The Hastings boys' basketball team dropped two games to North St. Paul and Tartan this last week, both whom are at the top of the Metro East Conference. The Raiders hosted the Polars on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and lost 62-61 after leading with less than 30 seconds left. Then Tartan came to town and showed why they are considered one of the top teams in class 4A, beating the Raiders 86-46. Hastings is now 9-13 overall and have dropped four in a row. They are fifth in the MEC with a 5-7 conference record.
North St. Paul
Hastings trailed North St. Paul 23-19 at halftime in what was a tough first half to watch.
"It was a sloppy first half," head coach Chad Feikema said. "Neither team played well and we did well to keep it close. We were sloppy, but thankfully so was North St. Paul."
Both teams turned the ball over plenty to start the game, committed fouls left and right and were plagued by missed free throws. However, the second half was the complete opposite.
"Both teams played much better in the second half and I thought we did a lot of things well," Feikema said.
The Raiders started the second half with a 9-0 run to take a 28-25 lead. From there on, they led until the very end, were able to get the Polars into foul trouble and made their free throws. As the half progressed, both sides began to run more in transition and upped the tempo, which made for a very entertaining ending. Hastings led 61-59 with 21 seconds left in the half and were inbounding under their own basket when they committed a costly turnover. North St. Paul's Goodnews Kpegeol, 6-foot-5, hit the step-back 3-pointer over the top of his defender to give the Polars a 62-61 lead with six seconds left. That would be the final.
Brandon Haraldson led the Raiders with 18 points and was hot from the 3-point line in the second half. Colin Kummer had 13 points, Sawyer Levos nine, Jake Brake eight and Jake Brown seven. Grant Hollar had six points including several key free throws at the end of the game.
Coming off a tight, exciting game against North St. Paul, the Raiders ran into a buzzsaw when the Tartan Titans came to Hastings. The Titans jumped on Hastings from the start and led 48-21 at halftime. Feikema said the Raiders have more trouble with the Titans than most other teams they face.
"Tartan is a tough matchup for us," Feikema explained. "From a matchup perspective they are tough on us. They are able to put pressure on us at each position and Jordan Horn (who is committed to Division I Siena College) is able to do a lot off the bounce."
The Raiders were not able to mount a comeback and lost 86-46. Horn had a game-high 24 points and Tartan had four players score in double figures. Hastings was led by Haraldson, who had 11 points, followed by Brake with nine, Brown with eight and Kummer with six. Levos and Isaac Rabaey both had three points. Nathaniel Wiese, Sullivan Levos and Jacob Streeter all had two points.
Hastings has four games left in the regular season, all against MEC opponents. The Raiders traveled to South St. Paul on Tuesday, Feb. 21. They then finish the season with three straight home games, including conference-leading Mahtomedi on Friday, Feb. 24.
Feikema said that the Raiders have to execute better down the stretch as they head toward section playoffs.
"We need to be concentrating on the things we need to do to win," Feikema said. "When we're executing well, we play well. We're a team that doesn't have a lot of margin for error. When things break down or we're not executing well, we don't have that one guy who we can lean on score or make a play, or rely on quickness as a team or size."
Section playoffs start Tuesday, March 7.