VIKINGS STILL NO. 1
When the top two teams in state go head-to head, just what would you expect?
How about tied seven times, the lead bobbing back-and-forth more times than a Yo-Yo, a jam-packed crowd yelling their lungs out and a heart-pounding conclusion?
If that’s what you expected, you were in the right place Saturday in Minneota when the No. 1-ranked Vikings edged the No. 2-ranked Springfield Tigers, 78-75.
“We played hard. Our big guys stepped out and played well,” said Minneota Coach Dave Busselman.
The big guys included Jacob Hennen with 24 points and eight rebounds; Logan Sussner with 19 points and 15 rebounds and Thomas Hennen with 21 points and nine rebounds.
“They were a good group of guys. We had fun conversing with them. We both knew this was No. 1 against No. 2,” said Jacob Hennen.
Both teams played as though the state championship was at stake.
Minneota led 36-33 in the first half, then fell behind by five, 43-38 at halftime.
That’s pretty much the way the entire game would be. One team would lead by five and moments latter the other team had a five-point lead.
“That was about how we hoped it would go,” said Jacob Hennen.
The Vikings knew 6-4 senior Isaac Fink, who is playing at Augustana College next year brought his 30-point a game average to Minneota.
“We knew he would be a handful,” said Coach Busselman.
Fink scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and generally created a nuisance of himself for the Vikings.
Yet, 23 was under his average and much of that was due to the way Minneota point-guard Jared Josephson “dogged” Fink all night long.
He turned in a masterful defensive game that put pressure on the Tigers offense. “Jared did a nice job on that kid (Fink),” said Coach Busselman.
Tigers Decker Scheffler with 19 points and Mitchell Buerkle with 11 also helped keep the Tigers in the game.
Minneota didn’t play a particularly good first half —especially on the boards. And Thomas Hennen was held to just seven points.
“We were not clean on the boards in the first half,” said Coach Busselman.
But in the second half Thomas Hennen stepped up and sank three, three-pointers and canned two free throws down the stretch.
“We didn’t panic. We knew coming in these were the top two seeds. We just wanted to stay calm,” said Sussner.
When asked about the way he plays under the basket Sussner said, “I just want to stay aggressive and go get the ball.”
He did that often enough that it made life miserable for Springfield. They got Scheffler, Buerkle and Ivan Hovland into enough foul trouble they had to spend some time on the bench.
The jam-packed crowd was prepared for anything when Thomas Hennen hit a three-pointer to give Minneota a 72-71 lead with 2:53 to go.
And what they got was an exciting ending. It was tied at 72 with 1:10 to go when Jacob Hennen got his own rebound and put it in for a 74-72 lead.
The Minneota crowd was chanting, “Defense, Defense, Defense,” and that’s what they got.
A free throw by Scheffler made it 74-73 and then Sussner went to work.
He grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in for a 76-73 lead. Fink missed a three-pointer that could have tied the game with 20 seconds to go and Thomas Hennen got the rebound and was fouled.
He put in both free throws for a 78-73 lead. Although Springfield didn’t have enough time to rally, they got a two-point shot from Scheffler to make the final scored 78-75.
“Both teams played solid games and had impressive offense,” Coach Busselman added.
Sussner’s play never surprises Busselman. He knows the 6-3 junior is a solid rock under the basket. “He played his role well and stepped up,” said the coach.
It was just one of those games that was, “Back and forth. We just wanted to be in the right place at the end,” said Busselman.
“This was the best we’ve played all year — but it was also the best we had to play to win. I guess it’s going to take me awhile to digest this game,” the coach said.
As for Sussner he knew Fink would get his points. “We just wanted to keep him confined. It really was a game of runs,” he said.
While he was doing his part, he took time to acknowledge the play of Thomas and Jacob Hennen. “They’re amazing. I’m just clad than on our team and we don’t have to play them.”
