After a rough start to the season where the Hastings girls’ basketball team went 2-9, the Raiders have been on a roll over the last two months. They have gone 10-5 since January 4th, finished the regular season 12-14 overall and 8-6 in the Metro East Conference, which was good for fourth. It was announced Saturday that Hastings would be the No. 7 seed in Section 3AAAA and will face No. 2 Lakeville North in Lakeville on Wednesday, Feb. 26. However, the Raiders deserved better than that No. 7 seed and may be the most dangerous No. 7 in the state for Class AAAA.
Seeded ahead of Hastings are No. 6 Eagan and No. 5 Eastview. Eagan finished the regular season with a record of 8-18 and was 2-10 against section teams. Eastview was just as bad with a record of 6-20 and 2-8 in the section. The Raiders had just as many section wins at 2-2, double the regular season wins of Eastview and four more than Eagan. Hastings even beat Eagan 62-51 back in December during that 2-9 stretch where the Raiders were playing far from their best basketball. Only one No. 7 seed in Class AAAA had more wins than Hastings, which is Brainerd who finished 14-12 but was a palty 0-5 against its sections. Tartan, who was 4-22 this season and who Hastings beat twice and by 34 on Feb. 11, is another No. 7 seed.
Moving on from the seeding, over the past two months the Raiders have made drastic improvements on both sides of the ball. During their 2-9 stretch, they gave up an average of 63 points per game while only scoring about 54 a game. That has flipped during the second half as things clicked offensively and their defense has picked up. Over the stretch where they went 10-5, Hastings has scored 58 points a game and given up just 48 a game. While their strength of schedule was stronger in the start of the season than down the stretch, such a drastic change indicates that improvement was definitely made.
“We’re trying to take every aspect of the game, break it down, simplify it, see the thing as a whole and then really produce out on the floor,” said head coach Scott Addyman in the middle of that 10-5 stretch. “We have a lot of options. We have some girls with good size, we’re playing really good defense, we have girls who know their role. We’re a very versatile team. That lends itself to us being able to choose what we want to do depending on our opponent, depending on our matchups, depending on the other team and the looks we’re really going to go for.”
Perhaps the most stark change for the Raiders has been on the offensive end. At the start of the season, senior Mallory Brake really carried the scoring load. Hastings usually only had one other player scoring in double-figures those early games, if at all. However, since then sophomore Lilly Nuytten has emerged as a consistent scorer as well as junior Shea Levos, senior Emily Biscoe and junior Avery Daley. Besides Brake’s absurd 27 points per game, Nuytten is averaging 11.8 per game and Levos 7.3, while Biscoe has come on strong in the last few weeks.
The winner of Hastings and Lakeville North will play either No. 3 Burnsville or No. 6 Eagan on Saturday, Feb. 29. Those four teams make up the bottom of the bracket. On top, No. 1 Rosemount hosts No. 8 Park of Cottage Grove and No. 4 Apple Valley faces No. 5 Eastview. The section championship is tentatively scheduled for March 4.