Wide open spaces: Vikings break down Knights in quarterfinals

Published 1:09 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS – Hayfield juniors Isaac Matti and Ethan Pack were finally free to put their skills on full display and they did not disappoint as the Vikings rolled past Russell-Tyler-Ruthon 66-49  in the Class A quarterfinals in Williams Arena Wednesday.

Pack finished with 25 points, while going 7-for-11 on threes, and Matti tallied 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the win as they took advantage of R-T-R’s man-to-man defense. Hayfield’s dynamic duo has been facing gimmick defenses meant to slow them down for much of the season, but they were free to play in space on Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen a man-to-man defense in a while and we were able to get better looks,” Matti said. “It was fun to break down the defense and set up shooters.”

Ethan Pack was able to get open consistently off of screens and penetration from Matti. He and the Vikings (30-2 overall) found their comfort zone early, and they never lost it.

“Playing against man is better than playing against a zone, because we have so many good players on our team that can knock down the open shot when they help out,” Ethan Pack said. 

The Knights (23-8 overall) pulled to within 56-42 with 6:24 left in the game when Blake Christianson hit a wing three-pointer. Hayfield scored the next six points to widen the gap and create breathing room.

Hayfield committed 17 turnovers in the loss, while forcing just eight.

“We can’t have that many turnovers in the semifinals or final, but they were doing whatever they could and they’re a good defensive team,” Chris Pack said. “We just have to do a better job of meeting passes.”

Pack had 11 points in the first six minutes of the game as he buried his first three three-pointers en route to leading the Vikings on a game-opening 19-5 run.

Hayfield led by as many as 17 in the first half.

“We have four starters with state experience and we talked about getting off to a quick start, because they were probably going to be more nervous than us,” Chris Pack said. “We settled in and played a great first half of basketball.”

Zander Jacobson, who is Hayfield’s lone rotation player without state experience from last year, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Hayfield will play at noon on Friday in the semifinals against either Cherry or Nevis at Williams Arena. 

Hayfield, which won its first state title last year, has high hopes, despite not having last year’s top scorer Ethan Slaathaug, who averaged 25 points per game.

“I really like this team,” Chris Pack said. “I think people thought we would take a step back this year without Slaathaug, but we might be better this year, which is saying a lot considering we won it last year.”

RTR 20 29 – 49

Hayfield 37 29 – 66 

Hayfield scoring: Ethan Pack, 25; Isaac Matti, 15; Easton Fritcher, 8; Kobe Foster, 6; free throws: 67 percent (6-for-9); rebounds: 45 (Fritcher, 12); turnovers: 17