Prep boys basketball: Hawks lose heartbreaker in quarterfinals

MINNEAPOLIS -- The way Thomas Madison was playing Wednesday, his last-second desperation heave had to fall. And it nearly did, too, before touching seemingly every part of the net and popping out to gasps and groans from a Williams Arena crowd th...

Hermantown High School Hawks forward Zack Brendon goes up for a shot against St. Paul Johnson High School Governors during the first half at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, MN, Wednesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Craig Lassig)

MINNEAPOLIS - The way Thomas Madison was playing Wednesday, his last-second desperation heave had to fall.

And it nearly did, too, before touching seemingly every part of the net and popping out to gasps and groans from a Williams Arena crowd that witnessed upset-minded Hermantown throw everything it had at No. 2 St. Paul Johnson in the Class AAA quarterfinals of the Minnesota high school boys basketball tournament.

The Governors (26-3) staved off the Hawks 59-56 in a thriller to advance to today’s semifinals. Unseeded Hermantown finishes the season 24-6. And, after a decades-long wait for the first state tournament appearance in program history, the Hawks (24-6) are sure to be lamenting Madison’s tough luck in the days to come.

Following three St. Paul Johnson free throws, Madison took a good - if a bit off-balance - look on a long 3-pointer right in front of the Hermantown bench. And the junior, who played brilliantly throughout, thought it was money.

“It’s tough,” said Madison, who totaled a game-high 20 points. “Sometimes you get a bounce and sometimes you don’t.”


Said teammate Kole Zuidmulder: “I saw him put it up and I thought it was good. When it popped out, it was just a flood of emotions.”

The near-miss capped a back-and-forth affair on the Barn’s raised floor. Hardly given a chance by anyone outside of Hermantown, the Hawks played like a team that was intent on hanging around Minneapolis for a couple days. Five 3-pointers from Madison and Zuidmulder in the first half keyed a spirited start and a one-point halftime deficit. They pulled in front 51-50 on a putback from Daniel Hedstrom that closed a 6-0 spurt and tied it late on Zuidmulder’s long-range jumper from the top of the arc.

But that was it as the Governors stretched their winning streak to 13 games.

For Hermantown, despite erasing years of misery - including a 1-25 season in the 2007-08 season - simply getting to state wasn’t enough.

“We honestly believed we were going to shock the Twin Cities,” coach Joe Schmitz said. “We didn’t want to just come down and make it for one game. We wanted to keep playing.”

Zuidmulder, who missed a chunk of time in the first half after picking up two quick fouls, had 13 points in his final prep game. The senior will play football and baseball at Minnesota Duluth.

Jalen Mobley and Eric Elliott scored 16 points apiece for St. Paul Johnson, which appeared flustered at times with an inability to jumpstart its fast-breaking offense. The Governors entered averaging close to 80 points per game. And it was easy to see why. Every time a Hermantown shot went up, a St. Paul Johnson player almost immediately released the other way, looking for an easy bucket at the other end. Defensively, the active Governors consistently clogged passing lanes.

Proof of that could be found in Hermantown’s 30 turnovers.


Schmitz frequently pled with his team to calm down. The Hawks are used to running with a potent offense of their own, but this was flat-out sprinting, especially in a sloppy second half.

“We hadn’t really seen anything like that,” said Madison, who came out of halftime with a flourish, his runner giving the Hawks a 35-34 lead shortly after the break. “But we knew it was coming. We knew they were athletic and long.”

The loss marked the second gut-wrenching defeat for a Hermantown team in five days. Saturday in St. Paul, the hockey team lost its sixth state championship game in six years, 5-4 in overtime to East Grand Forks.

Wednesday, as Zuidmulder said, the Hawks showed their community and the entire state they could play basketball as well.

And they looked like they’d be playing at least into overtime when Madison released his last-gasp prayer. It was almost answered.

“That’s our best 3-point shooter and he got a good look,” Schmitz said. “I thought it was going in and I think everyone else did, too.”

The Governors, who didn’t make a single 3-pointer, meet Waconia in today’s semifinals.



Hermantown      31-25-56

St. Paul Johnson  32-27-59

Hermantown - Thomas Madison 20, Kole Zuidmulder 13, Daniel Hedstrom 7, Zack Brendon 6, Nate Soumis 3, Caleb Steinert 3, Nick Bostrom 2, Zach Zierden 2. Totals 17 15-21 56.

3-point goals - Madison 3, Zuidmulder 3, Steinert.

St. Paul Johnson - Jalen Mobley 16, Eric Elliott 16, Malik Jones 6, Andre Smith 6, Savion Benton 4, Saivon Parker 4, Sedrick Clark 3, Derek Siedschlag 2, Justus Murphy 2. Totals 20 19-27 59.

3-point goals - None.

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