The Hastings boys' basketball team did not have a goal of a certain number of wins as they entered this past season, but rather to take care of business against the teams they should beat and steal some from teams they should not.
"We had the cliché goals of improving throughout the season and to be competitive in the conference and section races," head coach Chad Feikema said. "More specifically, I wanted to win all of our 'should win' games, all of our 'could win' games, and then get an upset or two against some of the top-level teams on our schedule.
"By that I mean that we would play several teams that have highly recruited players at the college level, on teams that are highly ranked and we would clearly be the underdog," Feikema explained. "We were able to beat Mahtomedi to accomplish the last of those goals, and almost beat North St. Paul in a game that would have fit into the same category. The only games we lost in the first two categories were Irondale and Simley in the 'should win' category, and perhaps St. Thomas Academy and Prescott in the 'could win' category. Both St. Thomas Academy and Prescott are state tournament teams, but I say that because we lost in overtime at St. Thomas Academy, and had a 10-point lead at halftime versus Prescott, so we could have won. By contrast, in the 2015-2016 season we won all of the 'coulds' and 'shoulds,' but not any upset wins."
After watching his team work and play for most of the season, Feikema said that nothing his players accomplished this year surprised him, though it may have surprised others.
"When I look at my team, I see all the possibilities and potential, and have a vision for how we should look if everything goes well and is done correctly," Feikema said. "Our players had games where we played exceptionally well, and beat teams that had players that were bigger and faster, so on that front I suppose they exceeded the expectations of others, but I believed we could beat Mahtomedi, North St. Paul and a few others."
There were games that Hastings was able to put things together and fire on all cylinders, and the results were outstanding when they did.
"We played exceptionally well at Hudson and against Eagan in December, we were really dialed in and played well in the home game versus Hill Murray, and the away game at Henry Sibley," Feikema said. "We also played really well at Mahtomedi. For us this past season, we knew a few things had to happen for us to be good within a given game, and one of those was making perimeter shots. We were not a good post-up team and we were not a good break-guys-down-off-the-dribble team. We needed to execute plays well, shoot well from the perimeter and get some points in transition to be effective offensively. We had three games where we scored at least 95 points and in those games, each of those three things took place."
However, there were areas that Feikema said he expected his team to perform better in throughout the season.
"I thought we would execute sets in the half-court better and I thought we would use scouting reports and execute game plans better than we did overall," Feikema said. "We had games where we did each of those well, but not consistently enough. The second half of the Mahtomedi game, on the defensive end, was as good of a job we did all season in terms of knowing the other teams personnel and what we wanted to do with that knowledge."
The Raiders graduate eight seniors at the end of the year, most of whom either started or saw significant varsity playing time this past season. They are Colin Kummer, Nathaniel Wiese, Brandon Haraldson, Jacob Brake, Logan Nelson, Jacob Streeter, Jacob Brown and Peyton Housker.
Kummer led Hastings in scoring this season and averaged just over 13 points per game. Two other players averaged double-digit scoring, junior Sawyer Levos with 13 ppg and Haraldson at 12.1 ppg. Brake added 8.6 ppg, Brown 7.3 and Wiese 6.8. The Raiders had a very balanced offense this past season with the three who averaged over 10 ppg, but also with eight players who all averaged more than five ppg.
Coach Feikema said that this year's group of seniors accomplished something that had not happened in a very long time at Hastings.
"Our seniors are an exceptional group of young men," Feikema said. "They are high-character guys who have excelled in the classroom, in the hallways and in our community. They have worked really hard in our basketball program and will be missed. Our boys' basketball program has had a run in the past three years of 21 wins, (school record) 12 wins and 12 wins. This is the best three-year run for boys basketball since the 1990s and the days of Michael Bauer. Our seniors were a big part of that success, and have helped lay the groundwork for future success with our underclassmen."
Looking ahead to next season, Hastings brings back point guard Grant Hollar and forward Sawyer Levos, as well as those coming up from junior varsity and B-squad.
"Sawyer Levos and Grant Hollar will be returning starters and we will need both of them to take some big steps forward in performance and leadership for next season," Feikema explained. "Several JV, B-squad, and ninth-grade players have some opportunities to step forward, and our coaching staff will be anxious to see who works hard to make those jumps. We have more players playing AAU than in years past, and we seem to have some guys that really want to invest and put some time into basketball."
Feikema also said that next year's basketball team also has the potential to be very different than those of the past decade.
"We could have the tallest and longest team we have had in 10 years or more if some guys continue to grow like they have lately," Feikema stated. "Beyond that, we are speculating on potential. We have some players that have improved dramatically in the past 12 months, and if they can continue to make some jumps, we could have a really good team."
Hastings also found out at the end of the season that they won the section 3AAAA academic championship with a team GPA of 3.62.