Triple threat: Vikings have learned on their leaders this season

Published 6:41 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

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HAYFIELD – If you watched or heard about Hayfield senior Isaac Matti scoring 50 points in a game and came away thinking that the Vikings are a one man team, you don’t know the full story.

Matti may have broken Hayfield’s single game scoring record, but he is also closing in on the school’s all-time assist record as he is capable of playing highly unselfish basketball. Matti’s scoring burst was assisted by his junior teammates Zander Jacobson, a physical player who once pulled down 22 rebounds in a game, while setting space clearing screens on a regular basis and Ethan Pack, a senior sharpshooter who has knocked down as many as seven threes in a game.

Ethan said the entire team celebrated Matti’s 50 points, which came in a big win over Blooming Prairie.

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“He only had 15 or 20 at halftime so it never really crossed my mind that he could hit 50 until it went to about the 40 mark,” Ethan said. “Then it was more like ‘let him cook and let him do his thing.’ It was fun. I’m happy for him. I mean you don’t really see that stuff going on very much in high school basketball.”

The trio has kept the two-time defending champs competitive this season, despite the fact that the Vikings had to bring in a new group of role players. Matti is averaging 21 points,7.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game, Jacobson is averaging 14.9 points, 14.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 blocks per game and Ethan is averaging 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

Matti was brought up to varsity as a middle schooler, but now he’s matured into one of the team’s biggest leaders.

“We’re getting them used to knowing the intensity of it by just being more focused in practice,” Matti said. “It’s been stressful but it’s also been exciting. It’s challenging because they’re not used to playing at that level and so just getting used to it and gearing them up for it.”

Matti had as few as two points in a win over Lyle-Pacelli earlier this season, but he is starting to become more aggressive with the ball in his hands as his final season as a Viking winds down. He plans on playing basketball in college, but he hasn’t made a commitment yet.

“It’s been kind of frustrating because I’ve had a couple of games where I didn’t score a lot,” Matti said. “I’ve kind of been waiting for a breakout game. I was expecting one of those games to come soon but not really that much (50).”

Hayfield head coach Chris Pack never won a state title before this group showed up on the varsity scene and now he’s won back-to-back Class A titles. Chris was the son of a coach at Red Rock Central in baseball and basketball and he’s coached Ethan since Ethan was in first grade.

“It’s not as easy as everyone thinks,” Chris said. “The coach is always going to be harder on you because the expectations are higher that you (as their kid) do things right. It’s definitely been some great times obviously with the two state championships.”

Ethan, who is leaning towards playing football in college, is enjoying his last ride next to Matti, who he has played with since he started playing basketball, and his father. 

I won’t change it for anything with the memories that we’ve made and we’re still going to make,” Ethan said. “Being able to be this successful and having my dad be there right with me is definitely a bonus.”

Jacobson, a junior who has his mind set on playing college football in the future, has only been on the varsity team for a year and a half, but he remembers watching Matti and Pack play when he was younger.

“They’ve been good leaders for me and I grew up watching them play,” Jacobson said.

Hayfield (15-4 overall) has suffered more losses this season than it did last season when it went 32-2, but the Vikings are hoping to play their best basketball in March.

I think we are getting comfortable and we’re seeing more production out of (the new players),” Chris said. “Hopefully that continues as we get close to playoffs because we know we can’t do it with just the three guys and it has to be we have to have five guys on the floor that can contribute.  We want to play our best basketball come March.”

Hayfield will play at Triton at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and it will host New Richland-HEG at 7:15 p.m. Friday.