zander’s been doing an excellent job.”

Chris Pack said that Jacobson’s emergence has been a big boost for a team on both ends of the floor.

“Zander’s given us really good minutes and he’s fit in right away for us,” Pack said.

Matti said that he’s comfortable with his ability to handle the ball and score, but he knows he needs to get better down the stretch. Fritcher said the team is fine with Matti at the helm.

“It’s different without Slaathaug in the lineup, but Isaac’s doing a good job in that spot and when we move the ball, we’re pretty dang good,” Fritcher said.

Harrison Hanna led the Rebels with 24 points as was able to consistently drive to the rim.

Southland head coach Scott Koenigs was absent from the game with an illness and assistant coach Justin Stevens filled in for him.

Hayfield 39  36  – 75

Southland 27  24  – 51

Hayfield scoring: Isaac Matti, 29; Ethan Pack, 23; Easton Fritcher, 12; Zander Jacobson, 6; Kobe Foster 5; free throws: 33 percent (5-for-15) rebounds: 39 (Pack, 10); turnovers: 14

Southland scoring: Harrison Hanna, 24; Eli Wolff, 16; Brendan Kennedy, 4; Gavin Nelsen, 3; Nick Edland, 2; Cale Wehrenberg, 2; free throws: 57 percent (8-for-14); rebounds: 27 (Wehrenberg, 6); turnovers: 12