Prep boys basketball: Orono survives Hermantown's second-half push in Class AAA quarterfinals
Abe Soumis led the Hawks with 34 points.
MINNEAPOLIS — Fueled by an electric 34-point performance by junior Abe Soumis, unseeded Hermantown pushed No. 2 seed Orono to the brink of an upset in the quarterfinal round of the Class AAA state tournament Tuesday afternoon at Williams Arena.
A pair of late free throws by Orono’s Grant Gunderson ultimately served as the difference in the 84-82 final, though Hermantown head coach Andy Fenske said the team’s grit and competitiveness were on full display to erase the double-digit deficit faced at halftime.
“They’re competitors. I mean, they want to win everything,” Fenske said. ”It’s an incredible group and the type of heart and character that they have is going to carry them far. ... To be with a crew for 19 weeks, you get to know them quite a bit, and it’s been a fun journey so far.”
The loss moves the Hawks into the consolation bracket where they’ll take on Stewartville at Concordia University in St. Paul, Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Fenske said his ballclub remains highly motivated in its pursuit of capturing the program’s inaugural victory in the state tournament.
“We’re hoping to play for the next two days here and get another 48 hours out of our season,” he said.
The Hawks’ aspirations of a state championship run were spoiled due in part to the work of Orono senior and leading scorer Isaiah Hagen. The Mr. Basketball watchlist selection scored 15 of his game-high 35 points in the first half, beginning with a basket in transition for a quick 5-0 scoring run after a 3-pointer by Kyle Kallenbach.
Following a swift response by the Hawks fueled by Soumis and Blake Schmitz to give Hermantown its first and only lead of the game at 7-5, the Spartans quickly re-established momentum that carried into the remainder of the half as the Spartans’ quick defense held the Hawks to 27 points in a 39-27 score after generating four steals and eight points in transition.
The Spartans finished the half shooting over 58% from the field, paced by Hagen with an efficient 7-for-12 from the field.
Soumis provided the counterpunch for the Hawks with a red-hot 15-point half of his own on 5-for-12 shooting and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
Out of the break, the Spartans appeared poised to run away with the game after opening up their largest lead at 52-36 before the Hawks came roaring back with a 10-4 scoring run to cut the deficit to 10 at 56-46 after a 3-pointer by Soumis.
Schmitz scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to provide a secondary scoring boost for the Hawks, guiding the club to within five points of tying the game, 66-61, with less than four minutes remaining.
The resiliency of Hermantown down the stretch came as no surprise to Orono coach Barry Wohler, who expected a much-tighter game than their previous meeting on Feb. 9 that the Spartans won convincingly, 76-60.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. You watch them play, and first of all they’re very well-coached and they battle. They’re tough kids,” Wohler said. “We talked about our section semifinal game against Delano. We had beat them by 25 earlier in the year, (then we) won by one. Teams get better.”
Soumis said the team did a much better job of limiting turnovers in the rematch.
“Overall, we didn’t try to force anything and took care of the ball better than we did last time. And (also) just not trying to let them get so many fast break points and get up the floor,” he said.
The five-point differential remained into the final minute where the Hawks managed to cut the deficit to its lowest point at three, 82-79, after a pair of free throws by Peyton Menzel with 15 seconds remaining. A pair of free throws on the other end by Gunderson moments later sealed Hermantown’s fate.
The Hawks finished the contest shooting 46% from the field, while the Spartans finished 55.4%.
Hermantown — Abe Soumis 34, Peyton Menzel 2, Blake Schmitz 24, Broc Sundland 9, Andrew Schmitz 2, Brayden Lundeen 2, Karson Christianson 2, Nathan Hill 7 . Totals 27 20-24 82.
3-point goals — Schmitz 3, Soumis 4, Sundland 1.
Orono — Zach Close 2, Grant Gunderson 12, Isaiah Hagen 35, Kyle Kallenbach 20, Nolan Groves 11, Brady Wooley 4. Totals 31 18-21 84.
3-point goals -- Kallenbach 4.