THE HARDER THEY FALL
Isaac Hennen knew Jonah Johnson's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer was not going in.
"But I saw him go down on the court and I was afraid maybe somebody touched him."
But Hennen's fears were for naught ... no foul was called, and Minneota had hung on to defeat previously unbeated Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, 61-59 in front of an overflow crowd in Minneota.
"It felt great to get revenge on them," said Thomas Hennen, who sat out nine minutes in the first half with three fouls, yet came back to score 16 points in a comeback of gigantic proportions after the Vikings trailed, 28-21 at halftime.
"We felt if we could just keep it close without Thomas in the first half, we'd get him back in the second half and we knew we could come back," said Isaac Hennen.
But it took the youngest man on the floor to lead the Vikings back into the game. Freshman Jacob Hennen scored 20 of his game-leading 23 points in the second half.
"Jacob is kinda of a jewel waiting to be polished. He can score at will," said Coach Busselman.
Then it was a Thomas Hennen bucket that tied it at 55 with 3:42 to go. And with 2:56 on the clock, his three-pointer gave Minneota its first lead, 58-57. They hadn't led since they were on top, 15-13 early in the game.
The Knights fought back as the Minneota crowd stood and went into an ear-deafening round of, "Here we go Vikings, Here we go!"
They had a 61-59 lead when RTR's Johnson stole the ball and went for the game-leading bucket. But Thomas Hennen swatted the ball away, grabbed it and was fouled. He hit one of two free throws for the 61-59 lead with 18.3 fateful seconds left on the clock.
But Minneota's man-on-the-middle, Logan Sussner stole the ball, was fouled — and although he missed the free throw, there was just eight seconds on the clock. It was enough for Johnson's long shot — but no miracle for the Knights.
"After the half, we knew we could scratch our way back," said Thomas Hennen. But he knew, "I couldn't get into more foul trouble."
And Isaac Hennen, who drove the lane consistently and stole the ball five times, knew it was his cousin Jacob that led them back into the game. "Jacob kept us in it," he said.
"Nolan Boerboom battled in there and Isaac played well," said Coach Busselman. And it was the consistent point guard play of Jared Josephson that held the team together long enough to mount a comeback.
Underneath, Sussner held the team together with 11 points and seven rebounds. But it was the freshman Jacob Hennen, who has been on a rebounding frenzy lately, who led the team with 11 rebounds. Isaac Hennen grabbed eight and Josephson five.
"They are a good ball club," Coach Busselman said about RTR. Maybe that's why beating them meant so much. "This proved we're not a pushover team," added Isaac Hennen. "We shot about 20 percent the first half and still were in the game. That means we played good defense and we had a ton of steals (11)," Isaac Hennen said.
The Vikings biggest chore all night was tring to stop 6-1 senior Westin Kirk. He poured in 16 points and almost always had an answer for every bucket the Vikings made in the second half. But once Minneota shut Kirk down, they took control of play under the basket.
There was a point in the second half when Isaac Hennen felt the Vikings rallied. It came when Kirk and Alex Saltzer fought for the ball under the basket and Kirk appeared to have horse-collared Saltzer. The referee gave the ball to Minneota. "I think that, more than anything, fired us up," Isaac Hennen said.
Once the Vikings got control of Kirk underneath, his senior partner Garrett Kern took over and scored 15 points.
It came down to exactly what Coach Busselman told his players. "We don't need this one — but we want this one," he said.
Minneota (21-2) will play their final game of the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Luverne.
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, ranked third in state, is now 24-1.
And for Minneota, "We still have a long way to go and have a lot to take care of," said the Minneota coach.
MINNEOTA (2's, 3's, FT, F, TP) Nolan Boerboom 0 0 1-2 1 1; Isaac Hennen 4 0 0-0 4 8; Jacob Hennen 4 4 3-4 3 23; Thomas Hennen 3 3 1-2 4 16; Jared Josephson 1 0 0-0 1 2; Alex Saltzer 0 0 0-0 0 0; Tristan Sorensen 0 0 0-0 1 0; Logan Sussner 4 0 305 4 11; Mitchell Rost 0 0 0-0 0 0. Totals 16 7 8-13 18 61.
RTR (2's, 3's, FT, F,TP) Carter Hansen 3 0 5-8 3 11; Cooper Hansen 3 1 2-3 4 11; Jonah Johnson 0 0 0-0 4 0; Brett Kelley 0 2 0-0 1 6; Garrett Kern 4 2 1-1 1 15; Westin Kirk 8 0 0-3 3 16. Totals 18 5 8-15 16 59.
Score by Halves
RTR 28 31 — 58
Minneota 21 40 — 61
SHOOTING: Minneota (2's 16 of 41 for 39 percent; 3's 7 of 22 for 32 percent; overall 23 of 63 for 37 percent); RTR (2's 18 of 40 for 45 percent; 3's 5 of 14 for 36 percent; overall 23 of 54 for 43 percent).
FREE THROWS: Minneota 8 of 13 for 62 percent; RTR 8 of 15 for 53 percent.
REBOUNDS: Minneota 35 (J. Hennen 7; I. Hennen 8; Sussner 7; Josephson 5, Sorensen 2, T. Hennen, Boerboom 1 each); RTR 24 (Carter Hansen 9; Kern 7; Cooper Hansen 6; Kern 3, Johnson 2, Jared Hauswedell 1).
TURNOVERS: Minneota 16; RTR 16.
STEALS: Minneota 11 (I. Hennen 5; Josephson 3; Sussner, J. Hennen, Boerboom 1 each); RTR 8 (Cooper Hansen 3, Carter Hansen and Kern 2 each, Kirk 1).
ASSISTS: Minneota 10 (Josephson 3; T. Hennen 2; Boerboom, I. Hennen, J. Hennen, Saltzer, Sussner 1 each); RTR 12.
BLOCKS: Minneota 2 (I. Hennen, T. Hennen 1 each); RTR: Kirk 1.
B SQUAD: Minneota 46, RTR 30.