John’s Journal: Hayfield’s Two-Sport Winning Streak Reaches 58 Games
Girls Basketball/Baseball Coach Calls It A Once-In-A-Lifetime Run
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2022 - 5:37 PM
Thursday was a big day of basketball for Hayfield High School, with the girls team defeating against Cass Lake-Bena 67-57 in the Class 1A state quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion and the boys team topping Goodhue 53-42 to win the Section 1A title Thursday evening in Rochester. The Hayfield boys will return to state next week as the defending 1A champions, and that’s not the only recent state title for Hayfield.
Kasey Krekling coached the Vikings baseball team to the Class 1A state championship last spring at Target Field. That team went 26-0 and the Krekling-coached Hayfield girls basketball team takes a record of 32-0 into Friday’s state semifinals against Minneota at Williams Arena.
That’s an impressive two-sport winning streak of 58 consecutive games for Krekling, a 2007 Hayfield graduate who teaches second grade in his hometown and is in his sixth year as girls basketball coach.
Krekling’s streak reached 50 games on Feb. 11 when the Vikings won a home game against United South Central. The basketball players were well aware of what was happening.
“The girls kind of figured out when it was getting close to 50,” Krekling said Thursday. “They told me in the locker room, ‘We want to get you to 50,’ because it was at 45 or something like that. I kind of lose track because it's two totally different sports.”
Hayfield sophomore Natalie Beaver, whose 22 points Thursday was second on the team to sophomore Kristen Watson’s game-high 29, said Krekling is “a great coach. He pushes us but we know he means the best for us. And he really goes above and beyond for everything. He won't get outworked by any other coach. The film he watches and the amount of time he puts in outside of our practices, it means a lot.”
Senior Aine Stasko, who had 13 points and seven rebounds Thursday, said, “He's really smart. He knows what he's doing and he knows how to get us a win. It's nice that we play well together and we work hard, but he's like the brains behind all of it. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Krekling, 33, said, “It just means that we have really good athletes in Hayfield right now. I'm very lucky to do what I do. I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime run. I'll be honest; I can't expect this ever again.”
A New Position For Minneota
Seeding the teams in most state tournaments is done by the participating coaches, and the top half of the Class 1A girls basketball tournament turned out to be a doozy this year. Those four teams came to state with a combined record of 112-9.
Hayfield, the only unbeaten team in the state regardless of class, was seeded fifth among the eight 1A teams. Cass Lake-Bena had a pre-tournament record of 28-2 and was seeded fourth. Minneota, a perennial state tournament team that was not seeded among the top five and came in with a record of 26-4, rallied to defeat No. 1 seed Mountain Iron-Buhl 51-48 in overtime on Thursday. The Rangers were 27-3.
“I think this is the first time we've been in this position,” said Chad Johnston, who’s in his 21st season as the Minneota coach, referring to not being seeded.
Minneota trailed 26-14 at halftime Thursday before outscoring Mountain Iron-Buhl 31-19 in the second half to force overtime. The Vikings had trailed previously in several games this season, including in a four-point loss to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in early February.
“We were down 21 at halftime (vs. TMB) and we played probably the worst half of basketball we’ve experienced,” Johnston said. “And we worked our way back within one in the second half, but we just couldn't get over that hurdle. So I think they had confidence in what they're capable of doing. Staying confident, staying positive and believing in yourself is a key part of it.”
The Busiest Coach In Basketball
Mountain-Iron Buhl’s Jeff Buffetta is a rarity as someone who is the head coach of both the girls and boys basketball teams at his school. This is the third season in which he has held both jobs.
The Rangers boys saw their season end Wednesday night in Duluth with an 86-80 loss to Cherry in the Section 7A playoff semifinals. The boys team had a record of 21-8; had they won on Wednesday they would be playing for the section title in Duluth at 7 p.m. Friday. The Rangers girls will play Cass Lake-Bena in the consolation bracket at 10 a.m. Friday at Concordia University in St. Paul.
I wrote about Buffetta's dual-job challenge shortly after he took it on. You can read that story here: https://www.mshsl.org/about/news/johns-journal/best-2019-20-number-9-on…
The Luck Of The Irish
The best Irish name at the girls state tournament on St. Patrick’s Day: Ireland Stassen, Minneota junior forward. Ireland had six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in the Vikings’ win over Mountain Iron-Buhl.
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]