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State tournament notes: Not taking a step back

By David La Vaque, 03/23/22, 1:30PM CDT


Defending state champion Hayfield could be better than a year ago.

Basketball observers wondered whether Hayfield, which lost senior guard Ethan Slaathaug and his 25.3 points per game to graduation, would fall from its Class 1A state championship perch.

Not yet. In fact, Vikings’ coach Chris Pack believes his top-seeded team, which won Wednesday’s state tournament quarterfinal game, could be better.

The dual emergence of sophomore forward Zander Jacobson and senior guard Kobe Foster have made Hayfield a bit more complete.

Jacobson brings size (6-foot-4) inside, while Foster has increased his potency from behind the three-point arc.

“Zander has really brought a different element that we didn’t have last year. Easton [Fritcher] was our post at 6-feet tall. Zander has allowed Easton to guard more perimeter guys and he’s better at that," Pack said. "And Kobe has it over 50 three-pointers this year and really given us a perimeter threat. I really like this team. I think people thought we’d take a big step back after losing Ethan, but I think right now, we might be playing a little better than we were last year at this time.”

Tigers standout has fitting nickname

Cherry coach Jordan Christianson really likes Ike, a nickname for his sophomore guard Isaac Asuma.

The young man posted 31 points and 17 rebounds in Wednesday’s quarterfinal victory, after which Christianson raved, “He can get to the rack whenever. He is shooting 67 percent this year, a lot of that is at the rim.”

Athletes such as Asuma, explosive around the rim, are rare in Class 1A, the state’s smallest schools by enrollment. Christianson compared him to former Ellsworth standout Cody Schilling, who graduated in 2008 as the state’s all-time leading scorer.

High praise. But Nevis senior Mathias Warrington wouldn’t argue.

“He’s something special,” Warrington said of Asuma. “You just can’t stop him.”

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