Farm girl uses 'The Barn' to free throw Vikings to finals
Abby Hennen has been shooting free throws at her family’s hog farm home near Ghent since she was a toddler.
When she sank seven of seven to help secure a 55-50 win over Heritage Christian Academy, her first reaction was to smile and say, “They call this the barn,” don’t they? — referring to Williams Arena’s nickname.
Minneota had to come back from a deficit in the second half to secure their 29th win and put them in the Class A state finals.
While the loss was hard to take for Heritage, Coach Lori Crellin said, “This game show-cased two teams that wanted to get to the state finals.”
Minneota started off like a house of fire and took an 8-0 lead when Morgan and Abby Hennen each sank three-pointers.
But the Eagles flew back into the mix with the shooting of guards Taylor Schunk and Kristin Robbins.
When Taylie Scott stole the ball and scored, Heritage assumed their first lead at 16-15.
And with it Minneota suddenly went cold and didn’t score again for five minutes except for a free throw by Morgan Hennen.
Heritage was concentrating on bottling up Lydia Sussner, but she finally broke through for a bucket under the basket, was fouled and hit the free throw. Moments later Morgan Kockelman scored, Sussner took a nice pass under the basket from Morgan Hennen and suddenly Minneota was back in the game, trailing 26-25.
Heritage Coach Crellin felt her girls, “Did not attack the hoop on the offensive end,” and let Minneota back in the game.
By the half, the two teams were nearly dead even, with Heritage leading, 30-29.
“We made a few changes at halftime,” said Coach Johnston, but basically he let Hennen loose, used some smart play by Sussner and incredible defense by Morgan Kockelman.
Kockelman was deligated to guarding all state Taylie Scott, the Eagles senior who scored 463 points this year. Kockelman held her to six points and changed the Heritage offense.
“Morgan has been that player all year for us. She just did a phenomenal job,” said Coach Johnston. He was happy with the team’s defense the entire game but indicated Kockelman was the key.
Heritage Coach Crellin agreed. “She did a great job. That kid did everything they needed,” said the Eagle coach.
At the same time, Abby Hennen was going to work. As the game crawled closer to its end, Hennen suddenly found herself in the middle, going for the basket. ‘We decided to put Abby there and see if she could make things happen,” said Coach Johnston.
And did she. She took Minneota from a 41-41 tie to a 48-47 lead by driving the lane for baskets. Then, Heritage tried to stop her — and all that did was put her at the foul line, where she hit the seven straight free throws.
“We wanted the ball in her hands,” said Coach Johnston. “My teammates were looking for me in the post,” said Hennen.
Was she nervous at the free throw line?
“Yesterday, I struggled at the free throw line. Today I was focused and confident. But with luck they went in,” she said.
“It was a close game and she hit the free throws,” added Coach Johnston.
Minneota had a 48-47 lead with over two minutes to go and the Vikings went cautious, holding onto the ball. That’s when Johnston began to count on his senior post player, Lydia Sussner.
“Lydia always seems to step up,” said the coach. She’d come out (from under the basket) and controlled the ball, drawing (the Eagles) post player Jordyn Allen out with her.
As for the stall, the coach said, “It wasn’t quite whatt I wanted. But I have a senior post and Lydia just popped up and spread the defense out."
“I knew we couldn’t turn the ball over and needed to take a good shot,” said Sussner. “I knew we needed to get a good shot and crash the boards.”
Everything worked to perfection. Abby Hennen hit her string of free throws to change the lead from 49-48 to 54-48 — and time simply ran out on Heritage Christian Academy.
“Maybe people will respect our girls more. They have give up,” said Eagle Coach Crellin.The Heritage coach credited her 6-1 junior center Jordyn Allen with holding down Sussner the entire game. “She worked like crazy and did well on her (Sussner),” said the coach.
As for Minneota Coach Johnston, he said, “Usually at times like this you count on your seniors to step up. But for us, everyone stopped up. We’ve got two Hennen girls who step up all the time. They did a phenomenal job.”
Minneota will play the winner of the Goodhue at noon Saturday at Williams Arena. Goodhue beat Menahga, 47-43.
MINNEOTA (2’s, 3’s, FT, F, TP) Morgan Kockelman 2 1 0-0 1 5; Lizzy Gillingham 2 1 4-4 3 9; Morgan Hennen 2 1 1-2 3 6; Abby Hennen 6 1 7-7 1 20; Lydia Sussner 5 0 2-7 3 13; Natalee Rolbiecki 1 0 0-0 0 2; Abby Rost 0 0 0-0 0 0. Totals 18 4 15-20 11 55.
HERITAGE (2’s, 3’s, Ft, F, TP) Taylor Schuck 3 0 9-11 4 15; Taylie Scott 3 0 0-0 3 6; Kirstin Robbins 6 1 3-4 4 16; Emily Tostenson 2 0 0-0 4 4; Jordyn Allen 3 0 1-2 4 7; Anika Millar 1 0 0-0 0 2. Totals 18 1 13-17 10 50.
Score by Halves
Heritag 30 20 — 50
Minneota 29 26 — 55
SHOOTING: Minneota (2’s 18 of 44 for 41 percent; 3’s 4 of 14 for 31 percent; overall 22 of 57 for 39 percent); Heritage (2’s 18 of 51 for 35 percent; 3’s 1-10 for 10 percent; overall 19 of 61 for 31 percent).
FREE THROWS: Minneota 15 of 20 for 75 percent; Heritage 13 of 17 for 77 percent.
REBOUNDS: Minneota 35 (Sussner 11, Abby Hennen, Gillingham 8, M. Hennen 3, Kockelman 2); Heritage 30 (Scott 7; Robbins 6, Schuck, Allen 5 each, Millar 1).
TURNOVERS: Minneota 15; Heritage 10.
STEALS: Minneota 6 (Sussner 3, Kockelman, M. Hennen, A. Hennen 1 each); Heritage 9 (Scott 4, Allen 3, Tostenson, Shuck 1 each).
ASSISTS: Minneota 12 (A. Hennen 4, Sussner, Kockelman 3 each); M. Hennen 2); Heritage 6 (Allen, Scott 2 each, Schuck, Tostenson 1 each).
BLOCKS: Minneota 3 (Sussner 2, Kockelman 1); Heritage 3 (Allen 3).