Battle tested: Seniors will help keep Vikings calm in state tournament

Published 6:08 pm Monday, March 13, 2023

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HAYFIELD – The Hayfield girls basketball team is exactly where it wanted to be this season. Now it’s time to turn up the intensity.

After going through a season as favorites, the Vikings are back in the Minnesota Class A State Girls Basketball Tournament after taking fourth place last year, and they’re hoping to make some more noise this year.

Hayfield head coach Kasey Krekling said that his team will have plenty of motivation headed into the big stage.

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“I think it was harder to get them pumped up for everything else this season,” Krekling said. “This is what we were hoping for and last year we felt we should’ve done better last year. Hopefully we can improve on our fourth place finish from last year.”

The Vikings will take on Badger/Green Bush/Middle River in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. in Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis Thursday and they will need the whole team to contribute if they want to move on.

While Hayfield leans on the scoring of juniors Natalie Beaver and Kristen Watson, the Vikings will also look to its two senior starters – Jojo Tempel and Ava Carney – to keep the ship calm when rough waters eventually hit.

“This is fun. This is the good part of the season,” Carney said. “I’d say I’m less nervous this year, because I know what it’s like. It’s a little bit sad knowing that we only have three more games to play, but we’ve enjoyed the ride.”

Krekling said Carney and Tempel both play vital roles for his squad and each of them had big games in the Section 1A title win over Grand Meadow.

“Jojo can shoot the lights out. She made 19 threes in a row the other week in the shooting machine. When she’s out there, she’ll take it,” Krekling said. “Ava knows she’s on the floor to play defense and she runs our sets well. She knows what her role is on the team.”

Tempel, who also plays shortstop for the Hayfield softball team, knew that she and Carney, who was a libero on the Hayfield volleyball team, would play much bigger roles on the court this winter.

“We knew we were losing great players from last year, and we had to come in and be leaders,” Tempel said. “If they’re focusing on our teammates, we have to step up. If you’re open, have the confidence to shoot it.”

The Gators did not qualify for the state tournament last year, but Krekling has already done plenty of scouting on his first round opponent. The Vikings can expect a lot of defensive pressure in their quarterfinal matchup.

“They play very good defense. They remind me of WEM a lot,” Krekling said. “They switch up their presses quite often. We’ve got to know what we’re going against and get in the half court. We feel we can score in the half court.”

If Hayfield wins on Thursday, it will play either United Christian Academy or BOLD at 2 p.m. in Williams Arena Friday.

The Class A state title game is in Williams Arena at noon Saturday.


Badger-Greenbush-Middle River is 26-3 overall with a QRF ranking of No. 8. BGMR outscores its opponents 62.6-41.2 points per game. The Gators beat Fosston 53-50 in the Section 8A title game.

Hayfield is 28-3 overall with a QRF ranking of No. 3. Hayfield outscores its opponents 60.1-42.5 points per game and the Vikings beat Grand Meadow 51-32 in the Section 1A title game.