Twins have Blossoms opponents seeing double

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

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BLOOMING PRAIRIE — When twin brothers Gabe and Zack Hein hit the basketball court for the Awesome Blossoms they’re continuing their quest to bring Blooming Prairie back on top, but when they’re on the court by themselves, they’re out for respect.

The Hein’s began playing one-on-one against each other when they were five years old, whether it be indoors or outdoors and they’re still likely to take each other on after practice, or just to kill the time. The games are intense and often-times they turn into a seven-game series.

“We’re always somewhere playing basketball. We can play anything and we can play in the street. We’ve always wanted to one-up each other. We’ve been out there out at Victory Field playing under the lights late at night,” Zack said. “Our record is pretty even, it just depends on who’s having a good shooting game.”

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Shooting is the name of the game when it comes to Gabe and Zack, who are both prolific scorers from the perimeter to the paint. Gabe set the BP school record with 49 points against Lyle-Pacelli this year and Zack has been a steady 20-point scorer as well.

“Zack and Gabe’s length and athleticism really helps them out,” BP head coach Cam Rutledge said. “They both can shoot, pass, dribble and get to the rim. They are great basketball players with a competitive mindset.”

That competitive mindset has driven the Hein’s to great improvement on the court, but it also comes home with them. If one feels the other isn’t doing something right, it’s going to get brought up and it may even stay in their minds.

“It lingers for a day or two, but you’ve got to forget it. We’ve got too many games this season to get after each other for a long time,” Gabe said. “Against JWP I definitely struggled to move the ball at times and Zack got after me a few times. I deserved it. No matter what goes on, we’re talking to each other. If he takes a stupid shot and I’m open, I let him know.”

With their fast start, the Awesome Blossoms (6-0 overall) are almost certain to finish with their best season since the team won the Section 1A title since 2020, but the state tournament was canceled just after the team claimed the title.

The Awesome Blossoms won just nine games last season and they went 19-50 overall in the previous three seasons.

BP went 25-3 overall in the 2019-2020 season and Zack and Gabe were in the Mayo Civic Center when the Awesome Blossoms beat Hayfield, which would win the next two Class A championships, 59-51.

Gabe and Zack have dreams of getting BP back to the Mayo Civic Center floor and they’ve gotten their teammates to join in the journey. They organized offseason open gyms and played in summer leagues as a team.

“We’ve always said that our senior year was our year to go far,” Gabe said. “People have started to realize that if they put in the time that we do, then we can get better as a team.”

Besides Gabe and Zack, the Awesome Blossoms also have other scoring options as Brady Kittelson and Gabe Staloch can both fill it up as well. The biggest challenge for the Blossoms may be to decide which scorer to feed.

“If you’re trying to get yourself rolling, it can be a struggle in the beginning of the game,” Zack said. “You’re going to take shots and miss some shots and at some point you’ve got to realize who has the hot hand. You will know that by halftime at least and you’ve got to get them the ball.”

The Hein twins say they have never swapped jerseys to trick an opponent, but they have taken advantage of their identical appearances in the past.

“We’ve switched classes before and there are times when people can’t tell us apart in baseball,” Zack said.

Zack and Gabe are hoping to play basketball in college and they’d like to play together, but are open to playing in separate schools if that’s how it works out.

No matter what the future holds for Zack and Gabe, they are currently part of a team that pushes harder every day to get the Blossoms as far as they can.

“We have a great group of kids who work hard and love basketball,” Rutledge, who is in his third year as head coach, said. “It’s been a long time coming and we finally have that experience that has been really good for us. Zack started most of our games as a sophomore and Gabe got a few minutes here and there that season.”