Jacob Hennen, who says he likes to, “Share the ball with Thomas and his other team mates,” took matters into his own hands Saturday. He led both teams in scoring .
When he and brother Thomas sank three pointers late in the game, Jacob said, “We looked at each other and smiled. Those (3’s) were exciting,” he said.
The fact Minneota is — and likely will continue to be ranked No. 1 in Class A, is a matter of pride. Yet, Jacob Hennen said, “We try not to let it go to our heads.”
We’ll they’ll likely have to deal with the No. 1 ranking at least one more week.
BUCKET NOTES: The Minneota C squad won, 52-26 but Springfield pulled off a 44-35 win over the B Squad. Minneota, which trailed 23-14 at the half, came back to get within 35-30, but just couldn’t get any closer. Joseph Rybinski led the B squad with nine while Braeden Panka scored eight, Bishop Drietz seven and Jacob Citterman five for the Viking B Squad.
•While Mitchell Rost’s time on the court in the varsity game was limited, he grabbed two key rebounds and scored a bucket from under the basket.
•Alex Saltzer returned to the Vikings after missing the Candy Cane Tournament with an injured ankle. He scored two and had two rebounds.
•The Minneota gym was nearly full and even bleachers on the stage were packed.
•Not only were Thomas and Jacob Hennen up to their eyes in this game — but their father Brad and brother Rob sang the National Anthem before the game.
•Minneota will take their 9-0 record into a game against Fulda in a 7:15 p.m. game at home on Thursday.
Minneota 78, Springfield 75
MINNEOTA (2’s, 3’s, FT, F, TP) Jared Josephson 0 1 0-0 2 3; Thomas Hennen 3 4 3-4 2 21; Logan Sussner 8 0 3-9 3 219; Jacob Hennen 8 2 2-3 2 24; Nolan Boerboom 2 1 0-1 1 7; Alex Saltzer 1 0 0-0 1 2; Mitchell Rost 1 0 0-0 0 2; Riley Buysse 0 0 0-0 1 0. Totals 23 8 8-17 12 78.
SPRINGFIELD (2’s, 3’s, FT, F, TP) Decker Scheffler 9 0 1-2 4 19; Jordan Kieper 0 3 0-0 1 9; Ivan Hovland 3 1 0-0 3 9; Nolan Hovland 0 0 0-0 2 0; Mason Kretsch 1 0 0-0 2 2; Isaac Fink 5 2 4-8 1 20; Mitchell Buerkle 3 1 2-2 3 11; Mitchell Leonard 2 0 1-1 1 5; Curtis Tauer 0 0 0-0 1 0. Totals 23 7 8-13 18 75.
Score by Halves
Springfield 43 32 — 75
Minneota 38 40 — 78
SHOOTING: Minneota 2’s 23 of 42 for 55 percent; 3’s 8 of 22 for 36 percent; overall31 of 64 for 48 percent); Springfield (2’s 22 of 38 for 58 percent; 3s 8 of 24 for 33 percent; overall 30 of 62 for 48 percent).
FREE THROWS: Minneota 8 of 17 for 47 percent; Springfield 8 of 13 for 62 percent.
REBOUNDS: Minneota 43 (Sussner 15, T. Hennen 9, J. Hennen 8, Boerboom 5, Saltzer, Rost, Josephson 2 each); Springfield 38 (Fink 13, Buerkle, Scheffler 5 each, I. Hovland, C. Tauer 4 each, N. Hovland 3, Kieper 2, Kretch, Leonard 1 each).
TURNOVERS: Minneota 8; Springfield 13.
STEALS: Minneota 9 (T. Hennen 4, Josephson 3, Boerboom, J. Hennen 1 each); Springfield 4 (Scheffler 2, Fink, Leonard 1 each).
BLOCKS: Minneota 25 (T. Hennen 3, Buysse, Sussner); Springfield 1 (Scheffler 1).
C SQUAD: Minneota 52, Springfield 26.
B SQUAD: Springfield 44, Minneota 34