Make some more room in the trophy case. While you're at it, find the 1966 trophy to pair with Thursday night's Section 1A title hardware as the only two times that Blooming Prairie has reached the Minnesota state high school boys basketball tournament. A majority of players on the hoops team also experienced that sense of achievement during the football season when BP won the Prep Bowl title.

The 'celebration' after Thursday night's win felt like a group that had done it before. There was no sprinting, pile-up of players whooping and cheering. Just a group that had survived a tough 59-51 win over their neighboring rivals from Hayfield. There were plenty of sweaty, smiling faces as the Blossoms posed with the section title trophy.

The question of what's next rolled around the arena afterward. The state tournament is scheduled for March 18-21 in the Twins Cities. However with the expanded precautions being taken in light of the coronavirus spread, there is some doubt. A news release from the high school league Thursday stated, "As the COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, plans for events held after the weekend are still being developed and will be communicated at a later date."

The high school league is restricting access to girls basketball state tournament games this weekend, in addition to limited attendance at the remaining boys basketball section games. Thursday night was the last allowing full access and a large crowd attended. The high school league has cancelled this weekend's adapted floor hockey state tournament.

Blooming Prairie and Hayfield traded the lead through the first half. The Vikings were up 9-4 when BP went on a 6-0 run for a 10-9 lead. With the game tied at 13-13, Blooming went on a 9-2 run and led 22-15. A short time afterward, the Vikings went on a 10-2 blitz for a 27-25 lead. BP led 31-28 at the half.

One constant through the first 18 minutes was Gabe Hagen's dominance in the paint. The future Division II football player for Minnesota State University-Mankato scored 17 of his game-high 23 in the first half.

Kaden Thomas had four three-pointers on the night, a pair in each half. He scored 14 total points. He spoke with Kat Kountry announcer Jason Iacovino in the post game show. "It's really exciting. It's our first time since 1966. In our gym we have a banner that says our state appearances. We only have one number up there and we wanted to add another." Thomas had seven three-pointers in the game against Southland in the arena as well, "You just have got to focus on the back of the rim...We're excited about how many people who had here. They support us just like the football team."

Hagen added, "It feels amazing. It's huge for our community...My goal was to come into the game and play physical and all my teammates look to feed me the ball because that's how we run our offense. They feed me then I feed them off the doubling. I wasn't being doubled today, so I did the work."

Drew Kittelson added 11 points and nearly 10 rebounds. BP led the entire second half. Hayfield missed at least their first five shots after halftime. Blooming Prairie got up 45-36. The Vikings pulled within four points at 47-43 but Blooming pushed the lead out again. BP missed some free throws toward the end, keeping Hayfield in the game.

Hayfield's 6-foot-7 Luke Dudycha cleaned the glass with about 15 rebounds and reached double digits in points. Ethan Slaathaug led the Vikings with 19 points and hit two treys. In their effort to make up the second-half deficit, Hayfield shot more three-pointers but connected just once on about nine tries.

Final: Blooming Prairie 59, Hayfield 51



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