Kennedi Jurrens, left, goes up for a jump shot as Hancock's Misti Zempel defends in the championship game on Saturday. Mascot photo by McKenzie Tolk, left, drives against Kaitlyn Rohloff of Hancock in the finals on Saturday.

Hancock stops Vikings in final

Minneota finishes 28-5; three named to Class A all-tourney team

Hancock's tenacious defense and stellar free-throw shooting were too much for Minneota to overcome in the Class A state girls basketball championship Saturday at Williams Arena.
The Owls (30-1) drained 17 of 20 free throws en route to a 54-43 victory over the Vikings (28-5).
Minneota came into the tournament unseeded despite having a strong season. The knocked off top-seeded Mt. Iron-Buhl in the quarterfinals before upending previously unbeaten Hayfield in the semifinals.
The two-time defending state champion Vikings looked like they were on their way to a third straight title (winning in 2019 and 2021; with their state bid denied in 202 due to COVID) after building a 13-2 lead en route to a 19-14 halftime lead.
The Vikings came out blazing to start the game, building a 7-0 advantage. Rolbiecki scored underneath after taking a nice pass from Ireland Stassen to open the scoring. After a Hancock turnover, Stassen then snapped the cords on a three-pointer, and after another Hancock turnover, Jeren Rost scored underneath after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Yost's consecutive three-pointers gave Minneota a 13-2 cushion as the boisterous crowd erupted.
Hancock went on a 12-6 run over the rest of the first half to cut the deficit to 19-14 at halftime.
The Owls connected on a trio of three-pointer early in the second half, extending their run to 12-2 run over the two halves for a 26-21 lead they would not relinquish.
Hancock switched to a zone defense in the second half that Minneota had trouble adjusting to.
"Give them credit for switching defenses," said senior Natalee Rolbiecki. "Their zone really slowed us down."
The Owls went with a 1-2-2 zone to keep the Vikings from scoring underneath.
"We didn't expect them to go into that zone right away," said coach Chad Johnston. "They extended it more than we thought, too, and it was more like a 2-1-2 at times. We got some looks at the high post off it, but we just weren't able to hit a lot of those shots."
Yost said the Vikings were handling Hancock's pressure in the first half.
"I think they were frustrated because that is how they score a lot of their points, off the other team's turnovers," she noted. "Switching to a zone was smart on their behalf. I think we could have been more aggressive and attacked it better at times, but they had girls who could guard the perimeter and inside the paint."
Minneota fell behind 36-27 after Rylie Hanson scored the 1,000th point of her career on a layup and then followed with another layup 15 seconds later. Minneota then went on an 11-3 run to cut the deficit to a single point at 39-38 with 4:19 remaining.
Hancock held firm and did not give up the lead and cashed four consecutive free throws for a 43-38 advantage.
McKenna Yost, who led the Vikings with 17 points, fired in her fifth three-pointer of the game to make it 43-41.
Hancock hit its final 10 free-throw attempts to seal the victory.
"Credit goes to them, they hit some big shots in the second half to put together a run, and we stalled for a little bit," said Yost. "We put up a good fight, but just couldn't quite get over that deficit in the second half. Hancock played extremely well, and we just weren't as aggressive in the second half at times."
Jeren Rost had 12 points for the Vikings, while Natalee Rolbiecki and Ireland Stassen had five points each, and McKenzie Tolk and Kennedi Jurrens each had two points. Tolk also made six assists.
Kaitlyn Rohloff led Hancock with 16 points. Rylee Hanson had 13 points and Misti Zempel 11.
"We talked about how we didn't come this far to lose in the finals," Yost said. "We had put together an impressive tournament run and wanted to cap it off with that state championship. Watching (Hancock) against Mayer Lutheran (in the semifinals), I was getting pretty nervous for the next day. They were flying all over the place and seemed incredibly quick. We started off just the way we wanted to against Hancock, but unfortunately couldn't keep that lead."
Johnston said looking back, he isn't upset about how things turned out.
"We had a tough draw, but I told the girls that to be the best, you have to beat the best," he said. "You look at MIB. They were the top seed and this was supposed to be their year. Hayfield hadn't lost a game all year until we beat them in the semis. There were things I wish we had done differently in the championship, but I am so proud of the girls."

All-tournament: Three Minneota players were among the 10 named to the Class A All-Tournament team. Natalee Rolbiecki, McKenna Yost and Ireland Stassen were joined on the team by Hancock's Carlee Hanson, Karleigh Rohloff, Kaitlyn Rohloff and Rylee Hanson. Also named was Jordan Zubich of Mt. Iron-Buhl, Kristen Watson of Hayfield and Emma Lade of Mayer Lutheran.

Hancock 54, Minneota 43
Hancock....................................................................................14 40 - 54
Minneota...................................................................................19 24 - 43

Team Statistics
Field goal shooting (good-attempts-pct.): Hancock 16-for-31, 51.6 percent. Minneota 15-for-44, 34.1 percent ... 3-point shooting (good-attempts-pct.): Hancock 5-for-12, 41.7 percent. Minneota 7-for-21, 33.3 percent ... Rebounds: Hancock 21, Minneota 25 ... Turnovers: Hancock 11, Minneota 12.

Hancock Individual Statistics
Scoring (total points): Kaitlyn Staples 0-2 4-4 4, Karleigh Rohloff 1-2 0-0 2, Kaitlyn Rohloff 5-11 5-6 16, Misti Zempel 2-4 6-8 11, Carlee Hanson 2-3 2-2 8, Rylee Hanson 6-9 0-0 13, Brooke VerSteeg 0-0 0-0 0, Tori Pahl 0-0 0-0 0 ... 3-pointers: C.Hanson 2-for-3, Zempel 1-for-1, Kaitlyn Rohloff 1-for-3, R.Hanson 1-for-4, Staples 0-for-1 ... Rebounds: C.Hanson 6, Kaitlyn Rohloff 4, Karleigh Rohloff 3, Zempel 3, Staples 2, R.Hanson 1 ... Assists: C.Hanson 5, Kaitlyn Rohloff 4, Zempel 3, Staples 2, Karleigh Rohloff 1 ... Steals: Zempel 3, C.Hanson 1 ... Blocked shots: Zempel 2, Staples 1, Kaitlyn Rohloff 1, C.Hanson 1.

Minneota Individual Statistics
Scoring (fgm-fga ftm-fta points): Natalee Rolbiecki 2-11 0-0 5, Jeren Rost 4-7 4-4 12, McKenzie Tolk 0-2 2-2 2, McKenna Yost 6-11 0-0 17, Ireland Stassen 2-5 0-0 5, Grace Hennen -0-2 0-0 0, Kennedi Jurrens 1-2 0-0 2, Kenadi Arndt 0-3 0-0 0, Dakoda Hennen 0-1 0-0 0, Emma Bottelberghe 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Moorse 0-0 0-0 0, Faith Myhre 0-0 0-0 0, Kiersyn Hulzebos 0-0 0-0 0, Lyzah Sussner 0-0 0-0 0 ... 3-pointers: Yost 5-for-8, Stassen 1-for-2, Rolbiecki 1-for-7, Tolk 0-for-1, Rost 0-for-1, Arndt 0-for-1,

Jeren Rost takes a shot against a group of Hancock defenders. Mascot photo by Meagan Tolk

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