With a week of no games, the defending Section 7AAA Hermantown boys basketball team was able to get its players rested and start to dial in on new concepts and schemes it wants to run in the upcoming playoffs, Hawks coach Andy Fenske said Monday morning. "We have a busy three-game week ahead," said Fenske of the 14-6 Hawks, who will visit Grand Rapids (6-14) in a Lake Superior Conference game on Tuesday before playing host to St. Francis (9-11) on Wednesday and Mound Westonka (8-11) Friday.
Hermantown blitzed the Thunderhawks 103-88 in Hermantown on Feb. 1.
"We need to take in the mindset that the result of our game at home doesn't help us out much when we travel to their place," Fenske said of the series rematch in Grand Rapids. "That's always a tough environment to play in, it's not what we call a 'shooter's gym' so we're going to need to grind out some tough defensive stops."
After that, the Hawks return home for the last two games of the regular season.
"St. Francis has been on a tear as of late," said Fenske. "Their stud player has stepped into his role as a dominant player after having a slow start to his senior season. They're going to be a very physical opponent and are well-coached defensive team. We can't get sloppy on the offensive side otherwise we're going to be in for a long night on Wednesday. Catching them on a back-to-back is going to be a good test for us here as we will need the mental and physical stamina to win."
The Mound-Westonka game is Senior Night/Parent's Night.
"Mound-Westonka is a team where we cannot let their record be a precursor to how talented they're going to be," said Fenske. "They play in an incredibly tough conference and section where they don't get an easy, confidence-boosting night. Each game they play is an absolute battle.
"They have a senior guard who is a top player in the entire state and can get hot quickly. This will be our last action wearing the blues until playoffs roll around in a few short weeks."
Hermantown senior forward Abe Soumis is also one of the best players in the state.
The Hawks are riding a three-game winning streak, and have won 10 of their last 11. Their most-recent win was at home against Proctor, 93-62.
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Hermantown was impressive in a pair of high school girls basketball road losses last week, as the Hawks continued to show major game-by-game improvement.
Hermantown fell to nonconference Pine City 67-53 on Tuesday, after holding a 29-25 lead at halftime.
"We played a competitive game at Pine City, but struggled a bit in the second half trying to score enough points to win the game," said legendary Hawks coach Beth Clark.
Super-sophomore guard Bailey Hermanson had 27 points Hermantown, and junior center Olivia Johnson added nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Hawks also played host Grand Rapids tough on Thursday evening, eventually losing 74-49.
"We also got off to a good start but had too many turnovers to sustain the pressure that GR put on to score," said Clark of the Lake Superior Conference matchup. "Regardless, we're proud of how these kids come to practice each day and work hard to get better and prepare for our next opponent. We play a tough schedule but never have the kids used that as an excuse. We believe in them and look to get back into the gym and get better for our next opponent."
Hermantown will continue its difficult regular season schedule at Hibbing (4-16) on Tuesday and at Esko (15-7) Thursday. The Hawks defeated the Bluejackets 56-48 in Hermantown on Jan. 23 and will face a powerful Esko team for the first time this season.
"This will be a tough week but we look forward to the competition and getting after it against some very good opponents," said Clark. "We just need to shoot better and cut down on the turnovers as a team."
Hermantown (6-16) has only four games remaining in the regular schedule, including LSC games at Duluth East (8-15) on February 20 and at home against Duluth Denfeld (3-18) on February 22.
Hermantown Sports This Week
Alpine Skiing State Meet – at Giants Ridge
Boys Hockey – at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Game Notes: The defending Section 7A champion Hawks (14-8-2) defeated non-conference Chaska 7-1 last Saturday at historic Hermantown Arena, as River Freeman scored a goal and collected three assists, and super-sophomore A.J. Francisco and Evan Gunderson scored two goals each. Goaltender Dane Callaway also stopped 25 of 26 shots for the Hawks, to pad his lofty individual season stats (1.87 goals-against, .935 saves percentage). William Esterbrooks, a rugged senior power forward, added a goal and a pair of assists, and burly Weston Bohlman had a goal and an assist in the Hawks’ final regular season home game.
Girls Basketball – at Hibbing, 7:15 p.m. Game Notes: The Hawks (6-16) are hoping to break a two-game losing streak, including a 74-49 loss at Grand Rapids last Thursday. Hermantown defeated Hibbing 56-48 in Hermantown on Jan. 23. The Hawks are led by dominating junior center Olivia Johnson and sophomore guard Bailey Hermanson.
Boys Basketball – at Grand Rapids, 7:15 p.m. Game Notes: The Hawks (14-6) have won three straight and 10 of their last 11. Grand Rapids (6-14) has lost three of its last four, including a 103-88 loss at Hermantown on Feb. 1. Hermantown is 7-2 in and in third-place in the Lake Superior Conference, and the Thunderhawks are 3-3 and fourth. Duluth Denfeld (11-10) is 7-0 in the LSC, followed by second-place Cloquet (11-10) at 6-4. The Hawks, who blitzed Proctor 93-62 last Friday at beautiful Hermantown Middle School Gym, are led by senior power forward Abe Soumis, Hermantown’s career rebounding leader, and electric guards Peyton Menzel and Nathan Hill.
Girls Hockey – Proctor-Hermantown vs. Duluth Marshall, Section 7A championship 7 p.m. in Proctor. Game Notes: The second-seeded Mirage advanced to the final with a 6-0 semifinal victory over third-seeded Cloquet-Esko-Carlton on Saturday in Proctor, where the top-seeded Hilltoppers blitzed fourth-seeded Moose Lake Area 5-1. Proctor-Hermantown (17-8-2) defeated Duluth Marshall (22-3-1) 4-3 in overtime at Mars Lakeview Arena on January 23, on junior forward Jane Eckstrom’s historical goal.
Nordic Ski – TBA at Giants Ridge
Boys Basketball – host St. Francis, 7:15 p.m. Game Note: St. Francis is 9-11.
Nordic Ski – at Giants Ridge, TBA
Girls Basketball – at Esko, 5:45 p.m. Game Notes: Esko is 15-7 and hoping to rebound from a 50-40 home loss to Pequot Lakes last Thursday night.
Boys Basketball – host Mound Westonka, 7:15 p.m. Game Notes: Mound Westonka (8-11) will be a heavy underdog in Hermantown’s final home regular season game, on Parents’ Night.
Boys Hockey – Section 7A play-in game, TBA. Note: The defending Section 7A champion Hawks will be seeded first in the tournament. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (12-13-0) will also be a high seed. Hermantown defeated the Lumberjacks 6-1 in Cloquet on Feb. 1 in their only meeting during the regular season.