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State boys basketball: BBE comes up short in Class A championship game

Second-seeded Jaguars fall to the defending state champ, losing 51-49 to Hayfield in Class A final

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BBE junior Kaden Pieper, right, and senior Ashton Dingmann embrace at midcourt after the Jaguars lost 51-49 to Hayfield in the Class A state championship game on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Every member of the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team wears a warm-up jersey emblazoned with the axiom "We>me." It's not-too-subtle reference to the team being more important than the individual.

It was an expression to live by in 2021-22 for the Jaguars, who wind up with a 28-5 record and with one of the best seasons in school history.

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Unfortunately for BBE, it also means it fell short of the school's third state championship.
Top-seeded Hayfield beat the second-seeded Jaguars 51-49 in the Class A title game Saturday at Williams Arena.

It was close, dramatic and memorable, much like almost all of BBE's games in the post-season. But it also wasn't quite what the Jaguars wanted.

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BBE sophomore Luke Dingmann, 21, hoists up a shot during the Class A state championship game against Hayfield on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

"I don't really have any word to describe it," said senior forward Ashton Dingmann, who led BBE with 20 points. "We played our hearts out, I guess.

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"That's all that we could ask for. We tried to leave the floor with no regrets and, I don't know. That's a good team we just played. I'm proud of our guys and the run we made. We all wanted a different ending result, but someone's got a lose, so ..."

BBE led 29-21 at halftime, using some impressive offensive rebounding to create second chances that built the lead over the Vikings, who are defending state champions.

Jaguars fall to top-seeded Vikings 51-49 Saturday at Williams Arena

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The BBE student section chants during the first half of the Class A state championship game against Hayfield on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The Jaguars had hoped to use their depth to wear down Hayfield, which used one bench player for 1 minute, 29 seconds in its 72-61 semifinal win over Cherry. Three starters played all 36 minutes and the other two played 35. But it wasn't to be.

"It definitely hurts, losing, taking second place," said BBE senior sixth man Gavin Kampsen in the Jaguars' emotional, tearful post-game press conference. "But, like Ashton said, somebody's got to lose.

"It's just these are my brothers. I grew up with these guys my whole entire life. It's heartbreaking to see these guys like this. But we'll bounce back from this. There's many big things in life ahead for us. But it's going to hurt for a while."

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BBE senior Gannon Walsh, right, pats teammate Luke Dingmann on the back after Dingmann scored a basket during the Class A state championship game against Hayfield on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Hayfield sank four free throws in the final 22.1 seconds that turned a 47-44 game into a 51-46 advantage, just enough to make nearly impossible for BBE to rally with such little time.

What made it noteworthy were the shooters. First, Kobe Foster made two 1-and-1s for his first two points of the game. At that point, only three Vikings had scored; Isaac Matti, who finished with 27 points, Easton Fritcher, who had 13 and Zander Jacobson, who had seven.

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Hayfield's Easton Frichter, 4, goes up for a layup attempt while BBE's Ashton Dingmann, 13, closes in on defense during the Class A state championship game on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Then, Ethan Pack, head coach Chris Pack's son, went to the line with 3.7 seconds left and Hayfield leading 49-46 after a put-back basket by BBE. Ethan Pack then made both ends of the 1-and-1 for his first two points of the game.

"It's just tough," said Jaguars senior guard Will Van Beck, who had five assists. "I wanted to do it for my guys, my community.

"But we tried our best."

Hayfield, Foster said, could breathe a sigh of relief after rallying from a double-digit first-half deficit. Unlike last season, the Vikings were the prohibitive favorites in the tournament and really, throughout the season. Last year's state title was accomplished with Hayfield being the third seed in its sub-section and the the fourth seed at the state tournament.

"It's kind of hard to compare them," Foster said. "I don't know. It's an exciting, unreal feeling for both of them. But this year, it was a little bit of an expectation almost. But just to get here, this is what we've been looking forward to all year. Where as, last year, was the first time for a lot of us. This year was more of an expectation."

Hayfield got back in the game right away in the second half. Matti, the talented 6-foot-1 junior guard, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first 52 seconds to make it 29-27 BBE.

"We knew we were going to adversity sometime this year," Matti said. "I just hit a couple of big ones right away (in the second half) and we just went from there."

Said Fritcher: "If he doesn't hit those two threes at the start of the second half, it could have been a completely different game. The momentum shift would have been crazy."

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The Jaguars got back up 33-27, but the Vikings quickly grabbed a 34-33 lead with 13:11 to go. From there, it was close.

Hayfield led most of the way, but BBE got up 44-42 on an inside basket from Kampsen with 3:42 to go.

The Jaguars then went cold from the field and the Vikings took advantage. It was enough for a second state championship in a row.

"This is a tough tournament," BBE head coach Chris Anderson said. "This is tough for kids to go through, this high school league tournament.

"If there's one thing we can take away from this as a coaching staff is Hayfield has been though this tournament. They understand the grind, the grit, the mental piece of it and we haven't. I mean, these guys haven't ... I'm just so proud of these guys, our whole team. We love these guys, we've watched them group up and become these young men. And in the end, that's the most important piece to this whole thing: who they are when they leave. They're going to do great things. I love 'em ..."

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State Class A final

Hayfield 51, BBE 49

BBE (28-5)      29   20 — 49
Hayfield (32-2)       21   30 — 51
BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA - Scoring: Kaden Pieper 10, Ashton Dingmann 20, Luke Dingmann 15, Gavin Kampsen 2, Easton Hagen 2  … 3-point shots: A. Dingmann 4, L. Dingmann 2 … Rebound leader: Pieper 6, A. Dingmann 6, L. Dingmann 5 … Assist leader: Will Van Beck 5, Pieper 3, L. Dingmann 2 … Steal leaders: Pieper 1, L. Dingmann 1 ... Block leader: L. Dingmann 1 
HAYFIELD - Scoring: Zander Jacobson 7, Easton Fritsher 13, Isaac Matti 27, Ethan Pack 2, Kobe Foster 2 … 3-point shots: Matti 3 … Rebound leaders: Fritcher 8, Pack 6, Jacobson 5, Foster 5 … Assist leaders: Fritcher 3, Matti 2, Pack 2 … Steal leaders: Jacobson 1, Pack 1, Foster 1, Karver Heydt 1 ... Block leader: Pack 1

Rochester Post Bulletin's Hayfield coverage :

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