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Down to the wire - Nuggets outlast Lakers in a thriller

Karter Kopacek and Jacob Vetter (14) celebrate with their teammates as the buzzer sounded on a one-point Hawley Nuggets victory over Detroit Lakes at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium Thursday, Dec. 6. Robert Williams / Tribune

Hawley senior guard Jacob Vetter scored the only point of the final two minutes and the Nuggets’ defense helped snap a four-game losing streak to Detroit Lakes 59-58 at Ralph Anderson gymnasium Thursday, Dec. 6.

“Detroit Lakes is a great team and it’s always a close game with us,” Vetter said. “We knew it was going to be a grind to the very end.”

Neither team led by more than six points all game as the clock wound down to a tied score 58-58 with two minutes to play. Jake Bettcher’s final basket of the game was answered by a steal and layup by Hawley’s Jayden Carlisle to knot the score.

Max Gunderson (10) and Jacob Vetter battle for a rebound.

The two teams traded a pair of empty trips down the floor. The Lakers negated both Nugget possessions forcing a turnover on the first and Carlisle was denied on a block by Drew Markuson to give DL possession with 51 seconds remaining.

The Lakers passed the ball around the perimeter waiting for the last shot but Tate Kerzman’s pass attempt at the top of the key was tipped by Carlisle and he got the ball to Vetter who drove to the hoop and fouled Ben Stearns out of the game going to the line with 15.9 seconds on the clock.

Vetter missed the first attempt but made the second to go up 59-58. As the clock wound down, DL’s Nate Cihak fired a three-pointer and found iron. The loose ball was never in anyone’s complete possession but was knocked out of bounds by Hawley as the horn sounded.

“We didn’t win this game off of our toughness; we’ve got a long way to go,” said Hawley head coach Nathan Stoa. “We did some strong things and some mentally tough things, but physically we give up a lot. DL rolls out dudes. The offensive boards kept them in it and had me worried.”

Both the coach and his players were worried going into the halftime break despite leading.

Vetter hit a three-point basket in the waning seconds of the first half to send Hawley to the locker room with a one-point advantage 32-31.

“We weren’t shooting very well,” Vetter said. “Coach came in and said we’re playing well and they’re going to fall in the second half - just keep playing hard and make things happen.”

DL had its own troubles to work through playing much of the second half without Bettcher, who picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left in the game. Starting point guard Tate Kerzman missed crucial minutes late battling cramps.

“We were right there, unfortunately some foul trouble and Tate cramping up hurt us a bit, but I was really proud of our guys,” said Laker head coach Markus Okeson. “They battled through some adversity but the game came down to we turned the ball over too much compared to them.”

Hawley held the lead until just after Bettcher’s fourth foul when Laker post Max Gunderson scored and was fouled converting the three-point play to tie the game at 46-all.

DL was playing four guards with Gunderson the main man down low at six-foot, four-inches. He had to work for his 12 points, but was also strong on the boards on both ends.

Gabe Hanninen scores two of his team-high 17 points.

“We’ve got Max, he’s our biggest guy and he did a great job,” said senior Gabe Hanninen. “He was a beast down there. We’re a smaller team, but I think we’re just as physical and quick. You’ve got to give credit to those guys too. They were really good and have a lot of potential to do some damage in their section.”

Hawley has all their starters back from last year and eight seniors on the roster looking to battle with Breckenridge and Perham in Section 8AA.

“Ultimately, the goal is the section title and going to the state tournament,” Vetter said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and one practice at a time. Short-term memory, whether it’s the next play, forget about a mistake, just move on.”

The Lakers took charge and built a five-point lead, 58-53, on Bettcher’s last field goal at the four-minute mark, but would not score again.

“It’s game one; we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on,” said Hanninen. “Obviously, we did stuff well, but we have to come back to practice tomorrow, work hard and just get better.”

For Coach Stoa and the 2-0 Nuggets, regaining their composure after losing the lead was crucial as time became a factor.

“We got our emotions back; we had a chance to lose our cool, as an experienced, senior-laden team, about the seven-minute mark; we had about five things go against us,” he said. “We forgot that we are supposed to get to next before anybody else does. I forgot about it for a moment. We have to learn from that. We called a timeout and that’s all we talked about except putting Bettcher into a pick-and-roll, which did work.”

The first half was a seesaw affair also.

Tate Kerzman

Detroit Lakes broke out to an early lead off the opening tip 12-7 on a Gunderson bucket but Carlisle and Vetter hit back-to-back threes to go up 13-12. When one team hit, the other answered.

The Lakers clung to a two-point lead at 28-26 with two minutes remaining until halftime, but Vetter hit two threes to one from Kerzman to grab the lead at the break.

“I thought we played the right way, played together and took good shots,” Okeson said. “We did everything but just made a few more mistakes than they did.”

Cihak forced a Nugget turnover at the baseline which allowed a Kerzman heave from three-quarter court at the halftime horn but it missed right.

Vetter led all scorers with 19 points. Carlisle and Noah Glad each had 10 for the Nuggets. Hanninen paced the Lakers with 17 points; Gunderson and Kerzman each had a dozen.

Detroit Lakes had won five of the last seven meetings, the past five in a row. The two teams went to the wire in Hawley last season with DL winning by one point 64-63. The 2014 game was decided by a Ryan Cihak buzzer beater three to give DL an 84-83 victory.

The Nuggets improve to 2-0 overall and begin Heart O’ Lakes Conference play Tuesday, Dec. 11 at Frazee (1-0). Detroit Lakes (0-1) faces Section 8AAA foes Sartell-St. Stephen (1-0) at home Friday, Dec. 8.

HAW 32 27 - 59

DL     31 27 - 58

HAW - Jacob Vetter 19, Jayden Carlisle 10, Noah Glad 10, Gunnar Lawson 9, Mason Klevgaard 9, Chase Libak 2.

DL - Gabe Hanninen 17, Max Gunderson 12, Tate Kerzman 12, Ben Stearns 9, Jake Bettcher 7, Drew Markuson 1.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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