Top-seeded Vikings avoid an upset and get past Fillmore Central in quarterfinals

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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ROCHESTER – Hayfield senior Kristen Watson did not become her program’s all-time leading scorer by backing down when things got tough, and she gave every bit of effort for the top-seeded Vikings as they beat Fillmore Central 54-46 in a Section 1A quarterfinal in Mayo Civic Auditorium Tuesday.

Watson not only ran the offense throughout the night, she was a pest on defense and she was in constant hustle mode as she finished with 20 points, four steals and six rebounds. 

“We all just had to stay calm and know that we had it the whole time,” Watson said. “That one-three-one zone defense of theirs was really good, actually. They were able to tip passes that most girls don’t get to.”

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While they led for the final eight minutes of the contest, the game was far from stress free for the top-seeded Vikings, who won Section 1A last year. Watson finally iced the game when she hit two free throws to put Hayfield up 52-44 late in the game.

After trailing in the second half by as many as three, the Vikings finally grabbed late momentum when Emily Hansen hit a three to put her team up 47-40 with 6:38 left.

“I was not expecting it to go in, and coach was telling me not to shoot it,” Hansen said. “I was lucky. They gave us a big fight, and we weren’t really expecting it.”

Hayfield head coach Kasey Krekling didn’t doubt that Hansen could make the shot, but he saw a wide open cutter right as she released it.

“When you have a wide open lay-up, you better make that shot and she did,” Krekling said.

The No. 8 Falcons (12-16 overall) had all of the momentum early in the second half after Abby Bothun converted back-to-back lay-ups to put FC up 37-34 at the tail end of a 12-2 Falcon run to start the half over a seven minute spurt.

Hayfield committed 19 turnovers against FC’s press and it struggled with the Falcons’ size.

“We knew they were a good team that was well coached and they’re a tough matchup for us because all of their girls were 5-8 or taller and we have one girl over 5-6,” Krekling said. “We have to take care of the ball better or we won’t have a chance to score.”

Hansen hit two free throws to cut FC’s lead to one in the second half and she found Natalie Beaver for a lay-up that put the Vikings up 38-37 with nine minutes to go.

FC’s Alyssa Britton brought the Falcons within 16-14 with a first half lay-up before the Vikings responded. Hayfield (26-3 overall) forced three quick turnovers to produce a 7-0 spurt in just a few minutes to go up 23-14 with 8:08 left in the first half.

Watson had a breakaway lay-up and a three during the charge.

Natalie Beaver, who had 18 points for Hayfield, hit a three right before the break to give her team a 27-25 edge.

Hayfield will now take on Lanesboro or Kingsland in Mayo Civic Auditorium at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Hayfield needs to win two more games to repeat as Section 1A champs and it’s likely those games could go down to the wire as well.

“Last year we had a lot of blowout wins, but this year our team is not built the same and we’ve played a lot of closer games,” Krekling said. “That helped us tonight.”

Fillmore Central 25  21  –  46

Hayfield 27  27  –  54

Hayfield scoring: Kristen Watson, 20; Natalie Beaver, 18; Emily Hansen, 7; Chelsea Christopherson, 5; Jojo Tempel, 4