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Scoring drought hurts Knights in loss to Hancock

MINNEAPOLIS — A late-game scoring drought by Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s helped lead Hancock to a 65-53 win on Wednesday morning in a Class A state boys’ basketball semifinal game at Target Center.

The Knights led by as much as 8 on Wednesday, but a scoring drought of 5:10 late in the second half proved costly as the Owls battled back and pulled away.

“Any time you go on a drought against a good team like that, it hurts a little bit,” Knights head coach Judd Walter said. “I don’t know that they [Hancock] really changed anything up x’s and o’s, but I think that they really ramped up their defense and made it tough for us to score. And we missed some shots, a couple break-away layups that were contested, and not executing at the free-throw line hurt.”

The Knights shot 2 of 8 at the foul line.

Sophomore Kaleb Wait led the Knights with 19 points, four steals and four assists, while Trent Steffensmeier added 17 points. Kyle Goblirsch added 6 points and seven rebounds for the Knights also, while Jacob Lux had 6 points and six boards.

The Knights were first on the board after a bucket by Lux, but Hancock quickly answered with a 3-pointer by Kody Berget, who ended with 18 points on six 3-pointers. After Berget knocked down his third 3 of the morning, the Owls pulled away with a 16-10 lead with 12:28 left in the first half.

The Knights then battled back and tied it at 20-all after a free throw by Steffensmeier. After a bucket inside by Brandon Kellenberger had the Owls up 22-20, the Knights went on a 9-0 run to lead 29-22 and force a Hancock timeout with 3:44 left in the half. The run started with a spin-move layup by Wait and was finished with a 3 by Wait that went off the rim and in.

Hancock got within 3 after that run but trailed St. Mary’s 34-29 at the half.

After a basket inside by Steffensmeier started the second half, both teams traded a 3 apiece before a 3 by Adam Shaw, a putback by Matt Thompson and a steal for a turnaround bucket by Preston Rohloff tied it up at 39-all and forced a Knights timeout with 14:16 left to play. Thompson ended the game leading the Owls with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

After a 3 by Steffensmeier had the Knights trailing 50-48 with 6:09 left to play, Hancock clamped down on defense and held the Knights without a bucket for 5:10. A 3 by Wait stopped the Knights’ drought and had them down 58-51 with 1:19 to play.

The Knights were forced to amp up their defensive pressure and foul with time ticking away, and the Owls capitalized, getting five free throws to fall in the final two minutes. A break-away dunk by Thompson highlighted the Owls’ surge with 17 seconds left in the game.

The Knights will now be without three key seniors next season in Lux, Kyle Goblirsch and Braden Hansen.

“We’re bringing back our three leading scorers, but we’re losing some very valuable pieces,” Walter said. “Them three guys kind of being very strong defensively and very good leaders. They really set the tone this playoff run and were able to kind of help lead us to get here. So I like the talent we’re bringing back, but they’re kind of our big guys. They’re not overly big, but they are our bigger guys, and Braden coming off the bench as our spark plug was also huge. I like the direction the program’s going, but it’s going to have to be some younger guys stepping up. And I feel we’ve got some guys coming up that will be able to serve a role.”

The Knights end their 2021 season with a 20-4 record. Hancock will next meet Hayfield in the state title game on Saturday.

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