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Basketball: Owls advance to Section 6A title game (with video)

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The Hancock seniors (from left) Mason Schmidgall, Jordan Peterson, Kaleb Koehl, and Noah Kannegiesser hoist up the Section 6A-South trophy during the awards ceremony Monday, March 12 after beating Ortonville 61-54. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times3 / 23
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The Hancock boys basketball team defeated Ortonville in the Section 6A-South championship after an emotional bus ride at Concordia Moorhead Monday, March 12.

When a player on the Hancock bus received a call about a crash involving a Hancock school van with several Hancock students inside, head coach Cory Bedel asked his players if they wanted to postpone the game.

"We talked as a team before the game and left it up to the captains if we wanted to play [Monday] or postpone the game," Hancock head coach Cory Bedel said. "We decided to play and to play for everyone involved in that accident. We wanted to bring home a victory for them."

And so they did, downing Ortonville 61-54 to advance to the Section 6A championship game at 7 p.m. Friday, March 16 at Concordia Moorhead. The Owls will play against No. 4-seed from Section 6A-North Mahnomen/Waubun. The subsection champion Thunderbirds defeated Lake Park Audubon 65-50 in the earlier game Monday evening.

“This game was really for people in that accident,” Hancock junior Peyton Rohloff said in a postgame interview. “It really shook us on the way up here, I’m still without words.”

“We wanted to win this for the town of Hancock because they’ve supported us all year. This is just as much theirs as it is ours,” senior captain Noah Kannegiesser said.

The Owls started on a 21-6 run over the first eight minutes of the Section 6A-South title game. Four 3-pointers, two by Bennett Nienhaus, helped Hancock gain an early advantage.

Ortonville responded with a 12-2 run of its own to trim the deficit to five points at 23-18 after a bucket from Mitchell Meyer 5:19 left in the half.

“We knew that they were going to make their runs. We talked about that in the locker room that this game is going to go in runs, for the good or the bad,” Bedel said. “I would rather go up 15 at the end then at the beginning, but it does give us a little breathing room.”

The Owls kept its lead through the first half, holding a seven-point advantage at 29-22 after the first 18 minutes.

It wasn’t until midway through the second half that Ortonville took its first lead of the game. The Owls went on a cold stretch shooting, connecting on just two shots in opening nine minutes as the Trojans went ahead 40-38 after a bucket by Caden Wellnitz. The Owls tied it up at 40-40 after Cole Reese hit a jumper, but Ortonville’s Tyson Powell responded quickly with one of his own to keep the Trojans ahead.

Ortonville head coach Tim Giese thought this was the Trojans chance to pull off the upset.

“When we went up a couple times by two, I thought okay here we go. We made our run. Just a bad possession or two where we couldn’t knock down a shot or finish a shot and then [Hancock] comes down and scores. That’s just two good teams playing basketball. Unfortunately we came out on the short end [Monday].”

Kannegiesser connected on a 3-pointer to give the Owls the lead for good at 45-44 with 7:16 to play. Kannegiesser poured in Hancock’s next nine points over the next five minutes as the Owls led 54-48 with 2:04 to play.

“They are so disciplined and shoot the ball so well,” Giese said of the Owls. “Their team rotates around Noah Kannegiesser, he’s just an amazing basketball player. We did the best we could on him… When he’s shooting 25-footers with a hand in the face and knocking them down, there’s really not a lot you can do. Hats off to our guys for playing really hard basketball and good defense, we just couldn’t get it done tonight.”

Clutch free throws by Cole Reese and Kannegiesser with under a minute to play sealed the 61-54 victory for the Owls. Kannegiesser led all scorers with 36 points on five 3-pointers, and added seven assists and five steals. Bennett Nienhaus had a hot-hand from beyond-the-arc, going 3-for-5 from 3-point range for nine points in the game. Peyton Rohloff had his hands full on the post with Ortonville’s 6-foot-5-inch center Davonte Edwards, but managed to pull down team-high nine rebounds to go with six points.

“There were some up and downs, but we came out on top,” Rohloff said. “I’m really proud of this team and how far we’ve come this season.”

“We’re not done yet,” Kannegiesser said in a postgame interview.

Hancock will be looking for its first state tournament berth since 2003, but for the time being, the attention of the town will turn back to Monday's accident.

"It was no question in their minds tonight when they were playing, but the kids played their hearts out for everyone back home," Bedel told the West Central Tribune. "A win's nice, but that's not what everyone is concerned about right now."

Hancock 61, Ortonville 54

Ortonville (20-7) 22 32 — 54

Hancock (25-2) 29 32 — 61

ORTONVILLE - Scoring: Tyson Powell 15, DaVonte Edwards 12, Mitchell Meyer 10, Caden Wellnitz 10, Peter Treinen 7 ... 3-point shots: Meyer 1 ... Rebound leader: Edwards 18 ... Assist leader: Edwards 6 ... Steal leader: Meyer 1, Powell 1, Wellnitz 1

HANCOCK - Scoring: Noah Kannegiesser 36, Bennett Nienhaus 9, Cole Reese 8, Peyton Rohloff 6, Daniel Milander 2 ... 3-point shots: Kannegiesser 5, Nienhaus 3, Cole Reese 1 ... Rebound leader: Rohloff 9, Connor Reese 8, Nienhaus 8 ... Assist leader: Kannegiesser 7 ... Steal leader: Kannegiesser 5

Brooke Kern

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