The No. 1-seeded defending Section 6 and Class A state champion Henning Hornets pulled away from No. 4 New York Mills midway through the first half of a 85-48 playoff quarterfinal victory at The Hive in Perham Saturday, March 7.
In this round during last year’s run to the state title, the Hornets barely escaped Hillcrest Lutheran Academy by two points. That game was the talk of the Henning locker room before the game, but this team is much different than last year’s. There is a load of tournament experience up and down the roster.
“There’s a lot of big game experience, that’s for sure,” Henning head coach Randy Misegades said. “These kids have played in so many big games. Not that it guarantees anything, but they’re certainly not going to get rattled by anything.”
The Eagles kept pace with Henning during the opening six minutes. Both teams were familiar to each other. Henning had won both regular season meetings by big scores.
The Hornets held a 19-15 lead and started to stretch their advantage with a three-point shot by Tanner Arndt.
New York Mills sophomore Tate Olson answered with a field goal to get back to within five points, down 22-17, but the Eagles would not be that close on the scoreboard the rest of the game as the Hornets found a comfort zone.
“We’ve played a lot here,” Misegades said. “This feels like a pretty comfortable atmosphere here for us.”
Five straight baskets, the final two on drives by Henning senior Blake Wallevand, pushed the lead to 13 points, 30-17. The Hornets got up by as many as 19 points, 40-21, on back-to-back baskets by senior Isaac Fisher.
“We struggled a little early to get some stops,” said Misegades. “Once we adjusted and ramped it up a little we were able to kind of settle in.”
The Eagles scored six of the last eight points of the half to go to the break trailing 42-27.
New York Mills held their own in the first nine minutes of the second half not allowing the Hornets to get above a 20-point margin until a three-pointer by Blaine Wallevand. Brandon Trana scored on two consecutive back door cuts to prelude two straight drives for points by Parker Fraki forcing an Eagles’ timeout with the score 63-35.
Out of the break, Fraki drove the length of the floor for a layup and the foul and Henning was up 31 points, 66-35, with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Henning’s ride through the playoffs has been an adjustment. In 2019, the Hornets were the darlings of the state tournament with a big story following them all the way to the title game. This year, people are gunning for them.
“It’s different,” said Misegades. “Even early in the season, I felt like the kids felt a little pressure. We still were winning, but we didn’t play great. We sort of settled down into that role where we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. They’ve handled it really well.”
Blake Wallevand led Henning with 24 points. Fraki added 19; Isaac Fisher scored 17.
Olson led all scorers with 25 points.
The Eagles finish the season with an overall record of 16-11.
The 27-1 Hornets will face No. 3 Mahnomen-Waubun in the semifinals Monday, March 9 at Concordia College in Moorhead. Tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. Henning has won 20 straight games.
Section 6A Boys Basketball quarterfinal
No. 1 Henning 85, No. 4 New York Mills 48
NYM 27 21 - 48
HEN 42 43 - 85
NYM - Tate Olson 25, Jonah Johnson 9, Breck Hensch 8, Eli Olson 3, Derin Gaudette 3,
HEN - Blake Wallevand 24, Parker Fraki 19, Isaac Fisher 17, Blaine Wallevand 11, Jackson Nyhus 8, Tanner Arndt 3, Luke Bjorkland 3.
Thunderbirds advance over Titans
No. 3 Mahnomen-Waubun trailed No. 2 Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal for all but the early going and final three minutes in a come-from-behind 60-56 victory over the Titans in the second game at the Hive Saturday afternoon.
Loden Clark got the Thunderbirds off to a strong start with a field goal and a three-point basket, but an early 5-2 lead disappeared quickly.
By the midway point of the first half, the Titans’ Broden Lien polished off a 15-2 run to give NCE/UH a 17-7 lead
The Titans kept their distance to a 28-21 advantage at the half.
Payton Keezer and Clark scored the first two field goals of the second half to create a one possession game trailing 28-25, but the Titans ran off again building a 41-29 lead after a basket by Logan Miller with 10 minutes to play.
Clark drained a trio of big threes in a Thunderbird 17-6 run to pull within a point down 47-46 with 3:30 on the clock.
A Pazdernik steal 18 seconds later and a layup gave Mahnomen-Waubun their first lead since the opening minutes 48-47. The Thunderbirds would not relinquish it during the final three minutes keeping the Titans (19-9) at bay from the free throw line.
Down 59-56 with the ball, Lien was called for traveling with 7.7 seconds left in the game allowing Clark to make one of two free throws to ice the victory.
Mahnomen-Waubun lost both regular season meetings with the Titans, but Saturday’s win improved the T-Birds to 17-10 heading to a semifinal matchup with No. 1 Henning. The two teams have not met this season.
Section 6A Boys Basketball quarterfinal
No. 3 Mahnomen-Waubun 60, No. 2 Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal 56
M-W 21 39 - 60
NCE 28 28 - 56
M-W - Tanner Pazdernik 20, Loden Clark 19, Payton Keezer 9, Justin Littlewolf 7, Sam Zima 4, Cooper Houdek 1.
NCE - Broden Lien 17, Logan Miller 14, Parker Lien 10, Morgan Stueness 9, Tate Sagedahl 4, Riley Resnick 2.