Unbeaten and unfazed: Vikings hold off Grand Meadow’s push to win Section 1A title

Published 8:08 pm Thursday, March 10, 2022

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ROCHESTER – Hayfield’s perfect season just became historic.

The top-seeded and unbeaten Vikings girls basketball team clinched Hayfield’s first trip to the state tournament in 14 years when it beat No. 3 seeded Grand Meadow 65-41 in the Section 1A title game in Mayo Civic Center Arena Thursday.

Hayfield (31-0 overall) finished strong as it shut down the Superlarks for the final eight minutes of the game, closing things out on a 15-0 run.

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Hayfield sophomore Natalie Beaver was not blinded by the bright lights of the title fight as she made some big plays down the stretch. Beaver, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, scored on a post play that made it 47-39 Hayfield, and she added a big inside score that all but iced the game at 52-41 Hayfield with 7:11 left. 

“It was so awesome and it was crazy. This is everything we’ve been working for this season,” Beaver said. “I was kind of nervous coming in, but I was confident. We have such a strong bond on this team and we’re great friends, on and off the court.”

The Vikings took a 39-25 lead early in the second half, but the Superlarks didn’t go away. Lexy Foster scored on a post move to bring GM within 39-32 and Lauren Queensland hit a three to bring her team within 41-35 with 13:10 left. River Landers brought GM within 41-39 when she scored on a post-up and then later hit two free throws with 12:09 left.

Hayfield sophomore Kristen Watson, who had 17 points and six steals, turned the tide back in the Vikings’ favor when she came up with consecutive steals for lay-ups to make it a 45-39 lead. 

“We dug in and we got some post touches in the second half, but then we got tired,” GM head coach Ryan Queensland said. “Hats off to Hayfield. They have a tremendous squad and a balanced squad. Hopefully they win it all. They speed you up with that press and they kind of wore us down, especially on that bigger floor.”

Hayfield opened the game on a 12-2 run as Aine Stasko hit three straight three-pointers in a three minute stretch, but the Superlarks played even for the rest of the opening stanza. GM’s Kendyl Queensland scored all 10 of her points in the first half and Sydney Cotten connected on a top of the key three-pointer with eight seconds left in the half to bring the Larks within 31-23.

Stasko scored 14 of her 21 points in the first half as she found her shot early on, despite it being her first time playing in the Civic Center. Aine did watch her older sister Abby’s team lose to Lyle-Pacelli in the Section 1A title game in Civic Center in 2018 and her older brother Karl, who is on the Hayfield coaching staff, is also a former Viking.

“Ever since the boys won state last year, this was our goal (to get to state),” Stasko said. “I was nervous at school today, but as soon as I got here, I was more excited and I was ready to play. I was getting as many shots up in warm ups as I could. The shot is the same, it’s just a different gym.”

Freshman Lauren Queensland finished with five points, nine rebounds and three assists for GM (23-7 overall). 

The Class A quarterfinals will be held in Maturi Pavilion at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on March 17. Hayfield brings a school record 31-game winning streak into the state tournament, but they are not satisfied with just making it to state.

“We know there’s a target on our back and we’re going to be playing teams we’ve never seen before,” Stasko said. “None of that matters, and all that really matters is we have to come in and play our game.”

The game was the first section title game appearance for GM, which has never been to a state girls basketball tournament.

“We’re extremely proud of this group with how they fight and how they represent the community,” Ryan said. “This was the first experience for a lot of girls on our team. They got to taste this and hopefully next year we can do better.”

Hayfield 31  34  –  65

Grand Meadow 23  18  –  41

Hayfield scoring: Aine Stasko, 21; Kristen Watson, 17; Natalie Beaver, 15;  Chelsea Christopherson, 9; Sydney Risius, 3; free throws: 83 percent (10-for-12); rebounds: 17 (Beaver, 10); turnovers: 5

GM scoring: Kendyl Queensland, 10; Lexy Foster, 8; Lauren Queensland, 7; Sydney Cotten, 5; Skyler Cotten, 4;  McKenna Hendrickson, 2; free throws: 100 percent (5-for-5); rebounds: 25 (Lauren Queensland, 9); turnovers: 19