Back to the dance: Defending champs clinch their trip to another state tourney

Published 8:13 pm Thursday, March 17, 2022

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ROCHESTER – The top-seeded Hayfield boys basketball team played Goodhue’s style better than the Wildcats could as they allowed the pace to slow down in a patient 53-42 win in the Section 1A title game in Mayo Civic Center Thursday.

Hayfield junior Ethan Pack led the way with 17 points for the Vikings and he also dished out four assists. He finished with four three-pointers as he benefited from the attention Goodhue was putting on Hayfield junior Isaac Matti, who had 13 points of his own.

“We moved the ball very well and we found open shots. I was the one shooting, I guess,” said Pack. “Isaac and I have been playing basketball together and we have a chemistry that is unbreakable. He knows to look for me, Kobe (Foster) and Easton (Fritcher).”

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Matti was faced with the task of being guarded by Goodhue’s 6-foot, 6-inch point guard Will Opsahl, but he was still able to make a big impact. Matti didn’t score a point until he hit two free throws with 7:23 left in the first half and 11 of his points came in the second half.

“If they face guard me, Easton, Zander and Kobe are good enough to take on the other guys,” Matti said. “Ethan and I practice being face guarded all of the time.”

Matti and the Vikings also stayed patient against Goodhue’s defense and avoided forcing shots or trying to run against defensive pressure. Hayfield committed just nine turnovers.

“We knew it was coming and we were prepared for it to be slow. We knew we would have to beat them at their own game,” Matti said. “We ran when we could, but it was a slow pace.”

The Vikings (29-2 overall) used a 9-2 spurt to go up 40-26 with 10:43 left in the game. Matti hit a three-pointer and he knocked down two free throws during the rally.

Hayfield sophomore Zander Jacobson had a big early impact by finding the seams in Goodhue’s zone and getting easy scores off of penetration from his teammates. Jacobson had 10 of his 12 points in the first half. Jacobson, who also grabbed six rebounds, also had the tough job of defending Goodhue big man Dayne Wojcik, who is 6-foot, 4-inches tall, and solid. Wojcik finished with 17 points. Jacobson fouled out with 6:15 left in the game, forcing the Vikings to make their lone substitution when Karver Hedyt came in.

Hayfield head coach Chris Pack has used a short bench all season long and Ethan, who is his son, said that playing without rest is simply something the team has to get used to.

“It all starts at the beginning of the year,” Ethan said. “We run a lot and throughout the year, we don’t sub much so we’re used to running and going all game.”

Hayfield led 26-19 when Easton Fritcher scored with two minutes left in the first half, but Goodhue’s Will Opsahl connected on a top of the key three-pointer to bring the Wildcats (23-7 overall) within 26-22 with a minute left.

Kobe Foster didn’t score a point in the win for Hayfield, but he took two charges and chased down five rebounds.

It was a big day for Hayfield as the girls basketball team started the day with a Class A state quarterfinal win. Many fans made the trek from Minneapolis to Rochester to cheer on the boys for the nightcap. It’s another banner day for Hayfield, which brought home state championships in boys basketball and baseball last year. 

We had a watch party for the girls and I think that helped us focus on our game a little bit,” Ethan said. “We got two dubs in one day and it’s a great day to be a Hayfield Viking.”

The Hayfield boys will play in the Class A quarterfinals at either 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. in Williams Arena Wednesday.

The Vikings will be coming in with high hopes.

“We kind of expected to be here coming into the season,” Matti said. “We want to get the whole thing.”

Goodhue 22 20  – 42

Hayfield 26 27  – 53

Hayfield scoring: Ethan Pack, 17; Isaac Matti, 13; Zander Jacobson, 12; Easton Fritcher, 9; Karver Heydt, 2