Only one Journal-covered boys basketball team made it out of the Round of 16 of their respective section tournaments. It wasn’t a shock it was R-P, but the section four cast will not include the Trojans. Maybe in a couple years, when this young Trojan group matures, their game versus Hayfield will be just a blip. Hopefully, this season will just be a blip, as it’s been non-Trojan-esque for a number of reasons. As is, R-P (7-seed, 13-13) sported a starting line-up with just one junior, three sophomores, and a freshman versus Hayfield (2-seed, 22-5) in a 1A quarterfinal. The boys were overwhelmed by the Vikings size and ability to score more easily. In the first half, the Trojans led 11-9. Hayfield then hit nine straight field goals. R-P initially matched the scores, but ultimately the Vikings went on an 11-1 run. They went ahead 28-19, then hit two threes to end the half, taking a 34-21 edge to intermission. R-P battled back and got as close as 43-38 in the second half. Going bigger with junior reserve Ben Wieser seemed to help. But the Vikings then executed, getting 6’3” Ethan Slaathaug in the post versus a smaller defender for two. They ran a half-court play that got Easton Fritcher a lay-up. Two possessions later, they put the 6’6” 270-pound Wieser in a pick and roll. Guard Patrick Towey buried a three. Slaathaug added a back-door cut, three-point-play. Hayfield went on an 11-2 run to lead 55-40 with 3:10 left. The Vikings nailed down a 60-48 win.
Sophomore Justin Ruberg (21 pts, 10-18 FGs, 12 rebs) led the way for R-P with his interior shot-making ability. Junior Luke O’Hare added 12 points. Slaathaug (21 points, 8-11 FGs) led Hayfield. Fritcher (12 pts), Luke Dudycha (10 pts, 7 rebs), and Isaac Matti (10 pts, 4 asts) all reached double-figures. Dudycha, a 6’7” senior, had 8 points in the first half (4-5 FGs). All five Viking starters had 7-plus points. The teams combined for just 12 turnovers (six each). Hayfield hit 6 of 9 three’s to R-P’s 4 of 14. They hit 22 of 38 field goals to R-P’s 20 of 45. The Trojans season ends at 13-14. Hayfield went on to beat 3-seed Randolph 68-60. Top-seeded BP beat 4-seed GM 52-49. Hayfield and BP will play for the 1A title. In 1AA, top-seed Caledonia beat 13-seed D-E 100-84 and 3-seed Stewartville beat 10-seed Pine Island 71-59. The Warriors and Tigers will play for the section title.