By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
MANKATO — Sometimes your game plan doesn't work but things pan out anyway.
The Hayfield Vikings found that out on Friday when they knocked off state-ranked St. Peter 56-51 at Minnesota State's Bresnan Arena in the Section 2AA finals.
"We wanted to get their big guy in foul trouble," Hayfield's Jeremy Stuart said of his team's strategy. "We thought if we could drive inside we could get him to foul and we'd put him on the bench early."
St. Peter's Peter Kruize spent a little time on the bench but not a lot. A by-product of Hayfield's penetration, however, was numerous inside baskets, particularly in the first half. It enabled the Vikings to build a 29-19 lead by halftime.
"We knew they had some strong, athletic guards and that (Stuart) was a good post player," St. Peter coach Kelly Raymond said. "The big thing for us was we couldn't get our perimeter game going. We had good looks, the shots just wouldn't go down."
Trailing 40-31 early in the second half, the Saints made a run to tie the game at 43. A turnaround jumper in the paint by Kruize, a 3-pointer by Brad Rice a couple of 12-footers by Josh Peymann and an inside bucket by Jordan Sorenson fueled the rally.
The Saints had a 48-47 lead with 1:39 to play but got outscored 9-3 the rest of the way.
"We had the lead and we needed a defensive stop and we just couldn't get it," Raymond said. "If we could have gotten that stop it might have been different."
Stuart said he wasn't surprised that St. Peter rallied in the second half.
"The coach told us at halftime that they were going to make a run on us," he said. "We just tried to keep our composure and keep doing the things that got us the lead to begin with. They went ahead but we got it back."
Stuart led Hayfield with 22 points. Cole Krueger, who was the Vikings most successful penetrator Friday, finished with 15.
Kruize had a strong second half for St. Peter and ended up with 22 points. Peymann closed out with 13.
"We had our chances, we just didn't get it," Raymond said. "We made some bad decisions in the first half. When you make bad decisions, whether it's basketball or in life, bad things happen."
St. Peter ends the season with a 24-4 record. Hayfield takes a 22-7 record to the Class AA state tournament which begins Wednesday.