Hermantown Boys Basketball

Hermantown successfully defended its Section 7AAA boys basketball title with a 70-59 win against Denfeld on Thursday night at Duluth East Gym.

Abe Soumis had 19 points, Blake Schmitz 18, Nathan Hill 13 and Peyton Menzel 10 for the Hawks.

Marnaries Ferguson scored a game-high 22 points and K.J. Pulliam and Aidan Altona added 12 apiece for the Hunters, who finished 16-13.

"It was a whirlwind of a game, typical of a Hermantown-Denfeld match-up," Hermantown coach Andy Fenske said afterwards. "There's the adage that it's hard to beat a team three times in a year and that proved true. Denfeld gave us everything that they could, for a junior-heavy team with an impressive sophomore. They could find their way back to the section finals next year again. Phil (Homere) is a great coach and will get those boys playing at a higher level than where they are at now, no doubt about it.

"After a decent start to the game, we hit a bit of a lull in the second half. The difference between the first half and second half came down to when we made mistakes, we didn't compound them with another, we got it back and evened it out. In the second half, we compounded offensive mistakes with fouls or missed assignments and visa versa. However, that's what section final games are all about -- tight game, small momentum shifts, and execution down the stretch."

Fenske said while season-long team leaders Soumis and Schmitz again led the way offensively, Nathan Hill and Peyton Menzel "stepped up big-time" with 13 and 10 points, respectively.

"Peyton also pulled in nine rebounds -- seven offensively -- and Broc (Sundland) came up with some huge defensive stops late in the game to go the extra mile as well," Fenske said.

Hermantown (22-6) will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent in a Minnesota Class AAA state quarterfinal Tuesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

"I believe we have an outside chance of getting a five-seed this year, if not a four with an upset in Section 2," Fenske said of the state pairings, which will be released this week. "Our boys said it best -- it's not finished for us because our goal wasn't just to get to state but to win it. Bringing back so many guys who were a part of our run last year, they know more of what to expect. It's not all completely eye-opening for them."