The Hastings Raiders boys' basketball team started the season out hot, but their shooting recently cooled off as they dropped two in a row before bouncing back. Last Tuesday, Dec. 12, they lost at home to Eastview 68-59 in a game where they trailed by much more but were able to make a comeback. Two days later, they hosted Rosemount and beat them 61-51 in a well-balanced offensive performance for the Raiders. Hastings is now 3-2 overall as they head into Metro East Conference play.
Hastings started slow when it hosted Eastview and the Lightning capitalized, catapulting out to a quick lead and extending it throughout the first half until they led 41-23 going into halftime. Eastview seemingly could not miss in the first half, especially from the three-point line, while the Raiders struggled to convert from the paint and from deep.
However, in the second half the Raiders came out and were able to mount a comeback and cut the Lightning's lead to single digits several times. Head coach Chad Feikema said he was pleased with how his team responded to a rough first half, saying it would have been very easy to let things get out of hand after being down 18.
Much of the comeback can be attributed to the grit and toughness shown by seniors Grant Hollar and Sawyer Levos. Feikema said that down the stretch in the second half he relied heavily upon Hollar to run the offense and make plays. At the same time, Levos began to assert himself, showing why several Division III schools are hoping he will play for them. He hit several threes and was able to get to them rim and finish through contact, taking on Eastview's height advantage.
However, the Raiders were not able to complete the comeback in what was their toughest game of the season and lost 68-59. Levos led the team with 24 points while Hollar had 11.
Feikema said his team played much better against the Rosemount Irish, though they still were not shooting as well as they were at the beginning of the season. Hastings trailed 32-29 at half, thanks in part to getting off to another slow start. Feikema said the Irish jumped out to a 16-2 lead and he was forced to call two timeouts in the first few minutes until the Raiders were able to get going. Hastings then came out in the second half and held the Irish to just 19 points the rest of the game to win 61-51. Five different Raiders scored in double-figures against Rosemount. Levos and fellow senior Levi Zak each had 11 points, while Hollar, sophomore Devon Haraldson and junior Isaac Rabaey each had 10 points apiece.
Feikema said that despite the win, his team is still looking for their defensive identity. He explained that no matter which defensive scheme they are attempting, they need to bring more intensity and grit to play consistently good defense at the varsity level.
The Raiders started Metro East Conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 19, against St. Thomas Academy, who are the favorite to win the conference this year. They then travel to Park on Friday, Dec. 22. The week of Christmas, Hastings will once again host their Holiday Tournament and welcome Prescott (Wis.), Farmington and Irondale. The Raiders open up the tournament with their across-the-river rivals the Cardinals at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28. The winner then goes on to play the winner of Farmington and Irondale, while the loser plays the opposite the next day.